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,