Want to make a change? Join a cleanup.

Want to make a change? Join a cleanup.

by Lily Sylvester, Save The Bay Intern

Volunteer collects trash at Collier Point.
A Save The Bay volunteer picks up a littered Collier Point Park during a cleanup in 2019.

If you’ve followed the news, scrolled through social media or read Tides lately, you’re surely aware of the enormous issue that is marine pollution. The disturbing photographs of birds with stomachs full of plastic are hard to miss. Viral campaigns encouraging consumers to ditch single-use plastics are inescapable. When considering the huge scale of the problem and the saddening statistics, I often find myself feeling discouraged. Moreover, like with the issue of climate change, I am overwhelmed when thinking about creating meaningful change on an individual level. However, I recently found that one of the most gratifying ways to fight shoreline and ocean pollution is by getting my hands (gloved, of course) dirty. 

In June, I attended my first beach cleanup of the summer, hosted by Save The Bay in Providence. After finishing up my workday as an intern at the Bay Center, I headed a couple minutes down the road to Collier Point Park, where the cleanup was taking place. About a dozen volunteers showed up to pick up the park, which desperately needed our help. 

A volunteer displays plastic bottles and other debris during a Save The Bay cleanup.
Discarded food and drink containers were some of the most common items picked up at Collier Point Park.

My fellow volunteers and I found countless plastic bottles, foam coffee cups, food containers and other items nestled in the thick grasses and wedged between the rocks leading down to the Providence River. We even found a car headlight that had been mysteriously left on the lawn. The amount of litter we encountered reminded me of scenes of polluted shorelines routinely seen in the media. I was shocked to see that litter remains such a massive problem in this day and age, despite heightened environmental consciousness and anti-littering laws. 

Luckily, at all of its shoreline cleanups, Save The Bay provides provides volunteers with plenty of trash grabbers, gloves and trash bags. At Collier Point, we picked up 10 large bags brimming with improperly discarded garbage. Thanks to our efforts, the waters of Narragansett Bay and the creatures that call the Bay home were spared from more than 100 pounds of garbage. Removing such a significant amount of trash from the park was satisfying, and doing so alongside volunteers who share my passion for our protecting our environment was really enjoyable. I felt refreshed and uplifted by the people surrounding me, who cared enough to take time out of their busy weeks to cleanup our shoreline.

Save The Bay Volunteer Manager July Lewis holds a headlight found at Collier Point Park.
Save The Bay Volunteer Manager July Lewis holds a headlight found at Collier Point Park.

If you’re finding yourself intimidated by the scope of the marine pollution problem, I highly recommend checking out a Save The Bay cleanup. Organizers from Save The Bay provide all of the necessary materials, including letters for community service hours and free stickers! All you have to do is show up and pick up.

Save The Bay plans cleanups on several dates across a variety of locations every month, making it easy to find one that works with your schedule.  Although the issue of marine pollution may be daunting, you alone can make an important difference in your community.

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.

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