.Coastal Cleanup Efforts Adapt in the Age of Covid-19

For years, Save Our Shores (SOS) has hosted Coastal Cleanup Day, where residents help clean beaches, parks and other sites across Monterey Bay.

Due to Covid-19, the event—usually held the third weekend of September—will not take place in 2020. But that is not stopping SOS from inviting the community to participate in a new way through Coastal Cleanup Month.

Every Saturday in September, residents are encouraged to go out by themselves or with the people they’ve been sheltering with to do their own cleanups. This can be at beaches but also at parks and in neighborhoods.

“Picking up trash anywhere can help our oceans,” said SOS Program Manager Emily Pomeroy. “Litter travels far through storm drains, rivers and out to sea. Wherever you find yourself … you can make a difference.”

Coastal Cleanup Month is part of an international campaign organized by the Ocean Conservancy. Many other groups, from the California Coastal Commission to Watsonville Wetlands Watch are involved.

On its website, SOS has resources on how to safely conduct a cleanup. This includes instructional videos in English and Spanish, safety tips and a list of links relating to Covid-19, as well as an air quality index.

Participants are encouraged to download the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell application onto their smartphones. The app tracks how far you travel, how many people are with you, and what sort of debris you pick up. Once the data is entered, the app can even estimate the total weight of debris that was cleaned up. Pomeroy says use of the app is key to the success of the event.

“The data will show us how many people participated and what sorts of goals we met,” she explained.

Pomeroy recommends that people who are susceptible to the virus or live where smoke from the CZU Lightning Complex fire is still prevalent should stay home. SOS has organized at-home activities for such cases, and it is also holding virtual events to spread awareness.

Once such an event is Plastic Pollution Trivia Night on Sept. 18, where registered participants can test their knowledge of plastic and its effect on the ocean. Winners will receive prizes such as reusable utensil kits and grocery bags.

Pomeroy says she and two others from small, five-person team of SOS were displaced by the recent fires. Between this and the pandemic, the organization has had to switch gears to focus on fundraising and applying for grants.

“Financially, we’ve been hit hard,” she said. “We’ve had to hunker down. We’re not able to do a lot of what we planned.”

However, Pomeroy says SOS is determined to keep moving forward—especially since new waste, such as face masks and food takeout containers have started worsening the problem.

“There are so many emergencies happening right now … which is pulling our attention away from environmental issues,” Pomeroy said. “But plastic pollution has not gone away. So the fight to reduce our impact must go on, too.”

For more information on Coastal Cleanup Month and how to support Save Our Shores, visit saveourshores.org.


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