Month: July 2015

Plastic, my nemesis: Watch – get mad and motivated!

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Marine debris, especially plastic, has become the blood, sweat, and tears of my existence.  I eat, sleep, and nightmare plastic.

This video from 2007 (the problem is much worse now) always makes me so sad, but also angry and determined.

I am posting this video, because I have used it often (still do) during presentations over the last several years.  No matter how many times, I see this very short video, I always tear up, but I always feel motivated.

I am on a mission to reduce plastics!  Won’t you join me?

Learn more at:

and join me in supporting these non-profits, reducing and eliminating plastic usage, especially single use plastic, and volunteer your time to cleanup your community environment.  If not for the environment, for your health and economy.  If not you, then who?  We can do this!

Check out the businesses and organizations on the right of this website home page to see who supports plastic reduction and research.

Con mucho amor,


Ocracoke Island Camping with Drew

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My sister, @nelizadrew ( traveled here to the NC coast for a visit. We decided to go camping in Ocracoke for the weekend.  Above is a short vid of our journey.

…more to come.


Collaboration and a brief story of the Birth of the NCMDS

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As the creator and coordinator of the North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium, I see myself as part of an awesome team of super rad folks that work together to get things done.  I don’t mean just once a year either – we collaborate throughout the year.  Many of us partner on grants, we have social meet-ups to share ideas and work on solutions, we call each other when we need advice, and we attend each others events and support each other by sharing with our group lists.  For instance, I called up Bonnie Monteleone with UNCW and the Plastic Ocean Project today and was inspired to add an exciting new aspect to the shoreline cleanup project we are planning this year and was able to reach out to a new NCMDS stakeholder in the Dare community who inspired ideas about a new potential statewide program to help with abandoned vessels – hoping we can start on that this year during the NCMDS roundtable session. By collaborating with Dr. Jenna Jambeck of UGA on the NCMDS over the last three years, I had the connection and knowledge to join the crew for eXXpedition 2015, which is sure to change my life completely.

I find the concept of collaboration to be one of the most beneficial of my career.  I am never as productive as I can be with the help of others who share the same passion and energy about a particular issue.  You’ve read this before in my blog, but it deserves repeating – we are all never so full of knowledge that we cannot learn from others.  Together is Better!

The original concept of the NCMDS was to bring folks together that are all working to educate folks about, reduce, prevent, and remove marine debris and has evolved to also include those that might not even know about marine debris in an effort to expand our group knowledge of marine debris and also seek out other ideas that we might have never dreamed of.  As a community we are actually all stakeholders of the NCMDS, because like the first law of ecology – everything is connected and we are impacted in one way or another by marine debris.

This year had it’s ups and downs during the planning phase, as do all events like this one.  Some folks in the group do more than others to be helpful and that is usually based on interest unfortunately, but also time constraints – I can certainly understand that since the majority of my work with NCMDS is done in my sparingly spare time…  There are some key stakeholders that come out of the woodwork and really make it easy to get things done because they just really want to help out and they actually care about the outcome.

Before starting the NCMDS, I would always ponder on why more groups didn’t collaborate on projects.  In just eastern NC we have about 20 or more different groups that coordinate cleanups. Some do roadside cleanups, some focus on the beach, the river, marshy shoreline, and some even do underwater cleanups.  All of this is awesome!  It is totally awesome… but what if we all got together, shared stories, shared ideas, and supported each other?  What if we collaborated?  Wouldn’t that be a novel idea?  I thought so, and others did too, and thus was born the NCMDS back in 2013.

Unknowingly marine debris has become the blood, sweat, and tears of my existence.  I eat, sleep, and nightmare marine debris.  You’ve read me say that I’ve been picking up trash for over 25 years, this is true, but just over the last 11 or more years it has become so clear how important this issue is becoming – more so everyday.  Just recently we were able to see, via the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK, video of plankton eating ocean plastic (  This is beyond disturbing and just one more cause for action.

What does action look like though?  Action looks like collaboration.  Whether we like it or not, we cannot do it alone.  Those with an over-inflated ego that think they can are not only wrong, but counter productive.  Action looks like everyone getting together to work on multi-fascists of an issue and that’s what NCMDS looks like.  We have recycle coordinators working on making sure there are enough bins at access points across the State and that we all take the time to “twin the bin” to insure proper disposal and capturing marketable material. We have solid waste professionals who work on infrastructure, availability of proper disposal, litter prevention, and storm debris removal issues among’st a long list of other components. We have divisions of national agencies that solely work on marine debris issues and we have students, plastic researchers, enforcement officers, non-profits, cleanup organizations, other national and state agencies, community officials, local government decision makers, large and small business owners, volunteers, watermen, scuba divers, beach combers, social workers, marine biology majors, and you name them – we have them as a stakeholder.  This is what collaboration looks like – not one, but all.

This year the NCMDS will be in Dare County, Nags Head, NC at Jennette’s Pier, one of my fav places to be.  Our main cleanup project this year will be at the Rodanthe Ferry Docks and we will be working with the entire community to collaborate on the effort.  To learn more about the cleanup and find out how to join us, click on the blue link below or email  I would be thrilled to see you there.  Don’t forget to register for the NCMDS this year by going to

NCMDS 2015 Rodanthe Cleanup

Shark Sunday: Flashback to Florida in 2014

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Yay for Independence and Shark Videos!! #SharkySunday

Environmental Heroes

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Bonnie Monteleone – Plastic Ocean Project

I was asked recently to give several presentations at local libraries about “Environmental Heroes”.  This took some thought and consideration, because throughout my life I have had so many.

My first environmental hero is my dad, George Victor Smith.  He taught me how to enjoy nature.  I grew up with my beautiful sister, Drew, right along the ICW in Beaufort, NC.  Days were filled with marsh mud up to my ankles (sometimes knees) and playing with periwinkles from the marsh grass or frogs from the ditch.  We canoed, fished, learned to swim, and played with every creature we could find.  My dad thought me that it’s okay to get muddy, explore, and really discover nature by getting my hands dirty.

When I was around 10 years old, and in the Girl Scouts, I learned about Rachel Carson and joined the NC Big Sweep beach cleanups as a volunteer.  Rachel Carson is a well-known environmental hero and continues to inspire millions worldwide with the research she published in order to save coastal wildlife.  I think what I learned most from her books and teachings is that no matter the struggle, everyone has a voice and to never give up on what you feel is right for the environment.

At around age 20 and during college, my environmental hero was my environmental biology professor, Dr. Gilbert Grant.  A world-traveling environmental hero, who’s passion for birds and bats, taught me not only about the laws of ecology, but during some travels together I learned about ethnobotany, identifying plant species in the field, and also how documenting and recording data for publication plays a vital role in studying how our ecosystems are changing now and in the future and allows for others to share the same knowledge.

In my mid twenties, my environmental hero or heroes, I should say, were the very inspiring members of the Carolina Recycling Association, as mentioned during #WasteReductionWednesday s.  These fine illustrious (as Tom Rhodes would say) colleagues inspired me to go full-tilt-boogy into the resource management world as a career and I have never looked back ever since.  The knowledge gained by each member has shown me how not only to implement sustainable waste reduction programs in the community, but also to live the sustainable and waste free lifestyle – practicing what I teach.

In my early 30s, I had so many environmental heroes.  Three of which stand out the most to me.  My dear friend, Kristin Fountain, is a local environmental hero with strong coastal roots and has taught me to have no fear when it comes to protecting what you love (the marine environment).  She left home during college to live in Cambodia for two years and volunteer for a Sea Horse Conservation program.

Kristin was very inspirational and quite possibly the single reason that I learned to scuba dive.  Dr. Sylvia Earle, a well-known environmental hero, has also been a huge inspiration and has helped me, through her writings and documentaries, to find the words to teach others about how our fate and the ocean’s fate are one and the same.

Another hero of my mid thirties is Captain Charles Moore.  He discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch by accident and he continues to study the area and educate others about it’s detrimental effects to us all.  Someone who reminds me a lot of Captain Moore is my fav local environmental hero, Bonnie Monteleone of UNCW and the Plastic Ocean Project.  She has been to every ocean gyre collecting plastic debris and studying things like chemical absorption and the effects plastics have on certain marine creatures.  She also came up with one of the best ideas I have seen yet on how to teach folks about plastics in the ocean.  She has a traveling art exhibit.  Check it out here:

One of my most recent environmental heroes, past three years, is my dear friend Dr. Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia.  She is a professor of environmental engineering and has studied solid waste infrastructure all over the world.  She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to how our impacts on land effect the quality of our oceans and has developed my fav app of all time, the #MarineDebrisTracker App.  (free to download on your smart device).  Check it out here:

I met Jenna while working to form the NC Marine Debris Symposium stakeholder group three years ago and she has been a key leader in our group ever since.  I adore her not only for sharing her knowledge and inspiring me to learn more about plastics in the ocean, but also she, like all of my heroes, practices what she teaches and is a role model for all.

Most recently Jenna was part of the eXXpedition ( Atlantic journeying at sea aboard a 72 foot sailing vessel studying plastics in the ocean and making her way with other women across the Atlantic for this research.  She inspired me to submit an application to join the 2015 crew (eXXpedition Amazon).  Now, officially part of the 2015 eXXpedition crew, I will be continuing her research and collecting samples and conducting studies both land-based and at sea for the month of Dec.

My most recent environmental heroes are Olivia (10) and Carter Ries (12) of One More Generation (, a non-profit that they built because they see the need for youth involvement in shaping our future community environment around the world.  Just like Rachel Carson, these young heroes are a voice for a generation to become inspired, take notice, and support.  Their efforts are vast and impressive.  From the preservation of our endangered wildlife and environmental conservation to youth empowerment and the list of projects and programs they are taking on keeps growing.

My husband, Wes Rider, is an environmental hero protecting the ocean with his pre-surf session beach cleanups.  My sister, Drew, is a true waste reduction environmental hero and is a minimalist when it comes to consumer products.  My friend, Beth Howard, and the art teacher at Dixon Elementary School is my hero for helping start up the school recycling program at her school and is a long-time volunteer at the local sea-turtle hospital.

My list of environmental heroes is always growing.  It is important for all of us to seek out the inspiration of others.  We are never so full of knowledge that we cannot learn from the experience of others, no matter their age, background, or where they live.  We should all aspire to be environmental heroes if only just for the preservation of our own community environment, but to those that yearn to go above and beyond, I salute you today and everyday.  You are all my environmental heroes.  “…do your best, because we need you.” – Anonymous Interviewee during the documentary eXXpedition Atlantic

Blue skies and calm seas,


Consumer Products out of Marine Debris

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Here are some of my fav products made from ocean trash:

1.  Method hand soap: Beyond the Bottle / Ocean Plastic


2.  Bureo Skateboards: Skateboards made from discarded Fishing Nets


3. Adidas Shoes: (Newly announced) Adidas and Parley for the Oceans

* Wouldn’t it be super rad if they made the adidas outdoor climacool boat shoes out of marine debris?  I adore mine!! They are THE perfect non-marking (a must on boats) vegan boat friendly shoes.  Water actually pours right through them leaving you dry and did I mention they are beyond comfy and light? My all-around travel shoe and my must have for eXXpedition Amazon!

Here is what mine look like:


I love these innovations….  Let’s keep ’em coming.

Blue skies and calm seas,


9th Annual Earth and Surf Fest

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10002955_613461495399862_472281569_nKeep Onslow Beautiful and several sponsors are gathering to host the 9th Annual Earth & Surf Fest at North Topsail Beach July 4 rain or shine. The event aims to promote waste reduction, litter and marine debris prevention and a healthy lifestyle. This is an environmental awareness event.

Festivities begin with a 7 a.m. registration for the 5K beach run and surf contest.  The 5K race on the beach will award prizes to the top overall male and female runners and the first and second place finishers in each age group. The course is an out-and-back course that is run completely on the beach. The start and finish of the race is on beach in front of Onslow Public Beach Public Access #2. Runners will head north about 1.5 miles before turning around and heading back south. T-shirts are available for runners and surfers registered for the event and some will also be available for purchase until supplies run out.
Surf and stand-up paddle boarding contests are being coordinated by On Shore Surf Shop and other sponsors. Registration is available online at–sup-registration.html or at the store in Surf City.
Free stand-up paddle board demonstrations plus kayak and canoe demonstrations will be on the sound side and are coordinated by Surf City Paddle Club and the New River Foundation.
A beach yoga class will be at 10 am by Keep Onslow Beautiful committee member and registered yoga teacher, Christina Lewis
A beach cleanup for the entire section of North Topsail and Surf City beaches is also scheduled. A sign up tent (aqua blue/green tent that says “Keep Onslow Beautiful”) will be located at the event. Sign up, pick a location to clean up and venture out. Buckets, gloves, and other materials will be provided. SAT credit hours for high school students will be recorded. Don’t forget to bring forms!
Free live music from Trevor Harris and the Birds, and Pamlico Joe will be featured. WRMR 98.7 Modern Rock and DJ Christine Martinez will also be on-site for a live broadcast and giving out Modern Rock 98.7 coolers until supplies last (mid day).
This is a waste-free event. Everything will be either recyclable or compostable. Recycle and compost bins will be conveniently located. Guests are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles for use at refilling stations located throughout the festival. All activities will also be completely solar powered in keeping with the theme.
It’s all taking place at Beach Access #2, 2950 Island Drive in North Topsail Beach. Additional information is available at:  Earth and Surf Fest

Make plans to enjoy the holiday at the Earth & Surf Fest.

Happy Birthday National Ocean Policy

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Happy Birthday to the National Ocean Policy (NOP)

Happy Birthday NOP

Hawksbill 2 2014

Learn more here: Healthy Oceans Coalition / NOP Background

Want to do more for our marine environment locally?  Please consider volunteering for the Plastic Ocean Project, Keep Onslow Beautiful, Project AWARE, or a local Surfrider Foundation chapter and also be sure to register for and attend the  North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium

Don’t have time to officially volunteer for an org, but still want to be an environmental hero – clean your beach whenever you are there, pick up debris in a parking lot on your way to and from your car, or simply donate to help fund vital programs that help preserve our marine ecosystem.

Blue skies and calm seas,


Waste Reduction Wednesday: Carolina Recycling Association

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CRA Logo Color-2

Happy #WasteReductionWednesday!

Today I thought I would talk a little about one of my favorite professional associations that I have been a member of for over 11 years.  The Carolina Recycling Association was recommended to me when I started my career in resource management by a colleague.  I went to my first #CRA conference back in 2004 and was blown away by the wealth of knowledge that surrounded me and I immediately aspired to not only learn as much as I could, but to progress in a way that would make me a waste reduction and recycling leader as well.  After a few conferences and many hours of study in-between, I found myself a CRA conference speaker on several occasions, workshop host, planning committee member, board member, and in 2014 I was honored with the sought after Recycler of the Year Award.

It has been a pleasure and privilege to work amongst such a well-educated, hard-working, and dedicated group of environmental heroes.  Most folks don’t know how much work goes into recycling, waste reduction efforts, and proper resource management infrastructure in local communities.  We put our cart at the street and it magically gets managed.  Carolina Recycling Association members are the folks that work day and night making these efforts possible while also spreading the knowledge of the importance not only to the environment, but also to the local economy.

Here is a brief summary of what the CRA is all about:

The mission of the Carolina Recycling Association is to conserve resources by advancing recycling and waste reduction throughout the Carolinas (North, South, and beyond).

The overall goal of the CRA is to promote waste reduction recycling of marketable/recyclable materials in the Carolinas.

The members, including myself, of CRA recognize that:

Recycling reduces the weight and volume, and therefore cost, of waste to be disposed and reintroduces into the economy materials previously considered without value.

Recycling supports manufacturing.  Production of everything from steel to glass, paper, packaging, automobile and construction products, and textiles are made from recycled material in the Carolinas.

Recycling creates jobs and business opportunities.  It is one of the most consistently growing sectors of the economy in the Carolinas.

Recycling helps reduce the need for new landfills.  The growth in recycling has helped increase landfill capacity in NC from 20 to 32 years.

Recycling allows citizens to contribute to environmental solutions.  Through the simple act of recycling, Carolinians save water and energy, prevent pollution, protect habitats, and conserve valuable resources.

Recycling improves the quality of life in Carolina communities.

Carolina Recycling Association Objectives:

Education: CRA uses workshops, networking meetings, and the Annual Conference to spread the knowledge and skills of recycling professionals and experts, as well as educating members on new technologies and programs that will benefit their businesses and communities.

Public-Private Partnerships: CRA develops broad-based community alliances throughout the Carolinas and beyond, to achieve sustainable community improvement in recycling and waste reduction methods.

Board and Council Action: By engaging Board Members and Councils, we extend the reach of our educational activities and increase the impact of our efforts.

To learn more or to sign up to be a CRA member or supporter, please go to

Blue skies, calm seas, and don’t forget to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle,