It’s the Little Things

mamAs 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.

Published in Marine Debris

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