Monday, May 30, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 70

There's a statement regarding holiday weekends that we tend to stick to: Go to the beach on a holiday weekend?? Haha.  No thank you.  As much as I love the beach, I certainly don't care to be there when it's super packed.  And so, we avoid the crowds and stay clear of the beach on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.  But, for the sake of this project (and the promise of ice cream), we made our way to Wrightsville Beach on Sunday evening.  Once again the beach was packed and once again the beach was trashed.  

Through all of the beach clean ups that we've done, I always stay optimistic about the future.  How can one not stay optimistic in place so beautiful???..... 
However, Sunday was different.  As we were doing our clean up, we watched as several groups left their trash on the beach.  Of course, my husband took the time to let the litterers know that they needed to pick up their trash... but get this... they denied it with a turned up nose and a "That's not mine."  FACT:
When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
You know what I immediately thought of when I saw this bottle of Smart Water  Dumb Water??  Jennifer Aniston.  I choose to refer to Smart Water as Dumb Water because paying for over-priced water that is packaged and shipped across the country in plastic bottles is not so smart.  You know what is smart??  Refilling a reusable water bottle.  Save money and the environment!!  Genius!  Take a sec to tell her and Tom Brady to stop endorsing Smart Water.  (By the way, the cap was about 4 feet from the bottle)
In the comments on Day 68, I shared some thoughts with Ellen, EcoCatLady and Susan.  During the past few clean ups, a lot of people start to (try to) give their trash to my kids.  Seriously.  Do we look like we're maids??  We're not wearing or carrying anything that looks like we've been hired to clean up after people... we come with our surf camp bag and some kids buckets dressed just like anyone else.  So, I had this thought... how do we let people know that they need to be responsible and that we're not their personal maids???  By having our kids wear shirts that say: (front) I'm not your maid, (back) Pick up your trash!
When we had just about finished our 20 minutes, I saw a guy picking up cigarette butts and walking them to the (overflowing) trash cans.  As soon as I was able to make contact with him, I thanked him.... and as I did, he said, "It's pretty bad when they pass out bags (pictured above) and things for cigarette butts and it still looks like this..."   With those words...hope is nearly restored.

"We have the Bill of Rights.  What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities."  ~Bill Maher

20 minutes on May 29, 2011 at Access 17
Cigarette butts: 487
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 70 days: 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 69

When I was a kid, I used to hide (and sometimes throw away) my mom's cigarettes.  It's true.  Thankfully, my mom got the hint and quit smoking somewhere around 20 years ago.  Speaking of 20.  A major milestone in the 20 minute clean ups has been reached...
We've officially passed the 20,000 mark.  YIKES!!  There was a time when I would have never thought that it was possible.  NOW... I wonder what's next??  How many more cigarette butts are we going to pick up??  I'll tell you how many.... as many as it takes for people to get the message.  And a reality that I've come to accept is that it could be thousands more...  
Maybe we'll hit 50,000?  Think about it.  It may have taken us 69 clean ups to pass the 20,000 mark, but-- since I started this project at the beginning of August-- the majority of those clean ups were done off-season.  In fact, 47 of the 69 clean ups were done between October and April.  Hmmm... during the filming of my FilterForGood Film, I had 11,332 cigarette butts.  Since December, we have added over 9,000 cigarette butts to the tally.  Seriously, I count them all and I can't get over it.  My brain is practically spinning.... and I can't help but wonder what the 2 busiest beach months will bring??    
*sigh*  A lot more of everything, that I am sure of.

20 minutes on May 27, 2011 at Access 29
Litter by weight: 3 lbs 9.1 oz
Cigarette butts: 658

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 69 days:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lemony Pasta & Broccoli

As a mother of three young children, sometimes putting dinner on the table without someone going "ugh... this is what we're eating?" can be a difficult task.  Different kids = different opinions... and I'm cool with that ;)  There are some things that I know will always make my kids happy... one of those things is pasta. (surprise surprise)  Since I'm making a good majority of things from scratch, I always have a glass jar full bulk pasta (from Tidal Creek) on hand for nights when I just don't have the time or have no clue what to make for dinner. (Fyi... that happens once a week!)  

Awhile ago, I had practically nothing in my house.  I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner and I had about an hour before I had to get my kids to gymnastics and karate.  So... I did what I always do.  I took a quick inventory of the things that I had (pasta!) and I figured out a way to make it work.  That "I'm rushed and I don't know what the heck I'm going make for dinner night" turned into one awesome dinner.  My kids kept asking for more and now this is their most requested meal. :D  (Shout out to my friend Tracy who text me for this recipe tonight!)

Lemony Pasta With Broccoli

1 lb pasta*
2-4 heads of broccoli, cut into florets

1/4 cup organic unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil*
2 large cloves of garlic, minced 
Zest of 2 lemons

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper*
4 tsp kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon 

1/2 - 1 cup Nutritional Yeast*

Cook pasta until almost finished, then add broccoli to the boiling water.  When the broccoli is bright green, drain the pasta and broccoli.  Don't drain too well.... leave some water on the pasta :)
While the pasta cooks, heat the butter and oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and lemon zest.  Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Off heat, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Pour this over the (drained) pasta and broccoli.  Toss well.

Add nutritional yeast.  Stir well.  The pasta should get a bit creamy looking (almost like adding parmesan... in fact, you could use parmesan.).  Taste.  Add more nutritional yeast if you like.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If you want more lemon (which my kids usually do... add the juice of the 2nd lemon) 

Oh right... so you may be looking at the photo... thinking... "ummm... where are the peas in the recipe??"  Here's the thing.  You know that mantra "make it work"... well, along with the broccoli I had peas in my CSA box.  I figured why not? :)  That's kind of how I view cooking... tweak the recipe for what you have.  Seriously.  Don't go buying shell noodles to match mine.  Have another green on hand, use it.  Add some chickpeas. Really love garlic, add more.  Do whatever sounds good to you.  That's what cooking is about... and it makes it so much more enjoyable being released from the constraints of a recipe. :)

* Bought in bulk with my own containers at Tidal Creek Co-op

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 68

Ok... so... last night, we did our 68th beach clean up at Access 15.  I have so many emotions running through me as I think about the disaster zone that was Wrightsville Beach.  We parked at access 16 and before we even got on the beach... I knew it was going to be bad.  The trash can was overflowing... trash was littered all over the parking lot.  And what makes me so frustrated is that we saw the same scene on our 58th clean up.  Completely obvious fact:  In order for trash cans to work... they NEED to be emptied regularly!!!  
But the mess wasn't contained to the parking lot.  (deep breath)  I'm thankful that we have the 3 best helpers EVER.  Just look at my kids... my oldest is using a littered beach bucket and filling it with cigarette butts (fyi... my kids picked up 469 cigarette butts on their own!!), my daughter following (she's the inspector), and my youngest... arms full.  When he got to me he said, "Mom this one has coffee."
So... as we walked... I kept thinking to myself... "WHY???"  I mean really... how can people come to the beach and leave it so trashed??  My son wonders the same thing.  Here he is holding a plastic bag full of trash that he found under Johnnie Mercer's Pier.  (The bag and it's contents were thrown away and are not included in the litter weight.) 
And so... I can wonder "why" all day long... I want to cry thinking about it... and so I can keep thinking about the "why"... but the conclusion that I'm coming to is that the "why" people litter really isn't important.  What's MORE important is giving people the reasons "why" they need to take care of the beach.  Showing them the problem. 

Here's a thought.  There are fines in place for littering.  Wrightsville Beach has a $500 fine for littering.  Guess what?!? It's obviously NOT working.  In order for a fine to work, it has to be enforced. It doesn't take a genius to notice that it's not being enforced.  (But... I tell you what... people are quick to fill the parking meters for fear of getting a parking ticket... BECAUSE... parking at WB is enforced to the extreme!!!)  
Another thought that I had while going through all of the litter is that litter fines are great and all... but they don't really teach anything of real value.  What if there were people all over the beach catching litterers in action.  No warning... they get a ticket and have to do community service.  Litterers should be required to do a beach clean up... because then and only then will they understand the enormity of the problem.  (I'd gladly volunteer to have the litterbugs come with us on our beach clean ups.)
Oh... I almost forgot.  I (think) that I want to wear one of those sandwich signs.  On one side, it would say something like "Take Your Trash With You" ... hmmm... "Love The Beach. Don't Litter."  And on the other side it would say, "The Beach is NOT an Ashtray" or "Cigarette butts are litter, too."  (I'm torn)
"Awareness is the first step to creating change in any situation, without it, there would be no desire for change."

20 minutes on May 22, 2011 at Access 15
Cigarette butts: 843
14 aluminum cans, 3 plastic bags, 13 plastic bottles, 29 straws (12 from juice boxes), 24 plastic caps, 4 pairs of shoes... and a whole bunch of other plastic crap.
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 68 days: 

Our Daily Ocean: Day 67

After an afternoon of playing in the pool, we headed to Wrightsville Beach with our friend Tracy and her two kids-- Liam and Emma.  We attempted to go to Johnnie Mercer's Pier, but even at 7 PM parking at the pier was packed... so we headed a few accesses down to Access 18.
It was a good call.  Looking north down the beach strand, people were everywhere... but for the most part everyone had cleared from access 18.  I say that's a good thing because when the beach is covered with people, it's often hard to know what has been left behind.

As usual, when we come to the beach with my kids friends... they do a lot of playing.  But what's great is that in the midst of playing they always find the time to pick up the litter that's around them...  running to us with handfuls of whatever they find.  In fact, Liam ran to me with a rash guard that he found in the water. (not on a person, of course ;) )  Have I mentioned that my kids favorite thing to find is beach toys??  By the end of summer, we're going to have a lot...
While I was walking over to take a photo for Tracy, I stopped in my tracks and said, "Did you accidentally dump your bucket???"  (Her answer was "no...")  4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide every year... I'm starting to wonder if that number is on the low side...
Awhile ago, someone told me the cigarette pack equivalent to how many butts we've picked up off of Wrightsville Beach.  I just did the calculation.... at this point we've picked up the equivalent of over 953 packs of cigarettes.  YIKES!  Also, this clean up puts our total weight of litter collected off of Wrightsville Beach to over 100 pounds.  *sigh* I have a feeling that number will easily double over the summer...

20 minutes on May 21, 2011 at Access 18
Cigarette butts: 740

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 67 days:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 66

As I sit here typing... we've already done our 68th beach clean up.  I'm honestly feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.... so I'm happy that I have a day to think about what we found tonight at Wrightsville Beach.  Sooo... since I'm moving slow on getting my posts up, I'm mentally rewinding to Friday.
During an amazing dinner at South Beach Grill, my husband and I had a really great conversation with the owner-- John.  Not only does John own one of the best local restaurants (which happens to serve the BEST local flounder I've ever eaten!)... he has also been so extremely supportive of my efforts.  :)  While talking to John, I (of course) managed to bring up plastic straws.  Planting a seed. ;) Maybe South Beach could be the first restaurant on Wrightsville Beach to phase out plastic straws?!?  The thought makes me extremely hopeful, because all it takes is for one to start the shift...
After dinner, my husband and I did a 20 minute clean up just a short walk from the restaurant at access 29.  In all honesty, when we walked onto the beach I thought that it didn't look too littered.  BUT.... it only took a short time on the beach for us to start noticing the groups, trails, pairs and piles of cigarette butts all over the sand.
There are often many times that we find things at the beach that make me pause... and roll my eyes.  This wrapper is one of those things.  Seriously, SOLO cups are disposable #6 (that's polystyrene) plastic.  Not even accepted for recycling.  Oh wait, what about that little recycle symbol??  Meaningless.    Dump the crappy throwaway cup for a reusable one.  Words to live by: 
Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse... then (and only then) Recycle
20 minutes at Access 29 on May 20, 2011
Litter by weight: 1 lb 1.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 399
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 66 days: 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 65

 Now that the weather is staying consistently warm... and especially nice in the evenings... we're heading to Wrightsville Beach A LOT more often.... and it's making our kids SO happy :)

On Thursday, I removed litter from Access 24-- my friend (and brother's girlfriend) Gabby's adopted beach access.  Gabby-- a student at UNCW-- does frequent clean ups at Wrightsville Beach and often contributes to the community cigarette butt count.  I was super excited to find out that, while Gabby was nannying on Thursday, they picked up litter at Access 36--my family's adopted access. (woot! Thanks Gab!)
As I was picking up cigarette butts... I started to notice a trend.  Camel cigarettes.  All different kinds, but the one that stuck out to me was this one with the little pink camel.  I keep thinking... "Gee... I wonder who they're marketing to??"  My thought is young women.... err... teenage and college girls.  Yes.  I said it.  And I believe it.  I mean... it's obvious right?!?  
Found this empty pack of Camels by the bench. (yes all of the butts were scattered around the pack)  
The writing-- "Seize the Hump Day"-- on the package caught my eye.  I found it comical, but then I thought about the people that rely on a pack (or more) of cigarettes to get them through the week. :(  
Question of the day:  How do you get over hump day??  (Me?  Wednesday is my favorite day!)
20 minutes on May 19, 2011 at Access 24
Cigarette butts: 148

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 65 days: 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 64

Ok... so now... I'm feeling excited!  As I'm trying to catch up on my blogposts (yes... I've been slacking!!)... I just realized that THIS post is my 200th blogpost!  Since this is a milestone of sorts, it's no surprise that I found this heart made out of shells at Wrightsville Beach on Saturday :)

No doubt, I have always loved the beach.  When I was a kid (growing up in St. Louis, MO), I used to dream about living by a beach. The smell of the salty water, the breeze, the sand between my toes and the soothing sound of the waves all combine to create a great sense of peace and calm... also known as pure happiness.  Soooooo... How do I love the beach?  Let me count the ways....  ;)

I love the beach for the hours of fun that can be had...
I love the beach because it's a place where I can go to make a difference...
I love the beach because in the waves we become one with the sea...
It is on the beach... where I see most vividly how everything is connected.
And... because of this.  Seriously.  Happiness.

20 minutes on May 14, 2011 at Access 38
Cigarette butts: 178
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 64 days: 

Our Daily Ocean: Day 63

On Friday, my family and I went to Access 4 for my husband to get his SUP on.   Access 4 (known as "L shaped lot"), is at the far north end of Wrightsville Beach.  I've made a conscious decision to not go to the north end of the beach very often as I've found the middle section of the beach to need the 20 minute clean ups the most.  Before Friday, we hadn't been to 4 since filming and haven't done a clean up there since our 25th clean up back in December!!
The other day, I was reading one of my favorite blogs "The Flotsam Diaries."  Normally one to blog about his discoveries on his local beach in Maine... Harry left Maine to do an archeological excavation.  As usual, Harry shares his observations... but this time while uncovering the "trash" of a forgotten society he makes the connection that their trash is only valuable because it is SO rare.  Being that the trash that our modern day society is creating isn't at all rare....I wonder what archeologists of the future will uncover about us??
But... we don't have to be archeologists in the future to tell a story about a people in a time or place.  Take access 4, for example.  I commonly refer to access 4 as the "family access."  AND... one 20 minute clean up is enough for the trash to prove it.  The number one kid related item that we found were juice box straw wrappers.  I think I've said this a million times... but just in case anyone has missed it.  I get why parents buy juice boxes.  They're super convenient and kids like them.  In fact, my kids used to love them.  BUT... as convenient as they are, there's another super convenient option.  We take reusable water bottles to the beach.  We can fill them with whatever we want and best of all there's no (accidental) littering.
More signs of families... especially kids were everywhere.  I especially love this volcano that I came across. The cigarette butt.... not so much. :(

Whenever I find band-aids on the beach... I immediately think of my friend Sara, who writes The Daily Ocean blog.  She always wonders why people wear them to the beach... they come off in the shower.  Hmmm.... Speaking of Sara.  To date, I've added 97 lbs 2.2 oz to The Daily Ocean Community Count.  Anyone can and is encouraged to add to The Daily Ocean Community Collection Count... go here to learn how :)
20 minutes on May 13, 2011 at Access 4
Litter by weight: 14 oz
Cigarette butt: 112
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 63 days:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 62

After a brief conversation the other night, I've been mulling over this thought:  "How do we get people to show up to make a difference??" .... and I'm not talking about people showing up to lobby Congress.  I'm talking about the simple things....
As a mother of 3 young children, it would be easy for me to say that I have too much going on... not enough time... and make up so many reasons why I can't do something... why I can't show up to make a difference... but, I don't.  
At some point, I realized that whatever I can do... no matter how small it seemed... I was doing something.  And doing something is always better than doing nothing.  For some reason, I've connected to this idea that "I am the difference." (you are, too ;) ) And I consistently have to remind myself of that fact... especially when I do clean ups.  
Saying those words helps me to connect the things in my everyday life to the bigger picture.  Hence the words "everything we do (or don't do) has an impact on the world we live in" in this blog header.  I strive to connect the dots between my actions and the things that are happening in our world....

That's why I am making a conscious effort to eliminate single use plastics (recyclable or not) from our household.  (This process is taking time, patience and a lot of rethinking)  Knowing that plastics are swirling in our oceans, being buried in landfills, being littered, poisoning, entangling, suffocating, choking... the life out of every living thing on this planet.... forces me to look at how I am connected to it all.
So... I show up to make a difference with my reusables: shopping bags, produce bags, water bottle, glass straw, real flatware and dishes.  I say 'no thank you', I write a letter, I change where I shop, I change what I consume... I consume less.  ....And, of course,  I take 20 minutes at the beach and make it a little bit cleaner.  <--- ok, so my daughter is editing this post and she just told me that it's "not a little bit cleaner... it's actually A LOT cleaner." :)
"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."  ~Edward Everett Hale

20 minutes on May 11 at Access 36
Litter by weight: 11.6 oz
Cigarette butts: 256* 

*Fact: 98 cigarette butts were removed from the Oceanic Restaurant's employee break area.  Yes, I'm going to call Oceanic!

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 62 days: