When we beach recklessly, life in and out of the ocean suffers. Historically, July 5 has been known as the dirtiest beach day of the year, following Independence Day celebrations. Here at the Surfrider Foundation, this day has long been known as “The Morning After,” when volunteers remove incredible amounts of red and blue single-use plastic cups, food packaging waste, abandoned toys and clothing, fireworks and cigarette butts from beaches nationwide.

While the beach is a perfect place to celebrate the July 4 holiday, the “Morning After” exemplifies the disastrous consequences that our reliance on wasteful, single-use plastic products wreaks upon our coastal environment. Each year, the San Diego County Chapter + partners hosts the “Morning After Mess” cleanup series to help tackle this mess. Last year’s Morning After Mess saw a turnout of nearly 700 volunteers. Together, they removed over 1,523 lbs. of trash from four beaches in only three hours.

Ultimately, we aim to show citizens that by switching from single-use items to reusable ones, they can minimize the amount of litter that ends up on our streets, our waterways, our beaches, and ultimately our ocean.  As we plan our holiday festivities, we encourage you to consider the impact of your plans on coastal and marine life and make some arrangements to help mitigate those impacts. A few simple yet effective changes to make this year include:

  • Reduce your footprint by eliminating single-use plastic from your celebrations! Bring reusable cups, bottles, straws, bags and tableware when bringing refreshments to the beach, or enjoying a party in your own backyard!
  • Pack in, pack out. Choosing reusable items also helps prevent the risk of improperly recycling or disposing of single-use items on beaches where the waste management infrastructure may be limited. Avoid the single-use foam coolers and $5 chairs or umbrellas that are not built to last, as well. Alternatively investing in reusable items that are built to endure time and use reduces waste through longevity!
  • Choose a reef-friendly sunscreen for your beach day! Go for a mineral (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) based lotion sunscreen to reduce your impact on coral reefs, fish and other marine life. You can find our Guide to Reef-Friendly Sunscreens here.
  • Spread the word! Our national partner REEF is a co-founder of our Better Beach Alliance, and is supporting our efforts to keep our shores clean! Don’t forget to post one of these images to Facebook or Instagram and tag #RestoreYourShore to help raise awareness and amplify REEF’s support of Surfrider’s mission!

Together, we can turn the tide on the July 4 mess and celebrate our nation’s independence sustainably!

A disturbing image from last year’s cleanup, created by our friends at REEF

Please RSVP and share using the links below! These cleanups are free and open to the public. Please visit our Beach Cleanups page for more information on participating!