Having grown up in rural Sonoma County, California, Ben often observed the high amounts of trash blowing in from surrounding areas. As a young child, he would often spend his summers backpacking at different camps, such as one in Pt. Reyes which had a lasting impact. During the camp whenever the kids were leaving a site they were asked to pick up at least one piece of trash in order to leave the area nicer then they had found it. Although a small act, the idea of picking up litter to create a better world would eventually blossom into a passion to help others and the environment.
Growing up, his passion for the outdoors was somewhat dormant. It was not until he reached college and graduate school that the interest in sustainability and a cleaner planet began to arise. Ben spent a few years in Los Angeles for law school which he soon discovered he did not have a passion for. Instead he cofounded a community arts organization and eventually moved to running a co-working space. During this time, he found himself focusing more on the increasing amounts of trash, such as plastic water bottles, that were accumulating in natural places such as parks.
Although having loved LA, Ben moved back to SF in August of 2016 to begin exploring and experimenting with different ways to help people and the earth, which is where the counting of litter and many other things began. The idea to tally the amounts of litter he collected started in February when he was doing an art project with a clicker that was left over so he thought he would count trash- it became somewhat of a competitive game between himself and his friends.
For instance, at Dolores Park Ben and his friends will go and see how fast they can pick up 100 pieces of litter. Ben uses the word Moop for trash which is a term that comes from the art festival Burning Man. Moop stand for matter out of place (man made poop). Sometimes in addition to counting the litter he will take pictures as well. Although he does keep a monthly count of the trash he picks up, he is still unsure of where he wants to take the idea as it is so new.
Over the summer he began getting into outdoors mentorship and education programs such as Big City Mountaineers. He mentored one of their youth trips where they take underserved urban youth on week long expeditions. He became very engaged but he is exploring where he would want to have his singular focus. Ben currently works at Patagonia which he loves because Patagonia takes a lot of responsibility around materials they use and the culture is great. He is also working on a neighborhood parks project where they have adopted public land adjacent to a public stair case and they are working on rehabilitating the area. Although extremely engaged, Ben hopes to find a singular focus in the near future, and put his passions into one place.
Thanks, Ben, for making the world a little bit better!
The sun is shining brightly overhead and only a few clouds are scattered across the sky. I walk along the white sandy beach, smiling as the cool water flows across my feet and gently recedes back, exposing more dark sand underneath. I hear the laughs of people playing in the ocean and the soft lap of the waves. Everything seems great; everything is great. Then I look down. I see a long line of tiny, brightly colored plastics in the sand right where the water disposed of them. I sigh and kneel down in the sand, sifting through layers of crushed sand and rock to pick out the tiny pieces of plastic that have mixed in with the sand. As I work, I think about where these pieces originated. Did they come from plastics that someone dumped in the water right here in Hawaii? More likely they came from Asia or Australia, thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, where the current has just now dropped them off on Oahu’s shore.
This is what I have been working on for the past six weeks here in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. I am interning for the second summer at a nonprofit called All One Ocean, an organization that works to educate people about the issue of marine debris and focuses on building beach clean up stations for the public to use. My internship consists of two parts; the first is to connect with members of local beach cleanup organizations to build a more extensive network of contacts for All One Ocean and the second is to collect trash from the island’s beaches and categorize and quantify the data.
I have met and talked with people who work for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, a nonprofit called Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Parks and Recreation Department of the County of Honolulu. It has been very rewarding to talk with people of various backgrounds and perspectives and I have gained great insights on how to combat the issue of marine debris.
I have traveled to beaches all over this island and have spent countless hours scouring the sand and water for anything man-made. This aspect of my internship has truly enlightened me to the omnipresence of trash on beaches and in the ocean. To date, I have picked up 2,728 pieces of trash from beaches scattered across Oahu and most of this has consisted of plastics and cigarette butts.
Sometimes I have found this job frustrating because I spend so much time picking up what other people have left behind and I often wonder why they left it behind in the first place. However, ultimately seeing the trash on the beaches and talking with people who work in the field of marine debris prevention and research has made me even more passionate about this issue and has inspired me to pursue a career in marine biology.
Happy Earth Day one and all!
In honor of our beautiful Earth and her Ocean, will you help us meet our $5000 fundraising goal to pay for our new permanent Beach Clean Up Station signage? See the pictures below of the “before and after”. I believe you will agree with the urgent need.
Donations of all sizes welcome! Click here to donate now.
We hope to see you at either of our Earth Day events tomorrow, Saturday, April 23rd. Join us at Slide Ranch for their Spring Fling event from 10am – 4pm, or, at Heron’s Head Park to celebrate the installation of our first San Francisco Beach Clean Up Station at 12pm.
Enjoy the day and the weekend,
Lauren Winters Weiner
and the All One Ocean Team
Our old signs, such as this year old one for Stinson Beach, do not last long under the Bay Area’s heavy doses of wind, rain and salt. Please help us replace them!