Thursday, June 30, 2011

Backyard Birthday Bash

Back in mid-May, my husband let me in on a secret:  He was planning a party to celebrate my 33rd birthday!!!  This was big news to me as I couldn't remember the last birthday party I had... AND... as soon as I got over the "shush, no you're not" feeling... I began to get excited.  Not only were we going to be having a Bushwalla house show... this was an opportunity to throw a different kind of party.  Normally parties create a lot of trash, because who really has enough plates, flatware, and such for 50+ people?  Red solo cups, aluminum cans, plastic flatware, paper napkins, bags of chips, and convenience foods reign during parties.  For my party, we had to do something different.  So on Saturday, June 25, we did just that.
Photo credit: Tracy Carr
In general, I have this great desire to prove (most often to myself) that when we most think we can't get around plastic... there ARE ways around it and through planning and rethinking it can be done.  Deciding to throw a party without using the typical party fare: paper plates, plastic/compostable cups, plastic cutlery, etc. takes extra thought.  The first thing we did was figure out what kind of food we wanted to have.  Based on past experiences of trying to reduce waste during parties, we immediately decided on foods that didn't need forks, spoons or knives.  Here's what we ate:  Flaming Amy's Burritos, chips with salsa, Mellow Mushroom Pizza, watermelon, cantaloup and cupcakes.  Here's how we avoided waste:  Took our own containers to Flaming Amy's for salsa, requested no plastic, composted food scraps including cupcake wrappers and the pizza and cupcake boxes :)
Another thing that I wanted to consider was filling my recycling bins with a bunch of aluminum cans and glass. Obviously, we got a keg of beer.  Then we made an easy decision:  No soda.  Instead, we had sweet tea and homemade lemonade.  We put the sweet tea in one of those big Igloo coolers (like you see get dumped on sports players). While we were at Hands Across the Sand on Saturday morning, my mom made fresh lemonade by squeezing 50 something lemons!  Then we filled reused glass juice jars that I had saved with the lemonade.  The lemonade could be poured from or drank directly from the bottle.  It was SO yummy!!  Check it out... can you guess how much I LOVE lemonade??? ;)
Oh right... so what did we eat on and drink from?? At first we thought about going to Goodwill and buying extra plates, but after the suggestion from a friend... we ended up renting plates and glasses.  Seriously.  What was awesome about renting was that we didn't have to do any dishes.  We just put the plates and glasses in their respective trays and took them back to the party rental place!
Photo by: Gabrielle Lyons

The party was SO much fun... everything turned out better than I could have ever anticipated.  We created  zero-trash and I would guarantee that nobody felt like they missed out on anything or realized that we were striving to go plastic-free. (Ok... there were a few people that knew what was up ;) ) Now... I can't end this post without mentioning how amazing Bushwalla was is.  Not only is he an extremely talented artist and an amazing performer... he's also like-minded.  What I mean by "like-minded" is that he's eco-conscious.  While at Hands Across the Sand, he was exactly like me... stopping to pick up every piece of litter he saw... even the cigarette butts!  He even wanted to do a 20 minute beach clean up with me!  (Bummed we didn't get to it, but no doubt there will be another time!) Turns out that he's been wanting to start doing beach clean ups in San Diego for quite sometime... and now he's feeling inspired to get it started!  YAY!!!  So if you don't know "who" Bushwalla is... go check out his music and support this eco-friendly, funky, soulful, hip-hoptimistic, being love musician...entertainer....artist.

Gratitude to all of my family and friends who shared my birthday with me... I had an absolute blast!! 33 is going to be good... real good... I just know it :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 75

On Wednesday--June 22-- I celebrated my 33rd birthday!  Of course, we celebrated my birthday at one of my most favorite restaurants at Wrightsville Beach-- Tower 7.  Normally we do dinner and a clean up... but this time we had to do it in reverse because Tower 7 had nearly a 2 hour wait (!!)... yup... tourist season is in full swing.  And we brought 6 to the beach on Wednesday! ;)

From left to right: Aunt Karon, Aunt Kay, my son, my Mom, my daughter, Aunt Kathie, and my sister Audrey. (not pictured: my cousin Cody)
Some of my family-- my mom, sister, 3 aunts and my cousin-- flew in (from Missouri and Iowa) for a long awaited visit!!  It's such a great birthday gift for me to have them come stay with us!!  
Just like last year, I made a birthday wish for my family and friends to support the efforts of a cause... err... person I believe in.  My birthday wish??  For everyone to support the ocean conservation efforts of Wallace J. Nichols.  
Since Dr. Nichols was a kid he's only wanted to do one thing...
"Work for the ocean.  Not Nike, not Apple, not NASA.  The ocean.  Our ocean."  
Much like our oceans-- to remain an independent scientist-- he needs all the support he can get...

20 minutes on June 22, 2011 at Access 18
Litter by weight: 1 lb 5.5 oz
Cigarette butts: 439
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 75 days: 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 74

For some reason, I had this idea that when warmer weather got here I would be posting our clean ups more regularly.  I guess I forgot that with hot sunny days I'm not inside much and June is a VERY busy month for us!! (More about that later in the week!)  

On Friday, we took a picnic dinner to the beach, played in the ocean and then did a 20 minute clean up.  One of the first things I saw was this plastic bag with million dollar homes in the background.  As soon as I snapped the photo, I immediately thought of this article: "Don't Talk About Fish, Talk About Saving Pristine Oceanfront Property."

I thought about it because every time I do a clean up, I think about how pissed off I would be if I paid a million plus to live on the beach and then had to look at the million dollar view being trashed.  Oh wait, I don't live at the beach and I'm still pissed off that people have a lack of respect for the pricelessness of the ocean and beach.  (ok... I pretty much feel the same about litter no matter where I am)
Though, I have to admit that with many things, I can accept the fact that accidents happen.  Many littered items have been littered by mistake.  BUT...mistakes are an opportunity to learn... an opportunity to make sure it doesn't happen again.  Cigarette butts are different.  Cigarettes are tossed down without any thought or care.  Imagine this:  You're sitting on the beach... you're driving... you're at the park and you see someone throw a plastic water bottle.  How many do they toss to the ground before you say something?  How many do you have to pick up before someone realizes that something needs to change?  I'm not being condescending or sarcastic... I'm serious.  With trillions littered every single year, this problem is not confined to Wrightsville Beach.  This problem is bigger than anyone thinks it is.... so I guess I'm just wondering... when is it going to end?  (yes, I think the same about plastic pollution)

20 minutes on June 17, 2011 at Access 19
Cigarette butts: 469

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 74 days:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 73

On Wednesday--before my husband took his SUP out into the ocean--we did our first ever clean up at Access 5!  The north end of Wrightsville Beach must have less smokers... or more conscious smokers because the amount of cigarette litter we found was negligible in comparison to what we normally find.

But, just because there's less smokers DOES NOT mean that there isn't litter.  There is always litter.  In the middle of winter on the coldest of days, there was always litter to be found at the beach.  Now that beach season is here... there's just more.

Besides all of the littered trash that we find... we also tend to find a lot of shoes.  The day after we did our 73rd clean up, my friend Tracy called me to ask if I had went to the beach because a friend of hers had her shoes stolen and wondered if maybe I took them.  Sorry!  It wasn't me... we were 11 accesses away! 
Tracy's call got me thinking about all of the shoes we find during our clean ups and the 46 shoes found by WB-Keep It Clean volunteers.  Here is a very important tip for beach goers.  Leave your shoes in your car.  Seriously.  There is just no point in wearing shoes to the beach.  Ummm... unless, of course, you're going in the heat of the day and you have to walk across blazing hot sand.  My advice would be to put your shoes in your bag or in something that you know you won't forget. :)

  During this clean up we found 3.5 pairs of shoes.  I feel that I should mention that when we do our clean ups... we often walk past shoes, towels, beach toys, or anything else that we hope has an owner.  We leave them be (ok.. sometimes we move them away from the tideline) until we're leaving the beach in hopes that someone will come back for their forgotten items.  But if they don't... we pick it up.  That's what we do.
20 minutes on June 15, 2011 at Access 5
Litter by weight: 2 lbs 12.1 oz (not including the boogie board)
Cigarette butts: 68
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 73 days: 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 72

Some people go out for dinner and a movie... but not us.  Nope.  When my husband and I go out sans our (awesome) kids, we prefer to do dinner and a beach clean up ;)

On Friday, as we started our 20 minutes, the first thing we noticed was this huge hole.

We couldn't get over how deep it was, but it wasn't just deep!!  If I would have laid down... it was the length of my body!  Being that it's sea turtle nesting season, we immediately made the decision to fill the hole (and another one that we found).  If you're confused about what a hole on the beach has to do with a sea turtle, here's the deal:  Mama sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs... deep holes are (dangerous) obstacles that could either injure or trap the turtle. :(

Digging holes at the beach is super fun... but it's also loads of fun filling them back in!  So... if you dig a hole while at the beach this summer... please take a moment to fill it in.  AND... even if you didn't dig the hole... please take a couple of minutes and fill the hole so that a mama sea turtle can safely come ashore to lay her eggs.

The volunteers of the WB Sea Turtle Project are also finding holes on the beach... Check out this recent post on WB--Keep It Clean that includes a picture of a deep hole with a sand sculpture of a sea turtle.

More sea turtle news: the other morning I read this incredible story about a leatherback sea turtle laying her eggs on a beach in Florida. What's amazing about this particular sea turtle is that she doesn't have her rear flippers to dig her nest... so volunteers watch for her and dig a hole just deep enough for her to lay her eggs!!  How amazing is that!?!

When we weren't busy filling in holes, we were busy picking up litter.  Thankfully, the beach wasn't trashed.  There was a little litter here and there, but all in all... I was pleasantly surprised... and so relieved to not have the overwhelming feeling that we had during the last weekends in May.

If there were awards for the strangest thing we find on the beach... this empty bag of "My Mommy's Milk" would get it!  My husband and I both immediately made the joke: Doesn't mommy's milk come package free?? ;)
Access 33 is one of our least visited accesses.  For some reason I never think to go there.  In fact, Friday's clean up was only our 3rd at Access 33... AND... I just realized it was EXACTLY 2 months ago on April 10!!  I always find it interesting looking back... seeing the differences between the days and months.  Sometimes the difference is better and sometimes it's worse.  On Friday, the cigarette butt litter at 33 was significantly better than our last visit. But something that isn't changing is people's lack of responsibility.  Last time, we watched as a man threw his fishing line to the ground.  This time, as were were leaving the beach...we found something in our path that wasn't there when we first came... a plastic bag with a dirty diaper. :(   I can't even imagine how or why the people would have put their trash in the middle of the pathway.  The trash can was nearly empty and there's even a trash can at the Blockade Runner Hotel.  Hmmm... while I'm baffled at how some people seem to have a blatant disregard for our environment... I am thankful for every single person that takes the time to make this world a better place to live in :)

20 minutes on June 10, 2011 at Access 33
Cigarette butts: 91
Found 10 littered plastic straws... hmmm... thinking that Blockade Runner needs to make the switch to paper or reusable glass straws ;)
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 72 days:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 71

After over a week of being away from Wrightsville Beach... my family and I made it out after dinner for a 20 minute clean up on World Oceans Day.  :)

My favorite moment of the clean up was watching my kids chase after a plastic bag.  They were so determined.  Check them out... they didn't stop until they got it.  My kids ROCK!!! :)
After my kids got the plastic bag, we saw a mother and her two kids picking up litter and walking with a plastic bag.  I approached them thinking they had picked up the bag only to find out they brought it to the beach (because she had forgotten their reusables). We got to talking about sea turtles... so it was a great opportunity for me to share with them about how when plastic bags are floating in water they take on the appearance of jellyfish.  I didn't have to say one word more because in that instant, she connected to one of the many problems of plastic bags.  Next time... they won't be getting plastic bags!  YAY!! :)

20 minutes at Access 36 on June 8, 2011
Cigarette butts: 295
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 71 days: 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Turtle Talk

On June 1st--thanks to an early morning call from my friend Ginger-- my kids and I went to the sea turtle release at Topsail Island.  It was only the second release that we've ever been to, but just like the first there's something so magical about watching the rehabilitated turtles get to go "home."  I swear the ocean is calling them... you can see it in how the turtles react.  Their excitement can't be contained... stretching, flapping, waving... longing to be back in the ocean.... I can only imagine how free they must feel as soon as they dive into the open water.... seriously, inspiring and magical.  If you've never been to see rehabilitated sea turtles released... listen to me... you MUST.
Ok... this is not my photo.  I did take photos at the release, but when "Remembrance" came out everyone swarmed and I couldn't get a photo.  Remembrance was found Memorial Day 2010 floating lifelessly in the waters off of Masonboro Island.  Just look at how full of life she is now!! :)  Photo by: Kevin Blevins
Going to the release on Wednesday was just the tip of what was to come for us last week.  During our "field trip" to Virginia, my family and Bonnie had the fortune to meet Christina.  Christina works with the Stranding Response Program.  After all of our tours (and lunch), we went to the stranding center for a private tour of the facility.... and we got to see lots of sea turtles!!! Now... I've been to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on a field trip with my son's school... BUT... a private tour is a completely different experience.  We got to take as much time as we wanted with every turtle and ask as many questions that we could think of... no worrying about the next person because there were no other people.  It was just us and the turtles.... :)

During our visit to the Stranding Facility, I was reminded of some of the reasons we are making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic we use.  

Christina handed Bonnie this jar with fragments of plastic that had been ingested by sea turtles.  It's hard to turn away from the evidence that plastic is harming wildlife when it's held right in front of you.  Plastic pollution is a serious threat to all life... and it's something that each and everyone of us is connected to.  The companies that make the plastic products aren't going to change what they're doing anytime soon... the health and well-being of the life on this planet is of no importance to them.  $$ is where it's at.  If we want to change this-- animals eating plastic-- then it's up to us to start eliminating it from our lives.  If you haven't already... I challenge you to stop buying bottled water and start using a reusable bottle; stop taking plastic bags and start using reusables.  When you've given those up... find something else to eliminate. ;)

Another thing that Christina shared with us while at the stranding rehabilitation facility was this sea turtle made from balloons.  
If you don't know... when balloons are floating in water they take on the appearance of jellyfish.... sea turtles happen to love to eat jellyfish.  Could you imagine being a sea turtle... seeing what looked like a yummy jellyfish... gulping it down (of course, never knowing it really is an inedible balloon)... only to have your digestive tract blocked with plastic??  As soon as we learned of the horrible truths about what balloons do to sea turtles, we immediately stopped accepting them.  My kids haven't taken or accepted a balloon in years.  So... what can you do??  First, say "no thank you" when you're offered a balloon.  Second:  Never under any circumstances release balloons.  A released balloon is a littered balloon.  A littered balloon could end up being lunch for unknowing wildlife (and also poses a threat of entanglement).  Last year, volunteers of the Wrighsville Beach Sea Turtle Project offered some ideas on how to celebrate without releasing balloons such as releasing butterflies, planting a tree or planting a field of wildflowers.
Speaking of the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project... it's sea turtle nesting season.  Every morning volunteers go out to WB to look for sea turtle tracks.  As they're looking for tracks of nesting momma sea turtles, they're also picking up the litter that they find.  Ginger shares all of the emails she receives from the volunteers and is tallying everything on their new blog: Wrightsville Beach--- Keep It Clean.  So far they've picked up over 122 grocery-sized bags of litter. WHOA!!  I'm really loving that they're keeping track of what they're finding... BUT... what's really great about what they're doing is that they are encouraging everyone to join in helping keep Wrightsville Beach clean!  It's simple:  Go to WB.  Pick up litter.  Send an email with what you found and Ginger will add it to the totals.  For how to get involved check out the "History" at the bottom of the "KIC" blog.  Don't live near WB or near any beach... that's ok... you can still help by picking up the litter that you find in your local park... on a walk down the street... in a parking lot... wherever you are... you can help.

Do it for the turtles... for the dolphins... for the fish... for whatever it is you connect it for the ocean.  

"You don't have to live near the ocean for it to have an impact on you. And you don't have to live near the ocean for you to have an impact on it." 
~Jason Mraz

Monday, June 6, 2011

Talkin' Trash

Trash.  It's everywhere.  The average American produces 4.5 lbs of trash a day.... adding up to over 1,600 lbs per year.  Over the weekend, my family along with Bonnie Monteleone took a "field trip" to Norfolk, VA to... well... learn.  On Friday morning we headed out bright and early to meet Kathy with TFC Recycling.  Our first stop:  Hampton/NASA Steam Plant.
The Hampton/NASA Steam Plant burns garbage to make steam for NASA's research such as testing space shuttle aerodynamics in over 60,000 hours of wind tunnel runs!  Since 1980, the plant has processed more than 2,235,257 tons of trash!!  Holy guacamole!!  While I'm honestly torn about the whole burning trash thing... I think it's pretty impressive that in the past 10 years alone they've been able to save 29.9 million gallons of fuel and natural gas by burning something that would otherwise have been buried in a landfill.  Hmm... 

Admittedly, I was overwhelmed by the amount of trash that we saw.  Ok... I was overwhelmed by the nasty stench as well.  As we stared up at the towering (and super stinky) pile of garbage, I couldn't help but think of the trash that we produce.  There's something about looking at the waste of thousands to really put everything we're doing-- Rethinking, Reducing, Refusing, Reusing/Composting and Recycling-- into perspective. 

 I am thankful that we-- as a family of 5-- produce far less trash than the national average.  In fact, looking at the weights that I've shared in the My Plastic-Free Life Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge... we produced less than a pound of trash for the whole month of April.  Sometimes it takes a nasty ass 60 foot tower of smelly garbage to make a girl realize she's doing good ;) 

Our next stop was TFC recycling, where Kathy gave us a tour of their facility where they sort all of the recyclables.  It was absolute craziness... how fast the machines work, the technology of the machines and watching the guys look for things that "don't belong" on the conveyor belts-- like plastic bags-- was so impressive.
I've always been one to wonder what the deal is with plastic bags for recycling companies.  I mean... they're accepting all these other recyclables... why in the world can't they just take the plastic bags and separate them like they do the rest of the recyclables???  Here's the simple truth:  As the recyclables are sorted through a series of conveyors... the plastic bags end up getting stuck in the rollers of the conveyors.  When the rollers are all twisted up with plastic bags... they have to shut down their entire operation to clean out the bags.  So... what does Kathy think about plastic bags??  She thinks they should be banned!  Take that ACC!  Plastic bags suck.  By the way, have you heard??  ChicoBag is being sued by three of the largest plastic bag manufacturers.  Check it out and give your support to ChicoBag
So... I, of course, had another epiphany while looking at the at all of the recyclables speeding down the conveyor belts and the blocks of recyclables baled for market.  The overwhelming amount of waste is something that we as a society need to really SERIOUSLY rethink.  I'm not saying that we all need to "give up" everything that we've become accustomed to... I'm saying we need to scale back and go back to school on the whole "Needs & Wants" lesson.


Need: Food
Want: Food packaged for convienence

In the midst of all of the trash and recyclables that we bore witness to on Friday... doubt also popped into me.  My thought:  Does what we're doing even matter??  All of this trash... all of this waste.  Is what we're doing as a family a futile effort??......
It gave me pause.  As I looked at the blocks of baled recyclables in disbelief. I stopped myself from questioning our efforts... and remembered that along with not buying things like bottled water... I have not bought something as simple as laundry detergent or fabric softener in over a year.  I remind myself that my "one" is important.  By not contributing, I am contributing something more.  We as a family are making a difference through simple everyday actions.  Ordinary regular people make the biggest differences in the world every single day.  It's not about setting out to change the world... it's about the simplicity of setting out to change our habits.  It's about making the decision to do something different... rethinking "Needs & Wants"... and most often that means understanding that the majority of what we think we "need" are just wants.  Ok... so maybe I lied.  It IS about changing the world... because when we change our habits... when we change ourselves.... we ARE changing the world.  

*YOU* are the difference.