Earth Day Russian River Clean Up

More than 50 people gathered in Jenner in perfect spring sunshine to clean up the Russian River.

Our group split up on several missions. Some went upstream to build a fence and to maintain trails; some paddled the lower estuary picking up litter along the shores. I paddled to the mouth of the river to pick litter up from North Jenner’s Ocean Beach. This beach gets regular visits from litter-getters. For that reason, it is relatively free of obvious trash like beer bottles, plastic water bottles, tennis balls, propane canisters, and the like.

But as Cea Higgins of Surfrider Foundation pointed out in her introductory talk, little pieces of plastic are equally important to pick up.

Cea 4:16:16

Cea Higgins of Surfrider

Inedible/indigestable plastic pieces eaten by birds and fish can accumulate in digestive systems and kill them. Remember, birds and fish don’t have fingers to extract non-food things out of their mouths. (How many times have you plucked a bit of plastic wrapper that accidentally got into your mouth? How many more times if you had no fingers to unwrap your food in the first place?)

seabird with plastic

Photo Credit:


It’s important to know that about 60% of all seabirds studied by IFL Science have plastic in their gut. According to a report published in the National Academy of Sciences, plastic ingested by sea life is most critical in the seas south of Australia where plastics and pelagic birds intermingle.

It is definitely satisfying to pull big and heavy things out of the river, as with yesterday’s girl’s ride-on motorized Jeep. But it equally important to comb beaches for small bits of plastic that might otherwise be swallowed by an albatross, gull, tern, fish or other wild creature of the ocean environment.

Plastic lure

Plastic fishing lure with small red plastic bead that looks a lot like a salmon egg. Credit card for scale.

Little bits of styrofoam are easy to find just about everywhere along the beach. In no time your collection pail will collect more than a dozen bits of food-mimicking plastic bits to go with the occasional tennis ball and plastic spice jar.

Inside of Bucket

My bucket a few minutes into its 3rd filling


The California State Parks Foundation together with several corporate sponsors organized this event with the help of local organizations like Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.

There were lots of great people and it was a whole lot of fun.

If you’ve never taken part in an activity like this, consider adding it to your to-do list.

3 thoughts on “Earth Day Russian River Clean Up

  1. I think it is absolutely wonderful that there are people prepared to roll up their sleeves and go into bat for the environment. It’s easy to sit around and moan about the state of the world, it’s quite another to go and do something about it yourself – and I think that is the key: our precious and fragile environment is the responsibility of us all – so congratulations and well done to you all ! Absolutely fantastic!!

    …. and the point about the small bits of plastic and styrofoam is a very good one and one I had not really thought about (birds don’t swallow large plastic buckets, just bucket loads of small stuff.

  2. Thanks, Alden. It is therapeutic to do something to fix the predicament we’re in. For me, it’s essential because I can feel overwhelmed at times by all the bad news about the environment.

  3. Sister Teresa used to say that if she looked at a whole village of needy people she got overwhelmed but if she focused on just one person at a time and their needs, her work became manageable and doable.
    I think this concept is a good one especially if its combined with a bit of a Buddhist outlook that implies that if you want to change the world, change yourself first. We can all help the environment in small ways such as those that you are involved in. I am trying to look after 17 newly planted Pohutakawa trees for my Conservationist friend who has shifted to another part of the North Island. Its a small thing I am doing, but its better than nothing and everything helps – even her in what is supposed to be “Clean Green NZ” we have huge problems and everyone needs to change their behaviour – especially in regard to throwing stuff into the sea – plastic supermarket bags have a hell of a lot to answer for. (Whatever happened to an old fashioned shopping bag for gods sake? ).

    I rest my case or I will start ranting! LOL LOL

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