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Hannah Beck, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Mira Costa, completed her Gold Award for Girl Scouts by hosting a beach cleanup this January. She then used the recyclable trash to educate local elementary schoolers about keeping the environment clean through art projects. (Photo by Kirsten Farmer)

The average American produces 3.5 lbs. of trash per day, according to Hannah Beck, a recent graduate of Mira Costa High School. 

But, when the 18-year-old decided to do a beach clean-up this January as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award, she did not expect to find everything from cigarette butts to a needle on her local shoreline. 

“Someone left half a surfboard just sitting on the sand,” the Manhattan Beach native said. “It was so sad to me that people could come here and enjoy it so much but then just leave the beach so disgusting.”

Beck, who will be attending Emerson College in the fall, knew the cleanup was a start, but it wouldn’t be enough to create a lasting impact.

So she decided to help educate local children about the importance of keeping the environment clean.

“I really wanted to go teach them what I had learned and see if they could help themselves,” she explained.

Beck organized a series of classes at Castle Heights Elementary School in Los Angeles and F.D. Roosevelt Elementary School in Lawndale where she took recyclable items from her beach cleanup and helped children create art projects out of them.

“I gave them a list of recyclable and nonrecyclable materials in their community so they would know what they could and couldn’t throw away,” Beck said.

She also created a presentation about other recycled arts projects and gave the kids a lesson on trash in the ecosystem.

She discussed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—which measures more than 1.6 million square kilometers—as well as how trash ends up in the environment, affecting the planet and its inhabitants.

Beck said the children had some experience recycling and that most were excited by the idea.

“I think I gave them a bigger idea of what is truly happening and made them see what they could do simply if they started recycling at their own home,” she added.

Beck is also hoping to impact a larger audience through her website https://sites.google.com/view/reduceereuseerecyclee, which gives information about recycling, projects to do at home and ways to help. 

“I think we all see global warming, the ice caps and everything else. It’s a global thing thing we need to fix,” Beck emphasized. “If someone started recycling just after seeing (the site), that would be a big difference for me.”

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