It’s these steps that we take to get closer to the dream of a thriving, sustainable planet. It’s the efforts we make and the distance we go to be our eco-conscious.

Each year organizations bandy volunteers together to make statements to political leaders and to the masses and compile all the force they can muster to put up a mighty hand and slow humanity down the path of environmental devastation. “You shall not pass!”

We play our role on the dates set. We gather locally and make noise, make a difference, and join the battle to win hearts and minds. Whether that role is making sure the event provides tap water, asking businesses for donations, finding more volunteers, managing the day’s operations and Web site, cheer-leading, documenting, or party-planning, do some of us step back and wonder, “Does this make a difference?

The Proof is in the Party-Size

Two recent events proved to me that collective force on an organized date can make a difference not only in fighting the problem and growing the forces, but in having an impact in and of itself.

At the Ocean Conservancy’s International CoastSweep in Nahant, Mass. on 09/25 and in both Beverly & Salem for 350.org’s Global Work Party on 10/10,  some serious trash was removed from the beach and stopped before its final journey to the Atlantic Garbage Patch, carbon emissions were reduced in one 1926 Witch city home (**results are in, a 9-10% increase in efficiency was achieved!**), and hearts were won as several bikers road in the cold from the infamous Salem Power Station to the lofty hillside solar field at Beverly HighSchool/Greenergy Park.

Many of us did these things last year, but this year the parties were much bigger.

For one event, the increase was definitely due to better weather, another was because honors were given for goals achieved, and the third event was because there was real action to roll out.

For 350.org’s 10/10/10, the task provided the inspiration whereas with last year’s statement-driven day, all you had to really do was show up for a picture. Many did, but this year in Salem there were more of us and I believe it’s because we had something constructive to do. For a lot of us, that is more enticing than speeches and politic-ing.

There was spackle, weatherstripping, foam, and vapor barriers to be laid while energy measurements had to be taken and insulation gaps found. Trees certainly needed planting. Hands that needed doing were happy.

Same Time, Same Place for 2011?

What will inspire us to come out again next year as we continue to face the same yucky global challenges challenges?

It’s the results.

I know all of us that were in Salem “Getting to Work” saw impressive results first hand and went home to replicate all we saw and learned, but for staving off an immensely difficult and marine-icide tide like ocean trash, reading the preliminary numbers from the Ocean Conservancy’s 25th International CoastSweep is truly the most satisfying part.

So now that I’ve played my roles on the dates set, I can turn to fellow man and say, “Dude, more than 55,000 cigarette butts were collected that one Saturday, and I collected 52 of them. And now I know how to measure energy used by an appliance, and what a blower door test is.”

*Preliminary U.S. 2010 CoastSweep data

Item Total Items Total Percentage
Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters 55792 35.94%
Food Wrappers/Containers 18255 11.76%
Caps, Lids 13609 8.77%
Bags(Plastic) 9784 6.30%
Beverage Cans 8300 5.35%
Beverage Bottles (plastic) 2 liters or less 7098 4.57%
Glass Beverage Bottles 6876 4.43%
Straws, Stirrers 5633 3.63%
Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons 5458 3.52%
Bags(Paper) 4424 2.85%
Top Ten Total 135229 87.12%

For more information about CoastSweep, see the Ocean Conservancy. To learn more about 350.org, check out “Salem’s Getting to Work” page.

*=final data is not due until 11/15