Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 24

On Sunday, my family and I went to the beach.  It was really a gorgeous day... the sun was shining bright and the sky was as blue as blue could be... BUT... it was a very windy and cold day at the beach...

That's the Oceanic Pier at Access 36.  Access 36 has become a regular spot for us to do our 20 minute clean ups.  It's one of those accesses that even in off-season... litter still abounds.  Liz, who writes the Litter Sucks blog, joined us at Access 36.  Liz does clean ups at Carolina and Kure Beaches... where she often loses track of time while picking up litter.  The butt counts for CB and KB in the Community Butt Count come from her efforts :)  Go Liz!!!
Sorry for the uber dark photo... the sun was strong!!
Whenever we hit Access 36, my husband and I always make a right... heading south to the Oceanic Pier.  It never fails that we find a good portion of our butt count under the pier... especially in the Oceanic Restaurant's employee break area.  I know I bring this up A LOT....BUT... when I... and I alone... am able to pick up 42 fairly "fresh" cigarette butts in one area.... I think that's a problem.  A problem not only because of the obvious... but also because if those people can casually put their butts in the sand under the pier... it means that they're casually putting their butts out everywhere else.  That's a HUGE problem and such a bummer.

Of course, I always take photos of the litter that we find during our 20-minute clean ups... I feel like I'm always taking the same photos... cigarette butt here... plastic something there... with the most beautiful backdrop.  Over the weekend I took some of the photos that I've taken during our 20 minute cleanups and made this video....

20 minutes on November 28, 2010

Cigarette Butts: 434

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 24 days:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Daily Ocean Community: Julie

On Saturday, November 20... while we were out of town... my friend Julie and her two young children went to Johnnie Mercer's Pier (Access 16) at Wrightsville Beach. 

Here's what she sent me:

"Yesterday, we went to the beach with the intention of picking up butts for just 20 minutes, but I couldn't get the kids to stop. They wanted to beat our last week's number (339). And it's nearly impossible to stop, because we always see just one or two more butts... Thank you for inspiring us. I never knew just how MANY butts there were, until we started picking them up. It's disheartening and disgusting...We hope that our small effort will help your big one... on that beautiful beach.

Here is our bucket. I didn't realize 'til after I took the photo, the "Thank You" label in the trash. The irony...

Johnnie Mercer's Pier: 436 butts"

I've been adding the amount of butts that my friends pick up off of Wrightsville Beach to the Community Butt Count on the sidebar.  Liz who writes the Litter Sucks blog has been sending me lots of butt counts.  She's been picking up litter and counting the butts she finds on Carolina and Kure Beaches.  On the same day that Julie was at Wrightsville Beach, Liz and a couple of people picked up 1,135 cigarette butts off of Carolina Beach, NC in just 30 minutes!!!  

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."~Anne Frank

Our Daily Ocean: Day 23

We hit the beach today after we had lunch at Flaming Amy's ... and went to Tidal Creek and Great Harvest Bread to get some last minute things for Thanksgiving!!  It was another gorgeous day today....

Yup... those are pelicans... I LOVE pelicans.... there's something so prehistoric yet graceful about them that leaves me in complete awe.

The last time we were at Access 39 was back in September when Hurricane Earl was just offshore.  I've been meaning to get back there, but always end up choosing a different access instead.  BUT... today I was so clear about where I wanted to go that I didn't ask for anyone else's input.'s a good thing that I decided to go there today!!  As I was leaning over to pick up cigarette butts under the bench....

I noticed a bit of black plastic sticking out from the sand.  (Prepare for feel good moment ;) )  I reached into the sand and pulled out a cell phone!!  It was still on and had several missed calls... SO... I hit a button and called "Mom"... who ended up being sister and said that her brother was on his way home to Durham for Thanksgiving!!  This lost phone....  It's not lost anymore!!! :D (I'm hanging on to his phone until he gets back into town on Sunday!!)  YAY!!  It feels good to finally pick up something that isn't trash...

Unfortunately not everything left on the beach is wanted.... but today I thought about how great it would be if I could call up the people that left their butts on the beach... OR the companies who've branded their names.....

"Hi... Philip Morris... one of your Marlboros is on Wrightsville Beach, NC.  Would you like to meet me to pick it up??"  Hmmm... a girl can day dream... right?? ;)

 It's been awhile since we've played "Find That Butt"... can YOU find the butt in this picture??

I liken this picture to something that my friend Bonnie (The Plastic Ocean) said,

"...the problem with plastics in our marine environment goes unnoticed because most of it is underwater or broken down into small bits floating on the surface.  Not that it takes a trained eye to see it; you just have to recognize  that it's there.  Once you do, it likens to the 'Magic Eyes' from the 90's.  Remember staring at a random series of blotches until an image imbedded in the blotches could be recognized?  Once your eyes discovered it, you could always see it.  And you wondered why you hadn't noticed at first glance."

And that's the way it is with cigarette butts.  Once you start looking for them.. once you recognize that they're there... in piles... strewn across the sands....under shells....suddenly they're everywhere...

My friend Bonnie is currently sailing across the South Atlantic Ocean with 5 Gyres and Pangaea Explorations sampling plastics in the ocean.  While she's out in the middle of the ocean, I'm updating The Plastic Ocean Project blog with posts that she sends me.... please take the time to read about what life is like sailing through the South Atlantic and to learn about what they are finding.
 The Plastic Ocean Project and 5 Gyres Blog

From land to sea... we're all connected... 
There's a straw in this photo.

20 minutes on November 24, 2010

Litter by weight: 6 oz
166 cigarette butts

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 23 days:


Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 22

This afternoon my kids and I headed to Wrightsville Beach... once again it was an absolutely beautiful day!!  This is the November that I LOVE and the reason I moved here!!!

I know we've been going to Access 16 a lot lately... but today I had a reason-- easy to find and convenient location!!  My purpose for heading to WB today was not only to do a 20 minute clean up, but to also meet Zak Keith of Oceana North Carolina!
Zak is in Wilmington working as a field organizer for Oceana's climate and energy campaign to stop the expansion of offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast.  YAY!!  Now that's a campaign that I will happily support and encourage everyone else to support as well!!  Please visit Oceana and/or Oceana North Carolina to sign the petition to President Obama in support of clean energy and against offshore drilling!

So as we picked up butts (and other litter),  Zak got me up to speed on the issues of off-shore drilling.  I've always been one to say that--of course--I'm against offshore drilling for the obvious reasons.  Some other reasons are purely aesthetics.  I don't want to look out from Wrighstville Beach (or any other beach for that matter) and see a offshore drilling platform.  But as Zak informed me... even if we couldn't see it from our beach there would always be reminders that it's out there... reminders coming in the form of tarballs that could wash up on our East Coast beaches.  YUCK!!
It's been 7 months since the Deep Water Horizon disaster and it's important that people don't forget....The only way to prevent another oil spill is by stopping offshore drilling and investing in clean energy.

A clean, safer energy future is possible... and it's up to US to demand it!!  

Check out this video of dolphins and a whale filmed (today) off the coast of Wrightsville Beach by fellow local litter sweeper.... "we live in paradise"... let's protect it....

We NEED change.
20 minutes on November 22, 2010
Cigarette Butts: 545

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 22 days:


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 21

On Monday, as we made a trip to the store to refresh our snack bulk snack supply... my three kids and I made a detour to Wrightsville Beach.  Let me just say that the weather was AMAZINGLY gorgeous!!  There were so many more people at the beach... walking, basking in the sun, paddleboarding.... you name it... it was a beautiful day to be at the beach!!!                                                                                
It was so beautiful that my boys spent the good majority of our 20 minutes running around and digging in the sand.  My daughter, on the other hand, was right by my side for the entire 20 minutes.  She spent her time focused and saying things that make being a parent SO rewarding....

"I think the Earth likes us."

".... because we pick up the trash that it can't reach.  The Earth doesn't like all this trash... it wishes that it had arms so it could grab it all, but it can't...."

Like everything in life... it's always more fun with someone by your side.  And clean-ups are no exception...during our 20 minutes, my daughter reminded me of another reason why it's so great to have a partner in picking up litter... especially as we were picking up the cigarette butts and I would miss some and she would miss some....
"It's good we do this together because you see stuff that I don't see and I see stuff that you don't see." 

As we were leaving the beach, a father was playing soccer (ok... tapping around the ball) with his (probably) 18 month old son.  His son saw me with our buckets and reached into the sand... he walked towards me with a handful of sand and wanted to put it in the bucket.  "That's the good stuff." I told him as he put it in my hand.  The father quickly took notice of the contents of our buckets and asked...  I told him what we were doing and why we do it and of course how many cigarette butts we had picked up in 20 days.  All the while his son kept giving me sand... and then as he put the sand in my hand.... I said to the Dad, "Just think if he grabbed cigarette butts while he was picking up handfuls of sand."  And he said,

"Oh... he did... a little bit ago."  :(

20 minutes on November 15, 2010
Total amount of litter by weight: 14.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 526

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 21 days:


Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 20

Guess what?!?!  Saturday we hit a milestone!!!  We went to Access 36 and did our twentieth 20 minute clean-up!!  As we walked up to onto the beach strand there were tikis set up and yellow rose petals everywhere... a beautiful day and even more beautiful place to get married!!

As we walked down the aisle of tikis, we quickly started noticing the butts in the sand.... a trail of butts always leads to more...
 Access 36 is our adopted beach access and we've done three 20 minute clean-ups there... it is our most visited access.  (Just to note, we've even been to Access 36 and have done clean-ups that we don't tally the butts or litter weight.)
The thing that makes Access 36 different from all the other accesses is the oceanfront restaurant "Oceanic."  It is the only oceanfront restaurant on Wrightsville Beach.  On Day 4, after we picked up way too much restaurant litter and took notice of an employee smoking area under the pier... I contacted Oceanic and got a phone call from the general manager.  After our conversation, I really thought that there would be some changes.  Unfortunately, not much has changed....

This is only one of a few break/smoking areas under and around the Oceanic Pier.  We took many pictures of the Oceanic employee break areas including one area that has a cigarette butt disposal receptacle.  We appreciate Oceanic doing the right thing and having a receptacle for their employees to dispose of their butts... BUT as I found 14 fresh cigarette butts around the above table (no receptacle) and my husband found 18 butts within a one foot radius of the receptacle and even more scattered around the areas... we realize that there is something wrong.  We are completely disappointed that Oceanic management isn't doing more about this problem... and taking extra responsibility to educate their employees about the problems of cigarette butt litter.  (Take special note of these cigarette butts... they are the start of an experiment)

True....Cigarette butt litter isn't the only problem at our beaches... 

but it is the biggest problem.  Cigarette butts may seem small (raindrops are small too) but with several TRILLION littered every year... the toxic chemicals that leach from those butts adds up!!!

How bad is the cigarette butt litter problem at Wrightsville Beach??  Bad enough that when I calculate all the butts we've picked up in 20 days...20 minutes at a time... we've picked up an average of 
436 butts per day 
TWENTY-TWO* butts PER MINUTE!!! (21.8175 for all you mathematicians ;) )

And I'm not alone in picking up litter and counting cigarette butts at Wrightsville Beach.  Ginger with the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project, my friend Sarah and her two young children, my friend Missy and her children and even my college friend Gabby have all gone out to Wrightsville Beach and counted the amount of cigarette butts they find.  Most recently my friend Julie and her two young children visited Wrightsville Beach and picked up 339 cigarette butts at Johnny Mercer's Pier (Access 16).  With the help of friends an additional 2,529 cigarette butts have been removed from Wrightsville Beach.  YAY!!  

20 minutes on November 13, 2010

Cigarette Butts: 443

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach in 20 days:


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 19

Before we made our way to Wrightsville Beach, yesterday afternoon, we made a quick stop at the library.  I'll go ahead and let you in on something...the amount of littered butts at my local library almost made me skip the beach and do a clean-up right there.  Littered butts on our roadways, sidewalks, parking lots, etc... will eventually make it to the beach... it seemed strange that I was leaving that mess to go search for another.  I think I'm going to start doing "The Daily Parking Lot"... hmmm.

Throughout these past 19 days, I've been pretty sporadic about my access choices.  Preferring to let others (or available parking) choose where we go... this time... I let my boys choose ;)

I was happy that my boys unanimously chose Access 20.  Last time we were there on September 19, we picked up a ridiculous amount of cigarette butts and I was curious to see if there would be a significant difference in the amount of butts that we would find. (There was.)  When we walked onto the beach... it was absolutely gorgeous... the large tidal pool stretched the length of the beach.... and typical of every time I've been to the beach off-season... it made me long for summer....
But, of course, I got to thinking about summer... and how many more people are at the beach... how much less "trash" we are finding....thinking about my kids playing... thinking about the 6,346 cigarette butts that we picked up in just 12 days off of Wrightsville Beach from August 9 to September 24.  
It is off-season at Wrightsville Beach... free parking and dogs are free to be on the beach!!  YAY!!  (kind of)  Here's something to think about... 

Pet waste is nasty stuff... I think it's rad to see dogs at the beach... but no one likes  to look at that mess... besides... it's an environmental hazard-- fecal coliform anyone???  Yeah, me neither.  Dispose of pet waste properly... please.

Pet waste isn't the only thing on the beach that poses an environmental hazard....

"Cigarette butts can leach chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into our marine environment within an hour of contact with water." 

Studies conducted by Clean Virginia Waterways show that the chemicals in cigarette butts easily leach out of the butts, and are deadly to water fleas. The evidence indicates that the toxic chemicals leached from discarded cigarette butts present a biohazard to the water flea at concentrations of more than 0.125 butts per liter, or about one butt per two gallons of water

Which gets me thinking about the experiment that Harry who writes The Flotsam Diaries blog is doing... and about the experiment that Mark-- who's helping keep butts of the ground and saving fish with The Bait Tanks-- did.... hmmm... I think I might start an experiment of my own.... 
20 minutes on November 10, 2010

Amount of litter picked up by weight: 6.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 167

Yeah... the lighting was harsh... and there's a pair of black tights covering a bit of the pile.  The container is on it's way to being filled with butts... before adding today's butts it had 832.

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 19 days:


Monday, November 8, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 18

After I posted my first Our Daily Ocean, my friend Sara who writes The Daily Ocean blog wrote

"Looks like Danielle and The Bait Tank need to link up huh?!  I'm on it."

Nearly 2 months after Sara wrote those words, I was back visiting her in Santa Monica when we met up with Mark (The Bait Tank) to do a 20 minute clean-up in Santa Monica (Lifeguard tower 26, Ocean Park to be exact ;) ). 

On Saturday, almost exactly a month from when I was in Santa Monica, Mark made a trip to visit us in Wilmington!!  Of course, we had to do a 20 minute clean-up :)  
Oooppsss... I totally completely utterly forgot to take a picture of the access... this picture is was taken on Oct. 12.
It was such a beautiful day... the skies were perfect... bluest of blue with big fluffy clouds.  Really it was the kind of day that you just sit at the beach and do nothing besides watch the waves (yeah, it may have been beautiful... but it certainly wasn't warm!!) When we originally walked out onto the beach, I didn't have my buckets with me... I was thinking that I would just show Mark Access 16, because I really wanted to go to Access 20 (that's where my family and I picked up 1,833 butts)... BUT as soon as we got to the high tide line Mark was stunned at how many butts were at our feet.... we just had to walk back to my car to get the buckets... 

 Ok... first things first this was Mark's first time at a North Carolina Beach!!!!  AND....besides my family... Mark is the first person to do a clean-up with me!! YAY!!  (That being said, I think that I talked more than usual and forgot to take pictures and such...another oops!)  There's always next time....

Besides obviously being enamored with how beautiful our beaches are...Mark had a lot of things to say about the amount of cigarette butts we were picking up... I really wish that I had a recording of all of his comments as he picked up butt after butt after butt after butt...."holy s**t" was a common phrase.  To say that he was shocked would be a complete understatement.  SO... it makes me wonder... when tourists come to Wrightsville Beach (or our other beaches that we took Mark to.... like Carolina Beach or Kure Beach)... what do they think??  Is the beauty of the beach blinding OR do they see what we see??? Hmmm.....

My friend Ginger of the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project  has been doing 20 minute clean-ups at Wrightsville Beach as well.  Last week she sent me the "butt count" that she got from around Oceanic:  251 butts!! (Those butts--along with others-- have been added to the "Community Butt Count" on the sidebar) 

Ginger also sent me a video of a WB local who takes his own broom, dust pan, and garbage bags to clean up the area he runs at WB... no surprise... he finds the same things on the streets of WB that I find on the beach strand-- cigarette butts:

20 minutes on November 6, 2010

407 cigarette butts

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 18 days:


Friday, November 5, 2010

Watch It: Tedx Great Pacific Garbage Patch Event LIVE

Please join me here on It Starts With Me on Saturday, November 6  at 8:30 am PST... that's 9:30 Mnt., 10:30 Central and 11:30 for all you East coasters ;)....  for an 
 unprecedented worldwide web event on plastic pollution-- 

the Tedx GreatPacificGarbagePatch event!!!
The conference takes place Saturday, Nov 6 from 8:30am to 6pm Pacific Time. There is an absolutely AMAZING and INSPIRING lineup of speakers, including Dr. Sylvia Earle, David de Rothschild, Ed Begley Jr, Captain Charles Moore, Anna Cummins & Marcus Ericsen, Chris Jordan, Beth Terry and many many others guaranteed to educate and inspire us for this one day information marathon covering topics from plastic in the ocean to plastic in our bodies, AND solutions from personal actions to global initiatives and getting businesses on board. Check out the complete agenda and plan on joining this global event!!!!  Seriously, you don't want to miss it... whatever time you have to watch... seize it!!! :)
The Livestream will be up November 6 at 8:30 am PST.   If for any reason the player isn't working, please click to view at

tedxgp2 on Broadcast Live Free

              With Knowledge and Inspiration...
                leading us to ACTION...
         Together we can CHANGE the world

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 17

On Monday, while my two oldest children decided to stay at work with their Dad... my youngest son and I went to Wrightsville Beach to... well... you know what we do.  I had originally decided that we were going to go to Access 39, but as I as driving I saw a really great parking spot at.....  Access 33!!

Prepared to pay for parking...I got out a bunch of coins to fill the parking meter... and as loaded in my first coin... NOTHING happened!!  Oooops!!  Off-season!!  YAY!! Free parking!!! (well... kind of... I totally lost 35 cents!)

The weather on Monday was less than ideal for the beach.... cold and windy... (sigh) it's finally fall here in Wilmington.... 

There was hardly anyone at the beach... just a couple of fisherman and a few runners that we saw pass during our 20 minutes.  As we were picking up the usual... I came across a lot of blue rope material...

It was all over the beach... frayed with little blue pieces everywhere.... not sure "what" exactly it's made of... but since I had a bucket overflowing with the rope... it makes me think that maybe Blockade Runner could come up with another way to mark their volleyball court (??)... hmmm....

Soooo... want the good news?!?  On Monday when we got home from the beach... I saw that Brita FilterForGood had finally announced the winners of the FilterForGood Film Project!!  Yup... my project was voted as one of the winners!  Of course, I knew Friday... but as soon as it was up on Facebook and the directors were announced... even MORE...JUMPING!!  DANCING!!  YAY!!  I am so grateful for everyone who took the time to vote for my project.... I have the most AWESOME family, friends and community!! 

(:   THANK YOU!!   :)

On that note of community, I talk about my friend Bonnie a lot on this blog and what she's doing about plastics in our oceans... 

On November 6, I'll be livestreaming Tedx Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  You should totally join us for this global community event... as no doubt it will change the way we live today and for the future.  This one-day event will bring together speakers from all different fields to discuss the global plastic pollution crisis.  Together the group will identify the problem and share possible ways to solve it.  AND... the conference will culminate with the launch of 4 challenges to humanity... you can watch the event LIVE on, or here on my blog (I'll get that up Saturday) OR on the "It Starts With Me" facebook page starting at 8:30 am PST.

Confirmed speakers include Dr. Sylvia Earle, Captain Charles Moore, Van Jones, David de Rothschild, Jackson Browne, Jordan Howard, Stacy Malkan, Ken Cook, Bharati Chaturvedi, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, Vice President of Ghana, Beth Terry, Fabien Cousteau, and Ed Begley Jr. More speakers are listed on the event web  View the agenda for the day’s events at

20 minutes on November 1, 2010

Cigarette Butts: 85 (yes... this is the least amount we've picked up... YAY!!)

My son said, "Mom... I didn't get much cigarettes."  I told him, "That's a good thing."
Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 17 days: