Pick up Trash, Save the Beach

It's easy to do your part to clean up your local beach

Photo: Genista on Flickr Creative Commons

There’s almost nothing worse than oceanfront sands littered with trash. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly common occurrence: In 2008, during International Coastal Cleanup Day, for example, volunteers picked up more than 3.5 million pounds of garbage from 9,000 miles of shoreline in the U.S. No wonder Justin Rudd, a native Alabaman who now calls California home, started 30-Minute Beach Cleanup a decade ago.

Tomorrow, the program—which asks locals to volunteer one half-hour a month to picking up trash from California’s Long Beach—celebrates it 10th anniversary and 120 consecutive months of what Rudd calls his “grassroots effort.”

He’s not wrong in giving the program that designation. The first 30-minute cleanup took place with just 10 people, after Rudd, a personal trainer, finished leading a beach workout and realized the sorry state of his surroundings.

Now hundreds of people come out each month. And they’re making a difference; in the summer of 2008, 30-Minute Cleanup volunteers collected 10 garbage trucks worth of trash from a six-mile stretch of beach in Orange County, CA. With beach weather right around the corner, why not do something to keep the sands near your home pristine?

If you live in southern California, check out one of the 30-Minute Cleanups. Here’s how:
- Show up. Volunteers meet the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at S. Granada Ave. and Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach. No sign up necessary.
- Come ready to work. The California Coastal Commission and the Community Action Team (CAT) provide bags and gloves. Refreshments are served each week.
- Check out other local cleanups.

If you don’t live nearby, here’s what you can do in your area:
- Volunteer to monitor the water of your local water bodies (e.g., streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries, etc.). The EPA says citizen scientists who participate in this type of project “build awareness of pollution problems, become trained in pollution prevention, help clean up problem sites and provide data for waters that may otherwise be unassessed.”
- Pay attention to your household trash. According to the nonprofit Save our Beach, water runoff from your sidewalk, yard and street flow into the storm drains and eventually, into the ocean. Anything this runoff carries could end up on the beach.
- Spend a half-hour at your local beach picking up trash.
- Start a beach cleanup program near you. As Rudd demonstrated, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to make a big difference.

Note: Check out the July-August issue of Audubon magazine for more info about beaches.

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