Lifestyle

Sound Waters attract hundreds

Volunteers remove over one ton of garbage from Whidbey Island beaches each month, Cheryl May, coordinator of the community litter pickup through WSU, said two volunteers filled the back of this blue pickup in just two hours.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Volunteers remove over one ton of garbage from Whidbey Island beaches each month, Cheryl May, coordinator of the community litter pickup through WSU, said two volunteers filled the back of this blue pickup in just two hours.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Learning is a life-long endeavor, proven by hundreds of islanders who attended the 14th annual WSU Beach Watchers Sound Waters event, billed as a “one day university for all.”

“Look around you. ... More than 560 of us have gathered here this morning with a clear intention to learn something new today, to pay attention to this place we call home, to collect information about how we can address some of the biggest issues facing our society and how to live here more sustainably,” Judy Feldman, interim director of Island County WSU, told the packed Coupeville Middle School auditorium Saturday morning.

She encouraged attendees to put their pointing fingers down and work collectively to make the Puget Sound region a better, healthier place to live.

“We are all in this together,” Feldman said.

A number of local and state government officials attended the conference including Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik, Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard, Island County commissioners John Dean, Angie Homola and Helen Price Johnson, and state Rep. Norma Smith.

Event organizers are serious about the adage “practice what you preach.”

Participants were encouraged to carpool and bring their own coffee mugs. And compost stations dotted the Coupeville High School campus.

“We’re working for a zero-waste, or waste-free event,” Janet Hall, Waste Wise volunteers program manager, said. “We want to be in the premiers of Puget Sound northwest by not producing any waste. ... Look before you toss.”

By the end of the day, a final count of 572 attendees generated only 19 pounds of garbage, 114 pounds of compostable material and 31 pounds of recyclables.

“Most people did really well,” Hall said. This year the poundage of compostables increased and the garbage weight decreased, she said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary Ruckelshaus, a research biologist with NOAA Fisheries, shared her passion and enthusiasm with the crowd during her presentation, “The art of using science to inspire action in Puget Sound.”

Ruckelshaus said she really enjoys working with citizens because they share her excitement and offer a different perspective.

“It’s all the parts around the science that are really the most interesting and fun for me and that’s where I’m still learning a lot,” she said.

Ruckelshaus spoke of the political and ecological context of the Puget Sound Recovery, or what she called “scientists’ problems.” She also touched on “citizen science,” which includes citizen observation and assessment by scientists that inspire action and change.

“Walking through your atrium with all those posters, each one of them epitomizes this chain,” she said of the displays set out by various groups that work to improve the Puget Sound.

From the auditorium, the masses fanned out to attend a myriad of classes, all focused on how to live on friendlier terms with Puget Sound.

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