Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How Volunteer Shoreline Cleanup Leaders Save The Bay

By July Lewis, Volunteer and Intern Manager

As Save The Bay works to protect and improve Narragansett Bay, one of the most pervasive problems that we face is shoreline trash. This is an issue that everyone can agree on:  litter does not belong on our shores or in the Bay. In 2015, we had 121 cleanups with over 3,000 volunteers who picked up 34,015 lbs of trash. In addition, we organized the 30th anniversary International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) in Rhode Island. At this global cleanup event, volunteers pick up trash and record what they find.  We have just released a report of our results, including 2,199 volunteers who picked up 7,960 plastic bottle caps, 10,448 food wrappers, and 47,397 cigarette butts.

Save The Bay cannot offer a program of this magnitude with staff leadership alone. In large part, the success of this program is due to our team of volunteer Shoreline Cleanup Leaders. People love to sign up for cleanups, and our ability to offer them is only limited by the number of leaders we have.  The work is simple, but essential: the leader schedules the cleanup with Save The Bay, picks up a supply kit (provided by Save The Bay), arrives at the cleanup site 30 minutes before the cleanup, distributes supplies (bags, gloves, etc.) and gives the welcome and instructions.  The leader then sends people off to clean, weighs trash as it comes back in, thanks all the volunteers for their efforts, makes sure all the trash is gathered at the appropriate site for pickup, and returns the kit and waivers to Save The Bay.

While cleanup leaders are very helpful in covering lots of shoreline in big events like the ICC, one of the most important roles that volunteer cleanup leaders can fill is motivating their community around keeping a particular site clean. There are many places around the coast – small beaches, boat launches and fishing areas – where there is entrenched littering. People who use the site have acquired the idea that it is OK to leave their trash on the ground. These are local, neighborhood sites where there is no paid staff to clean, and the dirty shoreline attracts more littering. Lasting change is best achieved by leadership from the neighborhood itself. A volunteer Cleanup Leader can reach out to their neighbors and friends directly to get them involved. Once a neighborhood starts to take pride in a site, people are more motivated not only to refrain from littering, but to take a bag with them and pick up some litter when they visit. Repeated cleanups keep the site looking good, and over time, the problem site is not such a problem anymore.

On March 19, Save The Bay will hold a shoreline cleanup leader training. Participants will learn how to plan and lead a cleanup. To complete their training, they will have the opportunity to sign up as an assistant leader for an Earth Day cleanup in order to put their new skills into practice. If you care about clean coasts and are not shy about giving the “welcome speech” to a group, please consider attending! Become a community leader, and help us harness the great enthusiasm that people have for keeping their shores clean.

SHORELINE CLEANUP LEADER TRAINING
Saturday, March 19, 10 AM to 12 PM
100 Save The Bay Drive, Providence, RI
Open to ages 12+. Cleanup leaders under the age of 18 must co-lead with a parent or guardian