Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 93

Another day, another post Hurricane Irene beach clean up.  Yup... we've been out to Wrightsville Beach three days in a row!!!  Of course, my kids are still super excited about all of shells that are still lining the beach...

The past two posts I've mentioned how Hurricane Irene has completely reshaped the southend of the beach... so in an effort to really share how different the beach is... we went back to the far southend of Wrightsville Beach :)  Here's what the southend looked like (looking from Access 42 to 43) back in January on our 36th beach clean up:

This is what it looks like now...
While at the beach on Saturday, I talked to some people and most often I heard people say "this is just horrible" about the fact that so many of the sand dunes were gone.  While it does look a lot different without all the dunes... it is exactly how nature intended it to be.  I watched this great educational film entitled "North Carolina: The Beaches Are Moving" about barrier islands and how they are constantly changing... and how this change (even the drastic changes from a storm) is natural and good.  It's long, but it's definitely worth watching :)  By the way, if you didn't know... Wrightsville Beach is a barrier island!
I now interrupt this lesson on barrier islands to jump full on into a semi-rant about plastic caps!!!  On Friday, Susan with the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project picked up 122 plastic bottle caps.  On Saturday, Tracy and I picked up 92 bottle caps... Sunday, I picked up 25... AND now (on Monday evening), I along with Michelle-- another beach sweeper!!-- picked up 115 plastic bottle caps!!!

Ok, so maybe you're wondering where all the bottles are that go with those caps??  Hmmm... not sure what happened to the bottles... but I have an idea about WHY there are so many freaking bottle caps.  The story I make up goes a bit like this:  Beachgoer takes cap off of plastic-- water/soda/gatorade/Vitamin-Water-- bottle... cap isn't attached in any way so it easily gets lost... and one way or another gets buried in the sand.  THEN... one day a big storm comes and moves all the sand... and VOILA! the mess that was once buried is now uncovered for us to see...

So... maybe this wasn't as big of a rant as I thought was going to come spewing out... but here's the deal. Maybe you no longer drink bottled water... rock on! That's awesome.  How about rethinking all of the drinks that come in plastic bottles with plastic lids??  Gatorade, sodas, flavored waters... little by little stop purchasing them and start filling a reusable beverage bottle instead.  Do it so our beaches stay being made of sand... do it so we find shells and not plastic... do it to save wildlife... whatever it is... find a reason and go with it. (please)

20 minutes on August 29, 2011 at Access 43
Litter by weight: 3 lbs 12.1 oz
Cigarette butts: 182
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 93 days:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 92

For the second day in a row, we made it out to Wrightsville Beach.  This time to play, collect shells, and marvel at how much the beach has changed.  Claire and Henri were especially loving this new "balance beam" that Hurricane Irene installed at the beach ;)
As I mentioned in my last post, the wrack line is fairly overwhelming because it's full of litter that for the most part blends.  It takes a bit for my eyes to adjust... the colors are all the same... sometimes I think I'm grabbing litter and it's not... sometimes I probably miss litter.  Question:  Does this cigarette butt immediately pop out to you??  (Now imagine putting the photo on the floor and looking down...)
When I'm looking through the wrack line, I always think about the "Magic Eye" analogy that my friend Bonnie uses to describe plastics in the oceans:

"...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 90s. 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."

20 minutes on August 28, 2011 at Access 42 
Cigarette butts: 270

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 92 days:

Our Daily Ocean: Day 91

The whole time that Hurricane Irene was barreling down here on Friday and Saturday, I kept thinking about going to Wrightsville Beach.  So... obviously, as soon as Wrightsville Beach lifted the "RESTRICTED ACCESS" on Saturday late afternoon... my friend Tracy, her daughter, my two youngest and I hopped in the car without any hesitation and headed to Wrightsville Beach! :)

Hurricanes are so powerful... reshaping the beaches... giving and taking.... helping the ocean purge.

 I can't tell you enough how the beach after a hurricane (even a big offshore storm) is one of the most amazing things!  I'm continually left in awe of the ocean's power...
The power to change the beach is the power to uncover things that had been long left behind and buried in the sand... now left uncovered by the oceans waves.  Normally, I kick over the wrack line and pick up all of the litter embedded in the organic debris: plastics, straws, caps, cigarette butts... but the wrack line was so littered on the surface that it was hard to focus, let alone dig deeper.

Honestly, I haven't been overwhelmed in awhile... but I really couldn't find focus... there was just so much.  For example, Tracy and I picked up a record 92 plastic bottle caps.  It was insane... every direction we looked bottle caps were there.

I've been trying to figure out how to explain the overwhelmed feeling I had on Saturday... then I hopped on over to WB-- Keep It Clean and read this:

"As I was walking today, one thing that I found really overwhelming was the number of cigarette butts. There were so many that I couldn't even focus on picking them up-- I didn't know where to start. It got me thinking about how Mother Teresa once said, "If I look at all this mass, I will never act." .... if we see one cigarette butt on an otherwise pristine beach, it is easy to pick it up, throw it away, blame the sole smoker for being careless, and move on. But when we walk down the beach and see 1,000 cigarette butts, which ones do we pick up? Where do we start? And whom do we blame? I think this is why so many people walk past the cigarette butts and don't stop to pick them up. The enormity of the problem is so great." 

It completely sums up how I felt picking up litter on Saturday... there was no end in sight... sure I had 20 minutes... but this wasn't a day at the beach... this was DAYS and MONTHS at the beach spit out by the ocean... that's a lot to take in...

(A little more than) 20 minutes on August 27, 2011 at Access 41

Litter by weight: 8 lbs 11 oz
Cigarette butts: 344 (though Tracy said there was probably more like 34,400.)

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 91 days:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bottled Water

Hurricane Irene is pounding the North Carolina coastline as type.  Just sitting here, I can hear the wind whistling and the heavy rains being whipped with every gust.  Since we're in the middle of "extreme weather" I thought I'd take a quick moment to share how I do "bottled" water!  Of course, you know that I've made the commitment to not buying bottled water, so I have to get creative in prepping emergency supplies just in case we lose power or don't have access to drinkable water.  This morning, my daughter and I filled glass juice bottles full of water from our very own tap!  Check it out.... 16 (32 oz) bottles of water ready in case of an emergency!

Curious what's happening here in Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach?  Check out this short video I found on YouTube from earlier today.  (In case you're wondering... No, I didn't even attempt to make it out to the beach today!!)

It's going to be a windy night... wherever you are, be safe. 

Our Daily Ocean: Day 90

For the past couple of days, I have been paying close attention to the hurricane models tracking Hurricane Irene.  I want to go ahead and thank everyone for the kind messages of concern and wishes for our family to be safe during the storm.  We were at Wrightsville Beach last night and could see the first signs of Irene in the form of clouds and some light wind gusts.  As the storm approaches, this is one time that I will say, "Thankfully we don't live on the beach."
Speaking of hurricanes... I can't go any further without sharing this super funny Weather Channel commercial that was filmed at Wrigthsville Beach.  If you're not familiar with Jim Cantore, he's the guy that always shows up when the weather is going to be bad...

With the hurricane swirling in our direction, there's a bit of nervous excitement in the air.  Yes, storms are scary, but it's also exciting.  Like the changing of the seasons, it's exciting to see the power of nature at work.  BUT... even with how powerful nature is... she can't overcome everything.  Found this Dasani plant-- made with 30% plant product to make you think you're doing something good for the environment-- bottle.  If you don't know already... the "plant" bottle is plastic through and through.... and NOT biodegradable.
While not as busy as normal, Wrightsville Beach had its share of visitors last night.  With the larger than normal waves, the ocean was filled with surfers and the beach full of onlookers armed with cameras!  I was there to catch a glimpse of the before the storm and will go back shortly after to see what the ocean decides to spit out and uncover.
Every bit of litter we found last night was at the wrack line.  Most often the litter we found was buried under a pile of organic debris.  Kick over the wrack line and you'll find bits of plastic, bottle caps, and cigarette butts.  Wet.... being washed out and being washed back in... 

20 minutes on August 25, 2011 at Access 39

Litter by weight: 1 lb 9.1 oz
Cigarette butts: 176

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 90 days:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 89

On Tuesday, Wrightsville Beach was bustling with activity.  UNCW was having their annual "Beach Blast" and the Weather Channel was hanging out at Johnnie Mercer's Pier... and we were doing our 89th beach clean up! ;)  AND... just look how gorgeous it was!!!
I was told by my friend Michelle that the (above) photo is deceiving.  Why??  Because no one would ever guess the amount of litter that we remove from the beach in just 20 minutes based on that photograph.  I never thought about it before, but it's been something that I've been doing from the moment I started these clean ups.  Trying to convey the beauty of the beach with the juxtaposition of the litter.  Hoping that people understand that even what seem to be small problems are inherently bigger than we realize.  The fact of the matter is: Most people wouldn't even notice the majority of litter that we pick up.  

I know that I probably beat this whole cigarette butt litter thing to a pulp... BUT... I can't seem to stop myself!  When my kids are wading through a tidal pool (like the beautiful/clean/pristine top photo) and they come running to me with cigarette butts... I get sick to my stomach.  I've seen what a cigarette butt in water does.  It doesn't just look gross... it's toxic.  THIS is reality... over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered EVERY single year.... how many of those littered cigarette butts come in contact with water????  ummm.... We live on the blue planet. (just sayin')

20 minutes on August 23, 2011 at Access 18
Cigarette butts: 240
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 89 days: 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 88

Every time I go out to the beach to pick up litter... I think.  I think about the fact that I've been picking up the same litter and taking the same photos for the past year.  I wonder if I have anything to say... do I have anything more to contribute??  Is it possible to say anything that I haven't already said??

I find most often that I repeat myself over and over again.  Cigarettes are nasty, straws suck, plastic bags blow... rethink, reduce, reuse... plastic is forever.  Any other ones?  I'm ok repeating myself.   I'll keep repeating myself just to make sure that I don't miss any opportunities to help create change...
For the record, an "Eco-Slim" smaller cap may equal less plastic... but it's STILL plastic.  Don't be fooled by the touts of greenness... the cap has nothing to do with being "eco" or green.  To truly be an eco-consicous, green consumer say "Adios"... "Au Revoir"... "Sayonara" to bottled water and use a reusable water bottle filled with tap water.  Don't like the way tap water tastes??  Easy fix: Get a filter :)

Shifting gears....

Back in July, I volunteered with Cape Fear Surfrider for Barefoot Wine & Bubbly's Beach Rescue at Wrightsville Beach.  I had a really great opportunity to chat with Barefoot about my efforts at WB and they have been so kind to share what I'm doing with the Barefoot community!  Check out their blogpost here: Getting 'Butts' Off The Beach
A month from today, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly will present the film "One Beach"... it'll play all day on Facebook.  Yes, I totally think it's worth watching.  It's a film about creativity, optimism, and fun at work around the world keeping our beaches barefoot friendly.

What happens when the world comes together??  I like that thought ;)

20 minutes on August 20, 2011 at Access 25
Litter by weight: 2 lbs 6.5 oz
Cigarette butts: 280
Missing from this photo is one Nike tennis shoe, a sock, and a styrofoam cup. oops!
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 88 days:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 87

Have you ever stopped to think about your connection to things?  Ever since I started documenting these 20 minute clean ups... I can't help but connect myself to the litter we find on Wrightsville Beach.
Besides the cigarettes, I can honestly say that I've used most everything that we found on the beach last night.  Bottled water? Yup. Straws. Who hasn't! Juice pouches, fruit snacks, granola bars, plastic spoons, sandwich bags... they've all passed through my hands.  
What's great about having realized our personal connection is that it has given us the opportunity to make positive changes.  Every time I would connect to something we found at the beach, I suddenly felt accountable for the products I used.  And rightfully, I should... even if I never littered a day in my life.  (But who am I kidding even with the best of intentions... accidents happen.)

 I connect myself to this... do you?  How are you connected?

20 minutes on August 17, 2011 at Access 16

Cigarette butts: 370

This was my two sons' bucket.  Together they collected 173 cigarette butts.
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 87 days:


Friday, August 12, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 86

On Thursday evening, over an hour before we started our 20 minute clean up, my son came across a plastic bottle at his feet in the ocean and came running to show me that it was filled with sand. (who does that??) 

My kids and I spent a whopping 5 hours hanging out at access 36 with some friends.... we watched people come and go... we played... we picked up random pieces of litter... we ate dinner... my son & husband got stung by a jellyfish (ouch!!)... and we did our usual 20 minute clean up.... just another day at the beach! :)

When I first started doing these 20 minute clean ups, I had no idea how bad cigarette butt litter really was.  Sure I knew that they were the most littered item worldwide... somewhere around 4.5 trillion are littered every single year.  But what I didn't know was that the fact that as soon as a cigarette butt comes in contact with water, it begins leaching all of the nastiness it was designed to trap... 
Before last night, it had been almost exactly a month since our last visit to access 36.  Truth is, I've been consciously avoiding going there.  A little after our last visit, I (got over my fears and) made a phone call to the district manager of the restaurant group that owns Oceanic.  We ended the conversation on a good note... he was going to get the ball rolling on fixing two major problems: Straws and a high volume of littered cigarette butts in an employee break area.  I wanted to give Oceanic plenty of time to work on these problems before heading back... my hopes were high... BUT... not much different than last time... I picked up 73 cigarette butts in the employee break area. :(  I'm happy to share that Oceanic is committed to fixing this problem and I'm committed to helping make sure this isn't the norm....
OK.... now straws.... we picked up a total of 60 straws during our 20 minute clean up.  Are you ready???  A whopping 53 of those straws came from the Oceanic dining pier!!!  31 of the straws were clear and the other 22 were the black sipping/stirring straws.  Insane!! One of the easiest things to go without is straws!!  It does take some practice, but it's as easy as saying, "No straws please."  (Thank you in advance for going without a straw!)

As I talked to the district manager of Oceanic today, he let me know that they were looking into biodegradable straws like the ones made from corn.  BUT... the biodegradable straws are 4x more expensive than their plastic counterparts!  We talked about some different solutions, including having the waitstaff ask customers on the pier if they need a straw.  I'm wondering if anyone else has some suggestions for how Oceanic can fix this problem??  I'm sure Oceanic would appreciate any feasible ideas... contact them here.

20 minutes on August 11, 2011
Cigarette butts: 545
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 86 days:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 85

A year ago yesterday, one mom (that's "me") and three kids went to Wrightsville Beach, NC to start an experiment.  Pick up litter for 20 minutes and count the amount of cigarette butts we find.  August 9, 2010 we picked up 346 cigarette butts in 20 minutes....a year later, we've picked up an additional 25,454 cigarette butts... (!! insane, I know !!)  Last night, we headed back (with some help) to that same spot where it all started....

A lot happened this past year... a lot of AMAZING wonderful things have happened.  Not long after I published my first post, I started to receive comments and emails from people telling me that this blog was going to have a bigger impact than I knew...  (they were right)
Then in mid-September, on a whim, before I really knew anything about how bad cigarette litter really is... I entered my project in the Brita FilterForGood Film Project.  It's now been 8 months since three amazing and talented guys came and filmed our family of five for 3 days to make a short film meant to motivate and inspire people to become active in their own communities...

Over the past year, I helped get BaitTanks installed at WB, went to the Sundance Film Festival, got messages from friends saying they saw me on the Sundance Channel (!!), ...but best of all... I've gotten emails from all over the world from people sharing with me how what I'm doing has inspired them and what things they're doing to help clean up our world.  I am so thankful for every person that has taken the time to reach out to me...  in the moments when I'm so over picking up cigarettes or doubt that what I'm doing matters... it's your words that help keep me motivated :)

In saying that, I've connected with the MOST amazingly supportive and inspiring people (I really want to make a list, but it would be SO long and I know that you all know who you are :) )... proof to me that when we give without expectations... the most amazing "gifts" come barreling towards us... it's true that we indeed "get what we give."  I have so much gratitude for every person who has joined my family and me at Wrightsville Beach this past year to help make it a little bit cleaner -- including our neighbors who helped us clean up last night.  :)

...reminiscing is fun.  I'm just feeling so much gratitude for the past year... this project has gotten more attention than I ever could have ever imagined... Thanks to all of the media outlets and bloggers who have taken the time to do a story on this mom trying to make a difference in our world. :)

Hmmm... if you know me personally... you know how I would often say, "I'm *just* a mom" ... but so much has changed because of this simple project.  So when earlier in the year I saw this quote I felt it completely summed up this whole "Our Daily Ocean" year:

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and your discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be." ~Patanjali

I didn't know what would happen when I decided to do something... in fact, I still don't.  I'm not sure how long we'll be picking up and counting cigarette butts....  I don't have a time frame for making a difference.  I do what I can do... as much as I can do...  and remind myself that it all started with reaching out to a stranger, then taking time to pick up one...

20 minutes on August 9, 2011 at Access 43

Litter by weight: 5 lbs .9 oz
Cigarette butts: 378

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 85 days:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 84

Today we spent about 4 hours at Wrightsville Beach.  It was plenty of time to play in the waves, build some drip castles, get a sunburn (yeah... I missed a couple of spots... oops!), and do a 20 minute beach clean up.
Normally we do our beach clean ups in the evening, but since we were at the beach to play it only made sense to spend 20 minutes picking up litter.  One thing I learned about picking up litter at 2 in the afternoon is that the sand is crazy HOT!!  Not wearing shoes, I tried my best to stay at the wrack line, but some plastic bags and food wrappers up in the dune grasses caught my attention... so I braved the burning hot sand!!!  Completely unrelated to beach clean ups: I may have a future in walking on hot coals! ;)

While my feet were on fire, I picked up several sandwich bags/ziplocks.  Here's the thing with plastics (especially bags and food wrappers):  They blow.  Even a person with the best of intentions to not litter, will end up littering... completely unintentional... it happens.  But, it doesn't have to happen.  All it takes is rethinking simple things and coming up with alternate solutions to things we commonly use.
Did you hear? Three of the largest plastic bag manufacturers are suing ChicoBag, a reusable bag company for "irreparably harming" their business. I, personally, think the lawsuit is completely ridiculous.  And to be completely real about it.... if anyone deserves to be sued, it's those plastic bag manufacturers.  Yes, I said it.  ChicoBag isn't "irreparably harming" our environment and choking/suffocating/killing animals... the only thing ChicoBag has ever done was try to help create a solution to one of the most ridiculously wasteful products ever created... the plastic bag.  Please take a moment to show your support for ChicoBag. 

After I grabbed the (above) Harris Teeter plastic bag, my feet were on fire... so I ran to the ocean to cool my feet down.  Perfect timing... 5 cigarette butts were being washed around in the incoming tide... :( 
20 minutes on August 7, 2011 at Access 38
Cigarette butts: 242
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 84 days: