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.