As I was driving to the Morning After Mess cleanup in Mission Beach, I was pleasantly surprised at the apparent lack of garbage left after Independence Day celebrations. After chatting briefly with our friends at I Love a Clean San Diego about how more than 150 volunteers were picking up trash in Mission Beach, I headed to Bonita Cove, where I celebrated with friends the day before.
At first glance, Bonita Cove looked clean—just a few small pieces of trash littered the ground. Small groups of volunteers were wandering around and only occasionally picking up a piece of trash apparently having trouble finding things to pick up. I bent down to pick up a cigarette butt and saw a wrapper from a juice box straw… and then a plastic tag used to close a bag of hotdog buns… and then three more cigarette butts and four more juice box straw wrappers.
As I refocused my attention, I noticed that Bonita Cove was littered everywhere with small pieces of plastic and cigarette butts. There were so many cigarette butts that in the next 10 minutes, I picked up 125 cigarette butts in a small segment of Bonita Cove.
Granted, picking up small pieces of litter like juice box straws and cigarette butts isn’t particularly sexy or exciting. But it’s important. Birds frequently inquest small pieces of plastic (a recent study from the Pacific Northwest documented that 93 percent of sea birds had bellyfuls of plastic, and one bird had a whopping 454 pieces of plastic in its gut), and local researchers have shown that just one cigarette butt, left in 1 liter of water, is toxic to fish. The little things matter.
In fact, if we really want a cleaner, healthier environment, we can’t (and shouldn’t) rely solely on the government or environmental groups to fix it for us. If each of us did the little things—like making sure to pick up all our trash when we picnic with our families, disposing of cigarette butts properly, picking up after our pets, making sure we don’t overwater our lawns and wash our cars at car washes that collect the soapy water—we could see dramatic improvements in our environment.
I challenge each of you to join me in doing the little things…because we all deserve a clean, healthy environment.
The Clean Beach Coalition prepared for last weekend’s Fourth of July madness by putting up 200 extra trash and recycling bins to manage the weekend’s waste as well as tried to get the word out to the community to encourage replacing plastic ware with reusables. Each member organization from the Clean Beach Coalition hosted a cleanup site afterwards as well to assess the trash situation and rid our beaches of the waste!
This “Morning After Mess” beach cleanup happened at 7 am yesterday morning, the fifth of July, to gather up all the discarded waste left over from four gorgeous summer days of care-free celebration. Coastkeeper hosted at Ocean Beach where the annual Fourth of July marshmallow fight had gone down bigger than ever before. This tradition has folks gather on the beach, parks, and streets of Ocean Beach and nail each other with delicious sweets. Apparently this year’s Mallow War was less than mellow as people were selling marshmallow guns and slingshots! We can’t wait for the Youtube videos.
It’s hard not to laugh at people pelting each other with fluffy sugar balls; especially since it originated innocently as a harmless battle between fun-loving neighbors. After our chuckle-fits, we are left to assess the environmental risks from beaches and streets thick with sugary melted goo. The 25 year old tradition lives on in OB with no real reason for the madness, simply for the fun of it! It seems like many people really love this annual fight, and would be sad to see it go. Unfortunately, as the folks who clean up the beach the next day, we see the marshmallows tempting wildlife and oozing into the fragile ocean.
We got out to the beach at 7 am, so the mallows had little time to melt in the rising sun before we got there, but there were literally MILLIONS of marshmallows. Our flipflops were caked with sticky mush and our trash bags sagged with melting sugary goop. One volunteer counted 526 marshmallows just in one hour. A Surfrider volunteer measured a 5 foot by 5 foot square of sand and collected 100 marshmallows on the surface layer, and another 100 in the sand below! The precise environmental impact is unknown, but we can be sure that marshmallows are unhealthy for wildlife and sea life to be ingesting, especially after all the bacteria that is surely growing on these mallows!
Of the 88 volunteers who participated this morning, 6 admitted to being a part of the marshmallow fight the night before. One participant said it was the most fun he’s had in YEARS! Another volunteer said she brought her son to the marshmallow event the night before, but vowed to bring him to the cleanup to “show him the other side” of the fight.
We so appreciate those people who participated in Marshmallow show-down also taking responsibility for their contribution and coming back early in the morning to scrape together the sticky madness that resulted from the fight. The world needs more folks like you!