Last Saturday, our family packed a cooler, plenty of beach towels, and several plastic bags, and headed back to Sea Glass Beach. Despite the hour-long drive, the aptly named beach is one of my favorite places to spend the day. I’ve been told that the best time to find sea glass is early morning post-storm–and the tip paid off. We have a bag of mostly light blue and green hued glass sitting in our laundry room.
This was our third visit to the beach to find its sand-worn treasures. The sun was bright, the sea was rough, and the wind refreshing. Like our previous visits, there were plenty of Americans strolling the beach searching for unique and personal reminders of Okinawa. And there were a handful of local nationals enjoying the waves.
After Russell set up our tent, we spent the day exploring our surroundings both in and out of the water. [S] helped us find shells, stones, and sea glass, picking up whatever caught her fancy. As we walked the beach, one couldn’t help but notice the plastic bottles littering the beach. Like our previous trip, I grabbed another bag and began picking up plastic bottles and styrofoam bits dotting the shoreline. By the time we left, the bag was filled. For the most part, the bottles collected to be taken home for recycling were old. They were filled with water and some had barnacles on them. They had traveled the waters and landed here, in Okinawa.
While trying not to judge others, as the day wore on and more bottles were collected, I became annoyed. I was not the only person seeing the garbage on the beach, but I was the only person picking it up. Why was that? I watched as men, women, and children walked past empty bottles searching for sea glass without giving the outward appearance of acknowledging the litter.
I began wondering why it was that everyone wanted to take the beach’s gems and enjoy the surrounding clear cooling waters, but no one could take the effort to give back to nature. This, despite knowing that the world’s waters are being suffocated by plastic waste, adversely impacting food sources, communities, and commerce alike. As a Girl Scout Brownie, I learned early on to leave a place better than it was found. I wondered what our beaches would look like if everyone took that mantra to heart. While my efforts did little to stem the worldwide plastic problem we face, I take comfort in knowing that my actions made a small difference to one beach.