ALBANY -- Thorkil Dahl doesn't believe you need to be a heavy lifter to help the environment.
"If we all do a little bit, it will help a lot," the Oakland resident said.
You might have seen Dahl during Saturday's California Coastal Cleanup event. He was the guy hauling a refrigerator door off Albany Bulb.
Swarms of volunteers fanned out across the West Contra Costa County shoreline, from Richmond to Berkeley, Saturday morning. Armed with latex gloves, buckets and plastic bags, they scooped up mounds of trash from beaches, sloughs and trails.
It was the 28th annual California Coastal Cleanup. The event is sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, which has been tracking trash in and around the ocean for 25 years in partnership with volunteer organizations. According to the Ocean Conservancy website, the first 25 years of international cleanup resulted in 145 million pounds of debris removed from sensitive environmental areas by 8.7 million participants. Last year's California Coastal Cleanup resulted in removal of 1.3 million pounds of trash.
Dahl, a landscaper, didn't even realize Saturday's event was going on until he took his dog for a walk. When he saw the trash removal at work, "I got involved, too. I found the biggest chunk that was the least conducive to nature and I grabbed it."
In Richmond, Vanessa Gayton, a summer intern for The Watershed Project, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Richmond, helped outfit and
"We explain the data card to them," Gayton said. "That's the most important piece of the day. We ask them to tally up the different kinds of trash they find."
The numbers can influence legislation; some beaches have been declared smoke-free as a result of the high number of cigarette butts removed from the sand.
This year the Ocean Conservancy offered a pledge card, on which volunteers could promise to reduce their use of plastic items.
"It's educating the community, seeing how people can change their daily habits," Gayton said.
A little further down Meeker Slough, Charmain Tyler was working to fill her second bag of trash.
"I really like the outdoors and I've always been interested in cleaning up the environment," said Tyler, a teacher who lives in Richmond. "I want to devote part of my time to volunteering, and this is what I choose to do."
Back at Albany Bulb, Dahl hefted the refrigerator door several hundred yards before depositing it in a Dumpster.
"You're either going to be part of the problem," he said, "or your going to be part of the solution."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.