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:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 162

Yesterday evening, my kids and I went to Wrightsville Beach with my friend Tracy and her kids.  Our main goals were to catch up and catch the sunset.  While finding our way through the sand dunes to the perfect spot to watch the sunset, we started a very sporadic clean up by finding a lot of random things including an inflated pool donut... which my daughter pointed out that it made a perfect necklace... ;)

Photo credit: Tracy Carr, Scarf: Late Sunday Afternoon (thanks! Live Like You're On Vacation)
As we found our way out of the dunes and to the water, I came across some Honda car keys alone in the sand.  It's the first time that I've ever found lost keys... and I wanted so badly to find the owner and make their day.  Unfortunately, even after pressing the unlock button by all the Hondas in the parking lot, I couldn't find the person the keys belonged to.  Bummer.  Knowing that I wouldn't get any closer to the owner by taking the keys with me, I decided to leave them at the gazebo at the Jack Parker parking lot at the south end of Wrightsville Beach.  Would love to know if those lost keys were found!
I had so much fun last night.  Sand in my toes, salt air, and the feel of the cool ocean... the evening was pretty perfect.  Beach clean ups with friends are the best... AND... beach clean ups that end with a sunset... even better.  Seriously, I love love LOVE where I live.  
20 minutes on October 14, 2012 at Access 44
Cigarette butts: 181
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 162 days:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 161

I got to Wrightsville Beach bright and early this morning... 9 is early, right? ;) to chat with Melanie (from Greensboro, NC) about plastic.  Before I got to sharing how I reduce the amount of plastic our family uses, recycles, and throws away... I started a quick beach clean up.
What's great about doing a beach clean up and talking about reducing plastic is that every time I bend over to pick up something... it's most always plastic.  Doing consistent beach clean ups has been a major catalyst in me focusing on how much plastic we as a family use and connecting our plastic use with the global problem of plastic pollution.
Easy ways to become part of the solution to plastic pollution:

  • Carry reusable shopping bags.  Take them everywhere from the grocery store to the mall.
  • Say adios! to bottled water (and other plastic packaged beverages)
  • When dining out request no straw in your drink (you can even request no disposables)
  • Carry a bag with reusables so you're not stuck using plasticware or styrofoam take-out containers
  • Instead of single serving products (juice boxes, granola bars, fruit cups, chips, etc), buy the larger size with less packaging or learn to make your own!  Check out my Plastic-Free Food 
  • Share what you're doing with others!  Do you have a tip on how you use less plastic?

Let's get drastic about reducing plastic... because in today already walks tomorrow.
20 minutes on October 13, 2012 at Access 16

Cigarette butts: 132
Straws: 4
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 161 days:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 160

Well, another semi-long stretch between beach clean ups had me so happy to be back at Wrightsville Beach on Wednesday.  The weather couldn't have been nicer... the blues of the ocean and the sounds of the beach welcomed me back... and ushered in many reminders to me why I love where I live SO very much.
As usual, a lot has been happening.  Just last week, I was in California... on the west coast friend tour!  While we were there, my husband and I did a 20 minute The Daily Ocean beach clean up in Santa Monica with Sara, Garen and Mark!  I love beach clean ups with friends.  

Check it out! Day 339: October 4, 2012

Oh, and I also love that during the clean up with Sara and friends, I only found 9 cigarette butts in 20 minutes.  This November, Wrightsville Beach registered voters have the opportunity to vote FOR making Wrightsville Beach a cleaner more family friendly beach.  It's a step to cleaning up the air and the sand at WB!!  

P.S... for an update on the cigarette litter comparison that Sara and I are doing... glance over to the sidebar to see the HUGE difference between our two beaches.

News! The Daily Ocean & It Starts With Me (that's Sara and me) are in the October issue of DIVE Magazine!  Get a FREE digital copy here :)

20 minutes on October 10, 2012 at Access 16

Cigarette butts: 127
Straws: 4
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 160 days:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Earth Paint

For the past couple of years, I have been homeschooling my three children.  It's not something that I ever thought I could do or would do, but here I am doing it. (and, it's pretty darn awesome!)  At the end of last school year, I told myself that this year was going to be the year of art.  Wherever I can work art in for my kids... that's what we're doing.   So, when Earth Paint contacted me about reviewing an organic, eco-friendly paint kit made from natural earth pigments (and made in the USA)... I couldn't say no... because really... I never even knew that eco-friendly paints existed.
When the Earth Paint Children's Paint Kit arrived at our house, my kids excitement couldn't be contained.  We waited for a nice day to sit out at the picnic table and paint... free from having to worry about anything... Paint on the table? No problem. Paint on feet? No worries. Since the paints are made from natural earth pigments and no petroleum or toxins, there really were no worries about anything.  One of the most noticeable differences is that with Earth Paint there's no funky smell (you know the normal intoxicating paint smell, right?)!  We painted outside, but we could have easily painted in a small indoor room and not have been bothered by any strong odor.  Woot!
And as my kids painted leaves, pressed them on paper, and then let them go in the wind... I couldn't help but feel good knowing that I wasn't putting anything unnatural into the environment.... or on their skin.  Yeah, my kids painted their hands, feet and at one point I found them in full tribal mode!
We had a blast painting with Earth Paints.  The colors were super vibrant... really unbelievable how beautiful the colors are.  (Though, really it shouldn't have been a surprise... the natural colors of our Earth are amazingly beautiful.)  One of my favorite things about the paints is that they come in powdered form and all I had to do was add water to the consistency that we wanted to use-- from thick tempura like paint to watercolors this paint covered anything we would want to do.  PLUS, it washed off my kids very nicely ;)
Since I focus a good amount of my time on refusing/reducing plastics, I think it's worth noting that when I opened the kit to find some little plastic cups and the powdered paints packaged in small baggies, I was a little bummed.  Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I emailed them to see if they thought about switching to plastic-free packaging.  And I'm glad I did because I learned that the baggies and the cups are both biodegradable and compostable.  (yes, I prefer reusable... but biodegradable/compostable is a million times better than anything I could ever find at a craft store).   Another thing is all of the paper packaging is 100% post-consumer recycled and printed with vegetable based inks!!  

It's nice knowing that the focus of Earth Paint is to be as eco-friendly as possible because it's better for the environment and our health.  It makes me happy because that's really what every business should be doing.  ... and for me, businesses that put environment before profit are businesses that I get excited about supporting.  I vote with my $$ and from now on this small family owned business has my support!!!

To learn more about Earth Paint, visit their website.

**Thanks to Earth Paint for sending me a Children's Kit to review.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was in no way obligated to give a positive review. :)