marine debris mondayWhen I first conceived of Marine Debris Monday in 2016, I just thought of it as a simple way to encourage neighbors to go pick up trash by water a few times this summer. The season seemed to be speeding by us, and I knew if we waited for a BIG Organized Event to take place, we might not get anything done at all. So, I figured starting small was worthwhile. A few evenings picking up trash—with no sign up sheets, no team leader, no rules or regulations—would be better than nothing.

Now that the first Marine Debris Monday has passed, I can say I’ve gotten more out of it than the satisfaction of cleaning up my “backyard” a bit. Here are six things I’ve learned:

  1. If you think that collecting trash will make you feel better, you’re right. As disheartening as it is to find a Mickey Mouse balloon and a sunken six pack in the pretty creek you call “home,” while you pick it up, you will also encounter your neighborhood blue herons, osprey, crabs, fish.
  2. I was naive heading out on my paddleboard with just a tall, white kitchen bag “bungeed” to its bow. Picking up trash is dirty work that requires gloves, perhaps protective clothing, including toed shoes. Not that you can’t use a SUP, but it’s not the best boat for the job.
  3. Canoes and jon boats are probably the best boats–but even then, there will be bottles that are just out of your reach (a pinching tool would help) and things you can’t quite get to on shore without protective shoes (think broken glass), or someone to steady the boat, etc. Probably the ideal clean up would include on-shore volunteers along with the on-water team, preferably in waders!
  4. Even if the team is small, encountering friends out on the water, who are also picking up debris, is pretty special. Last night in Back Creek, we ran into David Barker and Lisa Borre in their kayak and Tracy Leonard and her two kids, Hannes and Anna, all doing their part. How delightful it was to stop in a cove and chat with them and have some laughs about our weird finds: a plastic princess ball, a bushel basket, a flip flop, a silverware holder for inside a drawer, Mylar balloons, and more plastic bottles… I often say that volunteer work is a great way to forge friendships, and last night, it was reinforced. People who pick up trash for fun are cool!
  5. When you pick up trash on the creek, you get to know the place better. I found myself paddling around docks, admiring wildflowers, wondering how to get to the place by land—and very much surprised at what a lush forest there is on the back side of the Eastport Shopping Center! Stay tuned for more about the wonderful stormwater project unfolding behind St. Luke’s Church.
  6. Picking up trash, even if only a small amount, is better than leaving it there. Our next Marine Debris Monday takes place August 14, 2017, and the last one on August 31. See you there!