by Ivy Munnerlyn, Coastal Programs Coordinator
Well, folks…it’s that time of year again! At the NEC, August means one thing: Coastal Cleanup Day is right around the corner! After a challenging year, we couldn’t be more excited to get back out to the beach, park, street, or trail with all of you. For 42 years, the NEC has been proud to coordinate Coastal Cleanup Day in Humboldt county, the place where it all began.
Coastal Cleanup Day is now a worldwide event, but it has its origins at the NEC. In 1979, community members Joe Abbott and Ann Morrissey got the ball rolling with their wildly successful Beach Beautification project, which eventually became our Adopt-a-Block and Adopt-a-Beach programs. The California Coastal Commission took notice, and in 1985 Coastal Cleanup Day was born. Today, the event takes place all over the world with thousands of volunteers collecting millions of pieces of trash. The last few years have seen some changes to Humboldt’s Coastal Cleanup Day. In 2019, the NEC decided to take a stand against single-use plastics by transitioning to a zero-waste event. Instead of plastic bags and gloves, volunteers could borrow 5-gallon buckets and gardening gloves generously donated by local businesses. 2020 brought its own challenges, and organizers across the country opted for a month-long, dispersed approach focusing on smaller neighborhood cleanups.
This year, we’ll be taking the best elements from the last few years and combining them to create a month-long event full of prizes, citizen science, and coastal stewardship. Cleanups will take place every weekend in September, which we hope will allow for more flexibility and participation. Volunteers are encouraged to fill out a Cleanup Results Reporting Form for every cleanup they attend, which will automatically enter you into a weekly prize drawing! Prize categories include Most Pieces of Trash Picked Up, Most Frequent Volunteer, Largest Item Picked Up, and Best Photo Submitted. The more cleanups you do, the more times you will be entered to win!
Coastal Cleanup Month 2021 also takes inspiration from 2019’s event, and will once again be going zero waste. Buckets and other cleanup supplies from the NEC will be available for volunteers, but we also encourage you to think creatively and find reusable cleanup supplies around your house.
As in previous years, data collection is a key element of Coastal Cleanup Month 2021. Citizen science is an important part of Coastal Programs at the NEC, and this event is a perfect opportunity to collect data about the trash we see on our streets and beaches. Our Coastal Program’s staff and volunteers track marine and neighborhood debris to find local waste patterns (what kind of trash is being found and where) so we can advocate for waste reduction solutions in our community. If you haven’t used our new data collection app yet, head to our Trash Trackers (yournec.org/trashtrackers) webpage to learn more. We’ll also have a paper data card available, as well as our new Marine Debris Identification Guide to help with tricky beach litter.
Coastal Cleanup Day is the single largest volunteer event in the world, and we’d love for you to join us this year! Head to our website to sign up, donate, and learn more about the fun prizes and things we have in store for you all in September. With your help, Coastal Cleanup Month 2021 will be our best year yet!