September 16, 2023
A retired teacher raised her hand after my presentation about environmental education to a conference of the California Retired Teachers Association last year.
“Why is it that the same kids who leave their lunchtime waste on the tables in the cafeteria are the first ones to sign up for a beach cleanup?” she asked.
Everyone laughed, recognizing her hyperbole was a rhetorical question. However, she raised an important point. If Coastal Cleanup Day is just a once-per-year event, participants miss the point organizers are trying to communicate. The event is meant to pique interest in improving the environment, provide an example of practical actions people can take to help and motivate positive actions year-round.
This year’s Coastal Cleanup Day runs from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 23.
Year-round goals are emphasized by the Ocean Conservancy, the U.S.-based nonprofit organization serving as a primary organizer of International Coastal Cleanup Day. The organization’s website, at oceanconservancy.org, highlights projects worldwide focusing on ocean-related environmental issues, ranging from promotion of sustainable fisheries to smart ocean planning, defined as helping coastal communities develop “strong, sustainable local economies that can live alongside healthy ocean ecosystems and wildlife.”
The year-round aspect is also emphasized by the Clean Swell app. Those who join group efforts for Coastal Cleanup Day may record results on paper, to be tabulated by volunteers and paid staff, or may use the app. The Clean Swell app can also be used by volunteers working on their own, away from any group site, year-round.
The Ocean Conservancy assures participants the data collected goes to a good purpose, shared “with scientists and policymakers” who use the information to plan ways to minimize the generation of litter. The app also makes it easy to share activities on social media, encouraging others to participate. Once downloaded, the app can work even without internet connection, sending the data at reconnection. Participants earn badges on their personal profiles.
Also, some corporate and other large groups previously participating in the cleanup day as a team-building exercise have transitioned to a year-round program. The California Coastal Commission’s Adopt-A-Beach program mobilizes volunteers throughout the year and can provide the added motivation of a sense of ownership. The commission’s website, at coastal.ca.gov, has a list of adoptable beaches and beach managers under the “participate” tab.
Despite this year-round emphasis, the fun and community-affirming feeling of participating in a group event has some advantages. Beach captains provide encouragement and supplies to those who don’t bring their own. Some even bring prizes and treats.
The Ventura County Coastal Cleanup Day will be part of the 39th annual state event. Last year in Ventura County, 1,510 volunteers participated and picked up 8,358 pounds of trash and recyclables. Statewide, 38,767 Californians cleared more than 308,540 pounds of trash from 1,496 miles of shorelines and waterways, according to the Ventura County website for the event at vccoastcleanup.org
The website lists the 10 official beach and nine inland sites organized for the local cleanup day. The traditional coastal site at Emma Wood Camp has been cancelled. Fillmore has two sites. The Santa Clara
River Gateway site has been postponed to Sept. 30.
Pre-registration is not required. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and volunteers must sign a waiver. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes and sun protection. Volunteers are
encouraged to bring their own reusable bucket, gloves and water bottle. Instructions, volunteer waivers, data cards, trash and recycling bags, gloves and water will be provided.
The major sponsor of the local event is Ventura County’s Community for a Clean Watershed, a coalition of all 10 cities and the county of Ventura. Other local sponsors include Gold Coast Broadcasting, Vida News, the Ventura County Public Works Agency, Harrison Industries, Ventura Breeze and La Petit Bakery.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.