Pensacola Beach, FL: January gave us the opportunity to be on the beach for a while, and we've discovered that the beach in winter is one of our favorite places to be. While we traded in our bathing suits and sandals for puffy coats and trail runners, by making sure to Plan Ahead and Prepare, we were able to go at a time when we had the beaches mostly to ourselves. As our favorite activity is beachcombing – examining everything that's been washed ashore – we thought we'd show off some beachcombing Leave No Trace style, that can be practiced no matter what the season.
For us, beachcombing is all about Leave What You Find – we want to make sure all the cool shells are there for the next person to see, but make sure we Dispose of Waste Properly in the process by picking up any trash we see. Most of the trash in the ocean actually comes from the land, making its way down our waterways and out to sea. Here are some of the more common pieces of trash you'll find on the beach:
Of all litter, cigarette butts can be found in nearly every environment on land – and as they're lightweight, they make their way into the oceans with ease. During the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup in 2017, the number one most-picked-up piece of trash was actually cigarette butts! So don't throw them out the window or drop them on the ground – make sure they're dead out before putting them in a trashcan.
Plastic grocery bags are likewise common litter, but have an added effect on wildlife. Floating in the water, they can resemble jellyfish, which can lead to sea turtles and other animals mistaking them for food. Even if they're not eaten, they can still take up to 20 years to decompose. Make sure you're doing your part by using reusable bags instead, or recycling them where you can, whether that's turning them in to a store's recycling program or reusing them for pet waste or other cleaning projects around your home.
Finally, other man-made trash, like microplastics and fibers, are everywhere in our oceans. A 2015 study found that 67% of all marine species tested in United States coastal waters contained man-made debris. If you want to go all the way for our oceans, cut out plastic straws, plastic bags, coffee cup lids, and plastic bottles altogether to lessen your contributions to the plastic wastestream, and make sure your clothes – especially those made of synthetic materials – get recycled.
Those are just some of the more common items you'll find during your Leave No Trace beachcombing – what else have you found? Let us know in the comments!
We hope you enjoy your beachcombing, and Enjoy Your World!
–Amanda and Junaid, Team East Central
Leave No Trace's Amanda Jameson and Junaid Dawud are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud Partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.
Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together
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