continued. “Plus, I work for a company that is committed to preserving the earth through our business practices. We compost, recycle and purchase items with intention. I see the beach cleanup as a way to get our customers engaged and to raise awareness that products used downtown and not disposed of correctly, ultimately affect the cleanliness of our beaches.”
For Drew Paloucek, the other leader of the April 20th and 27th Grand Haven “Adopt-a-Beach” cleanups scheduled for 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. respectively, her connection also stems from childhood.
“People look forward to these cleanups. It’s something tangible almost everyone can do. And when you pick up enough straws, you think twice before using one.”
The same is true for releasing balloons.
“In addition to single use plastics like eating utensils, stirrers, straws, and cigarette filters, we have pulled dozens of balloons out of the side of the sand dunes, the ribbons wrapped and woven into dune grass,” Paloucek said.
According to Tyrone Dobson, Volunteer Manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the “Adopt-a-Beach” program has been in existence since 1991, increasing in popularity each year. In 2018, there were over 900 Great Lakes beach cleanups, 15,000 volunteers, and roughly eighteen tons of trash removed—including 4,415 balloons..
“We ask leaders to have the volunteers record every piece of trash picked up,” Dobson said. “We use that information to influence change—at the local and national level.”
More than 85% of the debris is plastic. Despite the cleanups, 22 million pounds of plastic pollution end up in the Great Lakes every year. Over time, the plastic breaks into smaller pieces known as microplastics. Because they are difficult to filter, microplastics eventually find their way into our drinking water, affecting our health.
Do you have a personal connection to the Great Lakes? A couple hours to spare over the next three months? Currently, there are 114 “Adopt-a-Beach” public cleanups scheduled for the Great Lakes April through June. Over half are alongside Lake Michigan—including the one sponsored by the “Don’t Let It Fly or the Great Lakes Will Cry” campaign to eliminate balloons from the skies above the Great Lakes. It is scheduled for Saugatuck Dune State Park on Saturday, April 20th, at 1:00 p.m.
Please join us. And consider refusing single-use plastic items like water bottles, straws, eating utensils. Instead, opt for reusable alternatives like cloth grocery bags and personal water containers. For what if someday, instead of trash, the only colors in the sand were wildflowers—like the blush of the Pitcher’s Thistle, the exuberant gold of the Puccoon, the pink kiss of the Bearberry?
To find an event near you, visit: https://greatlakes.org/get-involved/adopt-a-beach/
And because I am partial to the “the Great Lakes State,” Michigan’s events are listed below.
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