8 mins read | Creating Change

Everyday Activist: The Beach Cleaners

You may not know this about us but we are proudly based in Brighton, a community driven and liberal living city on the southern coast of the UK. Anyone who has lived here would agree that it’s a unique place to call home, with its accepting values and politically progressive outlook. Perhaps we can take for granted that this city always feels safe and clean. But behind the scenes there are some communities doing incredible work to protect our environment and this week we wanted to shine a light on their everyday activism.

Enter The Beach Cleaners. Run by The Deans Beach and Environment Volunteers and The Final Straw Solent, this monthly beach clean on the first Sunday of every month is an entirely volunteer based event to encourage other to care for our oceans. As a brand that values the good people do to make a change, we wanted to sponsor this month’s Beach Clean to reward those who come out to volunteer to keep our beaches clean, educate others and encourage a community of people who simply want a better future for the planet and care.

Our resident team member for the month, Julian, gave us the run down on what a Beach Clean is, and what makes it such a feel-good event.

Can you walk me through the process of a Beach Clean?

Honestly, it’s pretty straight forward. Everybody gets a litter-grabber and just starts picking up any rubbish they can find which is then sorted through and recycled. There are extra bins for sharp and dangerous objects so as to not harm anybody. I admit this doesn’t sound especially exciting, but it’s really more about the process and the people you meet along the way where things get good.

What did Pala do to contribute towards the event?

This month we wanted to support the Beach Clean further than just taking part so we provided hot drinks and snacks for all who participated (necessary after a few hours on a windy beachfront!) and also gave away our cases made from recycled plastic by communities in Upper East Ghana for the community here to take home with them if they were interested or in need of one! To be able to participate and promote the event by sharing the community’s good work here is also something we wanted to action.

Who was there? Can you tell us anything about their stories?

The spirit of the event was made up of the people that came along. There was one man who hadn’t planned on going to the beach clean. He happened to see people cleaning the beach and instantly came over to join us. That immediacy to take action is something I admired. We got to talk to him a little more and it turns out he is a scuba diver, and cleans the seabed and coastlines of any rubbish he finds in the water. He’s worked previously with an organisation called Ghost Fishing whose foundation has been collaborating worldwide with various local groups of technical divers and salvage companies to remove lost fishing gear for the last decade. This just goes to show that you meet incredible, inspiring individuals at events like these that bring people together.

You grew up in Salzburg, Austria. How does the attitude towards the environment compare?

The attitude towards single use plastic in Austria is definitely different, not worse, but different than in the UK. It feels like Austrians sort rubbish more actively than people from the UK – there are no mixed recycling bins, but one bin for every different kind of rubbish. This automatically puts us in a position where we are forced to think more about where we put our waste and what happens to it. However, the general mindset towards recycling and the environment is way more educated and proactive in the UK. I have never seen an event like a beach clean in Austria; we may not have beaches but the problems with rubbish are the same around our beautiful lakes.

I would love to see this open and friendly approach towards saving the environment in Austria. Back home a lot of people care about the planet, but they can be less tolerant to people making small changes which can actually scare people away from being greener. It is important to educate others about what is going on and why it affects each and every single one of us, but making people feel bad for not knowing or for doing too little doesn’t help – this whole ‘every little helps’ mindset just hasn’t quite arrived yet.

The state does a wonderful job when it comes to protecting the environment, making Austria score as the 8th greenest country on earth. A fact I’m really proud of! Call it an Austrian mentality, but we sometimes just let stuff happen without actually caring about it. Taking steps towards a cleaner planet is just something we do, but many of us don’t actually engage that much about with this process which I can apply to myself too. My stay here in Brighton has really helped me to develop are more active and conscious attitude towards climate change and pollution. That’s something I’ll take home with me.

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’

Why do you feel it is important to educate others about protecting our oceans?

It’s very important because simply put, it affects us all. Everybody should have awareness of the impact we are having on our environment, but sadly this is not the case. How would you feel if someone polluted two thirds of your yard with rubbish that will stay there for 200 years? Nobody would want that, then why are we doing it to our oceans? It is time for all of humanity to stop thinking about themselves and feel part of a greater union. Just because there are no melting icecaps or polluted bodies of water in your home country doesn’t mean it won’t affect you sooner than you think. Education should be a top priority and taught in school from a young age, with an encouraging approach to help us learn about the devastating effects we are having on our planet.

How did it feel to be amongst a community of people doing good?

It felt great to be part of a group that doesn’t just talk about changing something, but actually goes out there and does it. Everybody was friendly and inviting and I instantly felt welcome. Picking up rubbish usually isn’t fun but the team involved managed to create an atmosphere where it was motivating and rewarding to do so. It was amazing to see so many people, from all demographics, come together to do something impactful. It doesn’t matter how long you stay or how much litter you pick up, everybody is happy to help as much as they can and the everyone is grateful for every bit the others do. This sense of community is truly something in inspiring and I urge everyone to give it a shot if they can make the time for it. It’s an experience that everybody should try at least once!

What else do you feel needs to be done to help?

Cutting down C02 emissions as much as possible. It’s something everybody can do and it doesn’t take a lot to make a great impact. Maybe try carpooling to work, or eating less meat. Taking the train instead of catching a flight. There are thousands of things we all can do to minimise our carbon footprint. Of course, i’´s easier to do nothing but if we let the situation worsen even more there won’t be an environment to do nothing for in a couple of years. It is on every one of us to go out there and make a difference!

What will you take away from the experience?

My mindset toward litter has changed a lot, I was disgusted to see what people leave behind on such a beautiful piece of land. The most disappointing thing wasn’t the trash but the ignorance of the people leaving it there. I always pick up after myself, but after this experience I think I will go back to pick up every bit of trash I can find, no matter how small it is.

Keen to get involved? Find out more about Beach Cleans in your area here, https://www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/beach-cleaning-events-to-join-in-the-uk/. Or start your own! &

Follow along with our local Beach Clean at @deans_beach @FinalStrawSOL