Much gratitude for the gentle warm breeze and beautiful indigo sky embracing me, during what normally would be San Francisco summer fog. I climbed down the steps, sinking my sandals into the sand as I rejoined Surfrider Foundation to assist with the picking up of garbage at Ocean Beach on this beautiful Sunday morning.
With a bright orange bucket in hand and my gloves on, I went on a hunt for garbage. Could this be an adult version of an Easter egg hunt? I have to admit, I think it’s fun! What does the beach have in store this time? Every single time I participate in beach cleanups, I find a handful of toys, clothing and shoes, but this was the first time I found flowers strewn at least 20 yards along the beach, including ribbon, plastic parts that hold flowers together, a flower preservative packet and other miscellaneous party-type objects.
Whoever left the flowers there must have been celebrating something, but did they honestly think they were not littering? On other areas of the beach I also found orange and banana peels and lime wedges. People think (and I have had friends tell me this), “they’re biodegradable – it’s not garbage.” I have to say, that is quite untrue and a rationalization. They were brought there and dumped and not originally a part of the beach. Do they think that others who come to enjoy the beach, are okay with stumbling across all that mess? Do they think that because it appears to be a celebratory party that we should be happy for them and that makes it okay? Regardless, as Keep America Beautiful states so concisely, “Littering is putting an item where it does not belong, like the ground.” Simple.
As Shelly, the facilitator of Surfrider Foundation mentioned, it takes a long time for biodegradables such as banana peels to decompose. It could be up to two months or more of seeing a black banana peel in what would be clean beach sand. Birds and other animals may ingest these items when it is not a part of their diet. And who wants extra flies while they are picnicking at the beach? Some of the flowers could actually be poisonous to birds and animals as well.
Hold On to Your Butt
Surfrider handles the recyclables and landfill debris but the biodegradables have to be taken home and placed in yard-waste bins. When I got back to the Surfrider check-in table, I carefully separated the flowers and fruit peels from the rest of the garbage and took them home. It was then that I met Shelly, the facilitator of this Sunday’s Beach Cleanup. I got a kick out of the clear plastic buttocks on the table that contained cigarette butts. She told me she is the coordinator of San Francisco Surfrider’s, “Hold On to Your Butt” campaign, to install ash cans in strategic locations throughout the city.
Anyway, it was a beautiful morning and I am really glad I got out there. This post is the first of many on my journey to show Earth the respect that it deserves.