1,269 pieces.

That’s how much trash 30 people picked up from our (relatively clean) beach in a couple of hours. Several days ago, sailing vessel American Promise from the Rozalia Project recently made a stopover in our little town to share their mission to clean and protect our oceans.

It started with a beach cleanup. The kids and I packed up our water bottles, a bucket and work gloves and walked down to the waterfront. We spent less than an hour picking up trash. Then we brought our bucket over to the sorting station.

Sorting debris.

Each piece of trash is sorted into categories, then counted. The data is shared with NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

Categorizing and counting.

If something can be recycled, it is set aside for that purpose. Items that can’t be recycled are disposed of in the trash.

Disposing of used fishing gear..

After the data was collected, the team debriefed. We learned that out of the 1269 pieces of trash, over 700 of it was cigarette butts! Later that evening, we went to a talk and slideshow about the Rozalia Project, their scientific research and data collection. The next morning, we toured the research vessel, American Promise.

As a family, we’ve been talking about plastic ever since we’ve seen the sad state of the beaches in Bali. Being boat kids, our littles love the ocean, and love the beach.

Chasing ducks along a trash-filled beach in Lovina.

They’ve become increasingly alarmed by what we humans are doing to the oceans.

Biologists for a day at a baby sea turtle hatchery in Todos Santos, Baja

When we came back from our last road trip, our family participated in a local Plastics Challenge. We collected all our plastic trash for a week and brought it in to the event. To be honest, I was way too embarrassed about the amount of plastic our family produced to take a picture. But I was also glad to have people bring ideas, books and resources to the table. At the event, they also screened the film Blue.

After the event, our kids asked for a family meeting to discuss what we’ve learned. We brainstormed ways to reduce our use of plastic and have begun to take some small steps. Sometimes change seems slow, and the future looks bleak. But as Rachael Miller, co-founder of the Rozalia Project, said in her talk, “A lot of littles make a big.”

But the question still remains for us, what will it take to turn the tide?

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