Words by Tess Becker
Plastic accumulating in our oceans and beaches has become a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that makeup about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, at current rates, plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.
So some people are acting in their community to make a difference.
One such person is the founder of EcoBeachie, Jennifer Schlangen. EcoBeachie is a company that makes beach products, all of which contain ocean or estuary waste and other post-consumer grade plastic waste.
Jennifer lives just a small walk away from Lake Michigan and saw a bird essentially choking on plastic in her backyard. It was that moment that kind of sparked her original goal of just cleaning up the beach in her area, and it was her love of animals that sparked her to keep going.
She saw beach wagons on the beach and was considering using one for her own things but quickly realized it wasn’t suited for what she wanted to do.
“It sucks because it's made of nylon, rubber, and metal, and it doesn't work well in the sand,” Jennifer tells Smiley News. “So I just bought a sled on Amazon and I would drag my stuff to my favorite beach.”
This gave her an idea, to start a project to make beach sleds.
“I didn't want to have my name on something that people are just going to leave behind and it's going to be littering all over the place,” she says. “So that's how EcoBeachie started. It was was making things out of the plastic that is harvested from the ocean.”
EcoBeachie has been going for about two years now and it's a project that Jennifer is so committed to that she has even dipped into her 401k to help fund it.
“I think it's a no-brainer to make beach products out of or that at least contain a portion of ocean plastic,” Jennifer says. “And I think all new plastic products should contain a portion of ocean plastic. I mean, if I can do it, and I'm originally from Canton, Illinois, which is cornfield country, anybody can do it.”
Currently, the aforementioned sled is in a bit of a holding pattern because of potential cost making the product unsustainable so Jennifer has pivoted to other products like flying discs and eventually beach caddies.
And even though she has such a big project to work on Jennifer still tries to do her part.
“Whenever I get a chance when I'm at the beach and if I see garbage you better believe I'm picking it up,” she says.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here.
Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more.
American Forests. A conservation organization focused on preserving and protecting American forests. Support them here.