Saturday, March 24, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 129

Whenever I am going to meet someone at the beach to do a 20 minute clean up... I almost always have them meet me at Johnnie Mercer's Pier.  While there is always litter on the beach, it is there where the problem is most clear (no matter the time of year).  In an effort to raise awareness and have others see for themselves just how bad the cigarette litter problem is at WB, I invite anyone to come do a 20 minute beach clean up with us.  I'm most often joined by friends, but sometimes... I meet new people and make new friends all because of our 20 minute beach clean ups.  ...and yesterday, was a prime example of that ;)

Last night, Ben Bourgeois joined us at Wrightsville Beach to do a 20 minute clean up!  Ben (aka Benny B) is a pro-surfer and WB native that I reached out to (thanks friends!) during the voting of my Brita FilterForGood Film.  As the public hearing for the proposed smoke-free ordinance on WB was approaching, I once again reached out to him for support.  You know what's AWESOME?  Ben immediately jumped on board to help.  In fact, he's gone above and beyond anything I could have ever expected.  Last week, (less than a week since the smoking ban failed) Ben took 20 minutes at Oceanside Beach, CA and picked up cigarette butts. There he got 42.  Last night, at WB he picked up 158.  Problem?  (I'll leave that for you to decide)
Ben loves Wrightsville Beach... and being that he's traveled all over the world and can come home and say that Wrightsville Beach is still his favorite (and one of the most beautiful) beaches in the world... is a pretty amazing compliment for WB.  As Ben travels, he's going to try to do a 20 minute clean up at the beaches he visits to compare to WB!  He is all about helping raise awareness and I'm totally digging that!  
Photo credit: Ben Bourgeois 
Speaking of raising awareness... my friend Sara did a 20 minute beach clean up in Santa Monica last night.  Her beach was so trashed that she picked up over 7 lbs of litter... but get this.... in the same amount of time that we picked up 218 cigarette butts and Ben picked up 158 at Wrightsville Beach... Sara picked up 2 in Santa Monica (a smoke-free beach).  TWO.  Two cigarette butts in 20 minutes.  So far Sara and I have both done six 20-minute comparative beach clean ups.  Question: Do smoke-free beaches work to help reduce the amount of cigarette litter left on beaches?? 

6 clean ups Wrightsville Beach: 1,484
6 clean ups Santa Monica: 75

It sure looks that way.

20 minutes on March 23, 2012 at Access 16
Cigarette butts: 218
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 129 days:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 128

There are times when I wish I could explain either through pictures or words more clearly some of the things we find on Wrightsville Beach.... but sometimes, as much as I try... the pictures don't begin to tell the whole story and words seem to come up short.
Through words and pictures, I can only touch on how bad some things really are.  There is nothing like being there and seeing it for yourself-- as my friend Tracy can surely attest.  Yesterday was one of those days when we cleaned a section... looked back... and could see exactly where we missed.  Cigarette butts, bottle caps, fragmented plastics, styrofoam, straws... and.... condoms. humph  There were so many cigarette butts and plastic bottle caps (89) that Tracy started calling the area we were cleaning "cap and butt beach".
As I was going through everything that Tracy and I picked up yesterday... I paused at this Gatorade bottle that Tracy found tucked away in a sand dune.  I looked at the deteriorating cap and thought about all of the ocean samples that have yielded plastics.  I thought about Kamilo Beach.  I thought about the albatross on Midway Island....whales, sea turtles, fish...   *sigh* Looking at the cap, I knew that pieces of plastic so small had broken off and are now part of our sand at Wrightsville Beach...
Here is a plain and simple fact:  If we don't change how we use plastic... One day our beaches will be made of plastic sand.  It's already happening.  We now have the task of stopping it from happening further.  How do we do it??  How do we stop our oceans and beaches from turning into plastic?  Easy.  We reduce how much plastic we use.  We rethink our needs and realize that we can go without _______ because the convenience of today isn't worth the inconvenience of cleaning up the inevitable mess tomorrow.

20 minutes on March 20, 2012 at Access 43
Litter by weight: 1 lb 10.2 oz
Cigarette butts: 394
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 128 days:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 127

On Monday, I was 100% set on going to the beach after I picked my daughter up from school.  But on the way to pick her up, I saw the sky turn dark and then the rain started.  It quickly turned into a torential downpour with thunder and lightening.  My beach day was being thwarted by much needed rain and I was ok with it.  BUT... then... about an hour later, the thunderstorm was gone and there was nothing but blue skies!!! BEACH DAY was back on!!!
When we got to the beach, my husband was already in the water along with at least 40 other surfers.  Knowing that we had just gotten a pretty substantial rain, I couldn't help but think about all of the stories I've heard about California surfers getting sick because they went surfing after it rained.  Like right now, there is a "Rain Advisory" for LA county beaches.  During a rain advisory, it is highly recommended that beach users avoid contact with ocean water!  This lasts for 3 days after rainfall ends due to elevated levels of bacteria in the ocean because of storm water runoff. (yuck)  So as I saw all the surfers in the water, I thought about how lucky we are here... and how important beach water quality monitoring is....
Did you know that the EPA is proposing to cut all federal funding for beach water quality monitoring in 2013?  Seriously.  Funding for the BEACH Act was cut out of the EPA's proposed 2013 budget.  That means that water quality monitoring advancements and funding to help states monitor coastal water for our health and safety are now at risk.  Take a super quick moment to contact your Senators and urge them to put funding for the BEACH Act back into the budget!

Ok... and in the middle of enjoying the calm after the storm... I cleaned up what little litter there was at the beach :)

20 minutes on March 19, 2012 at Access 38
Cigarette butts: 91
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 127 days:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 126

Friday afternoon, my husband and I went to Wrightsville Beach.  Because it was such a gorgeous day, I made the decision that I wanted to go to Johnnie Mercer's Pier.  I often have mixed feelings about that particular area at WB, because it is no doubt part of the trashiest area on the beach strand.  My mixed feelings come from it being a place where I can easily show the lack of responsibility people take and just how disrespectful some people are.... but... as much as this is good to teach awareness, it just gets overwhelming and frustrating sometimes.  Case in point:
Because there was so much trash in just this one area, my husband decided to drag the trash can down and pick it all up.  (Yes, part of our 20 minutes was taken to clean up that mess and I didn't add it to the tally.)  SO... as we saw that big mess strewn across the sand... we questioned why the people couldn't just walk the trash up to the trash cans??  BUT... then we raised a bigger question.  If people that litter THAT much trash and aren't caught and/or cited... then how in the world do the three Wrightsville Beach aldermen that voted down the proposed smoking ban expect someone who litters something as small as a cigarette butt to be cited for littering??  I ask that question in all seriousness.  I wonder from a police officer's point of view how difficult that task must be??  
It sounds daunting if not impossible.  Though I would be the first to say that I believe that anything is possible.  BUT, with a small police force at WB... I wonder about the feasibility of police officers being able to truly enforce the littering law... especially when it comes to cigarette butts?  Hmmm... Since the public hearing we have done 3 clean ups at Wrightsville Beach.  My friend Sara has done 4 beach clean ups in Santa Monica.  We're comparing the amount of cigarettes found on our two beaches in just 20 minute increments.  So far the difference is staggering.  We ask, "Can you tell which beach has banned smoking?"

Wrigthsville Beach: 3 beach clean ups-- 781 cigarette butts
Santa Monica: 4 beach clean ups-- 57 cigarette butts

Another thing that happened yesterday, was us seeing a group of people pack up their stuff and leave their trash. (See the people standing just to the right of the access sign?  Yeah, that's them.)  They grabbed all their chairs, towels, etc... but failed to grab 2 plastic water bottles and 2 freshly smoked cigarettes.  When my husband approached them to let them know that they forgot some things, he received a common response: "Oh, we were going to come back for that." (RIGHT, because those water bottles and cigarette butts are so important they'd never be forgotten.)  Please note the sarcasm... because as often as we've heard that line (along with the "that's not ours" line)... no one ever packs up everything... walks all the way to the access and goes back for their cigarette butts or other trash.  By the way, as the conversation progressed... her story changed to place the blame on the young teenager that was with them.  (sad)
I'm here to make a difference.  Want to join in?

20 minutes on March 16, 2012 at Access 15
Cigarette butts: 210
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 126 days:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 125

Before the public hearing on the proposed smoking-ban on Wrightsville Beach, I prepared myself for the two possible outcomes.  I told myself that if the ban didn't pass that it was because I was supposed to do more... that something bigger was supposed to happen.  I do this often... when faced with a negative outcome, I look for the positive.  It helps me see the bigger picture.
So when the ban was voted down last Thursday, I... of course, teared up.. and then remembered what I had told myself.  "Something bigger is going to happen."  Maybe I willed it to happen... not sure.  But, the very next day, that something bigger started with my friend Sara who writes The Daily Ocean.  Sara began counting and tallying the number of cigarette butts she finds during her 20 minute beach clean ups in Santa Monica.  Yesterday, we both did 20 minute beach clean ups and I picked up 113 cigarettes off of WB and Sara picked up 17 on her smoke-free Santa Monica beach.  

(not so) FUN FACT: Our average at WB is 17 per minute.

Just the other day, my friend Ginger, picked up 232 cigarette butts while cleaning her adopted WB access.  As always, I added Ginger's count to the "Community Count" on the sidebar.... bringing the new total to: 10,678 
I do realize that when I share the amount of cigarette butts found on Wrightsville Beach, that it must sound absolutely horrible and disgusting.  But really it's not.  It's so beautiful and one of my favorite places to be.  There is, obviously, a problem that can only be solved by raising some MAJOR awareness.  Because really, it's just a shame that so many people disrespect Wrightsville Beach (and so many other places) by throwing their cigarette butts (and other trash) with no care as to how they affect other people, animals or the environment.  

OK... so more news!  Wednesday, I received a completely unexpected text message from Ben Bourgeois of a photo and text that read:

"42 cigs in 20 minutes.  Oceanside beach San Diego Ca. 3-14-2012".  

Can't even explain how happy that text message made me.  Besides seeing another low cigarette butt count from a different smoke-free beach... it is so RAD to inspire someone else!! <--- THAT is what this blog is all about!! YAY!!  I'm super stoked about Ben taking the time to do his first 20 minute clean up and I'm even MORE stoked that Ben is going to keep track and see how all of the places he goes compare to WB.  Yeah, I'll say it again... big things are happening... I can see it and I can feel it :)

 “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa

20 minutes on March 15, 2012 at Access 36
Litter by weight: 10.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 113

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 125 days: 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 124

Yesterday, I had big plans to go out to Wrightsville Beach to do a 20 minute beach clean up.  BUT...  with the public hearing being the previous evening and an overcast dismal day... I just couldn't find the motivation to go.  UNTIL... I picked up the phone and called my friend Tracy.  Thanks to Tracy offering to meet me at the beach... I made it to Wrightsville Beach to do our 124th beach clean up!!

SO... big plans? You ask.  (right)  Not long ago, as I saw my friend Sara who writes The Daily Ocean blog-- aka my inspiration for "Our Daily Ocean"-- was coming up on her 100 clean up countdown to her 365 non-consecutive day goal of collecting, weighing and documenting beach trash in Santa Monica... I thought "wouldn't it be cool if we did a joint clean up on her 265th?"  A way to kick off the countdown and pay homage to the work she's done-- over 970 lbs of trash removed from her beach-- and the community she's grown through her Daily Ocean efforts. 
Part of her community efforts are getting people involved in cleaning up our world by asking them to contribute to her Community Collection.  Take 20 minutes and report what you find to Sara.  It's easy and a great lesson in what we can do when we work together collectively.  My contribution to Sara's community collection is a whopping 240 lbs of trash removed from Wrightsville Beach!!  
Before heading out to Wrightsville Beach, I was talking to Sara about a number of things including the recent voting down of proposed ordinance to ban smoking on Wrightsville Beach.  As our conversation ended, I asked Sara if she would do me a favor and count the cigarette butts she finds during her 20 minute clean up.  Santa Monica being a smoke-free beach was tugging at me.  I've done two cleanups with Sara and I never recall picking up any cigarette butts.  I needed to have my curiosities settled..   
Last night, I went to Wrightsville Beach with my friend Tracy.  On an overcast day with cool winds and a light drizzle, we picked up 458 cigarette butts in 20 minutes.  Are you ready??  Sara picked up 10.  TEN!!!!  10 cigarette butts in 20 minutes!!  Our average is 17 PER minute!!  What do you think that means??  My daughter has an opinion. (...and I'm going to have to agree with her.)

So as the outcome of the WB public hearing has given me renewed focus on this issue and a clear sense of direction... Sara will also start a new chapter of The Daily Ocean.  She writes:

But here's what Danielle and I came up with after talking yesterday. We're stepping up our collaboration. I wish we'd thought of this earlier, but I'm thrilled about the idea going forward. 

I will count how many butts I collect on my 20 min. cleanups and keep the tally for my last 100. 

So far, the difference is just staggering. 

I collected 10 cigarette butts in 20 min. last night.

Danielle collected 458. 

How about a re-vote B.O.A.? Cause I can tell you, that after 100 of these comparisons, if you have a heart, you'll be ashamed of yourself for turning away from the action neccesary to enact a ban. 

There was a time when I thought to myself, "There are so many people out there trying to make a difference in our world and what would that be like if we could come together.  What kind of difference could we make together versus being one person?"  (if you recall, I had that thought and I contacted Sara... I think it's obvious what is going to happen now.)

20 minutes on March 9, 2012 at Access 17
Litter by weight: 11.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 458
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 124 days:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 123

Yesterday afternoon, I packed up the back of my car with a year and a half's work at Wrightsville Beach.  122 non-consecutive days of cleaning up my local beach and documenting the cigarette litter problem filled the back of my car with 40,827 cigarette butts.
I headed out to the beach to do a couple of interviews and a beach cleanup before the Wrightsville Beach public hearing on the proposed smoke-free beach ordinance.  I had a chance to share what we've done at Wrightsville Beach and why a smoking ban on the beach strand is important.  

  Check out the video here: WWAY: Woman Picks Up More Than 40,000 butts 

Once I finished with the interviews, I did a quick 20 minute beach clean up.  As usual, I picked up everything I found.  I originally had plans of counting what I picked up at the beach before the public hearing... but decided that having picked up nearly 41,000 was sufficient to show how bad the problem really is.  I went to the public hearing full of hope and optimism with my family and a community of supporters wearing blue.
The hearing was absolutely AMAZING.  Seeing the community come together was so inspiring and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.  During the hearing there were so many people that spoke out in support of a Smoke-Free WB... so many people that there wasn't enough allotted time for everyone to speak!!  We came prepared with facts and research to back up what we were asking the WB Board of Alderman to support.  I even offered this: I have committed myself to this problem and be assured that I stand here with you to help begin fixing this problem.  I offer my support in helping educate, enforce, promote and publicize the smoke-free ordinance.
Photo courtesy: Tracy Carr
 While the opposition, was scarce and comments were purely opinion driven... and fewer than 10 people opposing the ban...  the WB Board of Alderman voted 3-2 against banning smoking on the beach strand. Of course, I'm frustrated by this because it is obvious that last night democracy failed at Wrightsville Beach.  (Democracy failed because supporters outnumbered those opposing by 10-1.... nearly 1200 people wrote the alderman expressing their support and 402 Wrightsville Beach residents wrote in support of the proposed ordinance.  If you're wondering, one of the new board members was elected into office with 320 votes.)

I am particularly disheartened by the disrespectful comment made by Alderman Mayor Pro Tem Susan Collins in reference to the 40,827 cigarette butts we have removed from the beach.  When giving her address to the public before the vote she said, 

I wonder if Ms. Collins has any idea the amount of time and effort we put into helping keep WB clean?  I wonder if she understands the amount of time and energy put in by ALL of the other volunteers that come out to help keep WB clean and beautiful?  We may not live on WB, but trust me... if WE (Big Sweep volunteers, Surfrider, Keep It Clean, adopt an access volunteers, boy scouts, etc) didn't do it... no one else would.
Photo courtesy: Ocean Cure
 I am grateful and have so much respect for Mayor Cignotti and Alderman Sisson who sat as elected officials and voted as the voice of the majority.  I thank them for doing their jobs as elected officials.  I have so much gratitude for this community... locally and globally.  Those who stood with us and those who sent in their support via emails and letters to the board... including the North Carolina American Lung Association.   
Photo courtesy: Ocean Cure
Please know that as much as I am disappointed... I am empowered more than ever.  This is not a roadblock.  This is an opportunity to do more.

20 minutes on March 8, 2012 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 7.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 425

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 123 days: 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 122

Today, was an absolutely gorgeous perfect day.  81˚ and nothing but blue skies.  I, of course, thought the beach would be completely packed, but when we got there the wind was blowing so strong that I questioned even getting out of my car.  81˚ temperatures tugged at me and we hit the beach at Access 43!  Since the wind was ripping across the sand, the beach appeared to be completely empty...

We immediately made a beeline to the dunes for some protection from the wind (and the sand that was ripping across the beach).  Obviously, that's what everyone else had decided to do!  The dunes provided enough buffer that the winds were hardly even noticeable.  While walking around the dunes, we found lots of very old plastics.... like a styrofoam take out container that began to crumble as soon as I touched it... and this plastic bottle cap that broke into pieces as soon as I grabbed it...
Every day, I strive to reduce the amount of plastics that I use.  I do so for a great number of reasons... one being I don't want to contribute to the ever growing problem of plastic pollution and well... quite frankly... it's just not safe.  Stiv Wilson wrote a really great article "7 Dangerous Lies About Plastic" that EVERYONE should read.
Interesting fact time!  In 122 days, doing 20 minute beach clean ups.... we've picked up 40,827 cigarette butts off of Wrightsville Beach.  That averages out to picking up nearly 17 cigarette butts every minute! YIKES!  Houston Wrightsville Beach: We have a problem.  The hearing for the proposed smoking ban on Wrightsville Beach is exactly a week away.  Please mark your calendars for March 8.  The meeting starts at 6 PM.... and we need everyone that supports our efforts to show up to the meeting.  We can do this TOGETHER!! :)

20 minutes on March 1, 2012 at Access 43
Litter by weight: 1 lb 4 oz
Cigarette butts: 432
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 122 days: