Orange County's Coastal Clean Up efforts
Last year, my household came to the realization that there was a massive wasting of a plastic product in our home. Every morning, I would sit on the couch and enjoy thirty minutes of reading. I would have a favorite mug full of fresh coffee from my Keurig. One morning, while perusing Amazon, I noticed there was an offer for a reusable k-cup. The wife and I realized that each of us used one k-cup every morning. Let's say we enjoyed 300 cups of coffee that year. It didn't seem like much, but to admit we threw away 600 little plastic cups the previous year became a bit eye-opening. Remember that the guy drinking the coffee has served on the board and participated in numerous coastal clean-up efforts over the last 18 years. It was a moment of discovery and, more importantly, a realization that change needed to occur. Today, we have successfully reduced this form of plastic usage as best as we can, but we also know that the rest of the world (including us) is not acutely aware of their production of trash.
According to the World Bank, the United States is the highest producer of waste products. Individual Americans are expected to produce upwards of 913 kg of solid waste per person by the year 2050. For the imperial system lovers, that's 2,013 lbs of solid waste per person, per year. If you weigh 200lbs, you can expect to waste 10 times your own body weight every year. That's a staggering realization considering most of us expect to live a number of years on this beautiful earth.
In Orange County, many humans will put their trash into a proper receptacle and it will magically disappear from their home enroute to lands unknown and unseen. Trash services continue to maintain low cost options for recycling and waste in an effort to keep our collective trash moving towards a proper disposal system. Though we tossed it in the trash, other humans are frantically working in dangerous conditions to combat the effects that we humans are creating as a society.
A close second to the human nightmare of solid waste disposal is the act of littering. Local, State and Federal governments have used fining and punishment as methods to attempt to change the behaviors of humans over the years. These changes have produced a desired effect, but it has not fully eliminated the issue. Today, volunteers find themselves armed with collection bags and holding events in order to help clean up their waterways, road systems and local areas.
The problem is very real and, in some cases, very apparent. No matter where you go these days, it is hard to not find a piece of human-created trash in that region. Whether it blows with the winds from a receptacle or deposited by a careless passerby, this issue simply continues to grow. How do we even begin to tackle the problem? How do we create a world where we reduce our impact and become more aware of what we are doing on a daily basis?
We humans are a smart bunch. With evolutionary advantages like deductive reasoning, problem solving and technological advantages like mass media; we can quickly educate each other on the impact of certain behaviors. In the 1800's, the Civil War was ravaged by the Typhoid fever. More soldiers every day were experiencing symptoms that would take them from the combat lines on both sides. A man named William Budd discovered that the cause was lice moving from one person to the next, spreading the disease amongst the troops. Through some behavioral changes, Civil War soldiers were increasing their survivability by simply implementing small changes to their daily routines. As of this writing, a global epidemic is occurring known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We are quickly minimizing group gatherings, international travel and (though fear abounds) we, as a people, are trying to control the virus spread at a rate that takes a few days to educate almost the entire advanced world. Imagine if William Budd had Twitter!
Today, we look at these Typhoid fever epidemics as ancient diseases. It is because we are an educated people now. We understand the importance of washing our hands and showering. The same little ideas can be implanted into humans across the world on the dangers of littering and creating large deposits of solid waste.
Educating the public on what happens when a piece of trash enters the sewage systems or when a party leaves all of their materials on the beach to be blown by winds or tides. We can teach others how to be good stewards of our solid wastes. Programs such as Project AWARE's Dive Against Debris are intended to create a small behavior change in a scuba diver. If you see the trash, let's pick it up and report it. Imagine a world of divers doing that every day! We'd have millions of tons of solid waste properly deposited and destroyed.
On an individual level, we can take stock in what we are wasting with plastic and other solid waste items. We reduce the taxation of time by reducing our impact in the first place. Would you rather take out your trash once a week or every other day? Would you like to see that one ton of waste you are expected to accrue in 2050 go down a few hundred pounds? Maybe you can take reusable bags to events or buy a cup that can be reused for that coffee? It may seem like an impossible task when, in reality, it's a small change that makes a big impact!
Yes, every single dive and every time you walk outside; you should pick up the trash around you. It's a great little habit to pick up (see what I did there) and it helps our world grandly. If you simply do not have the time to develop this, you can also commit to events; also known as getting involved! In Southern California, we have a few great events dedicated each year to the act of cleaning up.
In February, divers from all over the Orange County and Southern California region descend upon Avalon Harbor. They spend their morning on a single dive pulling boat debris and other items out of the harbor in order to help improve the amazing water quality of Catalina Island. This event is supported and linked to another great cause in our area known as the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber. While divers help their environment, their money is then dedicated to the support of this chamber that responds to emergencies for divers in the region. The Avalon Harbor Cleanup just completed its 39th year of existence. Look for a 2021 celebration and amazing time for that event! Follow this link for that event!
In March, a new event has cropped up from the previous efforts of the Dana Point harbor. Here, divers jump into the harbor and use bags to clean up debris. This event was held for eight years, two times a year by the Dana Wharf organization and is now being administered by a group of veterans looking to continue the tradition and keep the water quality of that harbor at its highest. As more information comes forward for this event, we'll be sure to post it up and get it visible to our diver community!
On June 6th, 2020, divers will attend the 4th Annual Newport Harbor Underwater Clean Up. This event is absolutely amazing. A great time where a band strikes up and divers hop on electric boats from Duffy to dive into Newport Harbor sites looking for trash. This is another major effort to improve the water quality in the harbors. As we all know, leaching occurs and that can potentially create water quality problems for the harbor as well as the waterways when this contaminated water makes its way to the ocean. If you haven't checked out this great event, you should! Follow this link!
Don't forget about Earth Day and other events that can be put on a calendar and made into a family day. What better way to teach your family about the importance of cleaning up our beaches than to make a day out of it! Even taking a few minutes to walk around and fill one trash bag up on a morning before work would make a difference! The best part is that you don't need a dedicated clean up day to do this. Get your volunteers together and meet up with the intent of getting trash off the ground. Your fellow humans will greatly appreciate it!
Imagine a world where we were charged per pound of waste created every month? Similar to an electricity bill, Americans would quickly become attuned to their wasteful 'usage' of throwing out trash. Imagine if you had a bill at the end of the year for the one ton of waste you created! Unfortunately, that simply isn't the world we live in. We must make ourselves aware of the issues and we need to create little habits to help. Today, nonprofit organizations like Project AWARE and 4Ocean are working towards awareness and solutions. As you read this blog, a large boat is foraging the ocean for plastics. Another boat is skimming harbors in and attempt to collect up surface floating trash. These heroic efforts are producing large results and deserve our help. By getting them more materials, more personnel and more resources; our cash donations can make a true difference. If you are a person who is incapable of helping in physical ways due to time or other constraints, but you do have the ability to donate, I would encourage you to do so.
The question remains, can we truly make a change? Is it possible for you to take stock in your daily life and see where you can reduce and reuse? Can you possibly reduce your own solid waste to make an impact? They are questions you must ask yourself and see where you can create the most meaningful impact on the future of the planet. It is literally up to you.
The world's oceans must remain healthy. They are the source of sustaining life on the planet and they are a large food resource for many humans throughout the world. By spurning ourselves to action through education, dedicated events and donations, our generation will start turning the tide against trash.
About the author:
D.J. Mansfield is a PADI Course Director who dives Southern California and has done so for 23 years. He is currently the Director of Operations for Beach Cities Scuba and is a committed ocean steward and trainer for divers all over the world.
Follow him on Instagram @djmansfield7or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.