Edit: This article originally appeared on my first website fierygivingtree.com which I’ve since closed.
I volunteered at a beach cleanup, with my partner, that was part of a worldwide effort to remove garbage from coastal areas and roadsides. The event was only two hours long and involved a variety of people: high school students, families with young kids, and others requiring community services hours on a beautiful beach, in the cooler morning hours.
I picked my favorite beach and the one I’d previously done a beach cleanup on (in high school), for the event. As soon as I was there, I’d rather wished I’d picked a beach more in need. We were at Pass-A-Grille which is a truly lovely beach and one frequented probably as much by locals as by tourists. We had to hunt for trash, which is a wonderful thing, but I am the type of person who waits for things to get really messy before I clean, so I can see an immediate impact. So, there was no immediate visual impact on this beach but I know that hundreds of cigarette butts were removed.
The main trash culprits were smoking paraphernalia: cigarette butts, cigar butts, plastic smoking “tips” and then plastic everything else. I would sift through seaweed picking out little pieces of plastic from beach toys (my guess), straws, bottle-caps, a few fishing lures, etc. [This is me not ranting about plastic but just know I don’t like it.] At one point, one of the children on the cleanup yelled out ‘Jackpot!…plastic bottle!’ Again, it was a tribute to how clean the beach was that this small item constituted his ‘jackpot’, but I also appreciated his excitement about the cleanup effort. To be honest, I was a bit jealous to not get to find anything so big…until we reached the end of the beach where there is a fishing pier.
At those breakwaters, it was a cleanup field day as trash must collect there from other local beaches after riding the currents and perhaps some of the pier users also leave donations. Here we picked up larger items, like beer cans, plastic (*grr*) drinking cups, various wrappers and finally, my jackpot: half a tire. When I saw it I was like ‘YES!’ for surely I’d found the biggest trash items (not that it was a competition but goals keep you going) and yelled “Jackpot!” to my partner. He acknowledged my jackpot and raised me the other half of the tire, found further up the rocks (mine was still bigger). It was a chore to drag them back down the beach but it was great knowing that trash was removed from this lovely beach.
This event was promoted by my county: Pinellas, but it is an event easily replicated on any day. My partner and I actually recently did an impromptu cleanup at Fort Desoto Beach because there was such a need. There may not be anyone who thanks you at the end of the day when you do your own cleanup but you will definitely feel the satisfaction of knowing that the beach or land was made better, not worst, by your presence.
Benefits of volunteering in a land cleanup –
- Virtually no training necessary, the ability to bend helpful
- Cleanups with others generally on the weekend or you can perform the action on your own whenever!
- Solitary work is an option
- Make a positive impact on the environment!
Who you’ll be working with –
- High school kids
- Those doing community service (range of ages)
- Variety of others
Level of commitment necessary – (ranges by location)
- Few hours of your time, no long-term commitment required
What small actions have you taken recently with positive results?