Recent Posts

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hello. Please take care not to clutter my beach with your plastic, thank you very much.

Beautiful, lovely, pristine beach.
I didn't intend to pick up every piece of trash that I came across today when I decided to go for a walk along the beach. In my mind, the walk was just a simple and elegant mode of transportation — my leisurely way to soak in the laid-back beach life while getting in to and out of town. But I couldn't help it — especially as shimmering pieces of plastic came tumbling toward me with the wind, only feet away from the ocean.

It's September 25, 2010, and probably about a year to the day that I first read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and that article and the smog — among other factors — set in motion what would become a year of trying to live mindfully in a city that I felt made living mindfully difficult. Eating and shopping locally and using as little plastic as possible have been cornerstones of my life ever since.

I recently relocated back to the East Coast, closer to family and friends — a key factor in the decision being cost in plane trips to the environment. (Yes — California made me crunchy. I even make my own granola.) Which brings me to Montauk, a quiet beach town on the Eastern tip of Long Island — my very favorite place on earth.

Montauk, to me, embodies the ideals of living simply and beautifully. It's a place that takes pride in its local businesses, white-sand beaches and state parks. In my 27 years of memories out here, none of them includes beaches littered with even the smallest amount of plastic trash — perhaps because I wasn't looking for it; perhaps because it wasn't there.

Today is a Saturday and a beautiful (if slightly foggy) beach day, so the beaches are fairly busy, even as the town is winding down for the summer season. I'm on my way back from town, and the wind is gusting toward me, which is probably why I notice the first small piece of clear, sandy, plastic film blowing by. I pick it up. Carrying one small piece of trash back to the house is the least I can do, I think to myself — and that's one less piece of plastic that will get carried out on the waves to any one of the various Atlantic garbage patches I've been reading about more recently.

A few more feet down the beach, and I notice a small single-serving potato chip bag stuck in the sand. I dig it out and carry it with me. I'm not worried about running the risk of becoming Montauk's crazy trash lady until I spot a party balloon blowing my way and take that in tow, too.

The more trash I saw, the more important it became for me to pick it up and save it from a fate that could land it somewhere in the middle of the ocean where the plastic would get smashed around by waves, slowly breaking into smaller and smaller pieces (but never breaking down) only to eventually get swallowed up by fish and other sea critters — thus entering our food chain. Sorry to go the depressing route, folks — but this is one reason it was so important to me. That, and I take pride in the beauty of this place that has been in my life since I can remember — why wouldn't I pick up a piece of trash that was cluttering my beach scene?

The day's final tally:

1 red plastic cup + pieces from 2 other plastic cups 
+ 3 party balloons
+ 2 plastic straws
+ 3 plastic food wrappers
+ 1 plastic fencing label
+ 4 plastic baggies
+ 1 large plastic pail + 1 unidentified piece of hard plastic
+ 10 unidentified pieces of plastic film
+ 1 plastic lollipop stick
And for good measure, 1 Budweiser can, which I will be returning for deposit:
+ 5 cents to me.
Saved today from the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch: 29 pieces of plastic.


Andrea said...

You are not a crazy lady at all! As sad as it is, I would have thought you'd have found even more trash than that. Sad how our expectations for people have slid over the years. You are truly taking the meaning of one person at a time to heart - amazing. Plus I love your photography! Keep it up and I will try to do the same (though I see crazy amounts commuting between DC and Baltimore!).

Post a Comment