Meet Monica, our beach cleanup intern-extraordinaire. She signed up with San Diego Coastkeeper to keep our waters swimmable, but discovered a new passion for volunteering itself. Enjoy her first blog below.
It might surprise you that clean beaches are not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the benefits of organizing beach cleanups. While the physical evidence of hundreds of pounds of trash is encouraging at the end of each cleanup, there’s so much more to feel great about. Rising early on a Saturday morning to be a part of a community of families, students, and avid beachgoers sparks thoughtful conversations and meaningful interactions accompanied by warm ocean breezes and the fleeting dance of dolphins in the waves.
Surfers dart past you towards the waves in a youthful jog as you assemble Coastkeeper’s signature blue easy-up gazebo, which in fact isn’t so easy after all. A kind stranger always offers a helping hand and you always accept. What follows is wave after wave of passionate people wanting to take action and make a difference in their community. People meet, share ideas and discuss politics all while getting outside and active on a weekend morning.
Only recently have I come to appreciate all the positive effects volunteer work has on a community and myself. Productively working together to better the community, particularly the environment, creates a positive feedback loop; a group of individuals working hard to improve their community benefits the community, the community becomes happier, which builds a stronger bond with their community and drives more to embrace volunteer work to make it even better.
Volunteer work has positive effects on individual volunteers as well. Working outside boosts physical, mental and social well-being. Working with your peers to create a stronger and more sustainable community focuses attention on local problems that directly affect the members of your neighborhood.
As the cleanup is winding down those same surfers emerge from the water, grinning from the adrenaline rush, and offer a smile or kind words for helping to keep our beaches clean. While they are not wrong, they are unaware of the bigger impact that has elapsed during their brief surf session. Beach cleanups do far more than just clean beaches.
The ocean is the most beautiful, diverse and abundant ecosystem on the planet and covers over 71 percent of the world’s surface. It is so large that it has been divided into five oceanic divisions, all of which are connected.
San Diego is located just off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which is the largest ocean on earth. It is roughly the same size as all the land on earth, put together.
However, there are many factors, which are putting our oceans at the brink of disaster and the biggest issue of all is, pollution. Pollution is the biggest killer of marine animals and plants, and it is not only caused by natural occurrences, it is also caused by man. Did you know that over eight billion tons of plastic is being dumped into the ocean, every year? Plastic has one of the most devastating effects on this ecosystem and is also affecting life on land.
Just off the coast of California, sits one of the largest ‘garbage islands’ on the planet. Known as the ‘North Pacific Gyre’ or the ‘Pacific Trash Vortex’, it is a made up of plastic, chemical sludge and other debris. This dangerous man-made island has been created by pollution that gets caught up in the strong currents, forming a floating island of trash. This trash can be mistaken as food by marine animals, which can then lead to a chain reaction, resulting in these fish or smaller animals being consumed by larger fish, inevitably ending up on our plates.
Pollution is damaging to the ocean and its inhabitants, it is also extremely dangerous for humans and if you would like to learn more about ocean pollution and how it can affect humans, then take a look at the fascinating infographic below, which will show you that one simple mistake such as not recycling your plastic properly, can lead to unimaginable damage to life on earth. The infographic has been produced by a team from divein.com.
How ocean pollution affects humans – Graphic by the team at DIVE.in
By Andrew Dilevics
Data – they aren’t just numbers. The data we collect every year during our beach cleanups include numbers, of course, but we also gather valuable anecdotal insights from seasoned volunteers and common misconceptions from newcomers. It’s easy to compile the numbers into graphs and statistics, which we share on our San Diego beach cleanup data webpage, but we also wanted to create a separate-than-science analysis of our beach cleanup finds this year. In that vein, we encourage your to read these eleven crazy things we learned at beach cleanups in 2014.
- Condoms and Tampons – The Usual Unusuals
We can’t explain it. By far, condoms and tampons top the “unusual items” category tracked by our data-seeking volunteers. How and why do these used personal products find their way to our beaches? It’s San Diego’s great hygiene mystery.
- Baby, This Beach Doesn’t Look that Dirty
It’s one of the most common things we hear volunteers say at the start of each San Diego County beach cleanup two hours later comes the inevitable surprise at the amount of trash they collected afterall. We know that what you can’t see can hurt you—and marine animals and the environment. Sadly, the majority of trash we collect is so small most beachgoers don’t immediately notice it; however, it poses a very large risk to wildlife because it is easy to ingest and hard to pick up.
- Butts are big—cigarette butts, that is.
We removed over 75,000 cigarette butts from our coastal areas. That’s 3,750 packs of cigarettes worth of toxin-leaching, plastic foam pollution that harms water quality, fools marine animals and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of trash, never disappearing.
- Cleaning up trash comes with warm fuzzy feelings
Our 7,000 volunteers spent their Saturday mornings picking up trash. It doesn’t sound so glamorous on paper, but time and again they tell us how they love the experience and the learning, which couldn’t please us more.
- Speaking of which—You are the Solution
In 2014, you provided 14,000 solution hours beautifying our beaches and restoring them to a healthier state. Want to continue that impact? Commit to using fewer single-use items, ensure trash is properly discarded and educate your friends on beach pollution solutions.
- The Great Trash Migration is Real
If you don’t believe us, read number one again. Much of the trash that we pick up on our beaches didn’t get discarded there. It started somewhere inland and wind and rain carried it to a its resting destination. While you’re at it, reread number five, because you are the solution.
- Your Doctor May Surf
This year, we found a stethoscope at one of our beach cleanups. Did your doctor lose hers?
- Where’s the Bag?
In 2014 and 2013, fully intact, single-use plastic bags accounted for three percent of the trash we removed each year. Why is this interesting? It’s significantly lower than the number we removed in 2012. This may indicate a decrease in the use of plastic bags, the success of regional bag bans or an increase in recycling or proper disposal. But also, the thinness of plastic bags mean they are easily broken down into smaller pieces, and our volunteers would count these small pieces as other plastics. It is likely that plastic bags are a larger environmental problem than our stats are showing. We will track this trend as our statewide bag ban takes effect.
- Plastic is Pesky
It’s the most common material we find, and it never biodegrades There is nothing more frustrating that reaching down to pick up a plastic cup off a beach or mudflat only to have it shatter like glass in your hand because it is so brittle from sitting out in the sun. Your littered plastic cup just became a thousand littered plastic fragments.
- It’s Not Just That Beach
Don’t think your local, non-touristy beach is immune from trash build-up, unlike “those other” beaches. See point number two. Though they may look clean, every beach in San Diego County suffers from pollution. Sadly. There’s hope. Reread number five.
- Ew. Stinky Seaweed and Dead Birds
Many people think anything that makes the beach less nice for humans, like stinky seaweed or dead birds, is trash. But these are natural parts of the lifecycles of a healthy ecosystem, so let’s keep them out of our trash bags and on the beaches where they belong. After all, a beach with seaweed is an indication that there is a kelp forest offshore!
What crazy things did you learn at beach cleanups this year? Comment below to tell us what we should add to our list.
This is a story about a 12-year-old girl from San Diego who loves surfing, art and making the world a better place. One day she contacted San Diego Coastkeeper to share her story, and what we heard was not only impressive, it is an inspiration.
Paige realized that there was a big problem the world faced – ocean pollution. She knew that much of our trash ended up in one of her favorite places, the ocean, making it dirty and unhealthy for the marine creatures that lived there. What she did next proves that anyone could make a positive impact when they take action. Starting with a recycling program at her school, we’re excited to see the impact her newest project will make.
I asked our little ocean hero to share her story and this is what she told us:
Coastkeeper: What inspired you?
Paige M.: “My 4th grade teacher at Del Mar Pines School inspired me to start the recycling program. She asked if I could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?”
CK: When did you start the project?
PM: “I started planning for the project in the spring of my 4th grade year but officially launched the recycling program the fall of my 5th grade year.”
CK: How many students participated in the recycling program?
PM: “Everyone at school – students and their families, staff and teachers – are welcome to participate. We host collection days on campus twice a month where families can bring their recyclable plastic drinking bottles from home. I also placed specially marked collection bins around campus that my committee and I check weekly.
CK: Why did you want to take on this project?
PM: “Our landfills only have limited space. Recycling helps take out a lot of unnecessary waste in the landfills. If we recycled every plastic bottle we used, we would keep two billion tons of plastic out of landfills. It’s also cool to see all the things that recycled bottles can become – like sleeping bags.”
Paige makes her moves
Paige started a recycling program to raise money for her school foundation. She created an education program and recruited a committee of schoolmates to help. In the fall of 6th grade, Paige designed a charm bracelet using the water bottle logo she created for her recycling program. She sold the bracelets and donated the money to water.org, a charity that produces safe drinking water in Africa, South Asia and Central America.
She also wrote and illustrated a short story called “Kayas Undersea Adventure.” The story is about a girl who goes surfing and gets transported to an underwater world that’s polluted. The surfer girl returns home and finds ways to encourage others to correct the pollution she had seen. Paige dedicated her book to San Diego Coastkeeper, because she thinks that our mission of keeping San Diego’s waters fishable, swimmable and drinkable is cool!
She thinks the best way to convince kids to make a difference is to hear it from other kids. Her parents are looking into publishing her story and donating the proceeds from sales to San Diego Coastkeeper. If you want to help just contact us.
A great Coastal Cleanup Day includes binational participation.
We joined WiLDCOAST for Coastal Cleanup Day at Border Field State Park for two hours. Afterwards, we went to the friendship garden between the two U.S. fences, where we met Tijuana Waterkeeper and Coastkeeper Community Council member Margarita Diaz across the fence. She brought a group of students from Mexico to meet our LEAP students and build friendships. We had a tour of the garden and did some work placing rocks. The participants also wrote wishes on rocks and placed them in the garden.
The highlight of the trip was Sandra’s marine debris lesson. Sandra presented a bilingual hands-on lesson and discussion on marine debris to students on both sides of the fence. To me, the bilingual, bi-national nature of the event was spectacular. All of the participants I spoke to were very moved by the event (myself included).
We hope to continue coordinating such inspiring events for youth in our region. If you couldn’t be there, I encourage you to enjoy a few photos on our facebook page, courtesy of Community Council member Hector Valtierra.
Special thanks to Teva and their A Pair for a Foot program for providing funds to make this important day possible.
San Diego’s proposed plastic bag reduction ordinance has made it through two Rules and Economic Means Committee meetings and several feedback sessions with stakeholders.
As currently drafted, the ordinance will ban single-use plastic bags in stores selling grocery items and mandate a 10-cent fee on paper bags. For now, retail is exempt from the ban, and no reporting is necessary by impacted stores.
Coastkeeper would like to see the retail exclusion removed from the ordinance and a reporting requirement added so that stores are held accountable. We teamed with Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter to ask for these improvements to the ordinance’s drafters and elected officials, who ultimately decide its fate.
The ban won’t head to a vote by the full city council for up to a year, pending an environmental review, which gives Coastkeeper time to work with our partners to strengthen the draft and support the development of complementary ordinances in surrounding cities.
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, when single-use bags seem the most unavoidable, the City of Oceanside is making good on its annual commitment to participate in A Day Without A Bag. Residents and local businesses alike will participate in a day-long celebration of reusable bags and denouncement of those guilt-inducing wisps of polythene we all hate to love.
Folks who aren’t yet sure if they can live without the convenience of single-use plastic or paper bags are invited to, just for one day, try it out. For people who have already made the change in their own lives, this is a great opportunity to help others try out the BYOB lifestyle as well. Volunteers are needed to help hand out reusable bags to shoppers, staff a Zero Waste Station, and, a task only for the truly committed and perhaps a little deranged, don the Bag Monster costume and show the world just how scary plastic bags can be.
(As a side note, Coastkeeper’s own Travis Pritchard takes particular pride in having instilled life-long fear of single-use plastic bags in the hearts of several young girl scouts once upon a time with a uniquely convincing Bag Monster act, but we don’t like to tell people that.)
Volunteers are needed to help out for three-hour shifts at both the Oceanside Farmers Market and Sunset Market. More information and details on how to sign up to help can be found here and here.
If you are interested in participating but can’t commit to volunteering, it’s easy: On December 19, when asked “Paper or plastic?” simply smile and say, “No thanks, I’ve got my own.”
We did it folks, we called Cardiff State Beach dirty.
Not too much fuss was made when Mission Beach took the dubious honor last year, or Ocean Beach before that, or Pacific Beach before that….
Most residents probably shrugged and throught, Well, yeah, tourists. But people seem to feel differently about Cardiff. They aren’t too thrilled that someone is plugging their nose and pointing at their beach and saying “ewy.” And they shouldn’t be thrilled.
San Diego County has 70 miles of beautiful coastline that deserves to be protected, and Cardiff State Beach is a beautiful beach. We love spending time there. We also know from years of experience in the beach cleanup industry (is that a thing?) that just becuase a beach is beautiful, and we love it and have all kind of great memories there, does not mean that there isn’t also trash there.
People litter. People throw things in the street, or let their waste bins overflow, and it washes to the beach when the rains come (and then, of course, we blame the rain).
Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back if you aren’t one of those people, and give yourself another one if you are the kind of person who picks up someone else’s disgusting trash when you find it on your beach. And go ahead an give yourself another pat if you are a little ticked off that Cardiff State Beach was just called dirty. Because you should be.
It’s probably a good time to explain how we arrive at that conclusion. San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapterhost a few dozen cleanups each year. At every single cleanup we host, volunteers keep data sheets with records of the items they find. There are several catagories, such as “Cigarettes/Cigarette Butts” and “Plastic Food Wrappers” and “Plastic Bags.” Additionally, at the end of the cleanup, we weigh all the bags of trash that have been collected. Each cleanup gets its own weight number. If we return to that beach again later in the year, that number grows. At the end of the year, we pull up all the data we have collected over the past twelve months, and start running the numbers.
Now, let me say that beach cleanups are not a perfect science. As with most pursuits, there are a lot of factors involved that we can’t control. Each beach is different. Even trash levels flucuate throughout the year, peaking during tourist season and after winter storms. This is why we use metrics like “pounds of trash per volunteer effort” to help us understand the data we collect. By normalizing the pounds of trash volunteers collected to the number of people who volunteered, we get a sense of trash density. This is our only way of correcting for effort, given that we have different numbers of volunteers show up each time we host a cleanup and that the beaches we attend to are all different sizes. In 2013, Cardiff State Beach had the highest trash density. That is to say, the most trash found per volunteer effort. That magic number was 4.06 pounds per volunteer.
For those folks out there who have continued to ask us questions about this, allow me to break it down.
When San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider San Diego host beach cleanups, they are open to the public. Fifty people might show up to a cleanup at Beach A, while 250 show up for a cleanup at Beach B. If we were to take the results from the big cleanup of 250 people and look only at the total weight of the trash they picked up, we might see a number like 100lbs. That’s a lot of trash. Let’s then say we head over to that 50-person cleanup at Beach A and find that they have collected 70 lbs of trash. Well, 70lbs is not as much trash as 100lbs. So should we say Beach B is “dirtier” than Beach A? No. Because when we use our handy dandy pounds/volunteer equasion, we find that Beach A has a higher trash density.
In 2013, Moonlight Beach came out on top as having the highest total trash weight at the end of the year. That number was 1,011 pounds. So why didn’t we name Moonlight the dirtiest? Because it took a heck of a lot more volunteers to pick up all that trash than it took to pick up Cardiff’s trash total. And that is why we called Cardiff State Beach “dirty.”
Allow me one last caveat. Maybe Cardiff stood out in our end-of-year analysis because the people who showed up for the cleanups there just love that beach so gosh darn much that they really dug in and went the extra mile. They pulled out over four pounds of trash per person. Considering that most of what we find are small items like cigarette buts, plastic bags, and plastic foam, that is no small feat.
So maybe “dirtiest” can mean “most loved” too.
When I look at this photo, I see a wave I would normally kill to ride- with the exception of the surrounding wall of trash. I instantly visualize an ocean littered with garbage, paddling through oil and debris during my sunset surf. The amazing feeling I normally get just wouldn’t be the same if I had to dodge water bottles and was paranoid about swallowing the contaminated water.
Trash surrounds us everywhere we go on land. Between all the street litter, garbage days, overflowing trash cans and street sweeping, isn’t the water the one place we can get away from it all?
It is, but at a cost. According to the L.A. Times, San Diego spends close to $14 million annually on coastal cleanup efforts. Can’t you think of about 14 million ways this money could be used better? Yes, I want my waters to be clean so I can swim, surf and snorkel, but why do we have to spend so much money cleaning them up when we can simply prevent the problem in the first place?
One of the biggest inhibitors to keeping our waters clean is urban runoff. This is the water that runs through populated, man-made areas and picks up oil, grease, pesticides, metals and other toxic chemicals as it trickles directly into our water bodies. This not only makes our waters gross, but also harms the marine wildlife.
To do its part in cleaning up the community, San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter get together and host regular beach cleanups throughout the county. In 2012, 4,308 volunteers removed almost 8,000 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches. And still residents pay for regular trash control from the city. Houston, we have a serious problem.
As a self-proclaimed water-lover (as I imagine most San Diegans are), I make a point to be aware of how my actions on land effect the waters I treasure and I think others should do the same. To do your part in keeping our ocean, bay and streams pollution-free, please check out some pollution prevention tips. We may live mostly on land, but we need the sea. I can’t imagine a life of polluted waters and trash littered barrels, and I will do whatever it takes to keep that photo from becoming a reality in San Diego.
California has 34 Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS). San Diego’s La Jolla Cove and Shores are home to one of them. The San Diego Basin Plan (our region’s Water Quality Control Plan) describes the process as:
The Regional Boards were required to select
areas in coastal waters which contain “biological
communities of such extraordinary, even though
unquantifiable, value that no acceptable risk of
change in their environments as a result of man’s
activities can be entertained.” These areas are
known as ‘Areas of Special Biological
states that this area is so rich in biodiversity that more stringent
protections need to be in place to safeguard this special place.
Safeguards that prevent urban runoff from polluting this area.
very recently took up scuba diving. The classes were held at La Jolla
Shores and I went again this weekend at La Jolla Cove. So far, I have
dove a total of 3 days, all in the La Jolla ASBS. Mostly I was concerned
with doing all the tests the instructor did, and trying to not die of
have any of my organs explode. But in the very short time I had to look
around here is what I was able to see down there:
• Sheep Crab – This thing was huge. Bigger than my head
• Grunion – A whole school swam overhead during the class. I admit I breifly stopped paying attention to the instructor and just stared at them
• Kelp Bass
• Sheephead – One of these chased me around￼
• Blacksmith – A large school passed right over me. It was pretty awesome
While snorkeling afterwards I saw a bunch of Shovelnose Guitarfish and a ton of Leopard Sharks. The two things I still really really want to see are Octopus (the best sea creature – hands down) and Mantis Shrimp (seriously – click on this link to see how awesome these little guys are).
All of this in not a very long time out there. I am looking forward to doing even more explorations out in our ASBS. It is right here, no need to travel far.
I love my ASBS.