My name is Angela Riley and I am the founder of Scotian Shores, a shoreline cleanup social enterprise based in Nova Scotia. Scotian Shores officially started in August 2020 and became a business to help raise funds for our ongoing operations. We upcycle shoreline trash and end-of-life fishing gear to create mats, bracelets, baskets and more. In just over a year we have been part of removing over 100,000 pounds of ocean debris! It has been one giant collaboration of connections and amazing stories.
I chose to start Scotian Shores for many reasons. One reason was to make connections.
In 2020, I was in an eco-depression. I was becoming aware of how bad the key environmental issues, like the climate crisis, pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and so, so much more were getting. I had never been taught these things with the emphasis they deserved when I was younger. Why were teenagers and young children having to march and protest every week? Why was Greta, a young adult, having to fight this battle? Why aren’t we doing anything?! (I now know we are!) I had recently had my second child and it really hit me: What is their life going to be like in 30 years?
What. Have. I. Done?
That’s when I felt the most alone in my life I ever have. What could I really do? It was so overwhelming. I hit rock bottom and the pandemic was not helping things. During this time I would often take my children to the beach and just stare out into the waves, soaking up the sun and listening to their innocent laughter. Life was good on the shore, it always has been. I grew up by the ocean and come from a long line of fishermen. My connection to the ocean is strong.
After a few visits, we started bringing a bag to collect the “treasures” we found as my pockets were not big enough. Often, our “treasures” consisted of anything but. We found ourselves collecting mainly plastic and old fishing gear that would wash ashore. Each day I would bring the items home and dispose of the trash. It felt good to be helping the Earth, even if it was just one bag at a time. I started wondering how many others felt like I did, hopeless and overwhelmed?
Finally, after a few weeks of going out everyday the public health measures loosened and we were able to be with others again. I decided to help plan my first Community Cleanup where over 75 people came and we had an outpour of community support. We made a noticeable difference that day and I felt connected to my community. Happiness filled my heart.
That was the day I realized connecting with others is important if we want to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy nature. That being part of a team and helping each other is important. So I made it my mission to create something that would help achieve this on a bigger scale. It needed to be something that I and the people around me were passionate about, something everyone could do and something that would make people stop to think about the future of our Earth. Then it hit me! I was already doing it! Shoreline cleanup is all of those things in Nova Scotia!
Nova Scotia is known as, “Canada’s Ocean Playground”, and boasts over 14,000kms of shoreline. We have some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. We are a proud bunch, we love the ocean and many of us have family that make their living from the ocean fishing. In Nova Scotia, you are never more than 60kms from the ocean. So many connections.
I started connecting with as many clean up groups and environmental organizations as I could find in Nova Scotia. We began co hosting events and doing trash art projects to create more awareness. Most people that come to join us are not aware of how much plastic is washing ashore and those that do know are given hope when they see others helping. Connections are being made and we are stronger together.
Scotian Shores started as one person and in less than 2 years has grown into over 300 volunteers across Nova Scotia who share stories and connect with others who care too. We are all connected and in the process becoming more aware. More of us are gaining our voices and standing up to help the Earth in one way or another. It may not be beach cleaning, but there is ALWAYS something you can do.
Whether it is one piece of garbage or one giant shoreline clean up: Every bit counts. Every connection matters. We can all do SOMETHING.
I will end with a quote I have always loved and rings true for this shoreline loving gal:
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” – Ryunosuke Satoro