Watershed Voices on Magnifying Impacts
By Sharon Gibbons and Lauren Woodfill
International Coastal Cleanup Day is the largest volunteer event on the planet, with nearly 12 million volunteers (and counting!) participating since it began 33 years ago. While we at The Watershed Project are proud of the events we run, Coastal Cleanup Day is larger than one organization or one state or even one country!
As the county coordinators for Contra Costa County, we have the opportunity to speak with many community leaders on why they participate in Coastal Cleanup Day and why volunteer action is so impactful and empowering. We want to share a few of their stories, and to remind our volunteers and watershed stewards that as they pick up a bucket and glove this Saturday at Albany Bulb or Shimada Friendship Park, they are joining thousands of fellow world citizens in protecting our oceans.
“All of the annoyance I feel about the man made trash problem is softened by meeting incredible volunteers who care deeply about the environment and all of the species that depend on clean waterways. Their support and activism is what makes the cleanup successful. We all know that what we are doing is important, but we also know that it is only part of the solution to a vast problem. It is one of numerous interventions and lifestyle changes that need to occur throughout the world and most of our volunteers walk the talk in their daily lives. A huge thanks to all those who are doing their part to keep our waterways clean and healthy.”
Bonnie Pannell, Eckley Pier
“The City of El Cerrito’s environmental stewardship work is made exponentially more effective due to the help and commitment of volunteers who work to remove litter and invasive plants along the City’s creeks and natural areas. Events such as Coastal Cleanup Day, provide volunteers the opportunity to contribute to the quality and cleanliness of their watershed environment and of the San Francisco Bay estuary. The reward of removing pollutants from the environment is readily apparent with the excitement and smiles of volunteers as they return to the litter collection and characterization station.”
—Stephen Prée, City of El Cerrito
“Save Mount Diablo hosts students from Pittsburg High School and local volunteers along a section of Kirker Creek for the annual California Coastal Cleanup workday. With California Coastal Cleanup Day, volunteers see how trash accumulates in the environment and take action to remove it, building a connection between how personal actions impact the places we live, for better or for worse. We enjoy working with these volunteers because of their enthusiasm and work ethic. As young people, these students are leading the next wave of environmental professionals and activists, California Coastal Cleanup Day is one opportunity to develop a strong sense of land stewardship that will hopefully last a lifetime.”
—Jim Cartan, Save Mount Diablo
“Urban Tilth is looking forward to hosting Coastal Cleanup Day at our brand new North Richmond Farm site. We’re always so thrilled to have volunteers join us at the Farm, and Coastal Cleanup Day provides us with a unique opportunity to reaffirm the connections between the community and the nearby creeks and San Francisco Bay. The Farm sits on the historical floodplain between Wildcat and San Pablo Creek; the rich alluvial soil helps our veggies taste good! Volunteers to our site will feel good knowing they’ve played an essential role in this transformative work, and they’ll even get to go home with some produce from the farm!”
—Nathan Bickart, Urban Tilth
We are always amazed how much work is accomplished and how much fun people have while taking care of their shoreline. Volunteers come away feeling they made a difference, and that they contributed to the health of their community and the natural world. We also hope that they take away lessons about being thoughtful consumers, rethinking their use of disposable and plastic items. Enjoy Coastal Cleanup Day – and harness that volunteer power!
Image credits: Bonnie Pannell, Jim Cartan, Nathan Bickart