Coastal Cleanup Day 2015
September 19, 2015

The worlds largest volunteer event, coastal cleanup day, is a massive happening that results in the collection of large amounts of garbage from the beaches of the world. The efforts of each individual add up to a large number of helping hands. (66,000 in California alone).

My friend Diane Poslosky and I participated by kayaking from Sausalito, California, out under the Golden gate Bridge to Kirby Cove, a sweet little beach on the southern tip of the Marin Peninsula. There were a number of people combing the area when we arrived. We thought perhaps they had already cleaned up the beach. Yet it is amazing how many people can walk the same stretch of terrain and still find another piece of trash. We did our tour of the beach, filled up a bag with the usual assortment of flotsam and jetsam, cigarette butts, Styrofoam, Spoons, plastic bottles, etc. (see the chart below for a sample of the items gathered across the state).

At one point a common murre bird came out of the water and sat on the beach. It appeared to be wounded and let us get real close. We weren't sure what was up but a few calls to Wildcare and the Humane Society shed some light on the situation. Apparently these birds are starving to death all along the Pacific Coast. The warmer waters are affecting their food supply and it almost felt like this bird was pleading for help. Somebody tried to capture it with a blanket to bring it to a rescue station for help, but it eluded them and went back to the water. The plight of this bird feels related to the whole phenomenon of global trash that we were addressing this day. The irony of cleaning up our coastline and collecting trash in big plastic bags did not escape me. 

After lunch we headed back under the gate to collect trash from two more little beaches on the bay side. It is amazing how much stuff can float up onto a beach over time. A large basket, bottles by the score, bits and pieces of trash in every color, shape and size, and even a large waterproof box with a radio from a boat. We created an art collage with our treasures on a log on the beach.

We gathered what we could, filled up the bags and the basket and tied them to the top of our kayaks. Returning back to Sausalito and dumping the trash into a large dumpster, I couldn't help wondering how much of this refuse would go through the same cycle yet again.

Just like brushing our teeth, washing our clothes and cutting our hair, we need to consider cleaning up our environment on a very regular basis. Perhaps our awareness of the cycle of “stuff” Will encourage us to use less and be more conscious of how we dispose of things.