Spotlight on Beach Voluntourism: 3 Organizations that Help You Give Back
Whether it’s the postcard-worthy white sands and turquoise seas of an exotic and far-flung island, or the more familiar surf and sands of a favorite beach closer to home, one thing is certain: the world’s beaches are natural treasures. Beyond their restorative and relaxing powers, beaches across the globe also sustain a vast and biologically diverse range of life. Fish, coral, marine mammals, birds, turtles, seagrass and more—all draw life from the delicate ecosystems where we just so happen to love spreading out a beach towel and relaxing, too.
To protect the fragile balance and ensure our favorite beaches continue to thrive for generations to come, we can all do our part to uphold that time-honored axiom of the outdoors: to “leave no trace” whenever we visit. But some nature and conservancy organizations are committed to doing even more—and you can help. Here, we shine a spotlight on three excellent nonprofits and groups that are working to build a better future for the world’s beaches. Plus, we’ll share how you can get involved, too.
When a 1999 study found that less than 0.5% of all environmental nonprofit spending in the U.S. was going toward ocean conservation, Oceana was born. Today, this Washington D.C.-based organization focuses on conserving the world’s oceans—and to date, it has protected over 4.5 million square miles of the sea, along with the marine life within it. Oceana also has a strong policy arm that works to enact science-based protections, and the group has won more than 225 legal victories that are helping to make our oceans free from plastic pollution, and keep them safe for future generations of both humans and marine life.
How You Can Help
Oceana accepts donations and also offers an online store filled with apparel, accessories and other ocean-themed items, with a portion of proceeds going toward its mission. There’s even an Adoption Center that allows you to support a specific threatened or endangered animal, from sharks and otters to seals and turtles. To get involved in person, stay tuned to their Events page for workshops and benefits throughout the year, along with tips on how you can help with cleanup efforts at your local beach.
Another excellent organization that truly “walks the walk” is the Surfrider Foundation, which is dedicated to conserving the world’s oceans and beaches, all through an extensive and empowered activist network. This grassroots group thinks globally—with a focus on beaches throughout North and South America, Europe and Japan—but they act locally, with chapters focused on coastal conservation in specific beach communities that are most in need. And while no two beaches need exactly the same approach to cleanup, they all share commonalities. These are Surfrider’s core focus areas: reducing plastic pollution, ensuring beach access, preserving coastlines, ensuring clean water, and generally defending the world’s oceans.
How You Can Help
Surfrider accepts donations to support its work, but as a chapter-based organization, it also offers a wide range of opportunities to get involved locally—in person. From fundraising in your local community, to participating in beach cleanups at nearby beaches, you can volunteer throughout the year. The Surfrider Foundation also manages a robust activist program that drafts conservation petitions, and you can lend your voice to your favorite causes here.
It’s estimated that over 8 million tons of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year. That number alone likely feels overwhelming to see. But the driving force behind Take 3 is the idea that simple actions really can help to solve complex problems. It was formed in 2009 when its three founders—marine ecologist, Roberta Dixon-Valk, youth educator, Amanda Marchal and environmentalist, Tim Silverwood—devised a surprisingly simple approach that anyone, anywhere, can do: just take three pieces of trash with you whenever you leave the beach. It’s that easy to do your part to clean up the world’s beaches every time you go.
How You Can Help
Take 3 accepts donations, and also runs an online shop that sells branded apparel, accessories, and cleanup “kits” that include everything you need for a dedicated beach cleanup day on your own. For a more structured volunteer experience, you can sign up to join a specific cleanup day (but note that the organization is based in Australia, so many of the sponsored volunteer events take place there). You can also support the organization and spread the word by using its hashtag, #Take3fortheSea, whenever you share pics from your next beach day. And of course, true to the core mission, always take three pieces of trash away with you whenever you visit the beach.
Sun Safety for Beach Voluntourism
Whatever the specific beach conservation organization you support, don’t forget to practice sun safety whenever you join a beach cleanup. The days of volunteering can be long, and the personal rewards are immense, but remember to wear sunscreen (and reapply frequently throughout the day), as well as a favorite sun hat to keep you cool, plus sunglasses to protect your eyes. With the right attire and an SPF product on any exposed skin, you’ll be ready to clean up your favorite beach throughout the year, protecting and preserving it for many years still to come.