Charity Week 2019: That Time We Picked Up More Than 1,500 Pieces Of Plastic Off Rockaway Beach
Last Friday, our team from the New York office headed to the Rockaways in the borough of Queens, for a beach cleanup day, as part of Contentsquare’s first-ever week of giving back — a global event that saw different teams volunteering for their chosen charity.
Organized by the culture crew, these events serve a dual purpose; they allow us to give back to our local communities, as well as take some meaningful, communal-based downtime from the office. We teamed up with Surfrider Foundation.
Charity Day was a great success, as we left the beach a cleaner space, having removed 293 pieces of plastic, 474 cigarette butts, 265 plastic bottle caps, 88 plastic straws, 562 miscellaneous items and much more.
We caught up with two members of our culture crew: Michelle Lee, our UX/UI designer and Katie Wallshein, our CEM, to get the full beach cleanup story — from how the idea was born to how we managed to pick up a total 1,500 pieces of garbage from the beach.
Tell us a bit about Global Charity Week — how did the idea come about?
Michelle: The idea to schedule a week of giving back was born in the spring after several quarters of culture crew activities focused mainly on team-building activities. We decided we wanted to find new team-building projects that would also give us the opportunity to volunteer for a grassroots organization we all felt passionate about.
Katie: One of the projects that got a special mention during the 2019 Hackathon was a project focused on promoting green practices in the office and taking initiatives to limit the company’s impact on the environment. I think in a way that collective interest and awareness are what made us pick an organization with an environmental agenda.
There are plenty of environmental programs out there — why did you pick Surfrider Foundation?
Michelle: New York in the summer can be brutal, and having these beautiful beaches on our doorstep makes the heat tolerable. Surfrider Foundation is a group with chapters all over the country, that is dedicated to protecting the ocean and beaches. They do a lot of campaigning and advocacy work around plastic pollution and organize beach cleanups around the country.
Katie: When we first arrived at the beach, we were met by the chair of Surfrider’s New York chapter, who gave us an intro to the group and to their work in the Rockaway. It’s a coastal neighborhood and it’s already an area at huge risk from climate change so protecting an area like this one is extremely important.
So what did you find along the beach during cleanup?
Michelle: When we got there, we were given gloves and trash bags. When you first start walking along the beach it looks pristine, but once you start paying close attention you notice all the pollution. We found everything from plastic cutlery to candy wrappers, plastic bags, bottles, etc.
Katie: At the end of the cleanup we put all the trash together and sorted it in teams. We made an inventory of all the garbage we found because the foundation uses this information when it’s advocating for new legislation to help protect the beaches. And also because without data, it’s just another opinion…
Michelle: We have a pretty comprehensive list of everything we collected from the beach that day:
13 aluminum cans
474 cigarette butts
3 glass bottles
54 plastic bottles
265 plastic bottle caps
88 plastic straws
562 miscellaneous items
10 glass fragments
293 plastic fragments
What were some of the highlights from the day?
Katie: Getting the ferry to the beach together was fun. We had a few team members visiting from other offices and countries so it was nice to be able to give them a bit of a city tour from the water and to show them the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island, etc.
Michelle: No beach day is complete without a visit to Rippers, so we rewarded ourselves with burgers and beer. And since it was one of our Summer Fridays, we spent the afternoon on the (clean) beach and in the waves.
Katie: And we saw dolphins, which was definitely a highlight.
Do you foresee more volunteering opportunities for the team in the future?
Michelle: Yes, definitely. We’re already thinking of what activities and projects we can organize around the winter holidays — including food and coat drives, etc
Katie: As part of our beach cleanup project we were also given Surfrider Foundation memberships, and hopefully the team will continue to engage with the group in the future. For some team members, it was their first time at Rockaway, and they were already planning their next beach day…
Stay tuned to find out what the Paris team was up to when it spent the day volunteering on an urban farm northeast of the city.