How much can you find in 5 minutes?

By Julia Comerford


Working Together: Lilly Woodbury (Surfrider Pacific Rim), AJ Vido (District of Tofino Department of Public Spaces, Cultural, and Visitor Initiatives), Terry Dorward and son River (Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Allies) standing with the new 5 Minute Beach Clean signage at North Chesterman’s Beach.


There’s a new sign in town! Some of you regular beach-goers might have noticed the new 5 Minute Beach Clean signs now posted at entryways to beaches in Tofino. The goal of this partnership project of Surfrider Pacific Rim, Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks, and the District of Tofino is to help encourage beach stewardship by cleaning as you go. So, we invite you to become an ocean ambassador and do your own 5 minute beach clean every time you visit the beach! To quote the 2008 smash hit by Madonna & Justin Timberlake,


“No hesitating, we only got 4 minutes to save the world” … or in this case, 5 minutes. Whether you’re surfing, walking the dog, beachcombing, having a fire…the beach is your playground and your sanctuary so let’s collectively take care of it together. We don’t need to wait for an organised clean up to take care of the beach, all it takes is a few minutes each to help clean up marine debris and prevent it from polluting the ocean.


Here’s how it’s done,  in a few simple steps:

  1. Collect marine debris or litter, spend five minutes picking up as much debris as you can find.
  2. Post a photo to Instagram or Twitter and hashtag #Surfrider #5minutebeachclean to encourage others to do the same!
  3. Bring the items to the nearest waste disposal station. If the beach doesn’t have a garbage or recycling bin, you can take the items home for disposal


The 5 Minute Beach Clean campaign here in Tofino is part of a global movement that started with the #5MinuteBeachCleanup hashtag. Together, #5minutebeachcleanup and #5minutebeachclean have been tagged on Instagram over 22,000 times (and counting) as people share photos of what they’ve found along coastlines around the world. This movement began in Costa Rica by Carolina Sevilla, who served as the Consulate General of Costa Rica in New York City for over 10 years before returning to her home. Now, she lives as minimally as possible in a tiny wooden cabin nestled in the trees at the beach. She calls this her paradise- except for the inescapable plastic and marine debris that washes up constantly on the beaches in her community. Sevilla was simply saddened by the plastic and debris around her, so she started posting what she found on Instagram to share the pollution she witnesses daily with others around the world.


Take away the warm rainforest and ample tropical fruit, the scene here in the Pacific Rim region is not so different. For many, the beaches and coastlines here are a Northern coastal paradise, but here too it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the presence of marine debris polluting the coastal rainforest and stretches of this sandy, cobbly, driftwood coated coast.


If you look closely there is so much to pick up. Plastics are the most common debris on the Pacific Rim coastline. When plastics are pulled back out with tides, they continue to break down further into tiny microplastics and are consumed by birds, fish and marine mammals. From there, the process of bioaccumulation takes these microplastics and toxic chemicals up the food web, accumulating in the greatest volumes in larger creatures that are higher up on the food chain, including the declining orca population that feed on this coast, or even us humans that dine on seafood.


As you walk along the shoreline, take a peek under driftwood or dried seaweed for debris that isn’t as easily seen. You may notice tiny beads of styrofoam, that often accumulate above the tideline. If you peek into the treeline, you might find larger debris that can be lodged in the coastal forest, often going unseen for years at a time. You may be surprised by how much you can find in such a short amount of time. For some friendly competition, create games to play with your friends and family that focus on giving back and leaving no trace as you enjoy the beach, like “who can collect the most foam bits in 5 minutes?”



If you’d like to keep the friendly beach clean competition going, Surfrider encourages you to share a photo of your haul to your Instagram story with #5minutebeachclean,  and then tag three friends and challenge them to do a quick cleanup. Local organizations like Raincoast Education Society and businesses such as Long Beach Lodge and Storm Surf  Shop are also getting in on the competition. Allistair and Mike from Storm were astonished at the amount of rubbish they collected in just a few short minutes on MacKenzie Beach and challenged their next-door neighbours at the Jeremy Koreski Gallery and Rhino to get to the beach and get cleaning! Its great fun to challenge your friends!


Beyond cleaning up the coast, help to prevent your impact by always remembering to pack out what you pack in, bring reusable containers and packaging, and opt for reusable alternatives to single-use plastics! We’d be sad to see the competition wind to a close, but Surfrider’s mission is to make beach cleans obsolete and we can all take action by reducing the amount of disposable items in our lives. For more information on how to Rise Above Plastics, visit our website Love Your Beach Clean!