Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 142

It isn't every May that a tropical weather system comes rolling into town.  But, today Tropical Depression Beryl made its way through Wilmington with the gift of rain! (My garden is happy I'm sure!)  Knowing we were going to get a lot of rain, I (being the planner that I am) did a beach clean up yesterday!
As I did my 142nd beach clean up, The Daily Ocean did her 286th on the exact same day.  The day after Memorial Day and our beach clean ups couldn't be more different.  

Here's the comparison:

Santa Monica:  5.9 lbs of litter and TWO cigarette butts

Wrightsville Beach: 1 lb 3.6 oz of litter and 148 cigarette butts

When I see the overall difference between our two beaches, I get even more excited about the possibility of Wrightsville Beach becoming the first smoke-free beach in North Carolina!  Less litter means a cleaner more family friendly beach!!  Just maybe we'd find Wrightsville Beach on a top beaches list like this one: Dr. Beach's Top American 10 Beaches
Another reason to keep our beaches clean is that the majority of people that visit the beach come barefoot.  No one wants to be stepping on or worry about stepping on trash.  One of my personal favorite things about the beach is feeling the sand beneath my feet... I like feeling the variance of the texture... the heat... the coolness.  It grounds me.  For me, life is better barefoot.  And from what I read yesterday, going barefoot is healthy.  Check it out and then (if you haven't already) kick off your shoes :)  7 Health Benefits of Going Barefoot Outside
20 minutes on May 29, 2012 at Access 16
Cigarette butts: 148
Straws: 10
That's my cat Millie checking out the litter we picked up at the beach ;)

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 142 days:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 141

Memorial Day weekend... it's considered the official start to beach season.  It's when the tourists really start to roll into town and it's when EVERYONE heads to the beach.  Well... almost everyone.  After last years experience at Wrightsville Beach Access 17, I was hard pressed to even go to the beach this weekend.  But instead of completely avoiding the beach, we made the decision that we didn't want to spend our time at the beach frustrated and to save our sanity we decided to not go near Johnnie Mercer's Pier.
By the time we got to Access 22 on Sunday evening, most people had cleared off the beach...  but from our vantage point I could see there was still quite a large crowd of people around the pier accesses.  Thankfully, the beach wasn't too bad at Access 22 and we were able to have a nice walk along the beach strand randomly picking up litter.  (It's so nice to not feel overwhelmed.)

SOOOO.... I totally need to give some updates!  On Wednesday, as I waited to pick my daughter up from school, I got a call from a reporter with the Star-News.  She called to let me know that the New Hanover County Board of Elections had validated the signatures for the petition to ban smoking on Wrightsville Beach!!  I am super excited about what is to come and was so stoked that I heard the news first!!  Woot Woot!!

As we talk about making Wrightsville Beach a smoke-free beach, it's important for me to keep reiterating the difference of found cigarette butts on Wrightsville Beach to that of what my friend Sara The Daily Ocean is picking up in Santa Monica (a smoke-free beach).  Since March, Sara and I have been comparing the number of cigarette butts found on our respective beaches during our 20 minute beach clean ups.  Most recently on Sara's 284th  beach clean up, she collected ZERO cigarette butts!!!  (The least amount I ever picked up was 39 and it was on a crazy windy day.)  Here's the update to where Sara and my comparisons are as of today:

21 beach clean ups: 173 cigarette butts in Santa Monica
18 beach clean ups: 4,130 cigarette butts in Wrightsville Beach

The difference is staggering. I wish the Board of Aldermen who voted against the smoking ban could move past whatever is holding them back from making Wrightsville Beach a cleaner and more family friendly beach and vote in the smoke-free beach ordinance. I have no doubts about the positive impact of a smoke-free beach.  If you agree, the Surfrider action alert for Smoke-Free Wrightsville Beach is still live... take a moment to send a letter to the WB BOA letting them know that you're still in support of this effort!  SUPPORT SMOKE-FREE WB

20 minutes on May 28, 2012 at Access 22
Cigarette butts: 128
Straws: 6
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 141 days:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Homemade Plastic-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Larabars

Before starting the 20 minute beach clean ups, I regularly posted about the little things I do to help minimize my (negative) impact on the environment.  I'm still always doing my best and working to make my life more environmentally friendly while not on the beach... so I think it's time I start getting back to sharing more of what I'm doing off the beach!

For the past several years, I have been in the process of reducing the amount of plastic we use.  It's something I started because I wanted to reduce the amount of trash we sent to the landfill, but as I progressed through the beach clean ups it became apparent that I wanted to limit my use of plastic because it's polluting our environment on so many levels.  Because of plastic packaging, there are many things we haven't eaten in years and many things that we've never even had... like LARABARS.  In an attempt to give my kids some variety in their snacks, I became intrigued with LARABARS... well... ok, not LARABARS... more so the energy balls that I was seeing a lot of raw foodies make.  I looked at many different recipes and quickly learned that I could totally make them... AND do it plastic-free!!

Of course, since I was looking for something for my kids... it took me a bit to find the perfect fit for them.  It shouldn't have come as a surprise to me that the recipe they ended up loving contained chocolate!  The ingredients are simple: Nuts, chocolate chips, dates and peanut butter.  That's it.  Four ingredients that I get bulk to create a mouthwatering (kind of) healthy snack.  Tasting a bit like a candy bar these are snacks that my kids are always excited about and I'm happy to make them for them! 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls 
(aka Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip LARABAR)

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup organic chocolate chips
1 cup dates (pitted)
1 heaping TBSP peanut butter

(Optional: 1 tsp cocoa powder)

In a food processor, pulse almonds and chocolate chips until finely chopped.  Add the dates and pulse until the machine stops hopping (the dates will be a small uniform size).  Add the peanut butter and process until combined.  Once the mixture looks done, put a bit in your hand and squeeze to see how it holds together.  It should feel moist and hold together nicely.  If the mixture feels dry and isn't holding shape... add a bit more peanut butter and/or a date or two.

Roll into balls OR to make bars press into a parchment lined pan.  Refrigerate until firm.

Store refrigerated in a covered container and snack at will :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 140

It's been over a week since I've been to Wrightsville Beach.  There's this crazy thing that happened last week called rain... and well... life.  Yup, it happens.  With three young kids, it's SO easy to get busy, but I'm happy to say that things have finally slowed back down and we made it to Access 16 today!
I spent a bit of time today talking to one of the WB lifeguards as he paid close attention to the few people in the ocean (lots of rip currents today!).   I was happy to hear from him that the WB police are out on the beach strand enforcing the laws including no dogs, no alcohol, no glass and no littering.  Obviously, there's no way that they can catch everyone... but I'm hoping that their efforts to enforce the laws make this beach season just a little bit less trashy than last year.
It's now sea turtle nesting season at Wrightsville Beach.  That means every morning the volunteers of the WB Sea Turtle Project walk the entire beach strand as the sun is coming up looking for turtle tracks.  Many of the volunteers pick up the litter they see during their morning turtle walks and share what they find on Wrightsville Beach-- Keep It Clean.  You can also find them on Facebook here.
OK... FUN fact time!  Most people who know me know that I have this (non-mathematical) thing for numbers.  As I was adding today's count to the cigarette butt tally I realized something very cool.  In 140 non-consecutive 20 minute beach clean ups, we have collected 45,254 cigarette butts off of Wrightsville Beach.  Interesting fact: 45,254 is the same forwards and backwards!  ... and if those numbers are added up (like adding for numerology), they add up to 20!

Hello 20 minute beach clean ups! ;)

20 minutes on May 22, 2012 at Access 16

Litter by weight: 7 oz
Cigarette butts: 167
Straws: 5
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 140 days:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 139

Sunday morning, my husband had an interview with News 14 at Wrightsville Beach regarding the still building support for Smoke-Free Wrightsville Beach and Cape Fear Surfrider's commitment to Wrightsville Beach.  It was a gorgeous morning to be at the beach and the Mother's Day crowd was quickly building...
Having only done a handful of beach clean ups in the morning, I'm always surprised by the amount of trash to be found on the beach so early.  No doubt much is left over from the previous night... sending a message to the new beach goers of the day that it's "ok" to leave their trash on the beach too.  The whole "everyone else is doing it" type of thing... 
Every beach clean up we do, it is obvious that the most found items on the beach are plastic.  Cigarette butts, plastic bottles, plastic caps, wrappers, toys, lids, straws, etc. they're all on Wrightsville Beach and littering most places of the world.  I continually ask myself, "How can I change that?"  An easy first step is to pick it up when I see it... but I know that doesn't "fix" it.  For me, I feel it's so important to reduce the amount of disposable plastic I use because I want to help change the "norm".  As a mom, I want my kids to understand and see firsthand that our actions or inactions impact the world.  We can all help change the norm of what "everyone else is doing" by showing others that there's a different way. 

...and one thing that is doable for everyone is to use reusable bags in lieu of plastic bags.  Yesterday, we found 4 in just a matter of minutes.  No doubt it's time long overdue to ban plastic bags here in New Hanover County.  I know that it won't be too long as the "Ban the Bag" movement is growing across our country/world.  Recently, the city and county of Honolulu signed a bill to enact a plastic bag ban.  This is BIG news because as all the other counties in Hawaii have already passed legislation banning plastic bags... this makes Hawaii the first state to ban the bag!!!  AWESOME.

20 minutes on May 13, 2012 at Access 16
Cigarette butts: 136
Straws: 9

Total amount of cigarettes removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 139 days:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 138

Friday afternoon, my kids and I spent the better part of 4 hours at the beach.  Our time started out hanging out with friends.  Kids in the water jumping waves and boogie boarding left me with no "time" to do a focused beach clean up.  As easy as it is to take 20 minutes at the beach to clean up... being a mom means that it's more important to make sure our kids are safe while playing in the ocean.
While my kids and my friend Tracy's kids were playing in the water we could not stop mentioning how beautiful the water was... the most gorgeous blues.  I said to my friend, "How lucky are our kids to grow up here?" Seriously, there are so many times when I nearly pinch myself that this is where I am.  I just feel so good being here.  There's something to be said about the amazing effect the ocean has on people.  I've seen how the ocean has the power to "free" and empower people by volunteering with my friends Ocean Cure for Life Rolls On and while watching their autistic surf camps, I've seen the healing powers of the ocean in full effect.  The ocean calms, reenergizes and heals us.  Dr. Wallace "J" Nichols is exploring this ocean-mind connection aka BLUEMIND to bring a scientific understanding to what exactly happens to our brains when in the presence of the sea and bring about much needed ocean conservation efforts.  Learn more here: BLUEMIND2: Where Nostalgia is Born
Once my friend Tracy left, my husband came out to the beach with his stand up paddleboard and took my kids SUPing.  That left me plenty of time to take 20 minutes and clean up the beach!  I have to say that overall, I was very happy because there wasn't much litter on the beach... but I am unfortunately still finding way too many straws around the Oceanic dining pier.  I've talked to Oceanic several times about this issue.  Since Miami recently banned straws, I feel a renewed sense of hope that this year will be the year that Oceanic finds a way to fix their straw problem.
If you recall, at the end of April, my family and I attended the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) public comment hearing on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.  We are adamantly opposed to seismic testing, which will no doubt lead to off-shore drilling for oil and gas.  Remember: testing = drilling and drilling = spilling.  BOEM is taking public comment on this until May 30.  Surfrider Foundation has made it easy for you to make a public comment to the BOEM by creating an Action Alert.  Please take 2 seconds and add your voice to let BOEM know that we all don't want seismic testing (or drilling) in the Atlantic Ocean.

20 minutes on May 11, 2012 at Access 36
Litter by weight: 5.5 oz
Cigarette butts: 101
Straws: 18

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 138 days:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 137

Since Tuesday,  the Wrightsville Beach strand has been covered in A LOT of reeds and such from the marsh grass getting a good clean out from a heavy downpour last weekend.  No matter which way you look down the beach... all that can be seen is a large line of organic debris.  To give you an idea of what is all over Wrightsville Beach, here's a picture that I took on Tuesday at Access 36:
I had originally planned on doing a 20 minute clean up on Tuesday with my friend Bonnie, but felt somewhat overwhelmed by everything on the beach.  I looked at the enormity of the wrack line and immediately gave up.  I guess it was just one of those days.  So on Thursday, I returned to Wrightsville Beach determined to make a dent in at least a little bit of all that organic debris at Access 16.  BUT... what I quickly found out is that there wasn't much to find.  Instead, what was to be found was being left right on the beach by the days beach-goers.

When I came upon this pile of 9 cigarette butts, I couldn't get over it.  Yes, I have picked up a sh*tload of cigarette butts off of Wrightsville Beach... but I can still never get over it when I see PILES of cigarette butts on the beach.  Then when I do the math, I realize that as Sara is counting and tallying the number of cigarette butts she finds on her smoke-free Santa Monica beach during her 20 minute The Daily Ocean clean ups... she is only finding an average of 9 cigarette butts PER 20 minutes.  I picked up 9 in about one second.
To update everyone on the Smoke-Free Wrightsville Beach effort, the petitions signed by WB residents have been turned over to the New Hanover County Board of Elections for the signatures to be verified.  According to the Star-News, at the WB Board of Alderman meeting last night the smoking ban wasn't even on the agenda... but it couldn't be ignored.  

I would personally like to thank everyone for emailing, writing personal letters and getting involved in this effort!  Together we are making a difference!! :)

20 minutes on May 10, 2012 at Access 16
Cigarette butts: 163
Straws: 8   
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 137 days:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 136

With temperatures pushing near 90˚ yesterday, I took my kids to Wrightsville Beach to go boogie boarding.  Watching my kids laughing and playing in the waves of the Atlantic, I paused and looked out at the horizon... that ocean... that view (and everything in it beneath the surface) is worth protecting...

A couple of summers ago, my family and I went to southern California.  I remember driving along PCH-1 and looking out to the ocean.  It was a perfect drive... but then there was a moment when I looked out at the ocean and said to my husband, "What the heck is that??"  Offshore oil rig.  Yuck.  When I stare out at the Atlantic Ocean, there are no off-shore oil rigs in my view.  It's perfect.  That ocean view is something that people pay top dollar for when choosing their hotels at the beach... and it's that unobstructed view of the ocean that people will spend major $$ on for their ocean front homes.  Yes, I'm all about the conservation and protection of our oceans, beaches and the wildlife that inhabit them... but let's be honest... the ocean is worth protecting on so many levels including enjoyment, real estate, tourism, fishing, LIFE, etc... 

Please take the time to send in your public comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opposing seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean by using this Oceana action alert: 

Yes, I'm still picking up cigarette butts and other litter at Wrightsville Beach... and the comparison of the amount of cigarette butts that Sara and I pick up at our respective beaches is still going strong.  During Sara's last 20 minute beach clean up in Santa Monica (a smoke-free beach), she picked up 4 cigarette butts... while I picked up 105.  Since March 9, Sara and I have each done 13 beach clean ups. Here are the tallies:

13 beach clean ups in Santa Monica: 107 cigarette butts
13 beach clean ups in Wrightsville Beach: 3,345 cigarette butts

Ummm.... as Sara says, "Ban the Butt works!"

20 minutes on May 3, 2012 at Access 36
Litter by weight: 12.7 oz
Cigarette butts: 105 
Straws: 36
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 136 days: