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CSUN Students “Leave No Trace” at California Beaches

SANTA MONICA, CA – To battle ocean plastic pollution, students from California State University Northridge (CSUN) created a project called "CSUN Leave No Trace." The project is an organized semester-long beach cleanup.

Photo, Sammy Fernandes

Most material things that people buy have plastic protection in it, such as plastic protection in fruits even though the fruit peel is the protection itself. According to the National Geographic, the rapid acceleration of plastic production surpassed nearly every other man-made material, and half of all plastic produced becomes trash in less than a year.

Daniel Taylor, political science major with a minor in sustainability, said they are trying to “keep plastics, microplastics, all kinds of things that go into the ocean, out from going into the ocean.”

Taylor said plastic reduction has to start with corporations stopping the usage of plastics packaging that are not reducible.

“A lot of times you look at the beach and you’re like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t look so bad,’ because people expect to find big things, like big cups or big plastic containers,” Taylor said. “But the reality is, when you get close enough, you find all kinds of things that you wouldn’t notice from a wide view of the beach.”

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 90% of the plastics in the open sea are microplastics, meaning they are less than five millimeters in diameter. Microplastics form from the fragmentation of larger plastics as they break down from ultraviolet rays, wind, and wave action. As they resist degradation and become smaller, they break down into more numerous particles without substantial chemical degradation.

Lia Pannone, art major with a minor in sustainability, said she was surprised by the amount of trash she found at the beach.

“This issue, like environmental justice, climate change and pollution, is bigger than you and me,” Pannone said. “I am optimistic, but also worried. I hope that the government will help us preserve all this land.

Heather Varg was one of the 15 people who came to help clean up the beach. She said what she finds the most is an “exonerative amount of cigarette butts.”

“It breaks my heart everytime,” Varg said.

According to the Washington Post, Americans have ingested at least 74,000 microplastic particles every year by eating, drinking, and simply breathing.

The project “CSUN Leave No Trace” started in Dr. Loraine Lundquist’s Applied Sustainability class. Dr. Lundquist is the former candidate for LA City Council in District 12.

“I ran for office because I felt so compelled to make an impact on our climate emergency for the sake of my students, for the sake of my children,” she said.

Dr. Lundquist addresses the importance of policy in sustainability for her students.

Audio, Sammy Fernandes

“So many people in our society believe that they don’t have any power to make change,” Dr. Lundquist said. “These kinds of activities give you a sense of your voice and give students an understanding of how they can make change in their community — it’s incredibly empowering.”

Taylor said he hopes that, as more people get into events like these, they start to look at the bigger picture.

“There’s a big problem ahead of us, but it’s definitely solvable if we all work together on it,” Taylor said. “We can’t get intimidated by the size of the problem.”

Pannone said people should live in the present, as the future is unpredictable.

“Enjoy what life has right now. And be grateful for it, because you never know what will happen.”

Video, Bored Panda

Video, Sammy Fernandes

By Sammy Fernandes

With contributions from National Geographic, United States Environmental Protection Agency and The Washington Post

Photo, Sammy Fernandes

Audio, Sammy Fernandes

Video, Bored Panda

Video, Sammy Fernandes


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