With the year’s record-breaking summer temperatures killing us (literally), it’s time to pack the reef-safe sunscreen and towels and head to the beaches for some saltwater refuge. (Unless you’re in DeSantis land where Florida ocean temps are hotter than a hot tub). Whether you are on a tropical vacation or have the ocean at your backdoor, it is a great place to spend the summer to cool off and enjoy the day. But with the mass numbers of beachgoers hitting the waters, it’s essential to take part in making our oceans a safe, clean, plastic-free place. Just because temperatures continue to increase this summer doesn’t mean the trash at the beach needs to as well.
Microplastics are in pretty much everything at this point, and the ocean is no exception, with a whopping 5.25 trillion estimated pieces floating in the sea. To help contain this number, we must take care of our beaches by picking up after ourselves and others. Here are some groups you can volunteer with to keep the most extensive bodies of water safe this summer!
CHANGE IS PAIN AND COSTS A LOT OF ENERGY, MONEY AND TIME. BUT WHAT IS MORE BEAUTIFUL? WHAT MAKES US FEEL MORE ALIVE THAN ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING IN THE MOST IMPORTANT QUEST OUR SPECIES HAS EVER FACED?
CYRILL GUTSCH — FOUNDER & CEO, PARLEY
Parley is a global environmental organization working to sustain and preserve the world’s oceans. Working with creators, artists, activists, leaders, and many others, to create human-made materials and systems compatible with the earth and its oceans. In part, they raise awareness and develop initiatives, all in the name of keeping the seas clean and safe.
Started by model and queer influencer Tatiana Ringsby, Beach Haven is one of the most recent community beach cleanup organizations based in Santa Monica, California. The organization partnered with Los Angeles Waterkeeper to help clear the beaches of plastic waste and debris while creating a safe space for like-minded queer people to keep the earth clean.
The Ocean Blue Project is inspired by diversity, equity, and inclusion within climate activism and ocean preservation. Started in Oregon by Richard and Fleet Arterbury, a father and son duo from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, this organization highlights marginalized people and communities in their work toward a cleaner environment. You can find volunteer and donation opportunities on their website to help the cause.
While large group beach cleanups are a big part of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, their mission is to encourage and inspire their supporters to live daily as good stewards of the oceans through better consumerism behaviors and education. They host workshops that teach volunteers to live environmentally conscious and have large-scale cleanups year-round.
Notably, calling their volunteers “Earth Heroes,” Pacific Beach Coalition is built off a passion for keeping natural and coastal environments clean and thriving. Through the organization, they host monthly beach cleanups and also help others plan their own. They also have a whole tab dedicated to educational resources on their website and a donation tab for those interested in continuing their mission.
Husband and wife Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins met in 2008 on a sailing expedition in the North Pacific Gyre. The team was studying plastic pollution and found fish were mistaking plastic in the ocean for their food. In the next year, Eriksen and Cummins married and founded The 5 Gyres Institute and continued their research on plastic pollution. Since then, their organization has been a pioneer in the fight against plastic. In 2012, 5 Gyres was the first to find plastic microbeads in products like toothpaste and exfoliators. Their research resulted in former President Obama singing the Microbead-Free Waters Act into law three years later.
From exploring 50,000 nautical miles of ocean, 5 Gryes has conducted some of the best research on ocean microplastics and their effects on the marine ecosystem. The organization has built a network of global ambassadors from ages 8-80, striving to live plastic-free while speaking up for the safety of our oceans.
Born from the true story of 52 Blue, otherwise known as the world’s loneliest whale, the Lonely Whale Foundation works to connect people and the ocean in a noninvasive way. Since 2015, the small team has collaborated with creatives, influencers, scientists and other organizations to raise awareness about ocean conservancy and plastic pollution. Lonely Whale started the #StopSucking campaign to put an end to single-use, plastic straws. Today, they offer brands ways to reimagine their impact on the planet.
And much like the other groups on this list, this group focuses on educating people of all ages on the negative impact of microplastics while striving to eliminate billions of single-use plastic materials from polluting oceans and beaches. You can subscribe to join their ever-growing community that even Leonardo DiCaprio supports. Or donate to the organization to help the cause.
After spending time sailing in the Pacific Ocean, Kristal Ambrose launched the Bahamas Plastic Movement to end her home’s dependency on single-use plastics. The organization works to conduct research and educate citizens on the importance of reducing plastic waste in our oceans. BPM also allows volunteers to take the hands-on approach of cleaning up the local beaches and encourages local businesses, organizations, and individuals to take action in their own spaces and reduce their plastic usage. Their methods of transformation include: research, education, citizen science and policy change. In 2019, they released a short film called Plastic Warriors that follows young people on the island who are working for a better future.
The Ocean Conservancy strives for cleaner, healthier oceans from Florida shores to the Arctic. They are currently working on building sustainable fisheries, restoring the Gulf of Mexico and removing plastic from the oceans through outreach and education.
Along with the help of millions of volunteers across the globe, Ocean Conservancy tackles the global challenges and threats affecting the oceans, all to keep it safe for beachgoers and ocean life alike. They host an International Coastal Cleanup (30 years and counting) where volunteers of all ages and backgrounds help clean up waste and plastics along the shores.
Established in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation created a national crew of over 50 staff members who work to generate beach cleanups all over the U.S. The organization strives for plastic reduction to benefit marine life environments and even focuses on fair beach access for all to enjoy. You can help Surfriders with their mission by volunteering with a chapter near you, donating to their fund, and taking action with the resources they provide on their website.
If donating isn’t in your budget, remember sharing their work on social media helps raise awareness and might reach someone who can. If a group like this doesn’t already exist where you are, start your own! Start talking to friends and family about pollution, keep an eye on your local officials or organize a beach cleanup.