The pandemic has not been kind to our coastline.
As people escape the confines of home, coupled with a spike in take-out dining, we’ve left behind a mess of single-use plastics, face masks, beverage bottles and assortments of all the usual trash behind. Ironically, the pandemic and physical distancing protocols are also to blame for the record-low turnout this year — a 50 per cent drop — in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
But a group of socially-minded teens in the Ocean Wise Conservation Association’s YouthToSea program want the Lower Mainland’s help with a course correction. Keeping their eye on the pandemic’s broader community impacts, they’ve conceived an inclusive idea called Clean Coastal, Eat Local. It not only helps and promotes ocean health, but supports struggling restaurants who support sustainable food producers.
“All of us at YouthToSea wanted to come up with an idea to incorporate doing a good deed for something in return. Through Clean Coastal, Eat Local, we are supporting local businesses while encouraging individuals to get out and clean their local shoreline or waterway,” said Elizabeth Chung, an 18-year-old YouthToSea participant from Burnaby.
The goal is to see 120 shoreline cleanups in Metro Vancouver within the month of March. Those that collect at least 50 pieces of trash, or 10-pounds equivalent, will receive a $50 gift certificate from one of several locally-owned restaurants around the Lower Mainland.
Each cleanup must be hosted either solo or by households in order to meet physical distancing guidelines.
“We’ve received pretty much all positive reactions,” said Yonatan Roling, a Grade 10 student at Sir Charles Secondary School and YouthToSee member. “We’ve seen people trying to get out to do what they can to cleanup, but there’s been a spike in littering and there just isn’t enough awareness about programs that exist. This initiative really helps us get the message out to people and their families of what they can do under current circumstances.”
Participating restaurants include Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant, Tacofino, The NAAM, Fable Diner, Sammy J’s Grill and Bar, Olive and Anchor, Charlie Don’t Surf, Burgoo, Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria, Bowen Island Pub, Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant and Hive Café.
To be eligible, participants must conduct their cleanup in Metro Vancouver between March 1 and 31, and be registered on the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup website.
“With the incentive of gift cards from local restaurants and cafes, we are hoping to shine a light on small businesses that are struggling currently. Overall, I’m super excited to get this started and see how our communities can rise together – from sea to shore,” YouthToSea member Sophie Dublin said.
The gift cards were purchased by YouthToSea program, part of the Canada Service Corpse funded by Employment and Social Development Canada.