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Cleaning the beaches one TikTok at a time

Credits: ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times

What once was a family and animal-friendly vacation spot is now turning into a garbage dump. Pollution on beaches is a growing problem, leading to ocean pollution, animal endangerment, and more. However, people are starting to take action, such as Caulin Donaldson, who uses social media to raise awareness on this issue.

Caulin started this project in 2019 after noticing the beaches near his home were getting littered. He started by posting stories on Instagram and amassed over 1.5 million followers on TikTok by starting a challenge of going to the beach every day to pick up trash. He continues to try and find new ways to entertain his viewers with challenges all while educating them on the seriousness of littering.

“I grew up in a vacation tourist-like beach town, so I was surrounded by the ocean and beaches. Since it’s a tourist town, there are a lot of people coming in and out, and over the years, I've noticed how things have changed in terms of more trash, traffic, and more. This led me to look into ‘how can we be more sustainable?’ ‘How can we be more eco-friendly as individuals?’ That led me to the rabbit hole that I've been going down. I literally just started with ‘I don't like that there's trash there, so let me pick it up,’” Caulin told Cosmic Climate.

Since starting the account, Caulin has inspired many to start picking up any litter they find. People comment on his TikToks saying that they found trash and were inspired to clean up their areas.

A common piece of trash Caulin finds on the beach is beach toys that people might not be able to take back home because of travel restrictions. Inspired by this, Caulin started a “Take a Toy Leave a Toy” system which allows a litter-free way for people to leave their toys behind.

“It has been a passion project of mine this year. People are either leaving the toys by the trash can or just there in the sand. I asked my audience what we should do. A lot of them were like, “make a “take a toy, leave a toy” box,” so I tried it out and I put it out on the beach. The next day it was gone. They took it out. I went to my city’s mayors, and they were all into the idea. So then we put it back out on the beach. It's crazy to me that I have the leverage, the platform, and the voice to make impacts locally in my community,” Caulin said.

Along with encouraging a petition to ban plastic bags in Target and Walmart, Caulin worked with Mr. Beast and Mark Rober on the Team Seas project. He liked that they were using their influence positively and joined in on their project.

“I've looked up to Mark Rober and Mr. Beast as creators for a long time. I feel like we are in a time where it's so easy to influence people poorly, and to see big creators make that turn to push more of an impact locally and make a positive impact, I was so into it. For them to invite me out there, I felt really humbled by this experience. It was like finding this group of creators that are really trying to shed light on these issues and doing something about that, as opposed to just getting clickbait or being toxic like the past couple of years,” Caulin said.

Caulin’s advice to anyone who wants to make a change in their community is to first start talking about the topic you care about since talking is contagious. Taking action doesn’t require studying the subject.

"I encourage people to get involved and started in that way and not feel like they have to be perfect or know everything about what they're talking about,” said Caulin. “You will learn more than you could ever imagine by just getting in there, learning, meeting people, and just hearing the conversations. If you don’t know where to start, just talk about it, care about it and let other people know where you stand on this. Over time, You'll see that you've gone to this community of people that really actually want to take some actionable steps.”

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