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Ridges to Reefs

November 2022

Coastal Cleanup Day with Intern Ella Shen

On the Ground with Local Youth

Ella Shen, Intern

It's the shameful truth that I – someone who would consider myself to be a nature and wildlife enthusiast – had never heard of Coastal Cleanup Day until last month. It wasn’t the lack of passion towards the environment, nor was it the lack of knowledge - it was a lack of action. 

I know plenty about plastic pollution and the impact it makes on our earth and oceans, but beach cleanups seemed like a distant concept that a high schooler couldn't account for. The distance (both literally and figuratively) of participating in a cleanup event didn’t feel like something I could actively help the environment with. 

My young self decided to participate in a creek cleanup in Concord, close to where I live. I didn’t know what to expect because truthfully, I had never participated in a volunteer event like this before. 

Coincidentally, I was writing an article for my high school newspaper about this annual event across California, and I had the chance to talk with a couple of groups that were volunteering in this creek cleanup. It was hard to describe in words the compassion and care coming from the people around me. Most wouldn't willingly give up a Saturday morning to pick up trash. Yet there was something so pure and gratifying about doing something good for nature with your community around you. 

There were families, children, students, and elders–seeing everyone unite under a common care for the environment was the most heartwarming experience to have. I felt accomplished and proud, knowing that the trash I collected made a difference.

I went home proud of volunteers, the staff, and myself. There’s this newfound respect I have towards volunteers who really care and make an actual impact on fixing our earth. 

I walked away seeing the world through different lenses. While we drove back home, I glanced out the window on the highway, realizing the sheer amount of trash humanity has surrounded ourselves with. I had approached this event with uncertainty, yet I walked away with inspiration and high hopes for a better future for our world.

Ella Shen, CCRCD intern
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