Tag Archives: coastal

#TurtleTuesday: Man O’War vs. Litter

PicMonkey Collage (1)

On the left, you will see a favorite sea turtle delicacy known as the Portuguese Man O’War.

On the right, you will see a piece of garbage I found washed up on the shore.

Look how similar these look! It is easy to see how a sea turtle might confuse this garbage as food.

Please keep the beaches clean and dispose of your trash properly! Protect the sea turtles!

Highland Beach One-Hour Cleanup

Recently, I went on a beach walk and did a one-hour beach cleanup. I started at the northernmost entrance to Spanish River Park, where there is limited street parking on Spanish River Road. I walked north towards Highland Beach.

Overall, the beach was relatively clean, though there were a few concentrations of trash, and plenty of disturbing finds.

Though it was overcast, it was an eerily beautiful beach day.

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Endless.

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The gray sky bled into the gray sea, and without the help of a sailboat I wouldn’t have been able to tell where the horizon was.

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The sea was also silent, a rare sight on the east coast of Florida.

The Findings

Scary Findings (Or Reasons Why You Should Keep Your Shoes On at the Beach!)

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A piece of glass sticking straight up out of the sand. This was found in the park part of the beach, and is the reason why glass is prohibited on most beaches.
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I think this is a needle used for blood tests. It is hard to see in the picture, but if you look closely at the top of the teal plastic, you can see the needlepoint. Ouchies!
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A rusted, upturned bottle cap.

 

Other Findings

Continue reading Highland Beach One-Hour Cleanup

Resolution #2 Action Plan

Resolution 2: Donate time, money, or skills to raise awareness and help the environment

Action Plan: Donating your time to a cause you care about is one of the greatest gifts you can give to both yourself and the world. Spending time cleaning up a beach or volunteering at a local nature center will allow you to spread your passion and inspire others.

There are many different ways to help the ocean and environment, even if you are busy with a job or with a family.

If you are financially able to donate, there are many great organizations that would welcome your financial support. Most environmental organizations are non-profits, and the success of their programs relies heavily on fundraising.

Sometimes potential donors are apprehensive about donating to organizations and not knowing how the money will be spent. It’s always important to do your research, and there are websites like Charity Navigator that rate charities and provide in-depth reports as to how the funds are allocated so you can make sure your money is going to a reputable organization.

You can also search Amazon wish lists to see if your favorite organization has one. Organizations compile lists of items they are in need of, and you can purchase the item and have it sent directly to the organization of your choosing. (Check out Save-the-Manatee Club’s Amazon Wish List or the Whitney Lab’s Sea Turtle Hospital’s Amazon Wish List.)

Donating your skills is a great way give back while also building your portfolio. Maybe you are a fresh-out-of-college web designer or social media manager. A lot of smaller non-profits don’t have the time or the resources to keep their websites updated. Volunteer your services! You can help an organization, while getting a great piece for your portfolio. If you have a skill, volunteer it.

There are many different ways to make this resolution a reality in 2016. What will you do?

8 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane

Right now, South Florida is waiting in suspense to see what Tropical Storm Erika is going to do. While it is still too early to say exactly where she will go, it is never too early to begin preparing for a potential storm.

As someone who experienced the intense hurricane season of 2004, I know it is better to be safe than sorry. Strong storms, like most of nature, are unpredictable. Most people will wait until the last minute to get supplies, and in situations such as this, waiting until just before the storm comes is often too late. Stores will run out of water and gas stations will run out of gas, and deliveries to areas that are either under evacuation or faced with a major storm threat will be suspended.

So beat the rush and make sure your family and home are ready just in case!

What To Do As Soon as Possible

Check to see what supplies you already have

Gather any flashlights, candles, and batteries you have in case the power goes out. Check the pantry to see what non-perishable food items you already have, such as canned food, chips, nuts, or fruit. Also see if you have bottles of water or other drinks that will be ok to drink unrefrigerated. Make sure you have a first-aid kit, and if you are taking medication, make sure you have a full supply or refill just in case you can’t get to the pharmacy for a week or longer. Don’t forget about your pets; make sure they have enough food and water to last too!

Shop for what you don’t have

Whenever you are in the “cone of concern,” it is a good idea to head to your local store ASAP and get what you need. It is unbelievable how fast places can sell out of important things such as water, and the place you want to be is in one of these stores when everyone else who waited is fighting over the last pack of batteries.

Fill up your car with gas

Filling up your car with gas is absolutely imperative. If the power is out, there is no gas. If an area is under storm warning, gas tankers will suspend their normal routes. If you have a gas grill, it is also a good idea to refill your propane tank if needed, so you will have a way to cook or boil water if the power goes out.

Board Up

If you have a lot of windows, sliding glass doors, etc. and strong winds are predicted, purchase plywood from your local home improvement store and board up any windows. Do this whether you are staying in your home, or seeking shelter elsewhere. Don’t wait until the very last minute to do this, because it can take more time than you might think to do it right. If you are lucky enough to have storm shutters, put those babies down and batten down the hatches! Not only will boarding up protect you during the storm, it will also protect you after the storm, when unfortunately sometimes looting can become an issue.

Just Before the Storm

Charge your electronics

Make sure phones, computers, and tablets are charged. Though cell towers and WiFi may be impacted during the storm, charging them just before the storm hits is a good idea. At least throughout the storm you may have music and games available, and there’s always a chance the cell towers may be working so you can let loved ones know you’re ok.

Bring in anything that is not bolted down

Wind is a powerful force, and something that should not be tempted. Bring in any patio furniture, grills, garden gnomes, or anything else that can become a projectile object in tropical storm or hurricane force winds. Don’t take any chances!

Fill up your tub with water

Sometimes before a storm, a city will turn off the electricity or water systems for safety reasons. Before this happens, or before the storm takes these services out, fill up your tub or tubs with water. This will come in handy for bathing or washing things if necessary.

Prepare a “Hurricane Party” Room

For the brunt of the storm it is best to go in the center of your home that is on the first floor and has no windows. A laundry room or closet usually works best. Before the storm happens, make it comfy! Bring in a spare mattress or some bean bag chairs, put candles, flashlights, and water in there. Make yourself as comfy as possible to ride out the storm!

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the storm is key to maximize the safety of both you and your family. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. If you live in a flood zone, maybe go to a shelter or to a hotel. Whatever you do, don’t take any chances, and don’t panic either! Also, don’t try and drive during a tropical storm or hurricane. Prepare a bag in case you need to leave suddenly, and put any prized possessions in a sealed plastic container or waterproof safe to protect them.

Be safe and smart!

For more information on storm prep, check out Ready.gov.

6 Reasons to do a Beach Cleanup Before Summer’s Over

For most of the US, summer is winding down. Soon, the kids will be back at school and the heat and waves of summer 2015 will be a precious memory.

But for those of you who are still planning beach vacations, who are venturing south for the winter, or who are lucky to live near the beach full time, here are six reasons why you should participate in a beach cleanup before summer is officially over (or really whenever you can)!

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Help protect sea turtle hatchlings and other marine life

Sea turtle season doesn’t end until October, so there are still plenty of hatchlings waiting to emerge and find their way to the ocean. We know that their journey is already hard enough, so let’s make sure that their path to the ocean is as easy as possible. Despite sea turtle nests being marked off and protected, I always find a lot of trash around the nests. Not only does this litter pose a threat to the hatchlings, but it also threatens any shore birds that search the sand for their food. The tide brings in a lot of garbage, let’s make sure it doesn’t go back out!

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Make great friends and memories

Whether you get a group of your friends together to go cleanup your favorite beach spot, or join one of the many great organizations that coordinates beach cleanups each month, you can make positive memories with friends old and new. If protecting the ocean and the environment is something you are passionate about, get outside of your comfort zone and join a group cleanup. It is a great way to meet other people who share your passions. I have met some of the nicest and friendliest people attending cleanups. People are always stoked to meet someone else who actively shares their passion for the environment!

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Beach cleanups are great exercise

Carrying buckets of garbage in the sand is an excellent workout that is sure to get your heart pumping and your body sweating. If you don’t have a grabber, which I highly recommend if you plan on frequently doing beach cleanups, you will be doing a lot of squats to pick up garbage. Most organized beach cleanups last about two hours, a great amount of time for a workout out in the fresh, salty air. It’s a fantastic way to start the day!

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You can be the change

It’s easy to get caught up in our busy lives and get stuck behind our computer’s keyboard. If you want to see a difference in the world, be the difference. It’s as simple as that. Participating in a beach cleanup is a rewarding experience, and if you have never done one, I am sure you will be shocked by the amount of garbage you will find.

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Beach cleanups are a great time for introspection

Whether you are cleaning up the beach on your own or with a group, a beach cleanup is a great time to analyze your own choices when it comes to both consumption and disposal. When you actually see first hand the amount of garbage carelessly left behind, it may lead you to reexamine your own choices. Being conscious of our own consumption, and what happens to our own garbage can lead us to make changes that lower our own footprint.

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You can raise awareness

Raising awareness about the plight of the fragile shore ecosystems is important. Many people thoughtlessly extinguish their cigarette butts in the sand, and leave them behind, probably thinking it’s just me, no biggie. But when many people adopt this mentality, that is when the beaches become, for lack of a better word, gross. I think it’s a great idea to photograph garbage as you cleanup. Take pictures of the amount of cigarette butts you find, or the weirdest item you find. Then share, share, share! Share across all your social media platforms! People by nature are very visual creatures, so actually showing instead of telling is a fantastic way to raise awareness to the issue of beach litter. Maybe, just maybe, someone will think twice before leaving behind a styrofoam cup, or not disposing of fishing line properly because of an image or experience you share.

Beach cleanups are a ton of fun, and even though summer is almost over, many groups organize beach cleanups year round. Whenever you get the opportunity, I strongly urge you to spend a morning or afternoon doing a beach cleanup!

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Check out some of these South Florida organizations to see when they are doing their next beach cleanup:

Surfrider Foundation Chapters worldwide

Sea Angels South Florida, monthly cleanups

Stoked on Salt South Florida

The Beach Review Action Committee South Florida

Also check out local meet-ups on Meetup.com.

Be sure to mark your calendar for Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup on September 19th, 2015!

If you run an organization that facilitates beach cleanups, feel free to comment with a link to your website!

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Marine Debris: In the Mangroves

More than just water moves in and out with the tides. If you walk along the coast at low tide, whether you are near the ocean or the intracoastal, the water will leave behind a troubling portrait of its health, as if asking for help or even mercy.

Moving with the currents is the trash that ends up in the waters, whether it originated directly from the beaches, from marine vessels, or from even further inland.

Below you will see a small snapshot of what is occurring in the mangrove ecosystem.

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This photo was taken along the mangrove boardwalk at Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex in Boca Raton. Each red rectangle shows a piece of trash that was deposited in the mangroves. In one small frame, we were able to capture nine pieces of trash.

You see a chunk of styrofoam in the top left corner, and aluminum cans and plastic bottles strewn about. These are some of the absolute worst things that can be thrown into the ocean because of their low decomposition rates. (It takes a small styrofoam cup about 50 years to decompose; 200 years for an aluminum can to decompose; 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose.)

More than likely these were deposited here indirectly, meaning that someone probably wasn’t sitting in the mangroves drinking beer and bottled water. These were pushed into the mangroves and left behind by the high tide.

The mangroves are home to many creatures, from birds to foxes, from crabs to spiders. They are safe houses for fish, crustaceans, and shellfish to reproduce. Snapper, snook, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, oyster, shrimp, and many other valuable marine species find their food amongst the mangroves. Pelicans and other coastal birds use the branches of the mangroves as their rookeries.

What would you do if your neighbor put his or her trash on your lawn, instead of in the proper receptacle? Even if it was just a couple of cans, or a plastic bottle? You wouldn’t stand for it, so why should we stand for this treatment of a valuable ecosystem?

Mangroves are important, fragile ecosystems that help protect coastal regions from erosion.  Mangrove roots naturally filter the water from pollutants, but in no way can they self-regulate the trash that accumulates there.

Poisoning the mangroves with human waste will lead to the imminent destruction of many already endangered species who call the mangroves home, such as the following:

  • American Crocodile
  • Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Atlantic Salt Marsh Snake
  • Barbados Yellow Warbler
  • Brown Pelican
  • Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  • Eastern Indigo Snake
  • Key Deer
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Southern Bald Eagle
  • West Indian Manatee

So… what can you do to help protect the mangroves?

While you will see the occasional soda can, most cans you will see are beer cans. This happens because many people are drinking on the beach or on their boats, and when they become drunk, they begin to give little regard to the environment (amongst other things). Before you start drinking, have a trash disposal plan. Make sure you bring bio-degradable trash bags with you to the beach or put some on your boat. If you have a cooler, put the empties in there so that when you return home, you can properly sort and dispose your recyclables.

To minimize plastic bottles in the mangroves, use a reusable water bottle that you will take home with you instead of throwing it into the abyss.

Abandon the out of sight, out of mind mentality. Nothing in this world just disappears, not your problems, and definitely not your trash.

Friends don’t let friends become enemies of the environment. If you see your friend engaging in behavior that is hazardous to the environment, say, “Hey, friend, why don’t you throw that can over here to me, and I’ll throw it away for you?” If you don’t, then you are guilty by association.

Think of the critters. Think of the baby chicks waiting for their parent to return to the nest with food, their cute little chirps, their eyes not yet open. Mama bird returns home, and as she goes to regurgitate the food into the hungry beaks of her chicklets, she chokes, she screams, she squawks. She falls over dead because she choked on a piece of trash, leaving her innocent little babies hungry and vulnerable to the mangrove predators.

 

Our lives will come and go, and our trash and litter will remain. Leave more to your legacy than plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Let’s all work to protect the mangroves and its inhabitants.