Fore the Ocean, by Jack and Alex
$9,100 of $10,000 goal
In 2009, CNN and The New York Times reported that 300 million golf balls are lost every year in the United States. How many of those end up in the oceans? Nobody knows.
This summer, while free-diving, we discovered thousands of golf balls below the surface, rolling around, breaking apart and polluting the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Over the last 6 months, we have removed over 4,000 golf balls from the ocean floor of just one small cove in Carmel Bay below Pebble Beach Golf Course. This equates to 400 pounds of plastic, or 72 entire square feet of plastic seafloor, now removed.
Many of these balls have a rubber band core that unravels into a “spaghetti string” mess in the ocean. This is a huge problem because to fish and birds, it looks just like seagrass, their food. Once this plastic string is consumed, the animals feel like they are full and stop eating, but they end up starving to death. In addition, we learned that golf balls usually have a solid core that contains Zinc Acrylate. The UN's GHS (Globally Harmonized System of classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals) has classified Zinc Acrylate as "very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause adverse long-term effects in the aquatic environment."
We are working to create a partnership with local organizations including The Pebble Beach Company, The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to assess the scope of the problem and how to clean it up.
As you may know, we are both outdoor enthusiasts. We spend our free time either backpacking or in the ocean. Last year, we were inspired to apply to The Island School, a high-school marine science and sustainability-based study abroad program. Our dream has become a reality, and we are both thrilled to be spending our spring semester of 2017 immersed in ocean conservation studies!
One of the reasons we were drawn to study at The Island School is their research on marine debris. This is a subject that is very important to us since we live on the coast, and we see the crisis, firsthand. Every time we go to the beach, the existance of mankind is overly apparent with the amount of trash littering our shores.
We hope that you can join us in our effort to raise awareness, find solutions, and protect the essential resource that is our ocean. Some people raise money by running marathons, hosting auctions or selling cookies. But we are doing something different. We are trying to protect our ocean and remove thousands of golf balls. By donating to our campaign, you will help fund our education, becoming partners as we tackle the global environmental problems our generation is facing.
Thank you so much,
Alex Weber and Jack Johnston
A quick update from Alex and Jack! They are still abroad studying at the Island School and planning to return in early June. Some highlights of their semester abroad: Jack has been researching and experimenting on how to convert plastic waste to fuel. This research is very important to all island nations because they import most of their foods but have no recycling facilities. They currently burn all their trash and create toxic emissions. Jack's research team has successfully created a pyrolysis system that is currently converting most of the plastic waste from school use to biofuels for their vehicles. Alex's research team has been researching the effects of runoff (pesticides and other human runoff) on coastal seagrassess (which make-up 93% of turtle diets). They are finding that increased nutrients in the ocean and increasing the fiber content of the seagrasses and making them unedible for the turtles. In addition to research class, they have been learning marine ecology (scuba diving weekly), statistics, english, history, environmental art, seminar, apprenticeships, leadership, expeditions, and will both conclude their semester by attempting the 4 mile open water swim for their physical fitness class. They both report this experience has been so much more amazing than they could have ever imagined. They thank you all for your support in helping get them there!
Since their departure in late February, Alex's dad Mike has continued to dive for golf balls whenever possible. Thanks to many interested friends, CSUMB marine science in the community class and local adventurers like paddle boarder Brent Allen, dive captain Phil Sammut, many dive friends, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Dive Team, we are amazed to report that as of Saturday May 27th, we have removed over 20,200 golf balls from the Monterey Bay before the one year anniversary of this effort! This includes locations below the Pebble Beach golf course, the Carmel River Mouth, and Cypress Golf Course. The balls are stored in our garage as data and we have a spreadsheet documenting this data in the hopes that change comes soon.
They return soon and are even more committed to protecting their environment and passionate about the work they do!
Thank you again for your amazing support!
The latest ball count update is that we are at 10,600 balls. About 1300 of those were found at the Carmel River Mouth because we discovered that our storms have the river flowing high and strong and are flushing balls down the river where there are balls from Rancho Canada, and possibly Quail and Carmel Valley Ranch.
Check out the new article from Sports Illustrated and Golf.com:
We also just returned from a Plastic Ocean Pollution summit where there were teens from around the world working on ways to reduce the issue of plastic pollution. It was amazing to meet kids from Kenya, Cambodia, India, The Bahamas and all over the US!
We leave for The Island School in two weeks and are very excited!
Thank you all for your support - we really appreciate it!
Alex and Jack
This is Alex and Jack with a quick update and some cool news. We are still doing regular golf ball pickups and have removed close to 9000 golf balls! Most importantly, we just spotted and removed 70 balls at the north end of the Carmel River mouth! There were so many more but it was too dangerous to try to get in the water. We are pretty sure they are from the golf courses on the Carmel River and flushing into the ocean now that the river is flowing. This confirms our suspicions that golf balls can drain into the ocean from rivers. Making this problem significantly worse than we first thought because there are thousands of golf courses along rivers in the US.
After learning so much about plastic pollution from these golf balls, we are hoping to raise awareness about this problem. For those of you that are near Carmel, we would love to have you join us for a screening of a new documentary called "A Plastic Ocean".
The screening will be held Saturday January 28th at 7pm at the Carmel High School Theater. Thanks to our partnership with NOAA and Carmel Unified School District, this event will be sponsored by them and free for all!
Watch the trailer at http://www.plasticoceans.org/watch-trailer/
A panel discussion will follow with scientist and national bestselling author of Blue Mind Wallace J Nichols, Founder of The Last Plastic Straw Jackie Nuñez, and superintendent of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries, Paul Michel.
Doors open at 6:30. Please plan to arrive early as this is a free event and seating is limited.
Here is more info about the film:
A Plastic Ocean is a new feature-length adventure documentary that brings to light the consequences of our global disposable lifestyle. We thought we could use plastic once and throw it away with negligible impact to humans and animals. That turns out to be untrue.
In A Plastic Ocean, an international team of adventurers, researchers, and Ocean ambassadors go on a mission around the globe to uncover the shocking truth about what is truly lurking beneath the surface of our seemingly pristine Ocean. The result will astound viewers–just as it did our adventurers–who captured never-before-seen images of marine life, plastic pollution, and its ultimate consequences for human health.
During its four-year production period, A Plastic Ocean was filmed in 20 locations around the world in beautiful and chilling detail to document the global effects of plastic pollution–and introduce workable technology and policy solutions that can, if implemented in time, change things for the better.
We had an amazing meeting where we were able to share that the driving force for our efforts is the enormous issue of plastic pollution entering our oceans and creating gyres in all major oceans of the world. We discussed how plastic turns into microplastics that wildlife mistakes for food and also becomes entangled in it. We discussed the problem of these plastics acting like sponges for toxins like DDT's, PCB's, POP's flame retardants that then bio-accumulate up the food chain into us. Most importantly, we shared how we learned that these plastics enter the oceans from shore and the biggest impact we can have is to stop them from the source.
This maintenance program is a model for other coastal golf courses and we hope to be able to spread it world-wide.
Thank you to The Pebble Beach Company!
Thank you for your interest Michelle, we are beginning a partnership with The Pebble Beach Company and The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to assess the size of this problem and discuss solutions. We will post updates on facebook at our new page called The Plastic Pickup. Please like it so you can follow this developing story. Thank you so much for taking care of Asilomar Beach and let us know how many golf balls you find.
My husband and I patrol the beach near Asilomar every week to clean up debris that does not belong on the beach or in our ocean and I am inspired by your story. What good work you are doing! I am curious as to how much Pebble Beach (and the other golf courses near the ocean) are participating, since frankly, they are the problem and they should be funding your effort. Can you give any update on how they responding to this problem?
Alex and Jack - I am a principal in South Dakota. I saw the article in SI Kids, and my 6th graders are doing a #plasticspollution project right now. Can I ask you to talk to the group about your amazing project? Your empathy will drive their inventions they are trying to create through early May. Hope you can help us!
Have you thought about bringing those golf balls back to the manager of the Pebble Beach Golf Club showing them how they are polluting the ocean? Maybe they can put up a huge screen like they do in the ballpark to catch the balls before this continues....just a thought!!! Keep up the good work. You are an amazing duo!
Just saw your video on Golf Channel, I would suggest you donate the balls to First Tee program, let them handle logistics and you can use the donation as a tax break or possibly they can purchase them at a reduced rate providing you with a revenue source for college! Good luck,