For many, beach cleanups are a once-a-year event on Coastal Cleanup Day. For Sara Bayles, who writes The Daily Ocean blog, beach cleanups are a near-daily affair. Read this five-question interview to find out how and why this oceans activist has collected hundreds of pounds of garbage off the iconic beach — and what you can do to help.
What do you do?
Sara: Tonight will be day 161 of my goal of 365 non-consecutive days of cleaning up trash from my local beach that is directly at the end of my street. I take 20 minutes and go to the same place every time — and see how much trash I can find and weigh it. Right now, I have over 640 pounds of trash collected.
But the thing that is interesting is that a lot of the items I collect are made of plastic, and plastic is very light. So 640 pounds already sounds like a lot — but it’s actually quite a lot.
Why do you do it?
I used to have a job on Saturdays that wouldn’t allow me to go to organized beach cleanups like from Heal the Bay or Surfrider. And then when I moved to Santa Monica a year and a half ago, I just wanted to go to the beach to enjoy it, and I noticed there was a lot of trash, and I brought a bag with me to collect it — because I just figured you know, you don’t need an organized cleanup to do anything, although they’re great for building community.
I was startled to see how much trash I found, and then just over the next couple times I went, I decided to figure out how to create a blog and set some parameters and rules, and that’s how The Daily Ocean got started.
When did you start?
I started in April 2009. We moved in in February and sometime in late March I went to the beach that first time. By April I’d had a few conversations with my husband Garin [a marine biologist]. We bounced ideas around — and I decided to start taking pictures and organizing it in a particular way.
Who inspires you?
Anna Cummins and her husband Marcus Erikson [of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a nonprofit that educates people about marine plastic pollution] are two people I look up to and am really inspired by. They don’t give up. They seem to have boundless energy. They’re really humble about what they do and they accomplish an incredible amount and they’ve inspired a lot of people. I mean, they rode bikes from the border of the U.S. all the way to Mexico giving talks the entire way. The crossed the Junk Raft over the gyre. I think they’re great examples of — If you put your mind to it, really, you can get any idea going.
Wallace J. Nichols — He was in the Oceana Ocean Heroes contest this past year — and he’s got like the most incredible career of being a marine biologist and helping sea turtles. But he’s so accessible. You essentially find him on Twitter, send him a message, and he’ll email you back the same day.
How can people help?
Contact me and come with me to the beach! It’s very informal — You just spend 20 minutes walking along, collecting trash with me. We’ll weigh it, we’ll add it to the community count. So far The Daily Ocean’s collected over 1000 pounds that way, if I add my tally with the community count.
If you go on vacation to a coastal area, do a Daily Ocean cleanup and send me pictures with approximately it weighed and I’ll add it that way too. And tell your friends!
I first interviewed Sara back in August last year for my personal blog. Since then, we’ve become friends, organizing a Blogger Beach Cleanup for 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action last October. Yesterday, we reunited back at the beach for 350.org’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party — and again collected trash for 20 minutes. With the help of a few other volunteers, we ended up collecting 14 pounds and 10 ounces of trash!
Sara always cleans up the same spot of Santa Monica beach, between Life Guard Station 26 and 27 in Santa Monica. Join her one evening by contacting Sara through her blog The Daily Ocean, Facebook, or Twitter.
Know an Everyday Hero you’d like to nominate for this weekly series? Email your suggestion to Siel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Siel Ju