The beginning of November in Colorado was lovely and so, one sunny Saturday, I paid money to look at trash. Beach trash. Or, at least, beach plastic. The Washed Ashore Exhibit is available for viewing at The Denver Zoo and I badly wanted to see it. If anyone lives in the area or the Exhibit is coming to a location near you, I encourage seeing it for two reasons.
Reason One: The Exhibit is fun and interesting considered as mere works of art. I don’t have the sort of mind that looks at discarded water bottles, chairs, tires, boots, flip-flops, shotgun shells, pop cans, random toys, and toilet seats and sees animal sculptures. How all of this trash is turned into sculptures complete with waves, sea plants, and reefs is beyond me and I had great fun seeing how all the different objects came together to create animals like sharks, penguins, and jellyfish.
Reason Two: I’ve lived in landlocked states most of my life, barring a University stint in Juneau Alaska, but have always loved the ocean. I had dreams of being a Marine Biologist and, while that didn’t work out, I’ve never stopped caring about the oceans and its creatures. The plastic soup swirling in ocean gyres, being eaten by the inhabitants of the oceans, and being dumped on the beaches horrifies me. The Exhibit exists because volunteers pick up marine debris from beaches and the objects are then recycled into art that’s both fun to look at but helps bring awareness to a massive problem.
According to Washedashore.org, over 60 sculptures have been created and 38,000 pounds of marine debris has been processed. 38,000 pounds of garbage. The number boggles the mind, especially when I realize that 38,000 pounds comprises a tiny part of the estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean from land EACH YEAR! (World Economic Forum, January 2016) Even if that number isn’t accurate, half that would be overwhelming and I’m so grateful to volunteers who partner with organizations like Washed Ashore to do something about it. Washed Ashore promises small actions make a difference and there are tips for reducing consumption of plastic at every sculpture.
These tips are so easy to incorporate into daily life. I don’t use single use plastic water bottles if I can help it. I have stainless steel water bottles with lids that screw tight for hiking and a glass water bottle I use daily while at work. A bonus to using a glass water bottle is that doing so gets me up out of my office chair as I have to walk half the length of the building to re-fill it. Good for the environment and my cardiac health. I’ve found there’s no need to purchase water while on road trips. No gas station has ever complained about my refilling my water bottle with ice and water from the soda machine and there’s always a basket of fruit where I can purchase a banana or an orange so I don’t feel like I’m taking advantage. If I have to purchase a bottle of water, I keep a bag in the car to put the plastic in until I can find a recycling center.
My family and I use fabric bags when grocery shopping. We also watch our shopping habits so we reduce the amount of packaging included with our purchases. I admit that can sometimes be an inconvenience when I don’t buy a product I need because of packaging-why do I need individual bags of vegetables inside another bag?-but I think the inconvenience is worth it.
The Exhibit is both fun and educational while managing to create beauty from objects that are anything but. I found it encouraging as well. I’m not alone in caring about what happens to our oceans and beaches and, together, we can make a difference.
To see the photos I took at the Exhibit, check out my Facebook page.