I have known about the problem of plastic pollution for a long time. Many years ago, my sister and her husband made me aware of the issue through their art. Judith and Richard Selby Lang collect plastic refuse from Kehoe Beach in Marin County, California and turn their finds into beautiful works that have been on view in museums and galleries around the world. A documentary film called One Plastic Beach was even made to tell their story.
I couldn’t help but be influenced by their passionate dedication to their life work as artists and environmentalists. They have inspired me to become a conscientious consumer and to be more careful about what I recycle—but I never considered actually picking up beach trash until recently.
When a friend who shares my passion for iPhoneography tagged me in a Tweet about Litterati, I was intrigued to learn more about the crowd-sourced Instagram movement founded by writer and entrepreneur Jeff Kirschner. Thanks to the many members of the Litterati community close to 27,000 pieces of litter have been photographed, uploaded, and properly discarded. I immediately joined in and started picking up litter during my regular walks at the beach.
Now, on almost every trip I make to Carlsbad Cliffs, I collect and discard (or recycle) a bag or two filled with litter that was swept out with the run-off, washed up with the waves, or left behind by lazy beach goers. I only post photos of a small fraction of what I collect.
When I snapped a shot of a clear balloon, I noticed the contrast between the smoothness of the clear plastic against the roughness of the rocky cliffs. The sky was blue with wisps of white clouds in the background, and the sun was at a good angle to capture the light. I took several shots before I was satisfied that I had something I could share on Instagram. I enjoyed the challenge of making something so out of place look visually pleasing.
I didn’t expect that photograph of a balloon to win any awards and was surprised to receive a message from Stop Plastic Pollution that my image had been entered in a contest they were hosting through Litterati in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRCD).
A few days later, I was thrilled when I was notified that my photo had actually won, and I couldn’t believe it when my prize package arrived in the mail. I received four eco-friendly Earthlust water bottles of different sizes and colors—each decorated with unique original art. (Spoiler alert—I plan to do some Christmas shopping on their site.)
I love my beautiful new water bottles, but picking up and discarding litter is its own reward. I recently read an article about Litterati in which with Jeff Kirschner was quoted as saying, “Individually, we can make a difference. Together, we can make an impact.”
I know I am making a difference. What will you do to help have an impact?