Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 171

Every Christmas, my family and I go to Wrightsville Beach.  It's been a tradition for us since we moved to Wilmington... ask me what I want for Christmas and my response would be "To go to the beach."  I guess, growing up in the Midwest, there's just something special about being at the beach on Christmas and reminding myself that this is not a vacation.  I don't have to hop on a plane and leave....  THIS is life.

...and I've missed being here.  I spent the end of November and the first half of December traveling.  For a short part of my trip, I visited my good friend Sara Bayles in Santa Monica.  I was there to share in celebrating Sara's 365th beach clean up (and lots of other good fun that friends have when they don't see each other but once a year!)  Now that Sara has completed her goal, she's taking her passion and inspiration off the sand and on the road for her speaking tour.  For more information on how to have Sara come to your school or business, visit:
 Since 2010, it has been a tradition for me to do a Christmas day beach clean up.  It's my gift to the beach and ocean.  I get so much from just being there that in the midst of being busy and not having time... Christmas Day is a day that I make time.  My 33rd beach clean up was on Christmas 2010 and I did my 111th beach clean up Christmas 2011.... and now my 171st.  Which I'm happy to share that this has been my smallest Christmas Day beach clean up! 

It's not how much we give, but how much LOVE we put into giving. 
~Mother Teresa

20 minutes on December 25, 2012 at Access 16
Cigarette butts: 275
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 171 days:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get Involved! Ban the Bag!

I am by every account the type of person that believes my choices matter.  I don't know how long I've been this way, but I suppose it's been so long that I can't quite remember when I wasn't.  My choices span from choosing to have a positive outlook and to such things as refusing single use plastics.  When it comes to refusing plastics... one of simplest things we can all do is to stop using plastic bags.

Long before I had a blog and long before I started down the path to using less plastic... I gave up using plastic bags.  Here's the plain and simple truth:  60,000 plastic bags are used EVERY 5 seconds in the US.  That's A LOT of plastic bags... and of all those plastic bags only a small percentage (between 3-5%) are even recycled.  SO... where do the other 95-97% of plastic bags end up? .

The majority of plastic bags used either end up in a landfill or worse littered in our environment-- roadways, parks, trees, beaches and oceans.  Because of plastic bags being so lightweight, there isn't a place that a plastic bag can't go.  Over the past couple of years, I have taken the time to document (as much as possible) plastic bags that have been (for the most part) unintentionally littered in our world.  I document their presence at the beach, I snap pictures of them in trees, and I even chase them down as they blow in the wind.  I do this all to bring awareness to this huge problem because from my personal experience I know that once I'm aware of a problem... I can no longer look away and I look to find solutions to the problem.

I used to think recycling was the answer... or at least part of it.  But, it's not.  Recycling is NOT the answer.  There are several things that we as individuals can do to begin to create change and begin to rid our world of the ubiquitous plastic bag.

1.  Use reusable bags.  Make the decision to never accept plastic bags.  Forget your reusable bags? Get resourceful and rethink how to get your purchases out of the store without plastic bags.  I've been known to use my shirt, pile items in my hands or even push a cart full of groceries to my car without bags.  ;)

2. Document: See a littered plastic bag?  Pick it up, document and share what you find!

3. Sign petitions to ban the bag in your area.  Locally Cape Fear Surfrider has a petition for Ban the Bag New Hanover County.  Please add your name to the petition here: Ban the Bag!  

Want to get more involved in the local movement to ban the bag in NHC, contact Ethan:

4. Stretch your activist muscles and get involved in the Ban the Bag movement.  Factory Direct Promos recently created an interactive global map that highlights plastic bag bans and legislation limiting their use.  It's a great resource to see how other places have succeeded in implementing legislation-- whether bans or fees-- to limit the use of single-use plastic bags.  No plastic bag legislation in your area? Do some research, connect to the community and start a petition!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 170

As I prepare to do some traveling, my days are filled and getting to the beach before sunset to do a clean up has proven difficult.   Normally, I'd be a little disappointed... but ever since I committed to doing 365 non-consecutive beach clean ups and the smoking ban passed... I don't feel any kind of pressure.  There's plenty of time to do what I want to do.... 
My friend Sara, who inspired me to start these beach clean ups, is nearing the end of her 365 non-consecutive beach clean ups.  She's been collecting, weighing and documenting beach trash on her blog The Daily Ocean for the past 361 non-consecutive days and on Saturday, December 8 she'll do her 365th.  For her last 10 clean ups, she's giving away photos she's taken on during her clean ups.  "Like" The Daily Ocean on Facebook and learn how to enter yourself into winning one of her beautiful photos.
Another thing that Sara is doing for her last 10 clean ups is offering some advice, suggestions and solutions to how WE can help the ocean....

10. Take it off the sand and take it out of your life.
9. Use reusable grocery bags
8. Get a group together and go clean the beach.
7. Buy less food in plastic packaging
6. Pick a place and make it yours.  (.... mine is Wrightsville Beach)
5.  Challenge yourself to be bolder with your talents and creativity for the ocean.
4. Feel overwhelmed with the pollution in the ocean?  Let it fuel you to action!

Whatever it is that you can do... do it.  Trust me when I say that it all matters.  When at the beach to do my most recent clean up, the beach seemed so clean that I almost decided not to do a clean up.  ...and just as I had that thought, I looked down and found a piece of sea glass.  I reminded myself that every little bit matters and although this was one of my smallest cleanups, it still matters.  Everything we do matters. :)

20 minutes on November 27, 2012 at Access 28
Cigarette butts: 37
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 170 days:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 169

Walking onto the beach on Monday afternoon, I felt a sense of pride wash over me.  I began thinking about the first time I did a The Daily Ocean beach clean up in Santa Monica with Sara and the immediate tugging I felt to make a difference at Wrightsville Beach.

2 years 3 months ago, I stepped onto Wrightsville Beach as just a mom with a plan... with a goal to help make Wrightsville Beach the first smoke-free beach in North Carolina.  I did my first 20 minute beach clean up at Wrightsville Beach picking up 346 cigarette butts.  Since then,  I've picked up more cigarette butts than I ever imagined possible... and I connected to a community of people who were just as passionate about helping WB become smoke-free.  On November 6, my goal became a reality when 65.3% of votes cast by WB residents were FOR a smoke-free beach.  I'm so proud and grateful to have been able to contribute my voice to the Smoke-Free WB community movement!
"One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world."   ~ Barack Obama

Just think about the possibilities for changing the world we live in for the better... let's get together.  Inspire each other, motivate each other to use our talents, actions and our voices together for a common cause.

20 minutes on November 12, 2012 at Access 43
Cigarette butts: 150

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 169 days: 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

WE Did It! Smoke-Free Wrightsville Beach

The rain poured down on a bitterly cold Election Day.  I sat in my car warming up from the brief time that I spent outside in the cold and rain helping with electioneering at Wrightsville Beach.
It had been a long process and so many people put immense amounts of time and energy to get to this point.  So I sat there... a ball of nervous energy was building in me over the possibility of both outcomes.  Excited for the possibilities, yet anxious and scared all at the same time....  As the polls closed, several people on our Smoke-Free WB team (including my husband) went into the Wrightsville Beach polling place as the votes were tallied.  I sat in my car waiting in the unknown.  Then I couldn't take waiting anymore and text my husband with a "????!!!"... to which he replied: We won.

I let out a loud scream of joy.  All of the energy that was in me could no longer be contained and expressed itself with happy dances and jumping in the seat of my car.  I called my friend Ginger to tell her the news, to which I heard her make the same loud scream of joy.  As I write about this all now, I can still feel what it felt like to say those words "we won!  we did it!!"  I think I might cry.  Yes, I got on my phone... sent texts, made phone calls....  I wanted to shout it to the world...
With 65.3% of votes cast by WB residents on Tuesday FOR the referendum, WB residents have officially made Wrightsville Beach the first smoke-free beach in North Carolina.  That's historic stuff and I'm proud to be part of the amazing group that formed to help make it a reality.  There were so many people involved and this was a community effort that's been going on for nearly 3 years.  But with every effort there's a core group that comes together to push it forward and get the community excited and involved in creating a movement.  Thanks to determined individuals coming together, this effort gained some major momentum this year and I'd like to thank those who sat around a table at Mellow Mushroom one January evening and came up with a plan.  ...And when all hope had seemed to be lost after a 3-2 vote against a smoke-free beach in March, we got back up from being kicked down and stayed committed to the cause.

As a mom who just wanted to help make a difference, I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to be involved and to have become friends with some awesome awesome change makers.

I'd like to extend my personal gratitude to:

Tim Taylor for pushing this from the very beginning and sticking it out through the difficult times to see this through all the way to the end.

Aaron Richardet (my husband) for recognizing my passion for this effort and diving in head first to help.  Not only has he done beach cleanups with me, when we needed a leader he stepped up and through his leadership we were all able to contribute our strengths to this effort.  He's done so much more than I can write here spending countless hours researching, planning and putting those things into action.

Ginger Taylor for being a driving force of encouragement and motivation.  Amongst the many things she did, her decision to research and contact smoke-free beach towns was crucial to this effort.

Cape Fear Surfrider for providing the support needed to make this a possibility.  All signage and mailers throughout this effort were made possible through funding from CFSF.

Sara Bayles for inspiring me to take action.  Without her, my beach cleanups would have never happened.  Our cigarette litter comparisons on our two beaches were a vital part in creating the much needed understanding that smoke-free beaches really do help reduce cigarette litter.

Mayor David Cignotti & Alderman Bill Sisson for being true leaders in our community. AWESOME elected officials.  Believing in this effort whole-heartedly and listening to the will of the people is what sets them apart from the rest.

Wrightsville Beach residents for understanding the facts and getting to the polls!  Thank you all for voting FOR the referendum to help make Wrightsville Beach a cleaner more family friendly beach!

More thanks to: Al Meadowcroft, Ethan Crouch, John Marcucci, Adam Shay, Julie Collins, Tracy Carr, Kevin Murphy & Danielle Whelen, Susan Miller, Bonnie Monteleone, Carlos Bryson & family, The Roylance Family, Jason Andre, Neil Briggi, Sean Ahlum, Bobby Brandon, Jim Mincher, The Bourgeois Family, Ocean Cure, Lighthouse Beer & Wine, Sweetwater Surf Shop, Blockade Runner, South Beach Grill, King Neptune and every single person that has shown their support for this effort!!

Here's to Wrightsville Beach being the first smoke-free beach in NC!!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 168

Tomorrow.  Election day.  A day I've been waiting for since April... well, probably for different reasons than most.  I have personally already voted... casting my ballot for the environment... choosing candidates that will stand up against big polluters and stand up FOR clean air, water and protecting our natural environment.
Over the weekend, there were TWO different beach clean ups at Wrightsville Beach.  Both cleanups started at Johnnie Mercer's Pier and one focused specifically on cigarette butts. Normally, I would never go to an access that had just been cleaned... but today, I wanted to see what would happen.  I wondered if the beach would be clean... I wondered how many cigarette butts I would find....

When I walked onto the beach, I picked up a quick 8 cigarette butts... then I kept seeing more.  I then questioned whether or not many people showed up to do the cleanups over the weekend.  I walked casually... picking up... and then my timer went off.  225 cigarette butts.
I then got on the phone with my friend Ginger to find out about those two weekend beach clean ups... and couldn't believe what she told me.  Volunteers with the beach clean up that was focusing on cigarette butts picked up 10 lbs of butts off of Wrightsville Beach.
Photo credit: Great American Butt Clean

AND... volunteers with the other beach clean up organized by a high school student picked up 1,641 cigarette butts!!  Both of  those cleanups were on Saturday and today (Monday) I picked up 225 cigarette butts at the exact same location.  Problem?
Photo credit: Ginger Taylor
So why have I been waiting for tomorrow?  On November 6, Wrightsville Beach voters will vote on a referendum to ban smoking on the beach strand.  I'm going to be electioneering at Wrightsville Beach FOR a smoke-free beach!  If you're a WB resident, tell your family, friends and neighbors to get out to the polls!  Vote FOR our environment... Vote FOR a clean beach... Vote FOR clean air... Vote FOR the referendum!!

20 minutes on November 5, 2012 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 6.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 225

Beach toys?  

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 168 days:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing.  It's one of those crazy versatile salad dressings... it's pretty much good on everything.  French fries, wraps, sandwiches, crudités... you name it.  As good as it is... store bought versions are lackluster, often chemical tasting and filled with funky ingredients that no one should be eating.  Over the past couple of years, I've been making the majority of my salad dressings and have learned that they are one of the easiest and fastest things to whip up!  So quick and easy!!  AND as usual, homemade tastes SO much better than any version we could ever buy in a store!

After sharing the above photo of my homemade ranch dressing on Instagram with the tagline "Hidden Valley ain't got nothin' on my #homemade ranch"... my friends immediately starting asking for the recipe to my homemade organic ranch dressing! :) So friends... this one's for you!!

Homemade Ranch Dressing*

1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4- 1/2 cup milk, whatever you have on hand-- whole, buttermilk, almond, soy
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 small shallot minced (if you don't have shallot, substitute 1 TBSP red onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh herbs, my preference is cilantro (others: parsley, tarragon, dill, or chives)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (if you don't have lemon juice, substitute white vinegar)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper

Put all ingredients into medium size jar and shake until smooth and combined.  Store refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Don't like to chop?  You can alternatively throw all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If you don't want your ranch to have a green tint, add the fresh herbs after processing.

*All ingredients are organic

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 167

While much of the East Coast was preparing for or already in the midst of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I was going about a normal Monday.  I'm not sure I can say it enough how extremely grateful I am that where I live was minimally impacted by the hurricane.  Besides the large amount of wrack and sea shells at Wrightsville Beach, not much looks different.
At first glance, the beach seems perfectly clean.  Almost as if it's been swept.  But on closer inspection... you see it.  The wrack is littered with the detritus of man....

There's an amazing phenomenon that happens during strong tropical storm systems (even if they are off-shore).  The ocean comes in and she pulls and pushes the sand... reshaping the beach... and in the process like a giant sifter she uncovers the things that had been lost and eventually (most often accidentally) buried in the sand.  Those things-- plastic caps, straws, cigarette butts, plastic fragments, toys-- all end up in the wrack.
If you have ever for one second doubted the extent of the amount of plastics in our environment, I highly encourage you to go to the beach and look closer.  Kick over that pile of wrack... look for the glisten of a plastic wrapper half buried in the sand... focus your eyes to see the cigarette butts camouflaged amongst the natural world... it's all there.
Want to do something about it?  Join me at Wrightsville Beach or do your own beach/park/waterway cleanup.  And maybe most important of all... please refuse single-use plastics.

20 minutes on October 29, 2012 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 1 lb
Cigarette butts: 386
Straws: 12
Caps: 55
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 167 days:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 166

All day yesterday and early today, Hurricane Sandy was just off-shore.  Thankfully, our area was only hit with a lot of rain and some wind.  As usual, when a tropical system stirs up the ocean... it's a must to get to the beach and see what has been spit out and uncovered.  It's super exciting...

My kids main goal while at the beach was to look for seashells.  I had planned on that being my main goal as well, but I just couldn't force myself to walk past the litter that was poking out of the wrack line.

Out of everything I picked up in 20 minutes, I only picked up one thing that wasn't plastic.
I picked up plastic straws, plastic caps, plastic wrappers, styrofoam, plastic umbrella tips, plastic toys, broken plastic pieces... plastic plastic EVERYWHERE.  Humph  Please please please make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastics you use... your decisions matter! :)
This is plastic, not sea glass.

My friend Tracy also went to the same beach access today to look for seashells.  She text me right away with a picture of the wrack line and said, "I want to clean this."  She had forgotten to take a bag, but as it would be, she found a zip-lock bag at the beach and filled it with litter!  Lots and lots of plastic caps and 127 cigarette butts!  Thanks Tracy!!!! 
20 minutes on October 28, 2012 at Access 41
Litter by weight: 1 lb 3.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 45
Straws: 11
Caps: 39
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 166 days:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 165

For as long as I've been doing these 20 minute beach clean ups, I have often been asked when I would stop.  At first my response was, "hmm... I don't know... haven't even thought about it.  Well, at least until this whole cigarette litter problem is under control."  Then it changed to "when Sara-- The Daily Ocean-- finishes her 365 day goal."  Both are nearing.
With Sara and me doing comparative beach clean ups, the differences we find in the amount of cigarette litter on a non-smoking beach vs. a smoking beach continually blows my mind.  When updating mine and Sara's comparisons, I noticed that in 84 clean ups in Santa Monica... Sara has picked up 565 cigarette butts.  On Wednesday, I (alone) picked up 582 cigarette butts in 20 minutes.  In one 20 minute beach clean up, I picked up more cigarette butts than Sara has picked up in 84! (insane)  

If you're a registered voter at Wrightsville Beach... 

YOU have the POWER to CHANGE this!  Smoke-free beach ordinances help to majorly reduce cigarette litter!!  

Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, tell your family.. get out and VOTE FOR the referendum!  
So with the WB vote and knowing Sara will complete her goal of 365 non-consecutive beach clean ups by the end of 2012... I have been thinking a lot about how long I should continue documenting, collecting and weighing litter picked up in 20 minutes at Wrightsville Beach.  To be honest the past few months, I've felt this ball of energy in me... what to do? what to do?   
I've never really had an end plan... I started this because I was inspired... I was moved to do something... to take action.  Everything just flowed... as it should when something is so right.  But what I've realized is that this ball of energy within me, is about moving forward.  As Wrightsville Beach residents will vote on a referendum to (hopefully) make WB smoke-free and as Sara is 18 beach clean ups away from her goal... I know that I'm not ready to stop.

So here is my official announcement!!  From this point forward, I have an end plan.  Inspired by the dedication and commitment of Sara, I'm going all the way.  (Happy Belated Birthday Sara!!!)  365 non-consecutive beach clean ups here I come!  

165 down... 200 to go!!!  
20 minutes on October 24, 2012 at Access 16
Cigarette butts: 582
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 165 days:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 164

With fall in full swing and knowing that warm days won't be around too much longer, this past Sunday, my family and I made a spur of the moment decision to grab some dinner from Lovey's and head to Wrightsville Beach.  Eating a picnic dinner at the beach is one of the best things to do...
When I take dinner to the beach, I come prepared with our own reusable water bottles, to-go ware, and napkins.  And when we're done, I put all of our scraps back into the cooler to take home to compost. I'm big into composting whatever and whenever I can... it's important.  I like to call it giving back to the Earth :)
Through composting is where I first recognized the problematic relationship between plastics and our environment.  Whenever plastics got into my compost bin, they lingered... everything around them would be broken down... while the plastic remained nearly unchanged.  The thing is... nature just doesn't know what to do with plastic.  It's foreign in a system that works so flawlessly...  Our world is filling up with plastic-- landfills packed full, plastic covered beaches, plastic oceans...-- it's obvious that as part of nature... we don't really know what to do with plastic either.  

Well, there is one thing we can do with plastic:  Refuse

(Do what you can when you can... just start because something that has been made to last forever shouldn't be used once or twice and thrown away.)

20 minutes on October 21, 2012 at Access 39
Litter by weight: 11.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 199
Straws: 9
Caps: 12  
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 164 days:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 163

When I got to Wrightsville Beach last night and looked at the time to start my 20 minute clean up, it was 6:37pm.  Sunset was at 6:34.  Knowing the amount of sunlight I had left was minimal, I didn't hesitate getting started... but then I realized I had to take the time to pause and look up.
With my eyes focused on the sand, I got to work picking up and sorting through the little bits of trash left on the beach.  As always, too many cigarette butts.  Since I was in Santa Monica recently and picked up only 9 cigarette butts in 20 minutes... the amount of cigarette butts we find on Wrightsville Beach has been weighing heavy on me.  This November (or now if you're voting early) registered voters of Wrightsville Beach will be able to vote FOR a referendum to help clean up Wrightsville Beach.  Need proof that smoke-free beaches work to reduce cigarette litter?  Here ya go:

80 beach clean ups-- 524 cigarette butts in Santa Monica
40 beach clean ups -- 9,436 cigarette butts in WB

Voting FOR the referendum is a vote FOR clean air and a clean beach!  Tell your friends!

20 minutes on October 17, 2012 at Access 29
Cigarette butts: 409

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 163 days: