Despite the current pandemic, going out for a run, a hike, or even just a walk is as important as ever to maintain one’s mental health.
And, while doing that, Santa Barbarans are encouraged this month especially to help take part in Explore Ecology’s Coastal Cleanup Month, which aims to motivate people to clean up around their local neighborhoods.
“It’s been really great and I think we have had a good response,” Jill Cloutier, the public relations director for Explore Ecology, told the News-Press.
On a normal year, EE usually helps sponsor a Coastal Cleanup Day, in which locals are asked to come out and pick up trash around the local beaches.
In response to the pandemic this year, the cleanup has been extended throughout the entire month, which comes with its share of perks.
“It’s great because I think this has really turned into an educational event because what people are learning is before they thought, ‘Well you want to clean the beach, you go to the beach.’ Now what people are realizing is the litter that’s on the land in our neighborhood is what becomes marine debris, and so by picking it up by the source of where it comes from, we remove it from the waste stream and then it doesn’t have time to get to the ocean,” Ms. Cloutier said.
She added that she has been happy with the turnout. In the first week, Explore Ecology saw about 88 people volunteer, but it has grown to over 100 since.
“I think people are still active and, in fact, I think we’re going to have more volunteers in the coming weeks,” she said.
Helping keep our neighborhood clean is also made more fun with family.
That’s one way Brian and Kim Wilson, along with their three kids, are spending some extra time together these days.
“Just driving around your neighborhood, you notice a lot of trash so last weekend we went out near Monroe School and in a couple of hours we filled up four garbage bags and found all kinds of stuff,” Mr. Wilson said.
“We live in a beautiful place and we want to keep it that way. It’s important to go down by the beach and do that, but also in our own neighborhoods.”
Saturday morning, the Wilson’s, sans their eldest daughter, were out cleaning out the neighborhood by the Santa Barbara Zoo.
“The reason we picked that area is that our older daughter has practiced at the beach for volleyball and we drive by that area a lot and so it was nice to be out there with our kids,” Ms. Wilson said.
Mr. Wilson said they picked up four bags worth of trash again this Saturday, something that he said was “surprising.”
“There’s a fair amount of trash out there so if you look for it, you can find it,” he said.
Both Mr. and Ms. Wilson are in charity teams with their kids. Mr. Wilson is on a boys charity team with his son, Jack, while Ms. Wilson is a part of the National Charity League with her eldest daughter, Taylor.
“We all live these busy lives so it’s just nice to be together and working on a project together and it’s just nice for me to spend time with my kids,” Mr. Wilson said.
“It really opens up, I think, a young person’s mind and their ability to see how important these things are in the community,” Ms. Wilson added.
Their youngest daughter, Parker, also joins in on the fun and will join the charity league alongside her mom when she’s old enough.
“She’s only along for the ride right now, she’s a kid but she gets a lot of good exposure in school of how important the environment is and how to take care of it… This is the future. Taking care of plants is something we all need to get on board with and sustain it for generations,” Mr. Wilson said.
Both the Wilson’s said they will be continuing to pick up trash through the end of the month, something that Ms. Wilson said she is very excited for.
“It’s funny, I just drive around thinking, ‘Here’s another place we could do,’” she said with a laugh.
“I don’t know where we will go next but we are excited.”
Sarah Bronstad was also out and about bright and early with her daughters, Lyla and Andie Bronstad and Claire Gamble.
For her, doing this work now is more important than ever.
“I think it’s essential actually for just (our) well being. Sitting at home and reading the news and everything that’s going on is tough, so it’s a good way to feel proactive and feel like you’re actually making a difference,” Ms. Bronstad said.
They picked up trash along Atascadero Creek near the Grace Gathering Church in Goleta. In about one hour, they picked up nearly 10 pounds of trash.
“It’s amazing and it’s just a good feeling to know that we picked that up before we even got to the ocean and it didn’t interfere with wildlife between here and the ocean, so it’s really rewarding,” Ms. Bronstad said.
She, along with her family, has participated in the event for the past four years.
“I think it sets a good example and especially right now with kids feeling the stress of everything as well,” Ms. Bronstad said.
Along their journey, she said they found a lot of broken plates. Lyla, one of the younger daughters, said this is part of a new trend on TikTok in which kids write what they are going through on these plates and then proceed to smash them to “make themselves feel better.”
“Last week when we were here we picked up a lot of plates and that’s just not good because they’re just leaving these pieces all around,” Lyla said.
She added doing things like trash pickup has helped her during these tough times.
“During this pandemic, you can’t just go out and see your friends and do these things so it is a bit sad,” she said.
For Ms. Bronstad, it’s doing the small things that make a big difference.
“I just want to encourage other people to remember that it can be something really small and it doesn’t feel like what we’re doing is a big deal, but it does feel good inside for us,” she said.
“Now I walk around and I just have a tendency to want to pick up trash because it rolls into the creek, then into the drains and then into the ocean. It doesn’t just disappear.”
People who want to participate in Explore Ecology’s Coastal Cleanup Month are encouraged to sign up at https://exploreecology.org/ccd so that they could get an accurate headcount. People should also make sure to submit how much trash they picked up through the CleanSwell mobile app or other options available on their website.