Does a shoreline cleanup in a different country speak a different language? We had the unique opportunity to connect with cleanup teams in Spain and Sweden to find out.
We begin in Spain where Dolf DeJong, Vancouver Aquarium general manager and former vice president of conservation and education at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, has been on assignment to support expanded conservation and education efforts at Oceanografic Aquarium in Valencia. During his stay Dolf led a local cleanup that reported hundreds of foam take-out containers, cigarette butts, beverage cans and similiar trash finds from the Valencia coastline.
While in Valencia, Dolf had the fortune of meeting with Malin Tellberg, a teacher from Sweden visiting Oceanografic to learn more about conservation and education programs. After talking with Dolf about the positive impacts initiatives such as shoreline cleanups can have on the ocean, Tellberg went back to Sweden motivated to get involved and organize a cleanup with her students. We asked her how things went.
Why did you organize a shoreline cleanup?
I am teaching our next generation and am convinced that when you start to learn as a child, you will develop an understanding about the environment and how it all is connected. You have to swim in the ocean or walk barefoot on the beach to be amazed and learn to love our oceans. We need to teach the younger generations to love this magical planet we call home.
Why do you think shoreline cleanups are important?
I organized a cleanup for 90 students between the ages of 5-10 years old. We all have a choice to make and most of us want to be the type of person who does some good. That’s why it’s important to act. Together we can make a huge difference and as a child it is important to understand that the choices we make will influence the choices other people make.
Did you find any unusual items that shocked you?
All those cigarette butts!
How did your students feel after your shoreline cleanup?
They couldn’t stop talking about it and started planning future cleanups. Three students arranged their own cleanups at nearby playgrounds and the students have already expressed that they are eager to continue this next year. They also want us to better sort recyclables. That’s what I love the most about the shoreline cleanup experience, the love of learning.
At cleanups across Canada, volunteers report similar experiences, finding shorelines littered with single-use items such as cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles and more. The world is a large place but the language of shoreline cleanups is universal. Together we can work to keep shorelines clean, safe and fun for all to enjoy.
Aquablog by Susan Debreceni, outreach specialist, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited and supported by Ricoh Canada and YVR, is a joint conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF-Canada. Find out more at www.shorelinecleanup.ca