On Sunday evening, my family and I took a picnic dinner and all of our boogie boards to the beach. We weren't playing in the water long when we started to hear thunder and flashes of lightening. Although the rain cell was on the north end of the beach, we heeded the warning of the thunder and steered clear of the water until it all passed.
With the impending weather, many people packed up and left the beach... others like us stayed knowing that the southeastern winds would keep pushing the storm to the north. Another thing that wind did was blow a lot of straws off of Oceanic's dining pier. We picked up 34 plastic straws and 31 of those straws came from Oceanic. (the other 3 were from McDonald's and a juice box) Yikes. I'll be contacting Oceanic again and hope that we can come up with some kind of solution to help keep straws from blowing from the pier and also save Oceanic some $$. A side-note to that: I'd personally love to see Oceanic start making changes and become part of the Green Restaurant Association.
When I saw that Starbucks coffee lid stopper (yes, I had to google what the heck that thing was!), I immediately thought about the post over on My Plastic-free Life about all of the trash Starbucks creates. A Starbucks employee wrote Beth hoping to get some help because what she's witnessing is completely unnecessary and ridiculous. Read the post here: Starbucks Trash: Behind the Scenes If you'd like to get involved in a social media flash mob to Starbucks, you can learn more about that here: Flash Mob: Starbucks
In 3 weeks (August 14), the Town of Carolina Beach will vote on a proposed smoke-free beach ordinance. If the council decides to vote in the smoke-free beach ordinance, Carolina Beach will become the first smoke-free beach in North Carolina. If you support smoke-free beaches, please take take action by sending the council a letter using this Surfrider Action Alert:
Have you ever stood at the edge of the beach and looked around you only to wonder why no one saw what you saw? I do this all the time. Of course, I'm not wondering if anyone thinks this place is a place worth visiting (that's obvious... because since they're there, they do). I always wonder how people can not see the trash right next to them... or if they do... how they can do nothing?
While my husband and I were picking up trash on the beach, my husband was asked if he worked for the town (no) and if he was picking up trash (yes). The person that asked the latter question tried to give my husband her trash, to which he let her know that he was picking up litter and with a smile he told her that she still had a chance to do the right thing. This isn't the first time that people have tried to hand their trash over to us. I tend to think there are people who are confused by us picking up trash. We're not being paid and we're not being punished. We only do what we do to protect what we love.
Sometimes, in order to protect what we love... rules have to be made. With all of the talk about banning smoking on our local beaches... many people start to ask questions. Since I've been committed to cleaning up and raising awareness about the cigarette litter problem for nearly 2 years... I can easily answer the questions that people have and I do so often. Being that most of the conversations are either private or get lost in the shuffle on Facebook....I've decided to answer 3 of the most popular questions right here:
1. Where do littered cigarette butts come from-- storm drains, boaters, etc?
Having picked up and taken countless photos of littered cigarettes on Wrightsville Beach, I can attest to the fact that the majority of littered cigarette butts found on our local beaches have been stubbed out, flicked, tossed and left in the sand by beach-goers.
2. Littering laws are already in place. Do we really need another law?
Yes. Smoking needs to be banned on our local beaches. The cigarette litter problem on our local beaches is out of control. There are littering laws and there are signs in place, but those things aren't working to fix the problem. Whereas, other beaches that have banned smoking report a major reduction in cigarette butt litter. (Check out the sidebar to see the comparison between Santa Monica and Wrightsville Beach.) There are, obviously, other benefits to smoke-free beaches beyond cleaning up the beach, but my focus is cigarette litter.
3. Shouldn't we focus on something bigger, like plastics?
Plastics are a huge problem. 99% of litter we pick up on the beach is plastic and our oceans are becoming increasingly plasticized. No doubt that's something that needs to be tackled and some plastics definitely need to be banned-- like styrofoam and plastic bags. But, cigarette filters are also made from plastic and on top of that they contain toxic chemicals that leach into our environment as soon as they come in contact with water. 4.5 trillion little plastic cigarette filters are littered every single year making them the most littered item worldwide. Change has to start somewhere, so let's work on fixing that.
Last night as I sat on the beach, I watched as people moved their things back from the rising tide. My kids were busy playing in the water, so I was content just sitting there. Then it happened. I looked at the tideline and started seeing the things that people had left behind start washing in and out with the tide.
So I got up and told my husband I was just going to pick up what was there. But with every step, I kept seeing the exact same thing over and over again. Cigarette butt, plastic, cigarette butt, plastic, cigarette butt. What I thought was going to be a couple of minutes turned into me walking along the tideline for nearly 20 minutes.
During my walk, I leaned down to take a picture and pick up some cigarette butts when I heard someone say, "And they wonder why they want to ban smoking on the beach." Of course, I smiled because every time I pick up a cigarette butt, I think the same thing. We then had a nice conversation about how great it would be if people would just do the right thing and pick up after themselves. But knowing it wasn't happening, we agreed that having our 3 beach towns ban smoking on the beach strands would be a major step in helping clean up our local beaches. WHOA... rewind. Yes, I said 3!! First Wrightsville Beach, then Carolina Beach and NOW Kure Beach is considering banning smoking on their beach strand! WOOT!! Kure Beach will be starting their conversation on this topic on July 19 @ 7PM. The meeting is at: Town of Kure Beach, 117 Settlers Lane
When I finally sat back down at the end of my 20 minutes, I looked out and said, "Is that a cigarette butt??" (See photo above) Indeed it was. Put out in the sand like our beach is an ashtray.
This morning, after I dropped my kids off at Airlie Gardens for camp, I decided to do something out of the ordinary for my 20 minute beach clean ups.... a morning beach clean up! There was little activity happening... so little, in fact, that it reminded me of being at the beach at the end of the day. Another great time to be there enjoying the beauty of one of my favorite places in the world...
During sea turtle nesting season, the beach is walked very early every morning by WB Sea Turtle Project volunteers. As the volunteers look for turtle tracks, many also pick up litter. Walking the beach this morning, I couldn't help but wonder how much litter had already been picked up before me. The volunteers are doing an awesome job helping Keep Wrightsville Beach Clean AND finding tracks! There are currently 2 sea turtle nests on WB!!!
More news! On Tuesday, the Town of Carolina Beach voted unanimously to draft an ordinance to ban smoking on the beach! The town council plans to vote on the ordinance on August 14! This is very exciting because if the council decides to vote in the ordinance, Carolina Beach will become the first smoke-free beach in North Carolina!! YAY!!!
And when it comes to making a change... when it comes to making a difference... it doesn't matter where it starts....just as long as it starts. The ball is rolling, the possibilities are there and change is happening... how awesome is that?
With the 4th of July falling on a Wednesday this year, it meant that the celebrations carried out over two weekends. Last night, I picked up the remnants of someone's 4th of July firework celebration at Wrightsville Beach. It's worth noting that fireworks are illegal at Wrightsville Beach and I picked up 31!
In my previous post, I wrote about Oceanic's recent switch to "Compostable" straws. Since we went back to access 36 again last night... and picked up 23 straws... I think it's important to bring this up again. Though compostable straws are not my favorite solution (favorite "realistic solution" would be for them to only give straws upon request)... all in all, I'm happy that they made a change to something more environmentally friendly. But, my friend Ginger points out some very important facts when it comes to compostable products and we should all take note:
"I really do appreciate companies trying to be more environmentally friendly and using compostable products. However, if those products are on the ground, they are still litter and litter is unsightly, illegal, and sometimes dangerous. Also, products that claim to be "compostable" are not compostable in the ocean. Did you know that items compost best in soil, with the aid of worms, and at the right warm temperature? If these items end up in the ocean, they will not compost because the ocean does not offer the right conditions for items to compost.
What is the lesson to be learned? Reduce all disposable, single use items so that they never end up in the landfill, in a compost bin or in the Ocean."
The best thing that we can all do is to refuse single-use products (no matter what product--plastic, paper, corn, plants, etc-- they're made of).
On Tuesday, July 10... the Town of Carolina Beach is having a meeting to get public input on banning smoking from the Carolina Beach strand. YES! With all that has been happening at Wrightsville Beach, I think it's great that another local beach town is starting this conversation. If you're local, you'll want to be at this meeting!
When: Tuesday, July 10 @6:30pm
Where: 1121 N. Lake Park Blvd, CB
20 minutes on July 8, 2012 at Access 36
Litter by weight: 1 lb 7.8 oz
Cigarette butts: 126
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 147 days:
On Saturday evening, my family and I did something that we hadn't yet done this summer-- dinner on the beach. Going to the beach in the late afternoon with a picnic dinner and staying until the sun sets is by far one of my most favorite things to do. For me, it's the best time to be at the beach. The temperature is perfection and the crowds start to dwindle... plus not having to lather up with sunblock is another major perk ;) Chances are we're going to start hanging out at the beach in the evenings as much as we can... so if you want to do a beach clean up with us sometime... stop by access 36 and join us!
Access 36 is our adopted beach access and home of the ocean front restaurant Oceanic. Many times on this blog, I have complained let out my frustrations (here, here, and here) about the amount of straws that blow off of the Oceanic dining pier and litter the beach. I took the time to email Oceanic about the problem and even talked to the manager and regional manager about some possible solutions to the problem of their littered plastic straws. And, I have news! While we were picking up straw after straw after straw... my kids noticed something on the straws that were still in wrappers "Straw Made From Plants" .... "100% COMPOSTABLE"
And I'm stoked. I like to think that all of my "encouragement" led Oceanic to making the switch from plastic to this compostable straw. Is this a perfect solution? No. But, it is a step in the right direction. I'm happy that Oceanic was listening and made a change. YAY!!!
Now, we did pick up A LOT of straws during our 20 minutes. 48 to be exact. Here's the tally:
8 compostable straws (Oceanic)
25 black straws (Oceanic)
13 juice box straws
Want to know the best solution to this whole straw problem? Simple. It starts with a simple phrase.