Andrea Berger is pioneering shoreline cleanups in her seaside New Jersey community

Andrea Berger is a climate activist who is dedicated to fighting climate change in her community, so she co-founded Salt Water Warriors (@salt_water_warriors), a community organization dedicated to picking up litter around the town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. 

Each month, Andrea and the rest of the Salt Water Warriors meet up to spend an hour collecting trash in their coastal community. To date, they have prevented thousands of plastic bottles and containers from making their way into the ocean, showing just how much of an impact an hour of hard work can make.

“We’ve collected over 3,000 plastic bottles, over 1,200 aluminum cans, and over 2,000 plastic bags,” Andrea tells In The Know. “Our volunteers are so wonderful. They’ve been with us through literally every weather that you can imagine.”

Andrea first noticed Point Pleasant’s trash problem in 2020 when she started running as a hobby. “The first time I definitely noticed litter was during quarantine in 2020,” she explains.

“I would be on a lot of runs and I noticed there was just a ton. Seeing it every single day during quarantine was just kind of overbearing.”

Andrea reached out to her friend Alaina, who is just as passionate about environmental issues, and the two of them decided to hold a local cleanup event. “We sent out a Facebook group invite for about 50 or 60 people and out of that seven showed up, including me and Alania,” Andrea recalls. “So, basically five people joined us. That was July 29, 2020. I remember on that day, we just split up in different areas of the town and decided to meet back in an hour. We all filled a bag of garbage.”

Though that first event only attracted a few attendees, Alania and Andrea were undeterred, and began holding monthly get-togethers. Over time, the number of Salt Water Warriors began to grow, and the organization even began to accrue local sponsors. “We’ve had over 22 sponsors from Point Pleasant alone,” says Andrea. “People just saw what we were doing in town and every single time that we would schedule another cleanup, more people would show up.”

After each cleanup event, Andrea and a handful of other Salt Water Warriors take all of the collected trash to Andrea’s home to sort it. Their goal is not simply to make Point Pleasant more beautiful by reducing the amount of litter that mars its scenic beaches and parks, but to make sure trash is properly disposed of, and recycled whenever possible. “[We] take all the garbage back to my house and we separate it out, and we put it in the proper disposal bins,” Andrea explains. “And then we actually work with the town, so we schedule a pickup.”

Andrea hopes that in the future, children will grow up with a sense of responsibility towards the environment and their local community. “If people learn this at a really young age, it will just be part of who they are. It won’t be something that they have to go out of their way to learn to do,” Andrea tells In The Know. “Anyone can do something, even a small action, to help slow down or even reverse the effects of climate change.”

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