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.
Totals have finally trickled in for Coastal Cleanup Day 2011 and things are not looking optimistic for our final numbers. Although we had 7,608 volunteers which cleaned up over 145,000 pounds of trash (that’s 19/lbs per person!) these were much lower numbers than previous year's. We are still contemplating all the reasons why we had a reduced amount of volunteers than in the past. Was it the unfortunate cloudy weather? Do we need to improve our outreach? Or are people just less likely to volunteer in the economic recession?
There are many differing opinions out there on the World Wide Web as to whether or not volunteerism is in decline. Data from differing countries shows conflicting answers to this issue. Such as the UK, where their Annual Citizenship Survey revealed the lowest levels of volunteerism in 10 years. But in contrast, the 2010 Volunteering in America report showed we had the largest increase in volunteering since 2003. It seems that there are a number of different economic and community factors that come into consideration when volunteering time such as home ownership, high school education and unemployment, to name a few.
One point of interest the Volunteering in America report showed was a direct correlation between the unemployment rate and volunteerism. Since California currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the US, this could be to blame for our declining volunteer numbers in California and San Diego County. Although this is a huge factor, Coastal Cleanup Day was still an enormous success and we were able to reach more cleanup sites than ever before!
Thank you to all the volunteers at this year’s event and we greatly appreciate your donated time and feedback. As we are constantly trying to progress and advance each year, what are some suggestions you have to improve Coastal Cleanup Day?
As my first year helping coordinate Coastal Cleanup Day, I have heard a lot of stories about some of the interesting items found during the cleanup. In previous years they have found everything from a port-a-potty to a fencing sword, so I was looking forward to what ‘memorabilia’ this day brought.
Here is a list of some of the most noteworthy:
- Beach Umbrella- Oceanside Harbor
- Bag of Marijuana- Swamis Beach
- Cross bow- University Channel, La Mesa
- Drum set- Otay Valley Regional Park
- Hindu figure- San Elijo State Beach
- Two headless statues- La Jolla Shores
- Dentures- Santa Clara Point, Mission Bay
- Pepper spray- Dixon Lake, Escondido
- Waterbed- Manzanita Canyon, City Heights
- Military badge- Belmont Park
- Hood of car- Carmel Mountain Preserve
- Set of retainers- Lake Wolford
- Pregnancy kit- Dog Beach, Ocean Beach
- Spare ribs (initially thought to be human)- Carlsbad State Beach
- 1971 ID card- Border Field State Park
- Telephone pole- Buena Creek, Vista
- Mr. Potato Head- Eugene Canyon, Normal Heights
- And ironically, The Complete Guide to Environmental Careers- Maple Canyon, Park West
What were some items you found interesting at Coastal Cleanup Day this year?
It’s no secret that people want to help protect the environment. San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said there’s no other issue that can unite differing politics than the protection of it. Yet, it seems, one of the biggest secrets about the environment is the public’s education to it.
As a reporter, I was sent to cover Coastal Cleanup Day, San Diego’s largest volunteering effort to pick up trash along the beaches and watersheds throughout the county Sept. 17. I had heard of events like this one over my years growing up in San Diego, but like many, I knew nothing about the event or how much maintenance these areas actually needed, or how much trash there really was to pick up.
At the San Dieguito Lagoon wetlands restoration site in Del Mar, more than 100 volunteers came out with the intent of spending the day doing something good for the environment and getting their “yard-work fix.”
Many of the volunteers I spoke with saw this as a great opportunity to help “beautify” their neighborhood. Some of the younger volunteers like 12-year-old Anna Szymanski knew that the environment was hurting and she wanted to help give back by planting native species at the wetlands site.
Since the wetlands restoration project began in 2006, 150 acres of wetlands have been restored. The project was instated with the hopes that it would offset any impact the ocean-water cooling system of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating station in San Clemente, approximately 40 miles to the north, would have on fish populations. The station’s ocean-water cooling system pumps in ocean water through a series of pipes and uses it to cool and condense steam, which then pushes the turbines to generate electricity.
Back at the lagoon, San Dieguito Park Rangers helped educate volunteers on identifying invasive species for removal from around the trails. With only six rangers to monitor over 150 miles of trail that ranges from the mountains to the coast, volunteer efforts like this one are a tremendous help in maintaining these areas, explained Park Ranger Natalie Borchardt.
Just two hours in to the event, volunteers had already removed more than 700 pounds of green waste. In what would have taken Borchardt a week to do on her own, took volunteers no time at all to get the trails in order.
Coastal Cleanup Day may only be one day a year, but as I’ve learned since then, volunteer work is happening every weekend in nearly every ecological system in the county. The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, for instance, hosts volunteer trail maintenance every Saturday; they’ve also recently hosted the 6th annual Kayak Cleanup Event, which gives volunteers a rare opportunity to kayak in the Batiquitos Lagoon Preserve while picking up trash along the shoreline. They also offer visitors a chance to learn all about the lagoon and the role it plays in the environment at their nearby Nature Center.
It is a complex world that we live in and distractions abound, but if we really wanted to help protect the environment, we’d first learn all we could about it.
Tony Cagala is an assistant editor/reporter for The Coast News and The Rancho Santa Fe News. Read his full story on Coastal Cleanup Day here.
When finding out how much trash we collect in just one day during Coastal Cleanup Day, it’s hard to brush it off. The enormity of the number gets me to think of one negative and one positive thing. On a bad note, we are trashing our environment and we keep trashing it. On a good note, we are all responsible for this trash, which means we can stop the cycle. Did you know that some estimates say 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from on land, i.e. from us?
And Coastal Cleanup Day makes a statement. This large, county wide event has so many angles to it, including the hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash that we anticipate to collect on Sept. 17. The event gives us a chance to be aware of our impact on the environment and how our pollution habits cost us the health and beauty of our ocean.
But how do we help our community see this as more than just a “beach cleanup?” It all comes down to communications. And I've had the honor of working on public relations for this event over the past few months.
For the last month, we’ve been calling numerous newspapers and TV stations to get the awareness ball rolling and help recruit more volunteers to join us on Sept. 17. And our partner, I Love A Clean San Diego, has been working with AdClub San Diego and its members to advertise the event and develop these media pieces for the event.
We are also grateful to get so many stories, TV segments and mentions for this year’s event.
As environmentally conscious individuals, you are the biggest support we have. We want to work together with YOU. That’s why we are excited that on Saturday, San Diego Union-Tribune wants you to share pictures of you and your junk from the event. Please show you are interested and that you care by posting your photos on how you fight trash. We want your voices heard as they are the loudest.
Campaigns like this one prove to me how vital public relations and marketing is for giving a voice of reason for community events like Coastal Cleanup Day. And, personally, I feel fortunate to be a PR person for this rewarding event.
By increasing awareness, we want to decrease trash. The goal in the end is to take proactive steps, instead of reactive. That should be the goal, right?
Until Saturday then! I want to see my “pollution fighters” soon, so don’t forget to register.
It’s summer--what better time to get your feet wet in the name of science?
We’re talking about marine protected area monitoring, which will help us understand the state of our sea and track the effects of the underwater parks going into effect off the south coast in October. Thanks to $4 million in grants from the Ocean Protection Council, a number of Southern California groups will soon begin a “baseline study” that will give us a snapshot of current ocean health and uses, and a yardstick for future changes.
The word is out on the wonders of California’s underwater parks—they are good for sea life, of course, but that also makes them great places to snorkel, kayak, bird watch and tidepool. That’s why we’re so excited about this new interactive map showing the location of all marine protected areas in U.S. waters. Check it out – it’s a great way to learn the rules and get to know your local ocean sanctuary.
Finally, if you want to show your love for Big Blue, consider a new Whale Tail license plate. Proceeds help fund the Adopt-a-beach program, Coastal Cleanup Day, and other worthy causes.
Speaking of which, Coastal Cleanup Day is just around the corner – check out this website for a cleanup site near you.
At this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day, our volunteers came back with some memorable ones that I thought the blog world might enjoy:
• Car hood - Fiesta Island
• RV port-a-potty - Borderfield State Park
• Traffic ticket for an open container - Ocean Beach
• Baby’s devil costume - Tijuana River at Dairy Mart Rd
• Hello Kitty children’s piano - City Heights (a young volunteer was very excited to acquire this hand-me down)
• Antique leather football helmet and a mannequin - National City
• Newspaper stand - San Diego Bay
• Fake pair of antlers and a Norwegian passport (if anyone knows Stine Grytten Nærum, please tell her to call me) - Pacific Beach
• Model rocket fuel - Chula Vista, Salt Creek
• Bag of drugs (found by a troop of girl scouts) – Imperial Beach, South Bay Wildlife Refuge
• Christmas Tree (in September) – Lemon Grove, Bakersfield Drainage Ditch
• Model ship - Southcrest Community Park
• Styrofoam foot with a sandal on it – Vista, Buena Creek
• Refrigerator door - Otay Valley River Park
• And of course, the proverbial kitchen sink - Rolando Park, Zena Canyon
Thankfully, our site captains reported less hazardous and electronic waste than in previous years so maybe this means that the message is getting across about disposing of these materials appropriately (maybe?). While it’s sad to think of all the trash in our environment that needs collecting year after year, at least we can find the humor in the world around us and the interesting waste of us crazy humans.