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Nothing says Summer like a trip to the beach, especially as we gear up to early July festivities such as Canada Day and Independence Day! However, historically, Fourth of July celebrants have left more than their footprints behind in the sand as they celebrate Independence (and, I’d presume we are much the same here in Canada). July 1-7 encourages us to start the summer right, enjoying the beach and leaving it the way we found it—litter-free.
Pack right for your visit
Reusing those plastic grocery bags may seem like a good idea—and it’s one of the most sensible ways to transport a wet swimsuit and sandy towel and flip-flops home from the beach. However, given their tendency to blow away never to be retrieved, it may be best to swap your trusty plastic bag for another durable solution. Alternately, zip your plastic bags away in a hidden pocket of your bag, only to be extracted indoors!
A day at the beach would, of course, not be complete without snacks. Be mindful of where your litter goes when you are finished snacking. If you have allergies, it is always safest to eat pre-packaged snacks or those prepared at home—in all cases, discarding of wrappers at home to ensure they don’t set out to sea, or designating a pocket on your bag for garbage that won’t fly away can help keep beaches clean. Both plastic bags and styrofoam take from 500 years to forever to biodegrade —to keep the earth clean and avoid harming wildlife, it’s best to avoid these, especially as they’re light materials that are prone to getting out of your control, even if you’re not intending to litter!
Safety on the beach
Litter can of course also pose safety hazards at the beach. When you arrive, scan the area for garbage. Bring appropriate gear like gloves and bags to collect garbage—paper or other earth-friendly material, if you can!—and help clean up before you start your day—you’ll feel good, and the Earth will thank you (and hopefully, encourage some fellow beachgoers to do the same!).
Remember that garbage on the beach can carry bacteria—a discarded soda can or metal fruit-cup lid may rust or become sharp causing injury or infection like tetanus if it pierces the skin during play. As well, while wood may seem innocent, slivers or splinters embedding in the skin may be more than a nuisance: Recently, climbing out of my kayak onto the dock at the cabin, I got a small sliver of wood in my finger, which I couldn’t extract myself. I read online (while trying unsuccessfully to figure out how to work it out myself!) that wood was most likely to cause an infection.  While it seemed ridiculous, I visited a doctor two days later, where she had to cut my finger to get the tiny wood sliver out!
Scanning the area before you start having fun can prevent a great day from turning into a lousy one that includes a doctor or hospital visit for stitches or a tetanus shot! As well, plastic bags and wrappers and other items may pose either a choking or suffocation hazard for small children—we all like to think children won’t play in dirty garbage, but kids are kids!
Clean beaches also mean fewer wildlife or bugs attracted to the area, keeping everyone safer—especially those with insect sting allergies. If you have an insect sting allergy, it is important to wear medical ID jewelry for bee or wasp sting allergy, and carry emergency medications—especially in the summertime. And remember, all of our medical ID jewelry is waterproof and ready for fun.
It’s not hard to keep our beaches clean and safe, but on occasion, it takes some teamwork. If you’re heading out to the beach, consider the role you can take in not just leaving nothing behind, but also taking what someone else didn’t with you.
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