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Local Businessman Organizes Island-Wide Beach Clean-Ups

Errol Thurston Jr. of Errol Thurston Bahamas is doing his part with the help of his relatives to beautify the island of Abaco.

So far, the family has targeted three public beaches – Reds Bay, Bahama Coral Island and Snake Cay – for their beach clean-up campaign.

According to Thurston, the idea for his beach clean-ups arose interestingly because of bad weather, which led to him experiencing a bit of “cabin fever” one day.

“I went for a drive one afternoon,” he recollected, “and decided to stop by a local beach to take a walk for a bit.  The view of the water, as always, was spectacular, but then I looked behind me, and saw a bag full of garbage laying in a heap of trash.

“The more I looked around me, I realized how much trash was overtaking this area.   I was dumbfounded and left wondering why anyone would do this.  I took a video and posted it to my Instagram story to show everyone what I was seeing.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I knew I had to do something, and that’s how the beach clean-up idea ignited.”

It truly was astounding to see what all people had dumped on the beach, Thurston said. During the clean-up, they found beer bottles, soda cans, candy wrappers, paper products, used diapers, chip bags, plastic ware, heavy plastic crates, pieces of furniture, appliances, bagged-up household garbage – the list was endless.

One day during a clean-up, he posted on Facebook that they had collected 47 bags of trash and more than 250 pounds of heavy plastics from local beaches.

“People are using our beaches and surrounding areas as if it is the landfill.  It’s really unbelievable,” he exclaimed.

Thurston said they could see trash strewn all around, and he could visually tell that there was a lot of it. 

“Honestly, though, it’s not until it starts overflowing from the top of the back of my truck, and I’m running out of room for it that I really became shocked by the actual quantity of the garbage left behind,” he said in disbelief. 

Overall, his goal is to raise awareness through the clean-up campaign.

“I want people to know that there is a problem. We really need to look into our local waste management, and determine if all of us are doing what we need to do daily to keep Abaco clean, green, and pristine.  I’d really like to see a shift in our local thought process about trash in terms of reduction and a focus more on the potential of incorporating recycling as part of our waste management system.”

Thurston said he would like to believe that people don’t set out to use our beaches and surrounding areas as a garbage dump, but the truth is, it’s happening. 

“I think some have a mindset of, ‘Oh, it’s just a little bit of trash, it won’t hurt anything.’ Unfortunately, the reality is that even a little bit hurts a lot, and the more people who have this mindset, the more trash that is inevitably left behind.

“I also think that the people leaving large quantities of trash, especially large items, honestly have zero respect for themselves and for anyone else, and clearly no regard for how their footprint is affecting the future of our land and our people.”

Fortunately, though, Thurston has found that there are like-minded people like him who are willing to get involved with keeping their communities clean.

“I have friends and family doing beach cleanups all over The Bahamas and in the US.  It’s incredible,” he said, excitedly. “I’ve even had clients reach out letting me know that when they are in town, they want to spend some of that time helping to clean up our beaches here in Abaco.”

He was thrilled that his sisters, daughter, nephew, and his 80-year-old father have all been out to clean up beaches with him.  Additionally, his wife is organizing beach clean-ups with their friends and family in Florida.

“We are all out to practice what we preach and make a difference.  We want to leave this world better for our kids,” he affirmed. “I’ve always been focused on taking care of what God has blessed upon us.  This is no different.  When I saw all that trash that day, I knew I had to do something.  I couldn’t just complain about it, but I had to show others how to make a difference, too.”

Thurston said he is overwhelmed by the positive responses and the immediate action of others.  For him, it was a reminder that “at our core, most of us want to do what is right and help others.  This has restored my faith in humanity for sure.”

Based on the response he has received, there are others who plan to organize beach clean-ups. He has also incorporated a contest as part of the beach clean-ups to encourage people to get involved.

The winner will receive one full day of fishing or island hopping with Thurston, who was the 2014 Bahamian Icon Award Winner for Tourism for his company that provides boating, diving, inshore and offshore fishing, island hopping, snorkeling, spearfishing and vessel transport.

The contest rules are for contestants to like both @errolthurstonbahamas and @paid_to_play_all_day on Instagram. From there, they must tag both accounts in a picture of them, and the bags of trash that they pick up from our beaches then challenge one friend per bag of trash they pick up. Each bag of trash they collect will be entered in the drawing.

“I imagine we’ll start seeing more posts tagging Errol Thurston Bahamas as the month goes on. I’m also thrilled that June from Blackfly Lodge in Abaco, and Bubba from Grand Slam Tackle in Jupiter, Florida are contributing items to the package I’m offering,” Thurston explained.

Moving forward, Thurston plans to fully incorporate the beach clean-up as part of his normal routine.

“If I’m not doing my part out on the water, I’ll be doing my part on land, and it’s my hope that others do the same,” he stated. “We have to work together to make a difference, and we have to educate others about the proper ways to dispose of their unwanted items.  I’ll keep practicing what I preach and posting in my Instagram to help keep the message and education going strong!”

Although Thurston hasn’t had an opportunity to revisit the areas he has cleaned up, it is definitely something he plans to do. 

“I’m invested in this, and so is my family. I want to make sure we continue doing our part to keep our beaches and oceans beautiful and trash free,” he concluded.

About Canishka Alexander

Canishka Alexander was born in New Providence, but spent most of her childhood years on Abaco. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Abilene Christian University.

Although she has accomplished many things in life, her greatest accomplishment is being a mother to her four children. She loves God, her country and people of all cultures.

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