Looking at the forecast for this past weekend, my hopes for a large turnout on Coastal Cleanup Day were dwindling. By 10 a.m. on Saturday temperatures sailed past 90 degrees at the coast and inland areas were expecting to see the thermometer rise over 100. I expected most would see this as a great excuse to sit in front of the air conditioning.
I’m proud to say I was wrong.
On September 15, San Diego Coastkeeper was joined at Tourmaline Beach by 157 volunteers for our cleanup efforts as a part of the 28th Annual Coastal Cleanup Day. With generous support from Teva, volunteers at Tourmaline removed 130 pounds of trash from 4,000 feet of shoreline.
We were joined by moms and dads, families, friends, coworkers, and school groups. Volunteers came from across the county, with a few visitors from Arizona and beyond. Some were beach cleanup veterans, while others were there for their very first one. They gave up their Saturday morning, that extra hour or two of sleep, college football games, and air conditioning for a few hours making a positive impact on their community.
I couldn’t help but be exceptionally proud that so many San Diegans value our waters and environment enough to choose the latter.
I am so proud that I live in a place where over half of our volunteers brought their own reusable buckets, trash pickers and gloves. I’m proud they are teaching their kids and neighbors to do the same.
So many people came to me feeling they had not done enough. They had only picked up a few small items or their bag only weighed a pound or two. I couldn’t have been prouder of those small bags filled with bits of plastic and Styrofoam.
Most of our 1,766 items removed were small particles that possess a real threat to our marine life and water quality. If you hadn’t been, they’d still be sitting on the sand, waiting to be washed out into the ocean. In just three hours, 672 cigarettes, 92 straws, 99 plastic bags, and 49 plastic utensils were picked up. These items, though small and seemingly insignificant, make some of the biggest impacts when removed.
Knowing that so many individuals in San Diego are willing to do the right thing, to pass along the values of environmental stewardship to family and friends, protecting our swimmable, fishable, drinkable water doesn’t feel quite as daunting. In fact, it almost seems within reach.
But we can’t do it alone.