Estuaries Week offers opportunity for thousands to make a difference
By Arielle Ostry
When I was a senior in high school, my dance company was required to complete a community service project. We were all strapped for time, stressed about classes, extracurriculars, and the upcoming venture to university. Like most 18-year-olds would, we collectively opted to procrastinate. When the deadline to pick a project rolled around, the only option left was to clean up trash in our local park.
Other groups performed at nursing homes or set up elaborate fundraisers. We walked around the playground and tennis courts for an afternoon filling a single garbage bag with discarded coffee cups and plastic wrappers.
We joked about our project at the time – it felt so meaningless. But after talking to some organizers involved in this year’s National Estuaries Week, I’ve come away with a whole new perspective about how small, seemingly simple actions can have far-reaching, positive effects.
Melanie Grillone, an organizer and environmental specialist with Tampa Bay Watch, is looking forward to their DIY Coastal Cleanup event during this year’s Estuaries Week.
According to Melanie, even small deeds can have large trickle-down effects. Tiny microplastics and debris left on the side of the road can make its way into ground water or through rain drainage systems, moving into our estuaries and contributing to devastating ocean pollution.
“Get out and do whatever you can,” Melanie said. “Even if it means filling up a grocery bag that has little weight to it.”
Although COVID-19 presents new challenges in finding safe ways to take action, efforts like Melanie’s provide viable options for everyone to do their part. With online talks and socially distant activities, you can improve your community and environment from your local bay to your very own backyard.
While these events are open to everyone, it can be hard to participate in a DIY cleanup without the social element. Seeing dozens of your friends and community members show up to the same beach for a massive cleanup is certainly not the same as its DIY equivalent.
To visualize results, Tampa Bay Watch is encouraging their participants to log the trash they find with the Clean Swell app so they can track the overall success of the many cleanups.
Although we can’t celebrate together like in year’s past, another way to share your actions is through your own social media. Sharing the good you are doing with your network while celebrating National Estuaries Week is a great way to start a dialogue about our estuaries and their importance in your community. Be sure to share your celebration on social media using #EstuariesWeek.
In addition to the DIY cleanup mentioned above, you can also Explore New York City’s coastal wildlife with Hudson River Park’s virtual SUBMERGE festival held this year through Facebook Live, participate in an estuary scavenger hunt hosted by Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program, or just get outside and appreciate your closest body of water.
There are plenty of events happening across the country this week. Check out our handy map to find an Estuaries Week event near you. With socially distant virtual and outdoor events like these, your little acts can have a huge impact!
Arielle Ostry is the research & communications intern for Restore America’s Estuaries. She is a senior at The George Washington University in Washington, DC studying mass communications and journalism.