Sara Bayles always loved the beach, although she grew up in non-beach areas on the East Coast. She moved to California six years ago, married a man who taught marine biology at SMC, and moved with him to Santa Monica. That gave her many chances to go to the beach, but it also made her aware of the immense amount of trash that has been drifting into the ocean.
“I used to teach on Saturdays –I’m a ceramics artist—and I could never make the organized beach cleanups that Surfrider would usually host,” says Bayles.
“One day I just drove down Ocean Park Boulevard, took a bag, and decided to do my own beach cleanup.”
Bayles gives all due respect to Surfrider and Heal the Bay for their organized cleanups, but she felt that her personal concern for what she was seeing on the beach led her to take personal action. She went out, not every day but whenever she could, taking a bag and collecting and photo-documenting what she found. That led to the creation of her blog, The Daily Ocean thedailyocean.blogspot.com.
On her blog, Bayles records the actions she takes on each day of her collection of refuse. She notes the accumulated tally (480 pounds in 120 days) and the daily tally (Day 120-May 10-trash collected for 20 minutes, 3.3 pounds).
For each collecting stint, Bayles goes to the same place (the foot of Ocean Park Boulevard, near Lifeguard Tower 26) and occasionally walks down the beach to Tower 28, picking up trash in 20 minute-shifts.
She does not work consecutive days (“It’s not a race,”) due to her schedule and the weather. On average she works three to four days a week and is looking to tallying 365 days of collection.
Bayles credits her husband for giving her the idea to chronicle her trash pickup-he pointed out that people might want to know what she was finding. “[The blog] gives me an excellent platform to talk about the fact that we are trashing our oceans.”
Much of what Bayles has found is plastic—bottles, bags, and other items “made to last forever but used for a minute.”
“Beach cleanups are not necessarily the answer,” she notes in regard to the “gyres” of plastic waste that exist in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. “It has to stop on the land.
“By taking pictures of what I find, people will go: ’Wait I used that-and I threw that away. Next time, when I go to the beach, I‘m going to try to pick up my water bottle.’ ”
Now Bayles has been nominated for an award as an “Ocean Hero,” by ocean conservation society Oceana.
The nomination came about when a friend of Bayles learned of the Oceana search for nominees, the criteria being “an everyday person who is helping to save the ocean.” With the help of votes from friends and environmental activists, Bayles is now one of six adult finalists for the award, which will be given on June 8, Oceans Day in California. Voting closes May 27.
To vote, go to www.oceana.org, take the pledge and vote for one of six adult and five youth finalists.