How to Enjoy the Beach Without Trashing It

Far Rockaway Beach, NY. Photo by Robin Madel.

There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a trip to the beach. It’s even good for your brain (you probably knew that already). But our love affair with that magic place where surf meets land has not always been good for the ocean itself, and most of us would do well to treat it a little more carefully. Here, step-by-step, our tips for your lightest impact trip to the beach.


8:00 am Rise and shine! Sunny, warm – it must be a beach day!

Think I’ll save some water and skip the morning shower. Luckily it hasn’t rained in a few days, or I probably wouldn’t go swimming.

8:20 am Breakfast! Good thing I went to the farmers’ market yesterday. I’ve got plenty of organic fruits and veggies for lunch – I’ll whip them into a travel-friendly salad to take with me – but first I’ll have some eggs and bacon from a local farmer for breakfast. Yummy!

9:00 am Breakfast dishes in the dishwasher? Check. Pre-ride sunblock that’s not harmful to fish and other sea life applied? Check. Everything packed? Lunch? Refillable water bottle? Bathing suit and beach towel? Umbrella and hat? Bike helmet? Trash bag? Book? Camera? Kite? Check, check, check, check, check!

9:05 am How am I ever going to get all of this on my bike? Good thing I have a big backpack. I have to have the umbrella because I’ll need a break from the sun. Vitamin D is great but there’s a limit! Maybe I can do without the kite.

9:10 am A quick check of the bike map for the safest route and here we go! The traffic can’t miss me with my umbrella strapped to my pack.

10:00 am Finally! There’s the beach. Mmmmm…smell that sea air, and the breeze feels great. Glad there’s a bike rack here where I can lock up my bike. Now, where’s the bathhouse? I need to get into my swimsuit, fast!

10:15 am Alright. Towel is spread out. Umbrella is up. Where’s my book? Oh wait, I should take some pics and send one to my mom first. She’ll be jealous she’s not here.

11:00 am Is the heat on? Cuz it’s hot out here. Time for a dip. I love being in the water. Who doesn’t love the beach? Hey, today is World Oceans Day. Cool! Aw man, is that a beer can floating in the water? Let me grab that.

12:00 am Better reapply some sunblock. And yes, time for some of that good grub I brought. The seagulls are closing in but they’re going to have to fight me for this lunch. Back off, buddies!

2:00 pm Think I’ll take a walk. Good thing I brought a trash bag. I can bag up the stuff I pulled out of the water and pick up more along the walk. Gah! A balloon on a string, so bad for wildlife. And here’s a foam cooler with (no!!!) a bite taken out of it! I wonder what sea creature bit into that thinking it was food? Probably a turtle.

Hey, I think that guy on a surfboard is even dragging in some trash. Trash on the beach and in the water is lame! I wonder how much of that stuff comes from boats? I always pack mine out but there’s always something left behind by others. I think I could clean up the beach every day and the trash would keep floating in. Humans sure can be rough on our oceans.

Ooooh, that’s a nice looking shell. It has a nice spiral. I heard that we’re supposed to leave shells at the beach because the sea creatures need the calcium or something.

2:30 pm Wow, that’s a big bag of trash! I can’t believe how much I collected from just a 30-minute walk. I’m going back in the water.

3:00 pm Back to my towel and umbrella for more relaxation. A little more sunscreen and then I’ve got one more chapter until I’m finished with this book.

4:00 pm I don’t want to leave. I wanna live at the beach! But I guess I should get going. I’ve got to pack up.

4:10 pm There’s more trash! I’ll grab it. Lots of little pieces of food packaging. It’s frustrating that it blows all over the place from people’s food when they don’t pay attention. Pack it out people! I’ll seal up this bag and toss it in the trash can. Oh good, there’s a drinking fountain. I can refill my water bottle and hit the road.

Thanks ocean. See you and the beach next time.

5:00 pm Home at last. A quick shower is going to feel great. I think I’ve got a little bit of a tan going. Yes! That was an awesome beach day.