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Sweeping the Sand

We all enjoy and are proud of Connecticut beaches. It’s everyone’s job to help keep our coastline clean. What can you do? Host a small beach cleanup day party with friends and family. You can always get a do-it-yourself cleanup kit to take with you next time you head to the beach. Even if you don’t live on the Connecticut shoreline, remember that all waterways lead to the sound and you can do your part by cleaning up lakes and rivers wherever you are.

Not only does a clean beach make for a better day on the water, it makes a better habitat for all the wildlife. Nesting birds and local fish all depend on us to keep their homes free of our trash. We like to keep our beaches as clean as possible on Coastal Connecticut, so everyone can be safe and have a good time.

Beaches are an ideal tourist attraction. By helping maintain the highest standards, and keep our beaches clean, we can ensure that tourists continue to visit local beaches. The revenue generated from the support of tourists is essential to the local population, whose main source of revenue revolves around tourism.

Positivity multiplies. Volunteers all around Connecticut are heading out in troves, gathering as a community and picking up trash on the beach and in the water. Armies of volunteers descend upon Greenwich Point Park, Jacobs Beach in Guilford, and Long Beach in Stratford alike with organizations Bring Your Own Greenwich, the Surfrider Foundation Connecticut Chapter, Save the Sound, Garbo Grabber, and many more handing out reusable gloves and trash pickers to eager participants of a community-wide effort to clean up their beach. These events go one step further, however: following in the footsteps of Westport, CT, which passed a single-use plastic bag ban over eight years ago and was the first municipality east of the Mississippi. The group Bring Your Own Greenwich hopes day cleanups will highlight the need to reduce plastic pollution higher up the chain by passing a bag ban in town.

Cleanups do more than beautify beaches: whether on a solo mission or part of a large community event, picking up even a few small pieces of garbage from the beach reinforces feelings of responsibility, ownership, and belonging. One of the causes of plastic pollution,  is a loss of a sense of belonging. You can have laws, policies, regulations in place, but if the community doesn’t have a sense of belonging, you can see what happens. Rather than decomposing and disappearing, plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces, so by removing even one piece of litter, thousands of microparticles are saved from entering the ocean, driving home the fact that every effort, no matter how small, makes a difference. Communities who actively engage in protecting their coastal ecosystems develop stronger bonds as citizens realize their own personal potential while connecting with one another to make an even greater impact.

From toddlers to teens, parents and pups, over one hundred volunteers hit the sand, marshes, parking lots, and water’s edge and collected an unexpected amount of garbage from what many assume pristine coastal park. An estimated 4,000 pounds of trash removed, which included hundreds of plastic bags, thousands of bottle caps and straws, and countless small plastic particles; mega debris tipped the scales as people dragged rogue timber from the marshlands and tires from the tides. The ultimate win came just a few weeks later when the proposed single-use plastic bag ban was passed at a Representative Town Meeting in Greenwich town residents celebrated their bag ban.

Across the world, beach cleanups are having an incredible impact on coastal communities and ecosystems. Microplastics have become so pervasive in our environment that some are even claiming plastic pollution to be “as dangerous as climate change.” As plastic consumption quickly surpasses our recycling capabilities, we may have to rethink the beloved mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” especially considering China’s new Operation Green Fence, which bans the import of 24 varieties of waste material into the country.

Organizations like the Surfrider Foundation host monthly beach cleanups throughout Connecticut and welcome anyone with a can-do spirit. But you don’t need to be part of an organized endeavor to help make a difference: begin by making simple lifestyle changes. Bring your own bag, get yourself a reusable water bottle, and for your next dinner party, skip the plastic cutlery.

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