During spring break, my niece and her two children had lunch with me, and afterward we went for a walk on the beach. Lucy, my six-year-old great-niece, noticed plastic on the beach, and she started picking it up and putting it in her big straw hat.

As we walked the beach, Lucy became a little task-master and kept saying, “C’mon guys we have to get all the plastic.” She was so focused on getting every piece of plastic she could find. Sadly, the beach was littered with all types of plastic. By the time we got back to our beach chairs Lucy’s hat was filled and over-flowing with plastic.

We went up to the life-guard—Bryan Galvin— to show him what she had collected.

Bryan told Lucy his story of walking 400 miles on the beach from Georgia to Miami picking up plastic.

He said he picked up over 80 bushels and didn’t feel like he had made a dent. Lucy was excited to hear of Bryan’s adventure and his activism. He feels we should refuse to use plastic altogether.

When I went home that afternoon, I started to notice all the plastic more than ever. Even though I recycle, the plastic in my kitchen was everywhere— in blueberry containers, wrapped around my cauliflower and broccoli, covering my half-eaten avocado. In my extra garbage bag bin, I must have had 20 garbage bags that I do try to reuse.

Everywhere I looked there was plastic—wrapped around the flowers I had bought, gifts for my nieces and nephews, clothing purchased online, etc.

A YouTube video of a once pristine beach in Mumbai, India recently went viral. The beach was covered in all types of garbage, including literally tons of plastic. One young gentleman decided to clean up the beach all by himself. His actions inspired others to join him after they saw his progress. Little-by-little, day-by-day, the community restored the beach to its original clean state.

It’s hard to imagine cleaning up all the plastic in the ocean or on the beach, but we can reduce, reuse, and recycle our daily plastic use. Lucy’s intent in picking up the plastic on the beach made me think of her future. She re-inspired me to take the small steps I can to reduce my immediate plastic consumption.

I am now more alert to bringing my canvas shopping bags to the grocery store and also to re-using again and again the plastic bags and containers I already have.

When I was six years old, I had no awareness of the environment or any social issues. I see future leaders in Lucy and her generation. Unfortunately, they have no choice but to clean up the mess we made.

However, we can still do our best to start the cleanup now. Remember the difference one man in Mumbai made just by starting to clean up one piece of plastic at a time.

Here is a link an article on 11 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Waste.