How to start a new year: go clean a beach

We typically spend the holidays on Cape Hatteras, on the outer banks of North Carolina.  Today, January 1, 2010, we went to the beach (in cloudy, cold, windy conditions) to make a small difference.  The kids were more enthusiastic than us!  Just like an easter egg hunt!  Only we were seeking old flip flops, balloons, bags, tires, fishing line, etc.

We only had to walk a mile or so to fill two large Hefty bags.  And this is a national seashore, fairly isolated from major cities.

I usually don’t feel that I am tangibly benefiting the environment through my science, blogging, teaching, outreach etc. And picking up trash can be so satisfying.

I thought the most moving environmental post of 2009 was photographer Chris Jordan’s photo-essay of dead albatross chicks on Midway Atoll.  The birds had been fed a diet of plastic brought back from the remote central Pacific by their parents.  “On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.”  See the slide show of Chris’s photos below.


I see this problem everywhere I travel.  Such as on this remote island on the Belizean Barrier Reef, where the beaches are covered with plastic from unknown origins.

At least there is a fairly simple solution for this problem.  Stop using plastics.  Stop throwing plastics in the ocean.  Start picking up plastics in your own backyard.

Kids love picking up trash!

So many flip flops!  One time when I was a grad student, a container of sneakers fell off a cargo ship and covered a cobble beach in Rhode Island with sneakers.  We called it sneaker beach.  15 years later, the name still fits.

Lots of old fishing line.  A big problem for birds, sea turtles, fish, etc.

All I had to do was carry the trash bag and the kids did all the work!

mucho ribbon


Lots of messes of tangled lines

netting and styrofoam

One hour of fun (and cold) = 2 tires and 2 bags-o-trash!

Just what we do in my family for fun.  Yesterday we pulled teeth out of a rotting dolphin carcass!

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