It’s summer! Well, at least according to the school calendar here in Colorado. While it may not be beach weather – yet – we are gearing up for a spending a few weeks in Florida. For millions of Americans, summer is synonymous with the beach. For our family it’s more like November through February since we’re trying trade snow for sand. This will be the first time the kids have technically been to the beach in the summer… They have no idea how hot it’s going to be, the crowded beaches…and the trash.
Having two little environmentalists at home is a blessing, even when I’m trying not to freak out when they’re picking up litter in the parking lot and putting it into the trash can in my car. (YUCK!!!!) And, when we’re at the beach they’re notorious for walking along picking up cans, bottles, wrappers and other litter left behind. On our last trip to Cancun, Princess One kept asking, why do people just leave their trash, don’t they see the trash cans? I really didn’t have a good answer since I was thinking the same thing… So this summer (and frankly every summer) Princess One and I along would like to challenge all beach-goers to leave their favorite seashore destinations a little greener than they found it. By undertaking one or two – or perhaps even all – of these beach clean-up ideas from the National Aquarium at the beach, every beach-goer can have a hand in protecting the beaches they love so much.
Are you up for the beach clean-up challenge?
10 Simple (and fun) Beach Clean-up Ideas
You CAN Take it with You– It may seem obvious, but take a look at the debris on any beach and you’ll see it bears repeating: putting trash in its place and taking every can, bottle cap, wrapper, plastic bag and –ew! – cigarette butt with you when you go is critical to the health of your favorite beach. Tuck a garbage bag into your beach bag or cooler to make managing your mess simple. This is the easiest beach clean-up tip.
Pay to Play – Thinking of sneaking onto the beach without paying for this season’s pass? Tempted to skip out on the honor system for a parking tag at the state park? Don’t do it! Funds collected by municipalities for beach access typically go directly to cleaning and maintaining the very beach you’re using. Think of it as a donation to your favorite beach and pay it proudly.
Walk This Way – Stay on the beaten path and use boardwalks and wooden walkways instead of climbing over the dunes as you come and go. Dune erosion not only endangers the longevity of the beach itself, but sand dunes are also fragile and important habitats for many animals, from birds to lizards to turtles. Protect them!
Keep Off the (Beach) Grass! – While you’re respecting the dunes, make sure to never disturb, crush or pull the grasses that grow there. What might look like reedy weeds to you actually play a critical role in protecting the beach ecosystem. In fact . . .
Grow a Better Beach – Looking for an educational activity that actually makes a difference? Contact local environmental groups to and see if you can take part in a beach planting project that works to foster and restore healthy beach grasses. Other opportunities might include organized beach cleanups and dune restoration projects. This go green travel tips is not only helping your favorite beach but a great way to give back during your vacation.
Pick Up After Pets – Your furriest friends and family might love the beach, but try not to think of it as nature’s litter box. Pet waste may seem harmless in the great outdoors, but it can actually be a powerful bacterial pollutant if left unchecked. Clean up after your pets and properly dispose of waste properly.
Think Before You Flush – Caring for the beach doesn’t end when you pack up and call it a day. When we visit coastal areas, it is just as important to be mindful of the pollutants we introduce into the groundwater and wastewater through everyday chores and habits. Chemical pesticides, cleansers, paint and oil all work their way very quickly from gutters and sinks to the oceans, rivers and streams of the local watershed area, as do extra or expired medications, non-biodegradable personal items or potentially hazardous cosmetics flushed down the toilet.
Respect the Locals – Few things are more magical than seeing marine animals up close and personal, in their natural environment but, remember…we see with our eyes, not our hands. From turtles and to seals to starfish and jellies, when you spot an animal on the beach, admire them from a distance with respect and reverence. If you believe an animal is truly in danger or in need of assistance, look for a lifeguard, park ranger or other personnel who will know which local entities – like the National Aquarium or other local organizations – are qualified and ready to assist. Nobody around? Use your phone to check the internet for appropriate local authorities.
Take Trash, Not More – Admittedly, garbage doesn’t make for a beautiful souvenir, but when you find that lovely shell, think twice; every time you remove a natural element from an ecosystem, you leave that ecosystem just slightly less balanced than it was. That shell might be someone’s next home! If you’re still inclined to walk in search of treasure, consider bringing a bag along to gather up trash you find along the way – do you’re own little beach clean-up! Get kids in on the act by offering a tasty ice cream treat to the one with the heaviest trash bag.
Going Boating? Make Sure She’s Shipshape – Whether you’re a novice or an old salt, there are few things better than getting out on the water, but, just as with cars, a boat in disrepair puts out dangerously elevated levels of pollution into the air and water. Whether it’s a rental or a charter, do your homework and make sure your vessel is well maintained and in good repair. When in doubt, skip the engine…sail or row instead.
As you sign your summer rental agreements or book that hotel room, use these go green travel tips to accept the challenge to leave the beaches you visit even lovelier than you find them. I’d love to hear any about any beach clean-up activities you and your family do this summer.