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Today is Earth Day, making it the perfect time to share this travel tip that I practice every time I visit a beach or park, wherever I am in the world.

One of my favorite travel quotes is also my travel mantra: “Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time. Take nothing but pictures.” I don’t know the origins of this sage advice but they’re words that every good traveler (and person) should live by. However, I would like to add two words, so I would change it to: “Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time. Take nothing but pictures and garbage.”

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One of the ways I try to do my part for the planet is picking up at least three pieces of garbage whenever I go to the beach, visit a park or on a rare walk in the woods. Fortunately, we live close to the beach and live in Southern California so we visit the beach often, usually a couple of times a week so the kids can run around and explore. It’s also my happy place, especially during the pandemic.

According to Ocean Conservancy, “Ocean trash affects the health of wildlife, people and local economies. Trash in the water and on the shore can be mistaken as food by wildlife, or entangle animals with lethal consequences. Plastic also attracts and concentrates other pollutants from surrounding seawater, posing a contamination risk to those species that then eat it. Scientists are studying the impacts of that contamination on fish and shellfish and as well as the possible impact it may have on human health as well.”

Ever since reading a statistic similar to the one on the Ocean Conservancy website, I’ve been determined to pick up plastic from the beach or ocean. “From plankton to whales, animals across ocean ecosystems have been contaminated by plastic. Plastic has been found in 59% of sea birds like albatross and pelicans, in 100% of sea turtle species, and more than 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world.”

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Fortunately in Manhattan Beach, there’s not a lot of plastic on the beach or in the water since it’s so well maintained. However, not all places are like this. I remember bringing a garbage bag with me every time I took my dad for a walk on the beach in South Florida and could fill it up on just one short walk. One of the worst places also happened to be one of the most beautiful, Pangkor Laut Island in Malaysia. There were so many plastic bags in the water it was crazy. The executives told me it was due to lack of education of villagers in Indonesia but I literally picked up dozens if not hundreds of bags. This was back in 2007 and I haven’t been back but I hope it’s changed drastically.

I know I used to fly way too much but I cut back dramatically once I had kids and haven’t been on a plane in over a year thanks to COVID-19. That’s one of the positives to come out of this whole pandemic. People are traveling less by car and plane, especially business travelers. I doubt many will be returning to their old ways of flying across the world for a meeting now that everyone has gotten accustomed to Zoom. Seriously, I have friends who would fly from New York City to Sydney and not spend the night in Australia. They would just go for seven hours and return.

My point is that there are simple ways we can all do our part for the planet and not just on Earth Day. If everyone can pick up at least three pieces of trash each time they go to the beach or on a hike, we can make a bigger difference than we might think.

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