Thursday, November 30, 2017

When you think you can't make an impact... think again.

by Angela Surrusco, communications intern
Angela Surrusco, cleanup leader, holds the Save The Bay sign
Angela Surrusco, communications intern,
co-leads the South Kingstown Beach cleanup
on International Coastal Cleanup Day
You may be stuck thinking that as just one person, you don’t have the ability to make a true difference. After attending my first International Coastal Cleanup event, I quickly learned that every person present makes an impact on the global effort for trash-free seas. Through my internship with Save The Bay, I served as a cleanup leader at South Kingstown Town Beach, one of many locations throughout the world where volunteers were collecting trash from shorelines and recording the data for Ocean Conservancy. I was thrilled to be a part of the International Coastal Cleanup in Rhode Island, joining millions of volunteers all over the world taking action to protect the oceans from harmful trash.

Despite the large-scale nature of this project, you can still feel a strong sense of community with all of the participants sharing a common goal. Having grown up in southern Connecticut and moved to the Ocean State for college, I have happily spent my entire life near the coast. Some of my earliest, and favorite, memories took place by the beach, ever since I was a two-year old playing in the sand with my brothers. As I grew, so did my appreciation for the water. From sunbathing by the waves until the sun set below the trees, to kayaking with my friends as a teenager, being on the coast has shaped my life and given me so much joy. Because of this passion, I became interested in the environment and began to wonder if I could do anything to improve it. These small states I call home are a part of something greater, and my love of the water and desire to protect it is something I can share with anyone around the globe.

Volunteers record and weigh the trash
they collect. 
Given that this cleanup event occurs internationally, one individual person may feel somewhat insignificant in the big picture. However, imagine what would happen if we did not have the 2,000+ volunteers in our state coming together to help out with this critical cause. In 2017, these volunteers collected over 16,000 pounds of trash from the beaches in Rhode Island alone. When reviewing all of the data for how much trash has been collected, you will see, as I did, that every person involved contributes in some way to these numbers.

As I stood by our Save The Bay table, handing out data sheets and trash bags, I made a note of the people I encountered. Young children, adults, college students, professors, entire families- we had a wide variety of volunteers. This collection of people made the point that everybody, regardless of age, profession, etc., cares about beach cleanups and the health of the Bay. If you enjoy your days laying out on the state’s beaches, boating, fishing, vacationing with friends and family, eating seafood dinners, know that the effort of our volunteer community is the main reason you are able to do so.


You can participate in a beach cleanup with Save The Bay anytime from Spring through Fall. A goal of the event, besides the obvious, is to inspire volunteers to develop positive lifelong habits. It worked for me. After just one cleanup, I found myself picking up pieces of trash the next time I visited a beach, which naturally was the next day, and taking an extra minute to make sure I did not leave anything behind. With this incredible experience, I witnessed crowds of people come together for just a few hours to help make progress on our mission to protect and improve the Narragansett Bay.