Cleaning up the beach to serve the community

From left, Abby Mason, Karlee Neumann , Grace Schroeder, and Maddie Kwasnik collect trash from the beach. Photo provided

By Maddie Kwasnik
When my three friends and I were assigned a new project in our 10th grade Honors History class, we weren’t very thrilled. Another huge project we would have to indulge the next three months of our lives on, or so we presumed.
“An ASL project,” our teacher explained to us – Academic Service Learning. We would have to come up with a driving question related to a global issue, then do intensive research. Once that was out of the way, we then had to design our own volunteer project, where we actually went out and did something that relates to our problem.
Our driving question we decided upon, was how personal plastic pollution affects the marine life in Queensland, Australia.
After a good month of getting all the research in the form of a documented timeline and a website, we decided it was time to construct our project. With the thought that 97% of the Great Barrier Reef was gone beyond repair, and that plastic consumption has gone up to the giant number of 8.3 billion metric tons since 1950, we had to really think of a meaningful project to create.
My friends and I decided it would be fun to pick up trash along the shoreline of Greens Lake, along with the wetlands and beach at Baycourt Park. So, on Memorial Day instead of hanging out on my boat and listening to music, we were doing something so much better – saving the Earth! As each hour went by, we bonded while picking up bottle after bottle, straw after straw, until we had almost three trash bags full by the time our three hours of volunteering was up.
Not only did we collect a huge amount of trash, we also collected a lot of things to say about our experience on that day.
We realized one piece of waste you might decide to just not put in the trash, doesn’t just disappear as soon as it disappears from your mind. It says for weeks, months, and in some cases, up to 500 years if someone doesn’t pick it up for you. Just on one lake in a small town in Michigan, we picked up three full trash bags of plastic, glass, cigarettes, and so many more objects that wouldn’t take more than five seconds out of your day to throw away. That’s the small price to pay, for the preservation of our entire planet.
As a social media society, we see everything. We see and know all, even if we don’t want to. From articles on politics to dogs, we’ve scrolled through multiple articles on each and every subject. Combined in just four of us, we’ve seen more than 50 articles by chance on how plastic straws are a huge cause of death within the marine life in our Oceans.
It came as a huge shock to us when one of the most collected items from our day, were plastic straws. It’s one thing to write about it and show how horrible something is, but it’s even more upsetting when you see it right in front of your eyes, and you feel like nobody is really, really seeing it but you. We felt like people should know how much the Earth actually needs our help.
Today, the World is starting to make changes for the better. New forms of energy and plastic substitutes are being discussed, and many countries are now starting to have environmentally conscious bills and laws, like in Australia, where our project started out.
We really believe that if we (you too) just make small difference everyday in our lives, even if just in our community, the impact would be monumental.

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