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How to Do More for Your Seashore

\nIn most of the country, beach season is fast approaching. (I can practically hear my SoCal colleagues snickering that it never took a break.) So there’s no better time to think about how to make your local shore as clean as nature intended. As Environmental Director of the Save The Waves Coalition, Josh Berry has led his share of beach clean-ups. We caught up with him between sets—well, actually between phone calls and planning meetings for STW’s big annual Life Is a Wave fundraiser on Thursday the 27th in San Francisco—to get advice on how to rally the troops and organize your own beach clean. Turns out, it’s all pretty simple and common sense. “Anyone can do it,” Berry says, and we think everybody with a favorite stretch of sand should.
1. Pick the spot. This is probably as easy as recognizing that your local beach could use a cleanse. It’s worth keeping in mind that the most popular, busy beaches aren’t the only ones that need some TLC. Because of ocean currents and wind patterns, some pretty remote beaches are often fouled with trash from afar, says Berry.
2. Find the time. Weekend early mornings probably work best, as most people will have the day off and you beat the midday heat and the prime-time crowds. But, really, anytime that you can get a good crew will do. Not recommended are the middle of the day on holiday weekends, when you’ll have to navigate a patchwork of busy blankets, beach chairs, and towels. Though days after busy holiday weekends are good times, as hordes of less-than-respectful tourists can certainly leave a trace.
3. Get permission. Berry favors informal, grassroots-style clean up projects. And it’s pretty safe to assume that nobody is going to have a big problem with a bunch of people volunteering to pick up trash. Even so, if the beach in question is under city, state, or National Park Service jurisdiction, it’s probably worth giving the local authorities a call and letting them know your plan. They might even offer some resources and supplies. Oftentimes, they’ll even offer to send a garbage truck to toss the trash straight into.
4. Round up a crew. Call or e-mail a bunch of friends who you know love the beach as much as you do. If your personal network comes up short, post some signs in nearby cafes or surf shops with the date and time and your contact info. It shouldn’t be tough to find a small crew to spend a few hours on the water’s edge. To increase turnout, incentivize! “Personally, I like to dangle a carrot,” Berry says, suggesting that a barbecue and beers (and, um, Pepsi?) on the beach are a nice reward for some hard work.
5. Gear up. The only essential items, according to Berry, are gloves and trash bags. Some folks might bring those fancy trash-stabbing sticks (and some, possibly with more selfish motives, might bring a metal detector), but protective gloves and trash bags are all you really need. We’ll add fresh water to the list to keep everyone happy and hydrated.
6. The clean. Once everyone’s gathered, come up with an informal plan of attack and get after it. Maybe divide the beach into strips. Or maybe you prefer an unchoreographed assault on trash. Don’t leave until there’s nothing left on the beach except the gifts of mother nature. We wouldn’t actually recommend handling potentially dangerous waste like syringes or razors—best to notify the local authorities if you come across those. If you don’t have a garbage truck on site (see number 3), then haul the trash bags off to the nearest public dumpster.
Just like that, you’ve got a clean beach that everyone will appreciate.
Photo (cc) by Flickr user qnr

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