There is nothing more capable of inspiring people to action than experiencing the contagious enthusiasm of a person who is passionately dedicated to a task. Sara Bayles has initiated a movement, one that has quickly gained colossal momentum. She dedicated herself to picking up trash from a local beach for 20 minutes a day over a span of 365 non-consecutive days, and documented her findings on her blog The Daily Ocean. Her story serves to remind us that every single person can do anything if we simply put our hearts and minds into it – and spend as little as 20 minutes a day pursuing it.
Why do you care so much about about our coastlines?
I have always loved the ocean. My earliest memories are walking on the beach on the shores of Long Island Sound with my mother. If fact, I keep a picture of two-year-old me at the beach on my desk where I work. I learned to body surf when very young, and still do now as an adult. When I was a child in the late seventies and early eighties, I remember trash on the beach as standing out, but not the common find. I would always pick it up. Picking up trash as a compulsive ritual continued from there, even before I started The Daily Ocean project.
What is the mission for The Daily Ocean?
The ultimate mission for The Daily Ocean is to inspire people into action for the ocean and our coasts. I believe that if the individual feels empowered because they understand that their actions DO make a difference, then little by little change occurs. Perhaps the change starts with picking up trash, and continues into their lives with the consumer choices they make. My choice to not accept a plastic bag from a store may not seem like a big shift, but what if every person in the greater Los Angeles area did that just once on a given day? That is 15 million less plastic bags in circulation, 15 million less bags in the bay. Is this idealistic? SURE! But it is a possible solution to a healthier ocean. One of my heroes, Sylvia Earle, likes to say that the ocean is the Blue Heart of the Planet. We need a healthy heart.
What inspired you to begin your trash collecting commitment?
I went to the beach on a random weekday in late March 2008 and grabbed a bag as I left the house. I worked on the weekends during which Heal the Bay and Surfrider had their organized beach cleanups. I thought to myself that day in March, “Why do I need to do a beach cleanup with a group? Just grab a bag and go!” That day could have been a typical day, but for some reason all the trash I saw on the beach that day really disturbed me. I went home and talked to my husband about what I could do. Together we came up with the idea for The Daily Ocean.
How do you encourage others to become involved?
People started becoming involved with The Daily Ocean because they wanted to. It began with one reader who asked me if they could do a 20-minute cleanup while on vacation in Florida, take photos, weigh their collection, and email it to me after their return to put up on my blog. I, of course, agreed! It grew from there. More and more people all over the world have started to participate in The Daily Ocean. I call their collections The Community Count. Together we have taken over a ton of trash off of beaches around the world.
How much trash have you collected to date? What happens to the trash you collect?
I have collected over 1,300 pounds to date. After my 365th beach cleanup (my initial goal), I have been more informal with my collections while I decide what my next phase is going to be. But I continue to do beach cleanups, so at this point I am probably up to around 1,500 pounds. I throw away the trash I collect, because, unfortunately, there is really no good solution as to what to do with it after it is collected. I have friends who repurpose it into art. I choose to photograph it and write about it. I would love to make the trash go away, but taking it off the beach where it can get into the ocean is a satisfying step.
Why is it so vital that people take action and pick up trash from our beaches?
It is important for people to collect trash on our beaches because not only is it gross and unpleasant to look at, but it affects the marine life that live on the shore and in the water. Birds, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and other animals eat the trash or become entangled in it, resulting in injury and death. The ocean also breaks these plastic disposable products into smaller and smaller bits, which fish can eat. Even before the fish eat the plastic fragments, the plastic absorbs pollutants, like fertilizers and gasoline, that end up in the water after it rains. These toxic pellets end up as fish food, and eventually those fish may end up on our dinner plates. One of the most in-demand proteins that people survive on is seafood. There is a real threat to human health if we keep trashing the ocean.
Let’s say someone is inspired by your work, but they live miles and miles from any coastline. Are there other ways for them to help with this problem?
Of course you can make a difference if you live far from the coast. Rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water need protection, too. Someone I know likes to say, “The ocean is downhill from everywhere.” So for those who live inland, clean-up immediately benefits the local environment, but eventually the ocean as well, later on down the line. And of course people can do what some of my readers have done: conduct a quick 20-minute cleanup while on a trip to the coast and tell me about it. It helps to share our efforts. People feel less alone with the overwhelming problem of ocean pollution.
If no one picks up trash, what does the future of our coastline look like?
If no one picks up trash the future of our ocean and coastlines looks pretty trashed. But that’s not going to happen! You have to appeal to people’s better nature and look at the positive. Inspire them instead of overwhelming or shaming them into action.
If everyone who goes to the beach picks up one or two pieces of trash, how does that future look now?
If everyone who goes to the beach picks up one or two pieces of trash, they might use less of those products in their own lives because they will see the direct result. Their plastic water bottles, chip bags, straws and other disposables are ending up where they don’t want them to be. If we don’t use these products, there is less demand, which means less production and a shift in consumerism to change companies’ products and packaging. Slow progress? Perhaps, but it is a solution.
What would you say about ocean trash to people and businesses who are passionate about seafood?
People and businesses who are passionate about seafood need to be aware that the plastic disposable trash we use in our fast-paced life is ending up in the ocean and polluting the seafood we love to eat. If you love seafood, cut back on plastic products in your own life, participate in beach cleanups, talk with others about what you may have learned from this interview and about how this trash is polluting our fish. If you are part of a company that manufactures a product, think about the life of the packaging and what you may do to ensure it is friendlier to the environment. There are many, many solutions. Start with one! Start today! One person makes a difference. One company makes a difference. That one company or person is YOU.
The power of one person
Sara’s enthusiasm and passion remind us of the incredible things we are capable of accomplishing when we push ourselves to make a difference. The dedication of one person has the power to make positive change happen for our coastlines. That means that you have the power to make a difference today by choosing sustainable seafood from Pucci Foods for your clients and your family.