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No More Litter Bugs!

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90 Days ‘til Earth Day Challenge
Through April 22

It’s summertime; a time when the sun’s rays scorch our skin, and we rush to the ocean for an immediate cool-down. Spring and summer give us the most out of our ocean, recreationally. However, its year-round effects actually sustain our life-support system, making it more important than we sometimes take for granted.

Essentially, water balances our well-being, along with food and oxygen. It also manages to absorb carbon dioxide and the extra heat from the greenhouse effect. Thus, it makes no sense to put it in danger. That’s why Kevin Murphy, director of Ocean Cure and 90 Days to Earth Day, helps ensure our beaches are free from litter and inexcusable toxins that try to penetrate our waters.

Three years ago Murphy started the 90 Days to Earth Day Challenge, which teaches area kids how to keep our environment clean and brings them to the forefront of action. “I lived in Carolina Beach and got a puppy,” he says. “I would walk him down by the river and was amazed at all the trash. So, being a teacher, I thought it’d be a good idea to have the kids clean it up, while I joined alongside them. It gets the younger kids in the habit of not just picking up after themselves but other people.”

Though learning not to litter is of itself important, an incentive also comes with participating: Local businesses donate prizes, so the kids have an opportunity to win rewards for their enviro-friendly work. Kids must complete a photo or video essay to be registered for the grand prize, which allows them participation in a week long surf camp at Indo Jax and a free Engrain surfboard. Though the prizes are for the K-12 kids only, the challenge is open to anyone. Murphy would love to have college kids get involved, as well as older community members.

“There’s been a lot of interest this year with past and new people.” Murphy says. “There’s a focus on Facebook now, and there are even people out in California that are going to do it.”

The first year of the challenge proved to be an eye-opener, with heaping amounts of trash scattered throughout the area. “It would take five minutes to fill up three grocery-sized bags,” Murphy says, noting they’d walk a half mile before having to grab more bags. “By the end, it would take an hour to fill [those bags].”

The second year of the challenge was better. Though it still didn’t take much time to fill up the bags, trash lessened. “The kids noticed it, too,” Murphy says, proud of the resounding effects. Less trash means the challenge is paying off.

There is no doubt in Murphy’s mind that this year will be even better. He’s also focusing on what can be recycled, which equals close to 80 percent of what they collect. “[It’s] mainly plastic bottles and glass,” he notes. Some of the rubbish has even been there for years and years, left behind from previous tourist seasons.

This year’s goal for 90 Days to Earth Day Challenge is to beat the 2009-10 trash pick-up of two-and-a-half tons. “[My] biggest goal [is to have it] become a coast-to-coast thing, having lots of schools doing it, thousands of kids doing it. Going up and down the coasts, picking [trash] up before the tourist season.”

From the outside, it’s all about re-establishing the beauty of our coasts—uncovering them from the beatings life has given them. Digging deeper, we can say we are literally saving our lives. Not having toxins, garbage and its effects clogging our water system means living in healthier, happier environments. While at its core, the challenge is to teach kids, in the end it has a greater impact by hopefully carrying over to the parents and other children. Plus, it shows how responsibility must be shared to keep our earth at its best. As Murphy says, “It’s a really positive thing.”

90 Days to Earth Day challenge continues through April 22. Send pictures of progress to Kevin Murphy at

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