By: Nikki Engel, blogger: www.mermaidlivin.com
A lot has stayed the same in this past year of living across the world, but I also feel the movement of changes that have occurred throughout my time away from San Diego. I had a few people on my list that I called immediately, knowing that they would somehow be apart of the subtle simmering changes. Adam Barber was one of those people first on my list.
We met up at his house in Pacific Beach, as he told me about the nonprofit organization he had co-founded while I was away. Anne, the Secretary of Project Route, was also there to load me in on this new and exciting path. They decided that instead of explaining to me, they would show me what Project Route is all about. So we hopped in the car and drove down to Tourmaline Surf Beach.
Upon arrival Adam pulled out three big bags, handed one to me and one to Anne. We all walked down the stairs to be greeted at the bottom by the smelly low tide of the already visible waste that had been pushed onto shore. As we all stood at the bottom of the stairs in a moment of observation, Anne (being a veteran of beach cleanups) quickly spotted a forgotten/lost beach toy, a washed up yellow tractor. She walked across the rocks to grab it and found a sandy, wet hat, and a broken solo sandal along the way. As she held up the long lost treasures, of a car, and some forgotten wardrobe, I joked to her, “Maybe you’ll find your future husband next!”. We all laughed to make the surface of the situation a bit lighter.
Adam explained the science of where certain plastics are hidden in the washed up seaweed beds, such as chip bags and plastic straws, and how the microplastics (the heavier plastics) stay closer to shore. As we scanned the beach for more trash to fill our once empty bags, Adam and I walked past a little girl and her father walking hand in hand. They seemed to be in search of what I call mermaid treasures, aka sea shells. The dad looked up from scanning the shore line as he noticed our actions you could see the glimmer in his eyes when he acknowledged us immediately after, as he said, “Thank you for cleaning up.” This simple acknowledgement hit home hard for me. That’s when Adam looked at me and said, “Now you see, Project Route isn’t more so an action but rather an awareness.” I let his words sink in, but not 30 seconds after that the same little girl came running back to us with some trash that she had found on her own. She said “Here.” with a smile on her face as she put the piece of plastic into our trash bag. Point and case. “People are sheep. We do what we see others do. It’s simple.” Adam explained how his purpose is to lead the people into following the positive actions that create a world wide awareness on the importance of keeping our oceans and beaches rubbish free.
After about 10 mins into our mini beach clean up, we had practically filled an entire trash bag with washed up rubbish. It’s amazing what you can find on these beaches, so amazing that Project Route has found a way to make use of these forgotten buried treasures.
We drove back to Adam’s place and that’s when he showed me the second step of his nonprofit organization. He lead me into his garage in which he had transformed into an art studio. Project Route gathers all of the rubbish, cleans it, and then color coordinates and organizes the beached trash into sectioned bins. Mini plastics organized neatly with each color of the rainbow, paints aligned systematically on the art desk, empty canvas waiting to be splattered with paints and trash treasures. He showed me a painted canvas of a girl on a bike, all made from beach trash treasures and paints. He showed me a creature he had built out of plastics and a head of a toy dog, it resembled something out of Toy Story in which Sid would have created.
Being in this art room made me feel inspired, it made me feel motivated to bring these plastics back to life in a different light, it made me feel like feel like a kid with no limitations on creation.
Project Route is about awareness, it’s not just talking about change, it’s making change happen. Project Route is here for the long haul, here to make a difference, here to make an impact, and here to make the necessary change we need, right now.