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