My Participation in the Ocean Conservancy’s 30th Annual Beach and Shoreline Cleanup!

If you didn’t know already, the recent day of September 19th, 2015 was the Ocean Conservancy’s 30th Annual International Ocean and Shoreline Cleanup! The Ocean Conservancy’s original mission, in what was to become their first annual cleanup event back in 1985, was simply to lessen the amount of trash that was free-floating around in our waterways.

Back then, scientists had already sounded the alarm about all of the reasons why having an excess amount of trash floating in our oceans could potentially lead to a huge problem not only for humans and sea life, but also for the rest of the world’s animals, too. The trash wouldn’t just endanger our survival in the long-term, but in the short-term it could also threaten tourism and recreational activities in highly trash-polluted areas. This would threaten these areas’ economies, impeding shipping and water transportation, and cost both everyday citizens and big corporations big money for the removal of the trash. So, in that first cleanup thirty years ago, the world’s people set out to do their part in helping to declutter our oceans, waterways, and beaches of trash.

This year, for the first time, I am proud to be able to say that, since the original cleanup those long thirty years ago, I am one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that have jumped on board of the ocean cleanup journey and, during this year’s 2015 cleanup, donated some of my own time to help clean up some of the world’s washed up debris!

Since their original cleanup, the way that The Ocean Conservancy carries out their cleanups has changed a lot. As part of my experience on September 19th, I got the chance to experience all, if not many, of these new improvements. One of them is how The Conservancy is now having each one of their volunteers (including me!) tally every item of trash that they collect on a data sheet that will later be sent back to the organization. The purpose of these sheets is for scientists that work with the Ocean Conservancy to look at the total numbers of peoples’ tallies and to be able to estimate how much of each type of trash is in our ocean by how much trash was washed up on shorelines and collected by the volunteers. From my research, these record sheets, kept by the volunteers and being submitted to the organization, is what makes The Ocean Conservancy’s cleanups unique. No other cleanup that I have seen uses such a handy ocean trash volume estimation method.

Along with getting to use The Conservancy’s new tally sheets, the rest of my cleanup experience was pretty good, too. Living in New York City, I was worried that it would be hard for me to find an actual beach that I could clean up that I wouldn’t need a car to get to, as I don’t have one. With thorough research, however, I found a section of the shoreline on the 148th street Hudson River in desperate need of cleaning that was a short subway ride and walk away from my apartment. When I arrived at the location on the day of the cleanup with my mom (whom I also dragged along for the fun), I was met with a team of other like-minded community members and environmentalists who were also there to help clean up the same stretch of shoreline. Throughout the day, I got to hear the inspiring stories of the co-cleaners and park supervisors who were cleaning with me. These were people who were also wanting to help save the environment and to help ensure the promise of a better world for future generations. By the end of our four-hour cleanup, the whole volunteer team, along with the park supervisors, had helped to collect twenty-two full, bulging, trash bags from an approximate ⅕ mile stretch of Hudson River shoreline. My mom and I collected two full trash bags full of trash, included in the total twenty-two bags.

Even though it was dirty and exhausting work cleaning up the mess that other people had thrown into the river that had consequently washed up on shore, it was also very rewarding seeing that, at least at that specific moment in our lives, my mom and I were being part of the solution instead of part of the problem. It was rewarding knowing that by cleaning up our two bags of trash, my mom and I were helping to guarantee smiling kids on a happy, healthy planet for many years to come. Our small deed that we did that day is just one clip in the long movie that is, and forever will be, the movie of people coming together to help put an end to climate change.

If you you have not participated in a beach cleanup, I sincerely recommend that you do a little bit of research and go out there and clean up a beach, shoreline, marsh, waterway, or whatever you have it ASAP! The beach will not let you down, but will instead lift you up with all the fun memories, satisfaction, and self-pride that you will be gaining out there cleaning. Go get ‘em!

Information about all of the trash collected worldwide on September 19th, 2015 by all the Ocean Conservancy’s volunteers: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/2015-by-the-numbers.html

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My Experience with Having my Trash on my Back

Some of you guys reading this might have previously heard of the Trash on Your Back campaign. Up until last Tuesday, I had no idea what this campaign was, or what impact it might have on me. One of my friends brought it up in a webinar that we had (you know who you are) and said that I might like participating in it. This is when I went on Google and started researching the campaign more for myself. To sum up the whole point of the campaign shortly, it’s a personal, 5-day challenge whose mission is to make you more aware of what kind of impact your trash has on the environment. It’s supposed to get you closer to a zero-waste lifestyle, where you will have no trash and no long-term impact on the environment. You can join people all across the globe by taking part in the Trash on Your Back challenge any day of the week. In America, we, as the general populace, generate 1.3 billion pounds of trash each day and spend approximately $12 billion dollars annually on waste management. Breaking it down, this means that, on average, each American produces about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. According to the folks at Trash on Your Back, however, people who participated in the Trash on Your Back campaign were able to reduce this number to only 0.8 pounds per day (Trash on Your Back website). By each looking at our trash and reducing how much waste we each produce on a daily basis, it will lower the stress that we’re putting on our oceans and landfills bigtime! This is why, I am challenging whoever is reading this to participate in the Trash on Your Back campaign ASAP!   My Experience participating in the Trash on Your Back campaign: *** In this section, I will share with you daily pictures that I took of my trash, a picture of the final amount of trash that I’d collected after the 5-day campaign was completed, some diary entries I wrote about my experience participating in this campaign, and the daily weights of all of my garbage*** Dear Journal, March 11th, 2015 (DAY ONE) Today was a very insightful day. I learned a lot today. Carrying my trash with me today was not only educational, but it also felt good to be making a change. I knew that by participating in this “Trash on Your Back” campaign, I would be making myself an environmental leader, activist, and educator in my community. At first, however, to be honest, I was a little bit nervous about hauling my trash around all day long– especially at school. I was worried that people might judge me or view me as weird when I told them what I was doing. This is why, unlike you’re supposed to do in the campaign, I didn’t use a clear plastic bag to haul my trash around in. I concealed my trash in a regular shopping bag, then also put inside of a reusable shopping bag. I thought that this was a good idea at the time, as then less people would be able to see what I was doing and therefore less of them would be able to judge me. By the time I got home, I realized that I had been wrong for thinking this way and by concealing my trash, I was defeating the whole purpose of participating in the campaign. Instead of being afraid of letting people see me haul around my garbage, I should have instead showed off myself carrying around my garbage, as then more people would get hit with the message that I’m trying to spread in the world, and then they themselves would hopefully begin questioning their own garbage habits. This is why, tomorrow, I am going to travel with my garbage in a clear, plastic bag, and I’m going to show off myself carrying around my garbage. Instead of worrying about people judging me, I am going to let myself be free with my actions, showing off my garbage. If somebody really wants to judge you, they’ll find a way to do it no matter what, so why not just enjoy yourself and be yourself in the first place? Sincerely, Katie IMG_8982 Total Weight of Trash: 13.1 ounces Compostables: 5.1 ounces Plastics: 4.2 ounces Paper Products: 3.2 ounces Other (actual trash): 0.6 ounces   Dear Diary, March 12th, 2015 (DAY 2) I wanted to, once again, tell you about my day’s experiences carrying my clear plastic trash bag around with me all day. First off, a lot more people noticed that I was carrying around my trash than yesterday. This was (1) because I had more trash today than I did yesterday (your trash is accumulative in this campaign) and (2) they could now see my trash bag, along with the campaign’s logo that I taped to the side of it. With more people noticing what I was doing, there were also then more opinions that came with this added attention. Some of this attention was negative, but a surprising amount of it was also positive. The most negative thing that I heard all day was in one of my school classes, a kid told me, “I don’t want your stinky garbage next to me all of class”. I thought that this was understandable, but also very hypocritical of him to say. I responded by asking him why it was that he felt okay sending off his garbage into other people’s backyards (landfills) where it would sit for hundreds of years, but wasn’t okay having my garbage next to him for the 40 minute class period. Having no good response, he didn’t answer to my comment. Also, the other negative thing that happened to me were the stares and weird looks that people gave me and my trash bag, especially as I was getting on the NYC public bus to go home. Everybody stared at me and my bag of trash as if they’d never seen a person carrying around their garbage before. On the other hand, however, a lot of my friends and teachers at school told me that they thought what I was doing was cool. They thought that it was inspiring. Of course, they had a natural amount of apprehension, but that’s to be expected when you’re going against society in this way. Also, I was surprised when I was allowed to take my trash into my local grocery store today. I went in to get a snack, expecting for one of the workers or managers to say something, but none of them did. Overall, today was a very successful, educational day. XOXO, Katie 🙂 IMG_8984 Total: 1 lb, 0.3 ounces Plastic: 0.9 ounces Compostables: 11.5 ounces Paper Products: 2.6 ounces Other (trash): 1.3 ounces   March 13th, 2015 (DAY 3) Total: 5.1 ounces Plastic: 1.1 ounces Compostables: 1.0 ounces Paper Products: 1.8 ounces Other (trash): 1.2 ounces IMG_8994 March 14th, 2015 (DAY 4) Total: 1 lb 2.9 ounces Plastic: 1.5 ounces Compostables: 6.0 ounces Glass: 9.9 ounces Paper Products: 0.7 ounces Other (trash): 0.8 ounces IMG_8995 March 15th, 2015 (DAY 5) Total: 11.8 ounces Plastic: 1.3 ounces Compostables: 9.1 ounces Paper Products: 1.3 ounces Other (trash): 0.1 ounces IMG_8996 Dear Diary, March 16th, 2015 Overall, I think that this “Trash on Your Back” campaign was a wonderful experience for me. It really helped me discover the real amount of trash that I produce and what amount of each type of trash that my trash consists of (recycling, compostables, landfill-bound). Also, it helped me feel more close with the environment. Doing something beneficial for our world gave me such an invigorating feeling, too. It reminded me of what my true purpose in life is– to help save the environment and to better the world around me. During this campaign, I am also proud of myself for bringing more attention to this dear cause. I could tell by the way that people looked at me while I was carrying around my trash bag that I was sparking some thought within their minds. After all, it only takes one thought in one person’s mind to start a revolution. I want to get some other people in my school and in my community to participate in this campaign. I think that this will help them understand more about their effects on the environment and that it will possibly help them reduce their waste, too. Also, it will obviously get them more involved in their environment, so this might have a bigger, more long-term impact on their activities. Maybe some of them will even start participating in the environment more often, too. I would suggest this campaign to anybody that I know. Sincerely, Katie IMG_9007