Wednesday, January 23, 2019

2 Years and over 2 million Pounds with 4Ocean


About a week ago, I saw a television commercial about 4Ocean for the first time. It blew my mind and here's why:

Non-profits virtually never take the time or funds to create video commercials. Only through the platforms of social media and e-mail have I really seen eco-minded organizations push their message. Incidentally, non-profits are always begging for funding or donations.

Our household regularly supports several worthy organizations including the Wounded Warrior Project, WWF, Sierra Club and our local NPR station (WLRN) to name a few. But because of our love for the great outdoors, national parks and community building entities, we have to pick and choose who we can support each year based on our budget.

So, to come out to 4Ocean's anniversary celebration and see well over 1,000 people participating in a massive cleanup was jaw-dropping. People of all ages scattered the beach in bright blue 4Ocean gear. We walked along the sand and shoreline and did not see a speck of trash from the event itself (another insane accomplishment).

Volunteers, participants and staff all wore smiles too - which is infectious, in a good way.

The sorting station was unique. I've attended several dozen cleanups over the years, but never have I seen the clear sorting of recyclables that takes place during a 4Ocean cleanup.

At the education "village" - which to be fair was only about a half dozen tents in total - a 4Ocean rep talked about how much 4Ocean recycles at their own facility. THIS fact alone sets these cleanups far apart from others I have attended.

I want to take a moment and give a shout out to the organizations who came to share the message and shine light on the big picture for participants or just guests who happen to visit the beach that day.

 I think Jace spent more time with Morgan at the Youth Environmental Alliance tent than anywhere else, save the shoreline.

He sorted through a pile of trash, looking for food fit for a sea turtle. He missed a dried up chunk of a jellyfish. This surprised him, because his marine bio ID abilities are not too shabby if I do say so myself. But this enthusiastic educator took the time to make the encounter as meaningful to him as possible. Very cool.

The next tent that really resonated was FAU's Elasmo Lab. Now, yes - I am an OWL. Yes, I feel the research they do is fascinating and important. But, with a last name like "Sharkey" there is no passing up the chance to check out shark related stuff.

This is a hammerhead skull!

Getting Jace to take the time and focus on shark identification must be credited to Andie (in the photo). While he aced the pop quiz, she kept him interested and the interaction was more than just hey, did you know sharks' lose thousands of teeth?

As an educator myself, I always appreciate when the material presented fits the level of the audience. So, kudos to you, Andie.

And of course, this entire event took place ON THE BEACH, which I didn't expect. I figured the organization would be focused on just getting people there, but realized the intent was so much more. 4Ocean actually forced people to set foot on the beach where it was difficult not to sign up for the clean up itself. You wanted to stand in line and get your gloves and bag. You wanted to search for trash or help sort. You WANTED a shirt or a bracelet - or both.

The business model 4Ocean runs is just that - a BUSINESS model. They are not, nor do they claim to be, a non-profit. The only donation jar at the event I saw was at one of the non-profit partners who brought educational materials to share with participants.

This makes supporting their work easier for many. For example, there was not cost to participate in the cleanup and the company was giving away bracelets when cleanup gear was returned.

Dad taking a moment to teach Jace how to identify weed lines from shore.

We don't need an excuse to explore the beach. We are already a family that doesn't leave trash behind and recycles and attends cleanups. Yet walking along a packed beach filled with people who care is truly inspirational.

One suggestion I can make regarding the 4Ocean product tent - there were no t-shirts in kid sizes. I saw many children there who were way too small for an adult shirt (mine included), and we would have stood in line to make a purchase or two had there been anything for him.

Something unexpected happened shortly before we left the event. The 4Ocean buggy got stuff in soft beach sand. Now, what you may not realize is that both of the organization's founders are in this photo. Both of them helped push the vehicle out after plotting a better path to avoid spraying sand everywhere or putting deep ruts on the beach. It may seem small, but for a fairly young company with fairly young founders, this is the type of thing I love to see.

I have reviewed the 4Ocean bracelets, and to a small extent, the company in the past. My shark bracelet lasted a full six months of torture - from slogging (which is exactly what it sounds like) and snorkeling to roller coaster-filled theme parks without ever taking a break. Since they don't set off metal detectors at check points for concerts, etc., it literally never came off - until the cord gave way while folding laundry and the glass beads hit the floor.

The beads went into the blue recycling bin and I went back to the website to find the January color was my favorite - purple. The Hawaiian monk seals will benefit from this purchase in addition to the pound pulled. I'm good with that.