The Inspiration Behind Coastal Cleanup Day
Coastal Cleanup Day is a time-honored tradition here on the North Coast, having begun right here in Humboldt County with the Northcoast Environmental Center. A simple grassroots idea to clean debris from our beaches, sprouted and grown with the help of the NEC, over time became a huge international volunteer event! This history is proof that citizen action can make a difference for our environment.
In 1979, community member Joe Abbott came up with an idea to address the growing problem of garbage and debris on our beaches. He and his wife Ann Morrissey wrote a grant for what was then called the Beach Beautification Project — a two year project targeting Humboldt County’s coastline to free it of marine debris and clean up our watersheds. They approached the Tim McKay and Sid Dominitz at the NEC to coordinate and sponsor the program. Within the first nine days of the program over 2,300 pounds of debris were removed from Humboldt County beaches, and by the end of the first year over 34,000 pounds had been picked up along 110 miles of Humboldt coastline.
Two years later, after grant funding ran out, the NEC partnered with Wes Chesbro and the Arcata Recycling Center to create a program for community members to “adopt” a local stretch of coastline. This became the Adopt-A-Beach program that the NEC continues to coordinate locally today.
In 1985, after hearing about the overwhelming community support for beach cleanups here in Humboldt, the California Coastal Commission organized the first California Coastal Cleanup Day in order to expand efforts to keep our beaches free from plastics and other marine debris. One year later, the Ocean Conservancy—in tandem with the California Coastal Commission—turned the idea into an international sensation.
The California Coastal Commission estimated that over 20 million pounds of trash were picked up in the first 35 years of statewide Coastal Cleanup Day.
In 2019, for our 40th year of cleanups, we transitioned to a zero waste cleanup. We worked together to lead by example so participants and site captains could walk away with a better understanding of how to reduce waste in their daily lives and future cleanup endeavors.
Local, California, and International Coastal Cleanup Day happens every September, on the third Saturday of the month. On this day, hundreds of thousands of volunteers all over the world come together in an effort to keep our watersheds clean and beautiful for all to enjoy. Here on the North Coast hundreds of volunteers pick up over five tons of trash and recyclables off our beaches and out of our watersheds each year!
We at the Northcoast Environmental Center take pride in the history of Coastal Cleanup Day. Please join us on Saturday, September 19, 2020 as we celebrate our 41st year of cleaning up our coasts and waterways!
Why We Need Coastal Cleanups
Coastal cleanups are important for our beaches, rivers, estuaries, and our local coastal environments. Human beings continue to degrade these habitats for all life forms, including plants and animals, with our wasteful lifestyles. Our North Coast coastline is one of California’s biggest assets, whether for recreation, production, water, or life—all of this depends on the health of our watersheds, beaches and coastal environments.
It is predicted that by 2050 plastic and trash will outnumber fish in the ocean by weight. If we keep polluting these ecosystems, the entire web of life will suffer. Wildlife frequently mistake debris as food, particularly in the water, and it has become an increasing trend to find marine life with stomachs full of plastic. Another common occurrence is to find animals entangled in derelict fishing gear or trash.
We need coastal cleanups not only to beautify our beaches and help wildlife, but to document how much debris and the types of waste that is washing up on our beaches. Knowing what and how much waste is washing up on our beaches helps communities get local ordinances and statewide and national legislation passed that can help reduce the amount of trash entering our oceans in the first place.
Using data collected on Coastal Cleanup Day, environmentalists are able to show elected officials and manufactures what is washing from land to the sea, and share the message that we do not want products that are damaging the environment in our day-to-day lives.
Through events like Coastal Cleanup Day, together we can raise awareness, clean our environment, and create more environmentally conscious communities. Join us on Coastal Cleanup Day, or join our ongoing Adopt-a-Beach program!
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