Living just a few feet away from the ocean, we’ve developed something of a personal connection with the coast; I love how the molecular ions in the salty air and all characteristics of the ocean’s rhythms have this mystically astounding ability to ignite our souls with boundless curiosity and have the power to fill us up with an immeasurable sense of peace.
Therefore we are passionate about beach clean-ups and love putting in a bit of hard work to ensure sandy stretches of coast around Sligo stay clean of litter. Plastic bottles, food wrappers, and empty beer cans don’t just make Sligo shores look unseemly; they also significantly impact the environment and marine animals. Taking part in beach clean-ups and doing something for the greater good of a community and the environment has enriched our life’s and made us appreciate our backyard even more.
While the primary reason for creating Our Crossings travel blog was to help people to plan their adventures and to enrich our readers with visual storytelling, once in a while, we like to use social media as a platform to encourage people to care more about our oceans.
Heading down to your local beach and picking up rubbish might not be what you have in mind as we are heading into a long dark night of winter in the northern hemisphere and while navigating your way through the pandemic.
But taking the time to clean up beach litter has numerous benefits, from saving marine animals and preserving our natural treasures to creating a safer environment and getting some exercise.
While we had a great day out cleaning up the litter on the Coney Island in Sligo and making the video about it to take part in the competition organised by Clean Coasts, there was nothing fun about the dirty beaches and litter we gathered that day.
Seeing and collecting what seemed to be endless amounts of plastic bottles and bags on Sligo beaches prompted me to write about the small steps everyone can take to keep our beaches cleaner.
5+ Benefits of Cleaning up Your Local Beach & How to Get Started
The oceans produce more than half of the oxygen on Earth and are home to approximately 70% of life on Earth. They also regulate our climate and weather patterns as well as absorb carbon dioxide and that’s why the concept of a beach clean-up shouldn’t be that hard to grasp.
We are slowly losing our oceans and all the creatures that live in them due to the staggering amount of litter we dump in them. It also shouldn’t be difficult to imagine the connection between all the hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis that have been sweeping across the world and the reason for it.
If you care about the oceans and wish to deeper understand the incredible complexity of the ocean’s ecosystem and our part in it, then I can highly recommend watching Mission Blue.
A few of the reasons to take part in a beach cleanup
Do you live on the coast and have developed something of a personal connection with your local beaches then why not get your hands dirty to make sure they stay looking clean for generations to come? Here are a few reasons why you should get involved:
– It keeps marine animals safe in the water
Remember that story where a dead sperm whale washed up on the shores in Indonesia and had over 1,000 pieces of plastic in it? Items found included 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, 115 drinking cups and four plastic bottles.
Plastic products are causing a great deal of harm to the ocean; it doesn’t biodegrade that quickly and chemicals from them often are leeched into the water where they are digested by marine life.
Thousands of dolphins, whales, sea lions and porpoises die every year because of plastic pollution and many seabirds, turtles and fish can become entangled in debris and we are all accountable for that.
Healthy oceans are vital to sea creatures and that’s why it’s important to dispose of all your trash and recyclables responsibly.
It keeps the beaches clean
The ocean is essential for all life on Earth, including humans and one of the most obvious reasons to take part in a beach clean up – cleaning the beach improves the coastal and ocean ecosystem.
I am well aware that it’s a Sisyphean task; the waves will soon bring a new load of trash to the shores and the result of our efforts will be lost. And I know that one beach clean up might not save the world, but leading by example will only encourage more people to join in.
We all have principles that we abide by. I am not able to naively walk along the shore admiring the view and pretending not to see the litter underneath my feet. I believe that by picking it up and discarding it properly, I am making a difference on a much larger scale.
You are giving back
We firmly believe that giving back to the community is important.
Doing something for the greater good of a community and the environment can make us feel happy and content. By cleaning up your local beaches you are making your community a happier and safer place. Volunteering your time also allows you to connect to your community, meet new people and boost your social skills.
If you live in Ireland, why not get involved in a two-minute beach clean? Take a photo of the litter you collect and post your snap on social media with the hashtags #2minutebeachclean and #cleancoasts.
Doing good is good for you
This nagging feeling that we should have more and achieve more is a very common, modern misfortune and often to achieve everything that we’ve dreamt of, we lose ourselves in a pile of never-ending tasks. Try not to live for the weekends and make sure you do something meaningful during the week too, like a beach clean.
According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside – ”People who engage in kind acts become happier over time.”
Having done countless beach cleans over the last few years, I can easily say that doing good has enriched our sense of purpose in our lives. There are many meaningful ways how to enhance your life right now and if you are looking for one then be of service to others.
By giving your time and recourses you have the power to make this world a better place for everyone to be.
How we got involved with beach clean-ups
For me the challenge to live a life less wasteful started back in 2013 with watching the documentary film about Norm Hann, a paddleboarder who set out to travel 400 km along the B.C. coast to thwart a proposed oil pipeline that possessed a threat to the rainforests and waterways of British Columbia.
I was amazed by the human desire to protect the environment, and I was inspired to change the way I live my life. The movie has made a huge impact on who I am as a person.
Shortly after watching it, we sold the TV and started reading educational books. We worked hard to reduce waste and single-use plastic. I started working as a volunteer for the Irish Blue Cross and somewhere along the way I become a vegetarian, quit smoking and drinking.
I didn’t buy clothes for a few years. I invested in a proper sewing box and took the time to sew buttons, darn holes and repair what we had in a cupboard. We are mindful of what we buy now and prefer to support local businesses like GROWN, which make ethical clothing and plant a tree for every t-shirt you buy.
Things to organise before the beach clean
You don’t have to wait for someone to organise a beach clean event – you can take control and lead the way by popping down your local beach. Of course, you can also get in touch with local organisations that organise beach cleanup and meet like-minded people. A quick search online and you’ll be surprised how many people and places in your community could use your help.
There are a few things to organise before you go to the beach:
- Start by identifying beaches in your area that need some cleaning
- Make sure the beach is easily accessible with nearby parking
- Check the tides and plan your beach clean for the beginning of the low tide
- Check the weather forecast before you go
- Bring compostable bags and a pair of gloves
- Ask for friends, family and work colleagues to join you in
- Come up with a plan to dispose of the trash you collect
- Plan ahead for handling sharp objects such as broken glass
- lookout for microplastics that are easily digested by animals
- Take before and after photos of the beach and the trash you gathered and share it on social media to raise awareness
Don’t forget to stay safe
Beach clean-ups can be a lot of work. Make sure you bring reusable water bottles and keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Make sure you wear gloves and sunscreen, too.
Wash your hands and gloves after you are done with a beach clean up.
Don’t forget to protect yourself and others during the pandemic. Avoid crowded beaches and practise social distancing.
Other ways how you can help to protect the oceans
Even if you don’t live on the coast, there are lots of ways how you can help the oceans. Start by making small adjustments. Change is hard but it will take you far
- Avoid fast fashion. A textile dye is the second largest polluter of clean water, and fast fashion affects the environment by using harmful chemicals, exploits recourses and provides the very poor working condition. Think about where and when and who made it
- Make safe, sustainable seafood choices and refuse to consume products containing shark fins
- Choose plant-based plates and cutlery for picnics or family gathering on the beach
- Educate yourself about marine life and oceans and educate yourself about how your plastic water bottle winds up in the ocean in the first place
- Avoid purchasing items that cause harm and exploit marine life such as coral
- Cut down on single-use plastic. You can do so by switching to reusable bottles, bringing your own shopping bag, saying no to plastic straws
- Think before you flush!
- Change your sunscreen
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Now, over to you!
What steps do you take to do your part?
Let us know in the comments below