Hello Beach… Goodbye Plastic!

With the school year coming to a close and summer just around the corner, many families all throughout Gwinnett County are busy making vacation plans. If your plans include a trip to the beach, Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful would like to give you a few tips for saving the planet while you enjoy a little fun in the sun with your toes firmly stuck in the sand. But – before we do – it’s important to examine WHY it’s so vital that we all become more vigilant about how we show our love for our beaches and oceans, particularly where the subject of plastic is concerned…

Did you know?

  • More than 8 MILLION TONS of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year1
  • One in three species of marine mammals have been found entangled in litter1
  • Over 90% of all seabirds have plastic in their stomachs1
  • There are five huge concentrations of plastic debris that cover large areas of the ocean’s surface around the world, including one between California and Hawaii. It’s the size of the state of Texas2
  • Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans2
  • By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight) 2
  • Many marine organisms can’t distinguish common plastic items from food. Animals who eat plastic often starve because they can’t digest the plastic and it fills their stomachs, preventing them from eating real food2 This is particularly true among sea turtle populations

While a great deal of damage has clearly already been done, that doesn’t mean we can’t all work together to do our part to keep our beaches and oceans free from plastics and other trash. Here are just a few ways YOU and your family can help this summer and in the years to come:

  1. Don’t bring single-use plastic to the beach: Perhaps the best way to prevent the possibility of plastic reaching the tide and being carried off to sea, is to find plastic alternatives for your day at the beach. 50% of most plastic produced is for one-time use – such as solo cups, plastic utensils or plastic water bottles. Instead of packing plastic water bottles in the cooler, invest in shiny new reusable insulated water bottles for each member of the family. Color code them so everyone knows which one theirs is, fill them at the hotel or rental condo, and then bring a gallon of water to keep in the car for refills when needed.
  2. Eliminate one-use plastic from your picnic: Using the same principal as the reusable water bottles, take extra care when packing your beach picnic. Instead of plastic sandwich bags, use reusable containers. And don’t bring plastic shopping bags to carry your picnic items – they are too easily carried away in the wind and can wreak havoc on marine animals. Instead, use cloth bags or an actual picnic basket. Swap your plastic utensils for inexpensive aluminum silverware.
  3. Before your shell hunt, go on a Rubbage Rummage: Another important way to prevent future damage to the oceans is to educate all the members of your family about the problem and empower them to make a change. Go for a stroll and have your beach mates pack those big sand pails with litter first, dispose of them properly (placing recyclable plastics in a recycling bin, if provided) and then go on your traditional shell hunt. You can even turn that first part into a game to really motivate your family members by giving a prize to the one who picks up the most garbage or finds the most unusual piece of trash. If motivated properly, this could become a new favorite family beach tradition.
  4. Hold the Straw, Please: If you or a member of your group orders a drink from the concession stand or visits a fast food restaurant on your way to the beach, ask your server to please “hold the straw.” According to StrawlessOcean.org, it’s estimated that we use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life.
  5. Clean Up After Yourself (and your Neighbors) When It’s Time to Go: It’s been a long but wonderful day at the beach and you’re likely ready to head back to the hotel or condo to nap before it’s time to head to dinner. But before you go, assign your family members to police the area – including the spots where other families may have taken up residence near you earlier in the day – to find any items/litter that may have been left behind. If they find anything, ask them to pick it up and dispose of (or recycle) properly.

Additional planet-friendly vacation tips include:

  • Select a hotel that features eco-friendly practices, such as the use of pump shampoo/body wash/conditioner dispensers in place of little plastic bottles, suggesting that you hang up your towels to dry after one use instead of washing a load of towels every day, and offering an in-room water filtration system in place of plastic water bottles.
  • Turn off the TV and lights and turn up the dial on the A/C when you leave your hotel room for the day. Hopefully you did this at home, as well, before you left for your beach trip.
  • Stay close to home! Google the beaches closest to home in order to cut down your carbon footprint this summer. A number of terrific beaches are located within five to seven hours of Gwinnett County, including Hilton Head Island, SC; Tybee Island, GA; Orange Beach, AL and Amelia Island, FL. There are also other great “staycation” destinations a little closer to home such as Margaritaville at Lanier Islands in Buford, Stone Mountain Park in the City of Stone Mountain and Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange – just to name a few.

From all of us here at Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, we wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Summer Vacation!

Sources: Plastic Oceans International  https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/

Earth Day Network https://www.earthday.org/2018/04/05/fact-sheet-plastics-in-the-ocean/