Boca Save Our Beaches Encourages Community Cleanups

by Nile Fortner

Photos: Boca Save Our Beaches

Armed with bags, gloves, litter pickers, hand sanitizer, and a strong sense of purpose, communities have gotten to work cleaning streets, yards, parks, and other green spaces during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The volunteers include young students, stay-at-home parents, and environmentalists all giving their time to clear the rubbish and raise awareness about keeping the communities clean. Volunteers picked up everything from cans and bottles, cigarette butts, to even takeout containers from restaurants.

Even though millions are in quarantine, people can still run, ride a bike, and enjoy the outdoors as long as they remain six feet away from other individuals. If these rules are taken into consideration, experts say spending time outdoors can be good for physical and mental well-being. This is why the non-profit organization, ‘Boca Save Our Beaches’, is convincing the community to come out, collaborate, and they’re bringing conservation and educational awareness.

“Regardless of where you are, you’re practicing social distancing,” said ‘Boca Save Our Beaches’ founder Jessica Gray-Patterson. “Now you can’t go out to restaurants and you can’t go to the movies. But social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get out and still spend time outdoors and now is the perfect opportunity.”

The organization is bringing people of all backgrounds and ages to work together during these difficult times. ‘Boca Save Our Beaches’ is well-known for its regular beach cleanups. However, due to the Coronavirus, beach cleanups are postponed until further notice. But ‘Boca Save Our Beaches’ still insist on helping the community and encouraging those to help the environment.

Regularly, Gray-Patterson uses El Rio Trail to ride her bike and play fetch with her dog. Since there has been a vast amount of people using the trail more often, she has seen more litter.

“I just started picking it up with my bucket and my grabber,” said Gray-Patterson. “I thought I could communicate to people and help advise what we could be doing during these times.”

Gray-Patterson mentioned that she has been finding the usual trash items such as straws and plastic. On the other hand, the littering of latex gloves has been unbearable.

Gloves, along with masks, are used to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. But discarded latex gloves are being tossed onto sidewalks, bushes, and grocery store parking lots, instead of being placed in proper waste bins.

“It’s really disheartening to see humans disregarding them this way,” said Gray-Patterson. “If no one picks that up, it lasts forever. Plastic lasts forever and can affect land and marine life when it eventually goes into the ocean.”

A trash grabber or litter picker is an option for gloves because gloves are harder to find right now due to high demand. Gray-Patterson also suggests that getting reusable gloves and washing them helps too.

Besides being an eyesore, litter can disrupt the ecosystem and make neighborhoods seem nasty and neglected. It can also attract different insects and rodents and can carry diseases. This can be harmful to animals and children, who might pick up dirty trash or even ingest it.

“Animals can mistake it for food,” said Gray-Patterson. “So not only are you doing an activity helping your neighborhood, but you’re helping the animals and natural ecosystem.”

Getting families and neighborhoods involved in a community cleanup also can lay the groundwork for future waste-reducing efforts. A cleanup can also bring a sense of togetherness and responsibility to keep the local areas safe and clean.

‘Boca Save Our Beaches’ is encouraging families to be a ‘COVID Trash Hero’ and bring positivity to the environment. They’re using the hashtag ‘#COVIDTrashHero’ and ‘Boca Save Our Beaches’ is inciting the social media hashtag in photos of families and kids helping to pick up littered items to spread awareness.

It might seem a bit overwhelming to tackle the trash problem in small groups or even alone. But even small efforts can lead to an improvement in the local environment.

“We can come together and think about how we can improve the environment overall and be a part of the global movement,” said Gray-Patterson. “With parents and kids at home, why not take a walk around lunchtime? Get some fresh air and educate on how to be a helping hand. Even if it’s small the act is never wasted and you can enjoy what we have here in the sunshine.”


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