A Richmond student has helped launch a new month-long initiative to help clean up Metro Vancouver’s shorelines and support local restaurants that have been struggling throughout COVID-19.
Jeannie Huang, a 16-year-old Cambie secondary student, said the goal is to encourage people to host their own shoreline cleanups by offering $50 gift cards to local restaurants.
“(We wanted) to help local businesses because a lot have really gone under, and financially (the pandemic) is a huge problem for a lot of people,” she said. “Also, a lot of the shoreline cleanups that would usually have happened in the month of March didn’t really happen last year, or over the entire course of last year.”
Huang is one of fifteen Metro Vancouver teens – members of Ocean Wise’s YouthToSea program – who partnered with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup to launch Clean Coastal, Eat Local which will run throughout March.
The teens used funding from the program to purchase the gift cards, choosing restaurants that were locally owned, provide takeout and – if it’s on the menu – sustainable seafood.
Their goal is to get 120 shoreline cleanups happening in Metro Vancouver this month. In March 2020, said Huang, there were less than 20 cleanups in Metro Vancouver – when usually there’s more than 100. She added that, overall last year, participation in Great Canadian Shoreline cleanups across the region dropped by more than 50 per cent.
The initiative is also an opportunity for people who have been cooped up inside over the winter to get outside into nature while also making “a difference in the world piece by piece,” said Huang.
She said she worries about garbage ending up in the region’s waterways and making its way to the ocean, where it could affect marine life that’s crucial to the planet’s ecosystem.
In her experience doing cleanups this year, Huang said she’s noticed more garbage and litter than usual.
In order to be eligible for a gift card, participants need to collect a minimum of 50 pieces (about 10 pounds) of shoreline litter and log litter data and a cleanup summary on the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s website, where the cleanup must be registered.
Cleanups must also be done solo or with households only.
So far, participating restaurants include The Naam, Fable Diner, Tacofino, Bowen Island Pub, Heirloom, Sammy J’s, Olive and Anchor, Charlie Don’t Surf and Cotto Pizzeria.
The YouthToSea program is for youth aged 15 to 19 across the Lower Mainland who share the goal of protecting and conserving the ocean.