This blog was written by Catarina Pereira. Catarina is a Virtual Partner Account Manager for the UK since she joined Cisco 5 years ago. She was also involved in the Lisbon Cisco Green Team since day one and is now co-leading the team. The Lisbon Green Team is an active network that has the mission of “Empower ALL Cisco workers to enable positive environmental and sustainable change.”
This week Portugal welcomed the United Nations Oceans Summit in Lisbon. The first week of July also happens to be Clean Beaches Week, which is known as the “Earth Day” for beaches.
We all have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But apart from this, have you ever thought about all other garbage patches scattered across the globe, which have a huge impact on marine life, and also on our ability to enjoy our surroundings?
Portugal’s coast is around 950km (590 miles) long, and I’m not even counting the islands (Madeira and Azores). The reason why this is important information is because the majority of our coastline is covered by beautiful beaches that everyone likes to enjoy on wonderful summer days.
However, and as you can probably imagine, our beaches can be inundated with not only trash that some people leave behind, but also the ocean shares some of the trash back with us. This is more serious in some areas of the country, and if it wasn’t for the numerous beach cleaning activities, I’m sure our beaches wouldn’t be as beautiful and inviting as they still are.
The Lisbon Cisco Green Team has been organizing beach cleaning activities as one of our staple events. We have numerous events and examples that we could share with you, but today I’m going to talk to you about one of my favorite past activities.
Let’s go back to April 2018. At the time, we decided to approach the municipality of a very touristic place 30 minutes north of Lisbon. I live there myself, and I was faced on a weekly basis with the disaster of walking my dogs through “my” beautiful beach, covered by trash that the ocean brought back to our shores. We wanted to do something impactful, and the municipality loved the idea and supported the Lisbon Cisco Green Team in this project of organizing a beach cleaning in the Foz do Lisandro Beach, part of Ericeira village.
On that day, the Lisbon Green Team and Mafra Municipality gathered more than 180 individuals aged 4 to 88. The group included Cisco volunteers, people from the Movimento é Vida! group (which is a group of people over 65 years of age) and a group of children from the local school that wanted to join us in taking care of our beach. We were also joined by locals and tourists who felt they could contribute.
In only 2 hours, we gathered as much trash as we could, which totaled 1500 kgs (over 3,300 lbs). Yes, 1500kgs in just 2 hours. And this is why this is still my favorite beach cleaning story. The diversity of people we had there, conscious that what they were doing was important and impactful. The ability to gather “grandparents” and “grandchildren” in the same activity, and the awareness we were able to generate in the entire group.
After this day, we looked at what was included in the 1500 kgs of trash, and let me tell you, fishery leftovers were the main thing. From old nets that were entangled into a huge messy pile of plastic rope, to floaters, plastic containers, and even pieces of boat. It was mind-blowing to understand how impactful fishery can be on the one resource that gives us what we aim to get by fishing,
We also found huge piles of old water bottles, yogurt packages, pieces of lighters, straws, old cans…you name it, we found it!
The municipality was very thankful that we put together all this, not only because Praia da Foz do Lisandro had a new face but also because the local community got involved. Awareness was probably the best outcome for the locals.
After more than four years after this beach cleaning activity, we still see trash on the sand and the rocks, but nothing like before, and do you know why? If you ever go to that beach outside the summer season, you will probably bump into someone carrying a box or trash bag and collecting pieces of debris. And this is also a significant outcome of this story.
If you read up until this point, I have something to ask you. Next time you see a piece of garbage, pick it up and deposit it where it belongs. One single action, from one single person, may seem as insignificant as a drop in the ocean. But collectively, if we all take action we can have a huge impact. And you will be more than just one drop in the ocean, you will be a force for good.