By Elena Blanco, Summer Times Staff Writer

On Friday July 26th, I along with 37 Exeter Summer students visited Hampton Beach to participate in a Beach Cleanup to help our environment. The activity was organized by five students of the Hamm Leadership Program, who donated all the waste and recyclable items collected that day to the Blue Ocean Society, a local non-profit organization whose mission is to protect marine life in the Gulf of Maine. With the help of volunteers like us, they have removed over 170,000 pounds of litter from local beaches since 2001.

We left campus around 5:30 PM and arrived at Hampton Beach after a 15 minute bus ride. The beach was full of residents who were cooling down on a hot Friday evening. The leaders of the project then provided us with gloves, a blue trash bag for recyclable items and a clear trash bag for waste. Later, we were separated into various groups of 7 and started the hunt for environmentally harmful waste. 

Once we hit the sand, we noticed it was full of leftover pyrotechnics from patriotic festivities, plastic wrappers, cans, plastic straws and receipts—but what was the most alarming to us was the unbelievably shocking amount of cigarette butts we found. Some of them, recently used. Many people at the beach made fun of us every time someone yelled “I found six cigarettes here” or “I found another cancer stick!” It felt like they considered us a joke and unimportant. A lady even called us annoying to our faces—and later tried to take it back. While some hated on what we were voluntarily doing for their community’s well-being, others thanked us and helped us along the way by collecting their own trash. That was definitely a learning experience; we noticed that not everyone will agree with what you are doing—and that’s ok! You have to keep moving forward and ignore those who are criticizing your actions.  

We recorded our findings by filling out data cards and keeping tally of all the items we found. All of this data was sent to the Blue Ocean Society to contribute in their long-term study on marine pollution. 

In two hours we got to clean the beach and help our environment while also singing, dancing, making new friends and enjoying the beautiful sunset. As we were leaving, I noticed the sand was cleaner and thought what would happen if everyone spent two hours once or twice a month cleaning up their local beaches. Would marine pollution reduce significantly? 

I had an amazing experience in my first beach cleanup. I look forward to getting more involved in clean ups back home and encouraging my friends to do so as  well. I encourage you all to find local organizations back home like the Blue Ocean Society with which you can get involved in the fight against pollution. 

Tip: If you aren’t near beaches or any other body of water, you can purchase 4ocean bracelets. Each bracelet purchased funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. In just two years, 4ocean has removed 5,466,993 pounds of trash from the coastlines.