ENCINITAS — April is a month dedicated to Earth, thus eco-conscious groups and individuals use the opportunity to promote sustainable living.
This year, the Changing Tides Foundation joined the Leucadia 101 Mainstreet Association’s annual Earth Day cleanup April 22 at the Leucadia roadside park. The two focused on trash and litter pickup along the Coast Highway corridor to prevent those pollutants ending up in the ocean.
The foundation also engaged in its third annual Plastic Swear Jar Challenge, which encourages individuals to treat single-use plastic items like swears, said Becky Mendoza, co-founder and executive director of Changing Tides Foundation. For each use, money goes into the jar and after the weeklong challenge is over, used to buy reusable containers, straws, bags and other items.
“It’s just been really, really eye-opening for people,” Mendoza, 38, said of the challenge. “It’s more about paying attention than anything else and raising awareness to our own single-use plastic waste we create daily.”
Also part of the festivities was a trash, plastic cleanup around Leucadia and the beach. Volunteers with the foundation collected about 750 pounds of street and beach trash, while those with the association collected 100 pounds.
The swear jar challenge, meanwhile, had more than 1,000 people around the world participate. Those who registered with Changing Tides Foundation were entered into a drawing for prizes such as a GoPro camera, a set of Lotus Trolley Bags and a Patagonia wetsuit, to name a few.
Mendoza, who is an active sports attorney, has leveraged some of her contacts in surfing and snowboarding to get involved. In return, the foundation’s social media campaigns have reached wider audiences, thus influencing more people to take stock of their plastic consumption.
“What we’re seeing is people really, really opening their eyes to see how much plastic is around us,” she added. “When you throw money into the equation, it kind of relates with people differently.
As for Leucadia 101, Executive Director Annika Walden said the event started small, with about 10 to 20 people, but the partnership with the foundation, and some others, has seen participation grow.
She said events such as cleanups are needed and a great way to engage the community, as well as giving back.
Respecting the environment is one message and creating such an event in a “funky” area of Encinitas is a way to pay homage.
“The Mainstreet approach is about making it even better and including more of our downtown (Leucadia) businesses,” Walden said. “To create zero-waste events would be the ultimate.”
Plastic has become a hot-button issue for many residents throughout the state, especially regarding single-use items. California was the first state to ban single-use plastic bags in 2016 and starting this year, restaurants cannot serve plastic straws unless asked by customers.
But, also, the amount of research and staggering numbers globally of plastic waste has resonated with millions of people throughout the world.
“It is our civic duty to pick up after ourselves and it’s taking pride in your community,” Walden said.