Meet the people who need your help to clean up Cornwall's beaches
- Credit: 2minute.org
Among the many millions of visitors to our beaches, some unwanted and dangerous things can be left behind.
In the summer 2007, and Martin Dorey is just heading back up the beach at his favourite secret surfing spot after a day’s surfing. He’s done this hundreds of times before. But today is different. Today, he stops and looks at the piles of ocean plastic, fishing gear and general rubbish littering the beach all around him and says, ‘enough is enough’.
It was time, he decided, to make a difference.
With like-minded friend Tabatha Parry, Martin set up the not-for-profit Beach Clean Network and organised his first ever beach clean. He used his influence and voice as a well-known writer and environmental activist to spread the word via social media, and what started out as a local initiative in his hometown of Bude became a national campaign. In 2019, the campaign became a charity, the 2 Minute Foundation, with its team still headquartered in the seaside town on the North Cornwall coast, but with its impact now visible all around the UK coastline. Increasingly, it is also enabling people to lend a hand in green spaces, riversides, and urban settings, with 2 Minute Litter Pick and 2 Minute Street Clean campaigns.
The ‘2 Minute’ reference comes from the organisation’s social media hashtag, #2minutebeachclean, which was first used in the aftermath of the Atlantic storms in 2013 which left their mark on the north coast beaches of Cornwall and Devon. In 2014, the first 2minutebeachclean stations - A-frame boards with litter pick up tools for the public to use - were placed at eight Cornish beaches; today, there are over 1,000 in the UK and Ireland.
While awareness of ocean pollution has grown in the past 15 years, so has the problem itself, with microplastics the biggest challenge of all. The key, according to the Foundation, is to instil a sense of positivity in people, where they can feel ‘yes, I really am making a difference’. The Foundation’s premise is that if you ask most people if they’ve got two minutes, they’ll probably say ‘yes’. It’s do-able. And when you put all our two minutes of beach cleaning together, our small, individual acts add up to one big, combined effort.
As the organisation’s Campaign Manager, Claire Giner, says: “Ocean pollution is a massive global issue, and we can’t fix the world on our own. But with the 2 Minute campaign, we know that collectively, your two minutes will have a big impact. After the first year of our beach clean station trial on Crooklets Beach, there was a 61% reduction in annual waste recorded during monthly survey cleans. It’s about celebrating the small wins and being part of a bigger whole.
“Let’s be honest, big events don’t suit everybody - not everyone can spend all day on an organised beach clean. Where the 2 Minute campaign sits so well in the environment sphere is that it enables people to do what they can, when they can, at their own pace.
“Our experience is that people who start to do beach cleans really develop a passion for it,” she added. “And litter picking is fun! That might sound odd, but it really is. It gives you time and space in an outdoor environment and a focus away from everything else in your life.”
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When they describe who they are and what they do, the Foundation uses words like “enablers,” “campaigners” and “activists” and “educate,” “inspire” and “empower”. Another word features largely, too - “responsibility” - the sense that we’ve all played a part in creating this mess, so let’s do our bit to help clear it up: “We are encouraging people to take personal responsibility,” explained Claire. “Every time you visit an outdoor space, take two minutes to do a litter pick. It would be easy to think the issue is so big, it’s not our responsibility. But it’s all of our responsibility. For instance, if I pick up a plastic comb from the beach, who’s to say that’s not my old comb, the one that I threw away when I was a 5-year-old girl? Nobody is faultless. And people have woken up to that fact.”
The Foundation’s big focus currently is training and education. At the end of 2020, the charity received National Lottery funding to launch its Beach School in Bude which offers free, on-the-beach teaching to groups, individuals, families, and schools, who learn all about oceans, beaches, and conservation. The school is being piloted in the town, and it’s hoped it can eventually be rolled out elsewhere.
This year, the 2 Minute Foundation is launching two more campaigns as it steps up the educational work: the 2 Minute Academy and Guardian Angel Volunteers. The Academy is the ‘umbrella’ education arm of the charity which will offer ways that people can change their behaviours, including new online courses. The Guardian Angel Volunteers campaign aims to attract more people to maintain the 2 Minute stations nationally. In return for their efforts, the volunteers will receive in-house training and training from external education partners, which include the Marine Conservation Society amongst many others.
And the two four-letter words at the heart of everything the Foundation is about? Love and care. “We want to enable people to develop a love of their natural world, because when people love something, they take care of it, they protect it. So that’s our aim - to enable people to foster that love and respect. It’s this love and care - and passion - that ultimately drives behaviour change.”
Visit the 2 Minute Foundation website if you would like to get involved or to book education and training sessions. There is also information about the Foundation’s ethos, and the organisations the charity works at beachclean.net