We've been working really hard this year, and we've highlighted 3 reasons why we think you might want to add VolunteerCleanup.Org to your donation list. Whether you donate or not, we hope you will 'Click More' to read our list of recent accomplishments - we are SUPER proud of our work).
1) We are successfully building a grassroots community and movement around Marine Debris (ocean plastic)
We know that we cannot clean our way out of this ocean plastic mess, but cleanups can provide an eye-opening experience that will put people on a path to being part of the solution. Leading cleanups is a lot of work and we can’t be everywhere, so our ‘secret sauce’ is building a network of cleanup host partners and a large database of volunteers who can connect online via our event management platform: www.volunteercleanup.org
Basically, we are building the tools to help individuals and groups lead successful cleanups in their communities, and engage with the volunteers who are looking to get involved. When their cleanups are successful, they host more cleanups. When they host more cleanups, there are more opportunities for individuals to get involved - this is the power of a grassroots movement.
- To date, our website has helped bring 30,000 unique volunteers to over 3,000 cleanups that have removed a staggering 600,000 pounds from Miami shorelines and neighborhoods.
- There are 6-8 cleanups every single week in Miami-Dade County led by a network of over 80 individual and community groups posting and managing their events through our website. Every day is beach cleanup day!
- Post-cleanup surveys from volunteers show that cleanups have a powerful impact on awareness, education and behavior. 66% had an increase in knowledge about marine debris from attending a cleanup, 73% committed to using fewer single-use plastics, 96% want to do more to protect the environment, and 81% committed to attending another cleanup. One of our favorite quotes is: “People can do some extraordinary things if they work together for a cause.”
Download the 2022 ICC Impact Survey Results
2) Our advocacy is making REAL progress
At our heart, we are clean-water advocates, and we are constantly looking for opportunities to really move the needle. Here are our top 3 massive wins so far this year:
1) 100% Plastic Free Soda and Water Contract for City of Miami Beach: We single-handedly tanked a 10-year renewal of an exclusive beverage contract between Coca-Cola and the City of Miami Beach that would have put an additional 25 million single-use plastic bottles (400,000 pounds) onto our beaches while leaving taxpayers to fund the cleanup and waste removal. Our lobbying of elected officials and direct engagement with PepsiCo led to a new contract that was 100% aluminum for all soda and water products, brought millions of dollars of revenue to the City coffers, AND placed the burden of capturing the infinitely recyclable (and valuable) aluminum onto the manufacturer. Channel 10 did a 3-minute segment on how this advocacy and contract is setting a new direction in PepsiCo’s business model.
CLICK TO WATCH THE PEPSI NEWS STORY
2) Passing new Stormwater Legislation at the County: A tremendous amount of plastic is entering Biscayne Bay through stormwater systems, and the County and 32 municipalities are cleaning the systems on average once every 5 years (it’s unbelievable). As a result of multiple Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summits (the brainchild of our great friend Luiz Rodrigues, organized by the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition where Dave sits on the steering committee, and sponsored by VolunteerCleanup.Org), the County created a Biscayne Bay Watershed Management Advisory Board where Dave was offered a seat (we have always said that in order to make real change, you need a seat at the table). One of his first policy proposals was to recommend improvements in stormwater pollution control design and increased maintenance, and the Chair of the committee - Commissioner Daniella Cohen Higgins - asked if he would work with County attorneys to draft legislation. The resulting legislation was sponsored by Commissioner Cohen Higgins, co-sponsored by Commissioners Sally A. Heyman,
Commissioner Jean Monestime and Senator Javier D. Souto. and passed the full commission unanimously.!. This legislation directed the County staff to:
- DESIGN: Develop new standards for the design and construction of municipal stormwater systems, with a focus on controls for pollutants such as nutrients from organic material, plastic, trash, chemicals, and sewer and septic runoff
- MAINTENANCE: Develop changes to the operations and maintenance of municipal stormwater systems to effectuate a significant reduction in the amount of pollutants such as nutrients from organic material, plastics, trash, chemicals, and sewer and septic runoff with a particular focus on plastics or floatables that are larger than five millimeters in size
- TRACK: Expand the County’s asset management system to include stormwater infrastructure so we know where our infrastructure is and log/develop more proactive maintenance
- EDUCATE: Conduct educational campaigns related to Biscayne Bay, and to provide reports with respect to the foregoing; urging municipalities to conduct educational campaigns related to Biscayne Bay
- OVERSIGHT: Urge the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to strengthen requirements and increase auditing and enforcement of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for municipal stormwater systems
READ THE STORMWATER LEGISLATION
3) Cigarette Ban in City of Miami Beach parks and beaches: We have spent a decade trying to eliminate cigarette butt litter in very creative and engaging ways. We’ve produced and handed out 10,000+ reusable pocket ashtrays (made of recycled material of course), partnered with Surfrider and the City of Miami Beach to deploy 100 pole-mounted ashtrays now capturing millions of cig butts, and even walked up and down the beach with conversation-starting ‘Good Butts on the Beach / Bad Butts on the Beach’ signs. All this time, we’ve continued to lobby elected officials to take on more responsibility, and we were thrilled that City of Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez called and told us he wanted to PROHIBIT SMOKING ON BEACHES AND PARKS. We lobbied the other commissioners and spoke on behalf of the proposal, and it passed 5-1. The ban goes into effect on January 1, 2023. We realize enforcement will be difficult, but we are hoping the conversation gets smokers to realize that cigarette butts are made of non-biodegradable plastic that must be disposed of properly and that the planet (especially our beach) is not just a big ashtray.
READ THE SMOKING BAN LEGISLATION
3) We are focusing on the next generation of CHANGEMAKERS
We spend much of our time identifying, mentoring, and investing in community leaders to help them succeed. When they succeed, they repeat. When they repeat, new people always have an opportunity to get engaged. It’s not about us – it is about ALL OF US. This is how we have 80 other individuals throughout the year leading cleanups.!.
Dara recently developed an afterschool ‘Changemaker Mentorship Program’ to teach middle school students critical soft skills through the process of organizing and leading a beach cleanup. We are running our first cohort in partnership with the City of Miami Beach Parks Department (funded by a grant from the City of Miami Beach, #mbrisingabove) where 15 students are participating in the 4-week program where they will practice leadership, project management, marketing, story-telling, and public speaking skills culminating in a cleanup on December 11th. We want to teach them the tools they need to ‘pick a cause, any cause, and do something about it’.
3 WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR WORK