Meet Brian Berry, Surfrider Vancouver volunteer and recent graduate from the Environmental Protection Technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. We quizzed Brian on what it means to volunteer and how waste audits help us help our oceans.
Q. When did your passion for the preservation of our environment begin?
A. Firstly, my father’s mentoring and wisdom and respect for the outdoors really opened my eyes to the importance of our surroundings. I grew up in the Mojave desert in a small town of 900 people called Inyokern. The dessert was my backyard and I was taught to keep your back yard clean. While out hunting we would always pick up our own and other’s trash. My family also adopted a portion of the highway close to town. It was our responsibility to keep the sides of the highway clear of garbage.
Secondly, in the United States, there is a television station call the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS). The show Nature would air and explored other environments on the planet. Because I grew up the desert, seeing the planet’s diverse ecosystems was so exciting to me! It seemed like exploring jungles, rivers and rain forests were actually filmed on other planets.
And thirdly, Paul Richard, the Chair of the Environmental Protection Technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University really put his faith and encouragement in me to begin my education and career helping the environment.
Q. How long have you been involved with the Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Chapter?
A. The first beach cleanup I attended was at Wreck Beach in March 2011. I have been attending beach cleanups and monthly meetings ever since.
Q. What inspired you to attend beach cleanups?
A. My love for the beach and desire to take care of them.
Q. What do you like best about beach cleanup events?
A. They are fun to attend. It’s also very satisfying to search out trash and dispose of it properly. Every piece collected is one less that ends up in the ocean.
Q. What is a beach waste audit?
A. A waste audit is a somewhat scientific process where a section of the beach is marked off and we collect the trash within that area. The size of the section is measured from the high tide line to the low tide line and stretches along the shoreline for (X) meters. The trash collected is then sorted, counted, and documented.
Q. How long does it take to conduct a beach waste audit from start to finish?
A. If there are three or four people helping, the trash collection takes about 1.5 hours as it takes awhile to pick up all the micro trash. Sorting of the trash lasts 20 minutes and then it takes one person about an hour to input the data into an Excel document; so about 3 hours in total.
Q. What inspired you to start conducting waste audits?
A. I first learned about waste audits in my waste management course at Kwantlen which included a whole campus waste audit as one of the final assignments. The entire class counted all the garbage on campus. I thought it was interesting to discover and record the things people threw away.
Q. Why is the data collected from a waste audit important? How can the data be used to increase awareness of plastic pollution?
A. Waste audits help to increase awareness and create a metric for people to understand garbage in different way. We live in a result based world where data and numbers speak volumes when trying to get your point across.
Q. What has been the most interesting or bizarre plastic waste you have come across while cleaning beaches?
A. During the November 2013 clean up at Jericho Beach I found a lot, and I mean a lot of plastic tips for small cigars. It was strange because I found them all in a very localized area.
Q. Will you be conducting a beach audit at Surfrider's next beach clean on January 25th?
A. Absolutely. I hope to conduct a waste audit at every beach cleanup that is organized by Surfrider Vancouver. Creating and building a database will help our cause tremendously. January 25th is also my birthday so I’m planning on bringing all my friends to celebrate.
Q. How can people learn more about beach clean ups and waste audits?
A.The Surfrider foundation and the 5 Gyres websites are good start.
(Ed. note - Join Surfrider Vancouver for our Habitat Island Cleanup & Volunteer Orientation January 25th to see a transect demonstration. Download the full results of the Jericho Beach waste audit)
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
A. Hopefully as an environmental manger in a small waste management firm or environmental consulting company.
Please contact Brian at email@example.com if you have any further questions. He is also available for pro bono environmental consulting.