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Spots on The Rock

Keeping our beaches beautiful

Tips for organizing a beach cleanup

For the many people who call Guam home – whether or not they actually live here – everyone has something to be proud of in this island paradise.

From our unique Pacific island cultures and endless fiesta tables, to our "only on Guam" sunsets and bounty of breathtaking, beautiful beaches – there's a lot to be proud of!

Most Guam residents are usually beaming to share their island home with those who aren't so fortunate to live here.

With pride filled to the brim, one would think that Guam residents care to ensure that their bounty and blessings are not only showcased, but also maintained and preserved.

However, a day spent exploring our beaches would render a different image of pride for not only residents, but also visitors who flock to Guam for a small slice of paradise.

Here on Guam, the beach is practically an outside extension of your house. It's one happy place we can count on to soak up the sun, wade in the water, sift through the sand and barbecue the weekend away, worry-free.

A lot of our happiest memories are made at the beach, whether it's celebrating a birthday or simply spending a day out with friends – it's all good vibes and good times.

However, whenever you spot trash or debris along our beloved beaches, you're probably not as happy as you would be if the pristine, natural environment around you were kept just that – pristine and natural.

Littered beaches are naturally upsetting because not only does the sight of trash greatly take away from the inherent beauty of the beach, but it also makes one wonder what kind of cold criminals could possibly want to detract from the pride we have for our island.

Not to mention, trash buildup over time also hurts the fragile ecosystems that truly call the beach home. I'm talking about seabirds and marine mammals that mistake harmful materials for food, or even fish and dolphins that get tangled in stray nets or floating plastic.

These tossed pieces of debris floating around Guam's waters pose a threat to wildlife that can lead to their unnecessary suffering or death.

So, if you haven't realized the consequences of leaving your leftover Hot Cheetos bag or soda cans at the beach, then we have a problem.

If you say you have pride in our island and its beaches, then maybe it's time to actively do something about it instead of simply airing your feelings on social media.

Maybe it's time to spearhead a beach cleanup!

Gather fellow beach lovers who share your potent Guam pride for a day devoted to giving back to your island.

Here's what you need to organize a beach cleanup:

Set a date and time

International beach cleanup organizers usually plan their cleanups near the start or end of a season, but that doesn't really apply to Guam because we have varying weather patterns and see throngs of beachgoers year-round. Not to mention, litterbugs don't exactly schedule their littering activities.

Discuss with your assembled task force members a good date for all to participate. Saturday or Sunday mornings are usually convenient and available for most. Better yet, more local families will be out on the weekend and inspired by your goodwill. 

Additionally, check local tide charts in advance of the cleanup. Low tide is the best time to schedule a beach cleanup, since that's when trash along the shoreline is most exposed.

Inform officials, get approval

While picking up trash – versus littering – is only a good thing for the government, put your best foot forward by informing municipal officials of your plans, which are likely to take place on government property or in public places.

Determine the right contacts for the beach you plan to cover – whether it's a public or private beach – and be sure to outline your plan and get permission.

If you're not completely sure who owns or oversees a certain beach property, get in touch with the village mayor's office to get more information, advice and permission. Mayor's offices can also help in coordinating disposal of the trash and debris, and might even supply your group with a trailer.

Build a crusade, spread the word

Before mobilizing with your group, reach out to other friends, family members, nonprofit organizations and environmental groups that might be interested in lending a hand.

Despite the sometimes-heaping mess of trash left along our beaches at any given time, there is an abundance of goodwill residents who partake in beach cleanups fairly often, whether on their own or with a group.

Reach out to your network and connect with as many people as you can! A beach cleanup is most successful when executed through a team effort.

Furthermore, reach out to local news organizations and post information on public bulletins, Facebook groups and other avenues to get the word out. You don't have to draft any fancy press release or create elaborate posters. Just list your five Ws (who, what, where, when, why) and you're good to go!

Gather supplies, seek community

Whether you, alone, or a handful of task force members are planning to supply the bulk of cleanup supplies, gather your inventory days in advance.

If you plan to publicize the event, bring extra supplies in case your supporters come empty-handed.

Here's a checklist of materials you should have on hand before the cleanup: garbage bags, gloves, sifters, rakes, shovels, sunscreen, a first-aid kit (disinfectants, antibiotic cream, bandages, etc.), and lots of water and snacks.

If someone in the task force drives a truck or Guam bomb, and is willing to dispose of the trash themselves, then kudos to them! If not, then it doesn't hurt to ask a village mayor if they're willing to pick up the collected trash bags afterward.

If you do plan a rather large-scale cleanup, it also doesn't hurt to ask your local hardware or grocery stores if they are willing to donate any supplies toward your goodwill efforts. Mentioning the possible publicity of the event might be a good selling point.

Everyone on Guam – our entire community – has a stake in the maintenance and preservation of our beaches. Why not lend a hand?

Plan logistics, look ahead

You've decided on a date, time and place, you have an armada of beach lovers armed with hopefully more than enough cleaning materials. That's it, right? Wrong.

Take time to think about other potential logistical hurdles that could make or break your beach cleanup. I'm talking about parking, safety and strategy.

Most Guam beaches have decent parking spaces, but make sure the beach you choose to clean has ample parking space for any amount of task force members that may come. Let participants know where they can park before the day of the event.

Volunteers should also know if there are any areas of the beach to avoid. Any sections near hazardous surf, dangerous rocks or by fragile habitats (animals or plants), should be noted and announced.

Have a plan for cleaning the beach. Even if there are a lot of people involved, it's not very efficient to have volunteers wandering aimlessly for trash. Try to divide groups into sections of the beach, or have groups of volunteers start at one end and make their way to the other.

Make it fun, set the tone

Picking up trash – even if at the beach – isn't exactly how most people would particularly like to spend their weekend (or any day, for that matter).

Reward your task force and volunteers with a good time! Plan for someone to bring a good speaker or sound system to make the constant bending over a little more enjoyable.

You might even want to make it a contest, say, collecting the most trash or finding the most unusual piece of trash for a prize.

Share success, inspire movements

Once you've completed your cleanup, pat yourself on the back – really! Publicly organized beach cleanups and even small, personal cleanups don't happen as often as they should.

Use social media to brag about your task force's accomplishments. Proudly post photos of the bags of trash you collected – no matter how many – and share group photos of participants in order to reach out to more networks of people.

Invite local news organizations to cover your beach cleanup beforehand (it's good news we all could use). Write letters and send photos to media outlets after the event to further share your goodwill with the entire community.

Boast beaches with pride

It's no wonder Guam residents are proud of their island. For all that this tiny Pacific island has to offer, there's an abundance of blessings within reach to feel good about, and one of them is definitely the beach.

Have pride and show off our beaches to your friends and family off island and around the world! We're lucky to live in paradise.

However, before you upload anything about your barbecue at Matapang, your swim in Ipan or your snorkel session at Gab Gab, make sure you've had a hand in preserving that special beach moment for everyone to have and enjoy, trash-free.

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