Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 6

Over the weekend, we were going to do a 20 minute clean-up, but after a 4 year old meltdown... we decided against it.  Luckily... on Monday... everyone was in good spirits... so we headed over to Wrightsville Beach.  Access 24 was looking great as we walked from our parking spot... not much litter on the street... but when we stepped onto the beach my kids were quick to notice that someone made it ALL the way to the trash can and didn't throw their trash away!  Seriously!?  How do people do that?!?

SO... I've got to thinking about the details of "why" I'm doing this whole thing-- going to the beach and counting cigarette butts for 20 minutes and keeping a tally of how many I collect.  Sure cigarette butts look trashy, but it's about more than just what it looks like... the trashy part is the obvious part... it's about the impacts that aren't visible to the naked eye...
My kids always head to the ocean to dip their feet in the water before we start our 20 minutes.
Did you know that there are over 165 chemicals found in cigarettes and that those toxins wash from the butts into our water??  And those toxins from cigarettes also collect on the filter and are then washed out into our waterways and the ocean... where birds and marine animals often ingest the butts, thinking that they're food.  In fact, plastic pieces have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales, and other marine-life that mistakes them as food... 
And... lets be real.. cigarette butt litter isn't just a major problem at our beaches and in the ocean.  Every time I leave the beach from doing a clean-up... I ALWAYS manage to get right behind someone that throws their cigarette butt out their car window.  Grrr.  On Monday, it was the driver and the passenger. :( 

SO... switching gears... and onto an AWESOME moment!!  I, personally, don't feel the most comfortable picking up litter right next to people.  WELL... not my daughter!!  While I was picking up some butts, I turned around to see my daughter in the middle of a couple's "area".  She was on her knees picking up butts at a smoking couples feet and in between their two chairs!  They thought she was collecting sea shells and were quick to say they had a trash bag for their butts.  Hmmm...  (Speaking of seashells... I have a vision of a PSA in my head... wanna hear it?!)  

Every 20 minute clean-up we do... I weigh the litter that we pick up and my friend Sara adds it to The Daily Ocean Community Collection count.  Wanna join the beach clean-up REVOLUTION!?  I'm with Sara and everyone involved in the Community Collection Count on The Daily Ocean blog!!! :D  Over the past 6 days, I've picked up a little over 9 pounds of litter off of WB.  And by all accounts the trash wasn't too bad at Access 24.  All in all we collected mostly lots of little bits...mostly plastics... still a little bit... is still too much...
I find these little Silica Gel packets... I have yet to figure out what they come in that would be brought to the beach.  Insight anyone?!
Alcohol is banned on Wrightsville Beach... but it obviously doesn't mean that people don't do it.
At the end of nearly all the clean-ups that we do, our kids are somehow rewarded for their efforts... and rightfully so....usually in the form of found toys, beach towels, or high fives amongst other things ;)  This time as we were finishing up our 20 minutes, my daughter came running and said, "Henri found money!"  He came to me and said, "What do I do with this??"  I told him that he could keep it... it was REAL.  Yes, he was confused and so proud all at the same time.  He ended up carrying his one dollar bill around with him for the rest of the day :D  

20 Minutes on August 30, 2010

Cigarette Butts:  342

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 6 days:


Monday, August 30, 2010

Hey, Big Spender.... Where Are YOU??

Last week, I received this letter from the the grocery store that I used to frequent at least two times a week... 

Ok... so I know the people who work in the produce department have commented on how they haven't seen me much... BUT... I didn't realize I had cut back on my shopping that much!!!! YAY!!

Of course, I filled out the survey (in detail) and called the 800 number.  Here are some of the things I discussed:

Local foods (produce, dairy, seafood), bulk foods, more organics AND how a year or so ago they used our coastal area as a test market for ONLY plastic grocery bags (seriously)... and let them know that the store I do shop at now has a plastic bag ban. ;)

I am just so pumped that I used to be a big spender at Harris Teeter... and now... they've taken notice that I'm spending my money elsewhere....

SO....I would like to thank my Farmers' Markets, my CSA (Cottle Farm Organics), my garden (even though it didn't perform to my expectations), Tidal Creek Cooperative Market, Edens Produce (a roadside farm stand) and the lady that sells local shrimp on the side of the road for helping make this happen!!!

VOTE with YOUR $$

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 5

Yesterday, before heading to the beach, the kids and I made a trip to the Teacher's Aid store to pick up a few things that we need for school.  After I made my purchases, I said no thanks to a plastic bag and the lady checking me out said, "And the environment thanks you."  I told her that we were on our way to the beach to pick up cigarette butts.  She went on to tell me that she always puts her butts in the trash and never throws them out her car window.  Then through talking I told her what the filters are made of... plastic... NOT cotton.... another person who had no idea.

I decided that we needed to move our way up the beach.... and there's no better place to go than Johnny Mercer's Pier:

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to the Jack Johnson concert in Raleigh, NC.  Before the show started we spent some time in the Village Green.  There were local (NC) non-profits and when we stopped by the Surfrider booth... I was greeted with a "Hey...".  Turns out I (yes, me) was recognized.  Adam, from our local (Cape Fear) Surfrider, found my blog on Facebook and has shared what I am doing with the WB Litter Committee.... which I am extremely grateful for, because it helps me realize even more that what I'm doing and attempting to help do is so important.  So while I was talking with Adam, he told me that my blog couldn't have come at a better time... why???  Because there have been people saying that the cigarette butt litter isn't that bad.  WHAT?!?   His thought is that they're driving by in trucks or on 4-wheelers... and I agree... because if they walked... they would surely see what I am seeing:

Yeah... that's a shoe print right next to that butt. 

But the thing is... sometimes even while walking... cigarette butts are hard to see.  Their coloring blends in perfectly with the sand and shells. 

And often looks like something completely natural:

Cigar is on the left... with a butt to the middle right.
And so many plastics are near invisible... like the juice box straw wrapper... found here next to a cigarette butt.....
The wrapper is to the left and up from the butt.
I have been having this thought lately that if all plastic was a bright color like red or neon orange... no tans, no whites, no clear... that it'd be so much easier to spot.... maybe wildlife wouldn't mistake it for something natural... and the amount of litter (including cigarette butts) would be so much more obvious...

Even the blue plastic bottle cap is more obvious than the white cigarette butt filter.  
This plastic bag almost made it to the ocean.... did you know that CA is working on banning plastic carryout bags?

The other night, I was reading The Daily Ocean... and Sara wrote about feeling self-conscious picking up litter around people's towels and such... and as I was reading it I was shaking my head in agreement because I have always felt the same way.  But there's a benefit to picking up litter right next to people and I was reminded of that as I was picking up litter at Access 16... three people commented and asked questions about what I was doing.  YAY!!  It was another opportunity for me to educate... and get reassurance that I'm helping to make a difference.

High 5's are much appreciated... especially on day 5!!! :D   

20 minutes on August 25, 2010

Litter picked up by weight: 1 lb 1 oz

Cigarette Butts:  235
Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 5 days: 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Keep It Local: Strawberries

It's been a few months since strawberry season ended here in coastal NC. :(  Picking strawberries is one of our most favorite things to do... we even picked strawberries on our California vacation last month :)  Admittedly we have a problem-- we don't know when to quit.  ;)  But in the case of of picking strawberries... that's a good problem to have :D

Before the season ended we picked loads of berries and enjoyed the bounty of fresh local strawberries...

Mmmm... local berries.  They're in season and the flavor (and texture) is at their peak... far superior than anything we could ever buy in a grocery store.  True, I'm missing strawberries already... but I know that my taste buds would only be disappointed by berries shipped from across the country.  So thanks to our habit of not being able to quit picking berries, I've got ice cream buckets full of strawberries in my freezer just perfect for making smoothies AND I finally did what I've been wanting to do for so many years... make Fresh Strawberry Jam.

Sure in past years, I've made strawberry jam... but only a few jars.

As one of my many commitments this year, I decided that I wasn't going to buy strawberry jam anymore.  
Strawberries macerating.
By making my own, I bring it back to the way things used to be... picking my own food and preserving it for the future.  I know where our strawberries were grown and how they were prepared (by me!), I can control how much and what kind of sweetener I use.... no plastic seals, no trucks, no shelves stocked. 

 Keeping it local.  Keeping it seasonal. 

Want to get canning and jamming?  Check out Food in Jars

Real Maple Syrup

Several years ago, I decided that I was going to switch from Log Cabin Syrup to real maple syrup.


 Let's just say that I TRIED to make the switch.... Over the course of about a year, I would buy maple syrup and mix it in with the HFCS pancake syrup and tried to slowly wean out the "fake" stuff... but for whatever reason I just couldn't let go of the sugared sweetness of the corn-syrup based "pancake" syrup.  Most times the maple syrup would get used for glazes (think Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon.. YUM!) and as a sweetener in baking.

THEN, just this year... I took the time to learn all about HFCS and started eliminating it from our household.  And thanks to Food Inc., I put the puzzle pieces together about the complete relationship between corn-syrup and GMOs.  I had always avoided GMO's, but never took the time to fully understand how much they are in our foods.  (GMOs are another post... in the mean time, if you don't know about why you should avoid them...  for your health, for the farmers, and for the planet...get googling).

I immediately made the decision that I was no longer going to buy Log Cabin (or any other "fake" syrup)... and started buying maple syrup in bulk from our local cooperative market...

We take a glass juice bottle and get A LOT of maple syrup :)

 Honestly, it took me a bit to get used to the natural earthy flavor of maple syrup...  but now I could never go back to the "fake" maple syrup.  No GMO's, no plastic bottles... and it's real... REAL is always better-- than any man made food product-- for us and for the environment. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 4

Yesterday, my husband took off work early so that we could go to the beach with his parents who had been visiting for the past week.  Ever since the kids and I picked up litter at access 36, they had been begging us to go to "Oceanic" for dinner.  So as much as I would've liked to go to a different access to do a 20 minute clean-up... we ended up back here:

We parked in the parking lot just across the street from the access.  As I was locking up my car I noticed the man who was parked right next to me was smoking a cigarette.  THEN... he threw his butt on the ground.  I took a deep breath and said, "Hey... I totally have to say something.  Did you know that cigarette butts are the most littered item worldwide?"  He didn't.  "And that that butt will never biodegrade... instead it will go down that drain... to the ocean......"  

He said, "I had no idea.  I'll pick it up."  AND he actually did!!  This is a milestone for me... I usually never say anything to people... I like to leave that job to my husband ;)

We spent a few hours at the beach playing in the waves and boogie boarding.  Then as we sat on the sand, my husband and I reminisced about moving me out to UNC Wilmington 11 years ago and how it was 10 years ago this very weekend that we moved into our first home here in Wilmington.  We couldn't have picked a better place to live :)

When I saw the clouds roll in... and then heard the thunder... I knew that I had to get a move on picking up litter... just me... no husband and no kids.  

2 of the items that I find the most of... cigarette butts and straws.
So close to the trashcans... which, by the way, were near empty
Typical of our last visit to Access 36, lots of restaurant litter.  But there was more than just restaurant litter... by the looks of it under the pier... it looks like that's where employees like to take their smoke breaks and then use the beach as their ashtray. :(  (After I finish writing this... I'll be contacting Oceanic about the obvious restaurant litter and butt litter.)

But, of course, not all litter is from the restaurant.  Convenience is the name of the game at the beach.  

Convenience products are especially what parents reach for for their children.  One of the most common things that I find at the beach (or even at parks) are juice box straws and the plastic straw wrappers.  Those wrappers were practically made to fly... 

As a parent of 3 young children, I can attest to the fact that kids really love juice boxes.  BUT... I don't buy them for my kids.  (I have several reasons, which is deserving of it's own post)  We have reusable drink containers.  Nothing to throw in the trash and nothing to accidentally get caught by the wind....

In case you're wondering... yes... my kids get to keep all the beach toys that they find while picking up litter on the beach.
Not pictured:  size 8 jeans and some cheap flip flops

20 minutes on August 18, 2010

Litter picked up by weight:  2 lbs 8 oz

Cigarette butts: 215

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up off of Wrightsville Beach, NC in 4 days:  1,167

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ban the Bag

Do you live in California?  (if not... watch the video and keep reading ;) )  Call Your California State Senator and urge them to support AB 1998, the bill to ban plastic carryout bags in California.

Of course, I don't live in Cali... BUT... I know people who do.  So I'm helping spread the word about this bill because it could be HUGE.... not just for California but for all states.  Remember when California banned smoking in bars and restaurants???  I never imagined with that ban so many other states would follow suit.  Even here in North Carolina-- tobacco country... and home of R.J. Reynolds-- there is a smoking ban.  YAY!!

SO... if you live in Cali... call and write your state senators.  If you don't live in Cali... spread the word... chances are you know someone who knows someone who.... can help make this happen ;)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our Daily Ocean: Day 3

After my son finished with karate, we headed over to Wrightsville Beach.  We had originally decided that we were going to hit Johnny Mercer's Pier, but as I was driving over I thought since we were going to have ice cream after we picked up litter that it only made sense to go here:

Access 29 is conveniently located by our favorite ice cream shop and Trolley Stop... and lots of other places to eat and shop.

  As we walked up the access, we saw a group of older people talking.  One lady was smoking a cigarette.  My husband decided he was going to say something... so with a jovial attitude he said, "You're not going to throw that butt down in the sand when you're done, are you?"  AND... much to my surprise the lady said, "No, I'm going to take it with me.  We normally go to Morehead City... you know what they have?  These signs that say 'Don't Leave Your Butt on the Beach."  

If only every smoker was so observant and respectful of our beaches.  

Unfortunately, they're not.

Just as usual, we also picked up lots of littered plastics.  From the innocent toys...

to the forgotten drinks... 

to straws...
My son noticed this bright straw under the lifeguard stand... then he picked up 7 more .
 and then these...
 hmmm... for years we've been told how marine animals and birds get tangled in the plastic rings... but yet... they are still found on beaches :(  I have to say that I'm surprised they're still made.  Back to that whole voting with your $$ mantra.  Want to buy soda (or beer)?  Skip the rings and buy it in a box.

On our way back to the car (and to get ice cream), my kids kept stopping to pick up cigarette butts and other litter they saw.  My daughter said, 
"Some people are so trashy."  

20 minutes on August 17, 2010

Litter picked up by weight: 2 lbs
Cigarette Butts: 409

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up in 3 days off of Wrightsville Beach, NC: 952

Be Heard

I first registered to vote in 2008.  There was a lot going on locally (and there still is) that really irked me...  I figured the only way for me to change what I wasn't happy about was to register to vote, figure out what issues were MOST important to me... research ALL of the candidates and then decide what really matters and vote for what I believe in....  
peace vote Pictures, Images and Photos

"I have a lot of faith in people. I don't think the corporations reflect the kindness of people. I don't think our politics reflect the kindness of the people they represent." It's up to us to figure out how to change that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rise Above Plastics

Our Daily Ocean: Day 2

Yesterday, after I picked my daughter up from Surf Camp, we all headed out to Wrightsville Beach.  I decided to change our location and thanks to a perfect parking spot.... we ended up here:

One thing that I didn't post the other day was that thanks to the hard (and disgusting) work of my friend Jennifer on the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program... there are these signs posted at beach access sites. (see above).

Access 36 is completely different from access 43...  for starters there are more people thanks to it's convenient location with plenty of parking and showers and restrooms... not to mention all of the rental properties and condos.

But another thing that makes it so different is that there's an ocean front restaurant with a pier.  And with that comes litter that I didn't see at access 43... restaurant litter.  The theme was apparent... and I got sidetracked from picking up cigarette butts to picking up the litter from the restaurant.

Crackers with your soup or salad anyone?

How about a coaster for your beer?

And of course, you need a straw in your drink... or do you?  Whenever we go out to eat, my husband and I request no straws.  Really we don't use them at home... why do we need one when we eat out?? REFUSE ;)

One of the almost 20 straws we found... some were still in wrappers.  It's no wonder that straws are #9 on the International Coastal Clean-ups top 10 marine debris items.

In case you're wondering....#6 of the top 10 marine debris items.

Walking under the pier, my youngest son started picking up trash without realizing that the trash still had ownership... I'm now questioning whether it was right to tell him not to pick it up.... 

Of course, the other litter on the beach didn't sidetrack us completely....there were always a cigarette butts to pick up... including this freshly put out butt :(

20 minutes on August 11, 2010

Litter picked up by weight: 2 lbs 9 oz

Cigarette butts: 197

Total amount of cigarette butts picked up in 2 days off of Wrightsville Beach, NC: 543

Also, just like Day 1 as I was driving home I witnessed another litterbug throw his cigarette butt out his window. :(