No Impact Week, Day 7 – Saturday: Giving Back
Pay it forward. Feel the benefits of service.Posted Jan 12, 2011
This is the seventh in a series of eight blog articles chronicling my experience participating in the 2011 No Impact Week, a global challenge to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible over eight days, initiated by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Project.
For Saturday the goal was to find a way to give back to your community and/or environment. I had spent a fair bit of time online trying to find some volunteering opportunities in my area for Saturday, but was a little disappointed by the lack of information online. Craigslist had the most information, but almost everything was for international work—there were very few volunteering options locally.
Thinking about what I was most passionate about, I decided that a beach cleanup would be a good idea. I grew up exploring beaches, and marveling at the incredible ecosystems they contained. From the mucky clam beds to the vibrant tide pools filled with anemones, starfish, and crabs, I have never lost my childhood love of coastal beaches. The one thing that always ruins walking on a beach is finding a half-empty container of motor oil, a broken beer bottle, or a jumble of disintegrating Styrofoam. It doesn’t take an oil spill to kill wildlife on a beach, or pollute a marine environment – the amount of toxic trash that litters the average beach is shocking.
So on a brisk, sunny morning, I made my way down to the beach with my brother to begin our trash-treasure hunt. Before we had even set foot on the beach we had already picked up two food wrappers and a Tim Horton’s cup. It was amazing that in a country that prides itself on sustainability and environmentalism there were still countless individuals that had no problem with throwing their trash on the ground.
Slipping over boulders and clambering over driftwood, we systematically removed every piece of garbage we could find as we slowly made our way up the beach. The high-tide line was a gold mine for bits of Styrofoam and plastic bags. Before long we had worked up a sweat, and were lugging a heavy bag of trash. It was a good workout!
He paused a minute, straightened up, looked me right in the eyes and said with utmost sincerity: “Well thank you for cleaning the beach.”
At one point a middle-aged couple walking down the beach stopped to ask what we were doing. When we replied they looked surprised, and the man asked: “Are you doing this alone?” I replied that we were. He paused a minute, straightened up, looked me right in the eyes and said with utmost sincerity: “Well thank you for cleaning the beach.” I blushed and mumbled something in response, before continuing with my work. I was quite surprised—I couldn’t remember the last time I had been thanked so sincerely for something.
After about 45 minutes to an hour our bag was filled to the brim, and we had to turn back. It was a pretty great feeling walking back down the beach, knowing that for the time being there was zero litter along that particular stretch. It will be interesting to see what it looks like next week – hopefully we can make it around the point before our bags are full…
“A year after doing the No Impact Experiment the first time, I can see how it changed my life. I was reminded how important community is, and since then I have become much more active in my city and group of friends. I am happier because of it and I find myself compelled to do it again. I can’t recommend a better way to kick off the New Year.”
- Aran is a partner at Eartheasy.com.