Each year we mark World Oceans Day on our calendar knowing that it's one of our biggest opportunities to reach millions of people around the world at once with our message of a cleaner ocean. This year, New York City, the United Nations, the Peace Boat, and Rockaway Beach played host to the 4ocean team for the weekend and as it turns out, World Oceans Day 2019 was an adventure beyond our wildest expectations.
The 4ocean Community Outreach Team struck out early in the week with all the gear we needed make the weekend a huge success. The trucks, the tents, the cans, the bags, and the enthusiasm of a great event to come all hit the road for the trip up the coast.
The fun started on Friday when we attended the 2019 United Nations World Oceans Celebratory Event held across the street from the main United Nations Building in Manhattan. The theme of the event was "Gender in Ocean Conservation" and featured some of the most prominent female activists, conservationists, and scientists from around the world including the likes of Ms. Lea d'Auriol, Executive Director/Oceanic Global and Dr. Sylvia Earle, President/Mission Blue and National Geographic Explorer in Residence. It was a day of education and inspiration as these amazing women spoke passionately about the need to protect the ocean.
Friday evening we had the opportunity to attend a reception on the now famous Peace Boat, which is basically a converted cruise ship that has been traveling the world since 1983 carrying out advocacy and education voyages to spur action and awareness as well as inspire positive social change. It was great to see so many like-minded people talking about the biggest issues facing the ocean today.
On Saturday morning, it was back to the Peace Boat to set up our booth so we could help educate participants about the problem of ocean plastic pollution and meet with the members of the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors, who are some of the most diligent and persistent individuals we have ever come across. What they have been able to accomplish at such an early age is astounding.
For example, Nathalia Lawen, 18-years old, from Seychelles has lobbied the government for numerous causes along with her twin sister. Their most recent effort focused on the issue of marine plastic and debris. She's also working on initiatives for public education about the impacts of plastic pollution and why switching away from single-use plastic is so important.
Nathaniel Soon from Singapore, now 22-years old and a storyteller from a young age, is now the founder and creative director of the documentary collective Our Seas, Our Legacy, which works with corporate businesses, schools, and non-governmental organizations to use documentary filmmaking to shed light on Singapore's marine plastic pollution crisis.
On Sunday it was time for the big show –– the 4ocean Rockaway Beach Cleanup!
We were joined by 1,979 of our most loyal followers on a beautiful early summer day on the coast, a new record for participants in one of our 4ocean Community Cleanups.
With the help of all these individuals and some really amazing "citizen scientists" who tallied up all the trash, we ended up collecting:
- 189 plastic utensils
- 400 plastic cups
- 626 pieces of styrofoam
- 665 plastic bottle caps
- 1,040 plastic straws
- 1,345 plastic bottles
- 3,119 plastic bags
- 4,695 cigarette butts
You can see that cigarette butts continue to be the most common single-use item collected during our cleanups.
That's just the trash that we counted; there was a whole tarp full of material that we simply couldn't separate so it was disposed of properly in the local landfill.
While we were able to collect a large amount of plastic and trash from the beach at Rockaway, at the end of the day it's not about all the trash we collect but how many people we can influence to change their ways so that this garbage never ends up in the ocean in the first place. How many individuals will start to refuse the straws, take reusable bags to the grocery store, and dispose of their cigarette butts properly? That's the real question and judging by the enthusiasm of the crowd, we made a big impact on a lot of people!
Here are a bunch of images showing just what a group of like-minded individuals can accomplish when they come together for a singular purpose.
We even had some very prominent dignitaries from the United Nations join to get their hands sandy and experience for themselves just how bad the plastic ocean pollution crisis is. Francois Bailet, Senior Legal Officer and Chief Organizer of UN World Oceans Day, as well as Alejandro Sousa, Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, had a chance to sit with our own Joe Land to pull microplastics from the sand.
And to wrap up the whole World Oceans Day weekend, everyone came together on stage to give one last shout out to all the people who participated in the cleanup and who are fighting for a healthier ocean around the world.
Months of planning and execution all came together to make one heck of a weekend! The amount of effort it takes to pull something like this off cannot be underestimated and the members of the 4ocean team who made it all possible should be extremely proud of themselves. And a huge shout out to all the partners who also pitched in to make this weekend in the Big Apple a MASSIVE success!!!
If any of you were at the cleanup on Sunday, or you have some sort of connection to this event, leave a comment in the section below and let us know about your experience.
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