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During my morning beach walk the week of July 4th, I ran into our trusted patrol officer, Steve.  No one knows the beach better.  He is on the sand most every day 12 months of the year.

We had a brief chat and I asked him what he had found on the beach so far.  “Balloons and more balloons” he bemoaned.  I then asked him how many.  His response:

“Only about 15, but the day is young.”

What made me finally publish this over a month later?

My beach trash count from yesterday:

  • 1 Milk Carton
  • 2 Plastic Cups
  • 5 Plastic Bottles

And..

  • 15 Balloons

Please help us spread the word.

Balloons are one of the most common forms of beach trash.  Unlike some other plastic problems, however, a relatively easy solution exists.

Don’t buy or release balloons for celebrations.

Why is this important?

Balloons blow for miles creating a major source of ocean pollution.

Next, encourage your community to ban them.  Crazy you say.  No.

If you do, you won’t be alone and will multiply the difference you make.  It’s happened already in the following communities:

  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • San Francisco, California
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Everett, Massachusetts
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Ventnor, New Jersey
  • Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
  • Plymouth-United Kingdom
  • New South Wales-Australia
  • Sunshine Coast-Queensland-Australia
  • Palm Beach, FL

More information on balloon laws and bans can be found by clicking here.

Take a little time to make a difference and, like Steve, help keep our oceans clean.

 

For more on Clean Up Oceans and links to organizations that you can support, please click the following or contact Preston McSwain directly.

Organizations that We Support

Contact Information for Preston McSwain

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In the new Spider-Man Homecoming movie, our spidey hero turns off the “Instant Kill” mode on his suit because he wants to stop harm, not add to it.

Unfortunately, however, Spider-Man balloons inspired by the film are now blowing into our oceans and their webs of plastic and string are likely to actually kill.

The picture featured in this post was taken this morning on a Martha’s Vineyard beach.  Ironically, our family just saw, and loved by the way, the Spider-Man movie in Edgartown yesterday.

Along with the dangerous deflated Marvel villain we found while walking today, we picked up 16 other balloons, which brings our count over the past 7 mornings to more than 150 balloons collected along the same 1/4 mile stretch of beach.

For well over 15 years, organizations have documented the dangers of helium balloons.  As an example, back in 1990, the New York Times published more than one op-ed that outlined the harmful impact of balloons and how a “baby 17-foot sperm whale… was too weak from starvation to keep itself afloat because it had innocently eaten a Mylar balloon that stuck in its stomach.”

We have documented this as well many times and wrote about it specifically last year when we helped successfully lobby the America’s Cup to stop future balloon releases.  As an update to a chart in that post, what continues to be the #1 type of ocean trash found on whale watches off the coastline of New Hampshire?

As illustrated in the chart below, which represents 13 years of data collected by the Blue Ocean Society and University of New Hampshire: balloons.

Like Spider-Man does, please help us protect our surroundings from danger.

Encourage your community to disable the killing feature of balloons by banning the sale of helium-filled balloons and prohibiting any type of balloon release.

 

For more on Clean Up Oceans and links to organizations that you can support, please click the following or contact Preston McSwain directly.

Organizations that We Support

Contact Information for Preston McSwain

“Balloons, they are the number one form of trash on the beach and we find many birds and seals every year who have died because of eating them…”

This was what I heard last year on one of my morning walks, when I asked this question of an older beach patrol officer, who has been on or around the water all his life (click here for the full story).

Most people asked this question answer “plastic bottles”.  They are a problem for sure, but, like the old sea dog I queried, my experience points to balloons.

As an example, the count from my morning walk today was the following:

  • 30 Balloons
  • 6 Plastic Bottles
  • 1 Waxed Milk Carton
  • 1 Soda Can
  • 1 Plastic Food Container
  • 1 Styrofoam Coffee Cup

Yesterday, I picked up 38 balloons, and one morning last year, I picked up 59 in less than 40 minutes.

In addition to the sheer volume of balloons, one of the more detrimental properties about balloons is that they blow.

I have written about this before and assuredly will again, but a picture from my walk yesterday drives home this point.  A balloon I found on Martha’s Vineyard was from Astoria Queens in New York city.

More on this can be found at a website that we strongly encourage you to follow: Balloons Blow

The Balloons Blow website highlights not only the problem balloons cause for our oceans, but also how they harm wildlife on land and are a major cause of power outages.

Cities and towns such following have either banned helium balloons completely or made balloon releases illegal.

  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • San Francisco, California
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Everett, Massachusetts
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Ventnor, New Jersey
  • Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
  • Plymouth-United Kingdom
  • New South Wales-Australia
  • Sunshine Coast-Queensland-Australia

California, Connecticut and Florida have also taken state wide action (more can be found here).

Please help raise awareness in your community about this problem that is literally blowing around the globe.  Every little action can make a difference, so take some time to make a lasting impact.

Help Clean Up Oceans by not letting balloons blow.

 

For more on Clean Up Oceans and links to organizations that you can support, please click the following or contact Preston McSwain directly.

Organizations that We Support

Contact Information for Preston McSwain

 

Summer is back, but the plastic never left.

This weekend, we arrived on Martha’s Vineyard and I went for my first walk of the season on South Beach.  At first glance, the beach was totally unspoiled. When I looked closely, however, as usual plastic and balloons were found every few feet (see the picture above).

If you Google plastic in the ocean, you will find many disturbing pictures of trash washed up on beaches in other parts of the world (see below – for the full story click here, or the image).

You might think, “this is horrible”, but then say, “I’m glad this doesn’t impact me.”

Unfortunately, if you feel this way, you are wrong.

As we often post, this is not a third world problem. It is our collective global problem that washes up on the pristine million dollar beaches of Martha’s Vineyard and even in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach (see below – I took this picture less than 100 yards alway from the Mar-a-Lago beach, which would have looked this way as well if it hadn’t been cleaned that morning).

Many who read this are blessed to be able to come to lovely places and enjoy time on the water boating or on the beach.  When you do, don’t look the other way and walk by when you see plastic or balloons.

As we posted last time, “Don’t stand idly by.”

Take a little time to help out.  Pick up just one or two things.

If we all did, the small actions of many would make a big impact and help us Clean Up Oceans!

For more on Clean Up Oceans and links to organizations that you can support, please click the following or contact Preston McSwain directly.

Organizations that We Support

Contact Information for Preston McSwain

 

On MLK day remember….

 

 

I will keep this short and just encourage everyone to look the slope of the increase in plastic in our oceans and the decline of fish populations around the world.

Don’t sit idly by.

Stand-up and be heard about the importance of the health of global fisheries.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-science-oceans-idUSKBN0OK28N20150605

http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/environment/brief/oceans

http://www.nature.com/news/independent-study-tallies-true-catch-of-global-fishing-1.19197

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120920-are-we-running-out-of-fish

http://www.nature.com/news/fisheries-eyes-on-the-ocean-1.17121

http://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/more-than-85-percent-of-global-fish-stocks-are-at-significant-risk-of-illegal-fishing-wwf-report

 

 

At the end of the Summer, my family was fortunate to be able to spend many weekends on Martha’s Vineyeard (MV).  The weather was wonderful this year and we enjoyed great moments together on the beach.

Unfortunately, however, we again found many balloons in the sand and dunes.

When I tell people that we pick up trash on the beach, I typically ask them what they think is the most common from of beach trash.  Many say plastic bottles, which is indeed a problem.  By far though, the most common form of beach and ocean pollution we find is balloons.  Most people are surprised, but more and more are starting to realize that this is a major problem.

Below are just a few Summer 2016 pictures from South Beach on MV.  On one day in particular, in less than a 30 minute walk along South Beach we picked up over 20 balloons!

Balloons on MV found by Preston McSwain

Balloons found by Preston McSwain on a short beach walk

In a previous post, we threw down something of a challenge for MV to join its fellow island, Nantucket (ACK), and ban balloons.

For more information on the bold action that ACK took, which we hope that MV will follow, please click the links below to our original post and another follow-up piece we published earlier this year.

“Nantucket Bans Balloons to Protect the Ocean”

“Will Martha’s Vineyard Join Nantucket?”

Please consider passing this blog and the others along to your friends and local officials.

With simple legislation similar to what was passed in ACK, we can make a real difference.

If you are not connected to MV, but love the beach or care about the health of our oceans, encourage your community to take action as well.  Towns along Long Island Sound, Maine, Block Island, other coastal towns in Massachusetts, how about it (more information can be found here)

We will post additional information on the problems being caused by balloons soon, so stay tuned.

Help us make a difference and keep Clean[ing] Up Oceans!

 

For more on Clean Up Oceans and links to organizations that you can support, please click the following or contact Preston McSwain directly.

Organizations that We Support

Contact Information for Preston McSwain

What type of thumbprint or impact do you want to leave on your family, community or even the world?

During my day job as an investment advisor, this is one of the first questions I ask new clients before we ever start to talk about stocks, bonds, or the multitude of investment funds and strategies that are available from Wall Street.

For those of you who follow my Fiduciary Wealth Partners blog, or some of my other personal posts, you know that I have a consistent investing theme.

Don’t make investing a competition to outperform your neighbors or friends.

&

Invest based on your plan that is designed to meet your goals, not on the models or race others are running.

Somewhat related to this, days like Earth Day always get me thinking.

What is important in life?

For me, it’s about giving back to my community and being a good personal “fiduciary” as a husband and father.

Related to this, I posted the following poem not long ago.

The Man In The Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself

And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife 

Whose judgment upon you must pass

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest

For he’s with you, clear to the end

And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test

If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass. 

                     – Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.  

Consider taking time out this Earth Day weekend to look in the mirror and think about what’s really important to you, your family and community.

What type of impact or thumbprint on the world do you want to make?

 

Preston McSwain is a Managing Partner and Founder of Fiduciary Wealth Partners, an SEC registered investment advisor committed to forming fiduciary wealth partnerships with clients, professional colleagues, and the community. To see more of his posts, and learn more about the causes that his firm and family support, please visit the following:

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If plastic trash keeps growing at the same pace, it will outweigh fish in the ocean.

This was the sad projection in a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Ellen MacArthur learned more about the problem first hand during her record breaking solo sailing circumnavigation of the globe in 2005.

According to research done by her foundation, most plastic packaging is used only once and much of it then finds its way into the ocean.

The study estimated that one garbage truck’s worth of plastic is being dumped into the sea every minute and that, if no action is taken, the pace of this plastic ocean pollution is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four truck’s worth of trash per minute by 2050.

If this happens, plastic will outweigh fish!

The graphs below highlight how significant this problem might become.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.41.27 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.41.48 AM

How can well all help?

First, take notice. Don’t just walk by trash on the beach.

As we have written about many times on this site, plastic doesn’t just look bad, it kills marine wildlife (for more click here).

Next, consider supporting organizations such as the following:

Sailors for the Sea

NOAA

Pew Trusts

Ocean Conservancy

If you are interested in innovative start-ups, check out a new, socially-innovative company, Plastic Bank, and their brand Social Plastic. They are monetizing plastic trash in impoverished areas, where in some cases the problem is most acute.

To learn more please read Trash to Cash, which talks about how Plastic Bank is making it harder to walk by that plastic bottle on the beach.

As the warm weather returns, my family – like yours, I’m sure – will be spending more on the water or at the shore.

We will start writing more about our experiences and hope that you will all spread the word and help keep our oceans clean!

 

Preston McSwain can be found during the day working as the Managing Partner and Founder at Fiduciary Wealth Partners.  To see more of his posts on clean oceans, education, and investing connect with him through the following social media links:

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About.me

FWP

The America’s Cup is arguably the most prestigious, glamorous and well-funded ocean event in the world.

What an opportunity the Cup has to highlight the importance of keeping our oceans clean.

Unfortunately, the America’s Cup blew it by allowing balloons to blow.

As we point out at Clean Up Oceans, plastic – and balloons in particular – are one of the largest problems facing our oceans.

When we mention this to our friends, some say, “Balloons, come on, really?”

There are studies from around the world on this subject but, keeping it local to our New England coastline, below is a chart from the Blue Ocean Society, which has been collecting ocean debris data from whale-watching ships for the past 11 years.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 5.41.30 PM

What does the largest orange slice of the trash pie represent? Balloons.

Not only do the totals over the entire 11 year period rank balloons at the top of the heap, every year since 2005 balloons have been the most collected form of ocean debris. The full report can be found at the following University of New Hampshire Marine Debris Project, which is funded by NOAA.

I don’t necessarily expect land lovers to know about ocean trash issues but sailors, who have a great love of the sea and are out on the water, can see the problem for themselves.

This is what makes the America’s Cup balloon release so disturbing.

Well known sailing organizations such as Sailors for the Sea and the Volvo Ocean Race have been highlighting the problem of balloons for years.  At the recent Volvo Ocean Race stop over in Newport, balloons and other major contributors to ocean trash like single use plastic bottles were banned.

Last month, publications like IRIS picked up our Keep The America’s Cup Clean post and helped spread the word.  Others, such as Balloons Blow, Sailors for the Sea and Scuttlebut Sailing News have also reported on the problem.

The good news is that this spreading of the word, including tweets like the one below, has gotten the attention of the Cup (thanks again IRIS, Doug and Tom).

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 5.35.18 PM

America’s Cup posted the following response on their Facebook page saying that the “balloon release should not have happened.” They also said they would “put processes in place… to ensure this will not happen again.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 5.37.23 PM

On the one hand, YAHOO!

Small actions by many made a difference.

On the other, it is not great that in the statement above, the America’s Cup said that the “balloons were made from natural latex” that “biodegrades in sunlight and seawater.”

As our friends at Balloons Blow have reported in detail, latex balloons are not biodegradable (please click  here for more information and see the 3 year “balloon still there” picture below).

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 5.53.35 PM

It’s still hard to comprehend how the America’s Cup would have allowed a balloon release, and then made a false claim while making a promise to “ensure this will not happen again.”

Hopefully what some are now calling “Balloongate” will highlight that balloon releases cause long-term harm and will become a catalyst for future change.

Please remember that small actions do make an impact, and help us spread the word and Clean Up Oceans!

 

Preston McSwain can be found during the day working as the Managing Partner and Founder at Fiduciary Wealth Partners.  To see more of his posts about his day job, investments, and on issues such as clean oceans, and education, connect with him through the following social media links:

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About.me

FWP

 

The America’s Cup.  The most prestigous and glamorous sailing event in the world.

It brings those passionate about sailing and the sea together with big business and serious advertising.

At the last America’s Cup, the contest was particularly exciting. The match was the longest on record both in calendar time, and the number of races, with the U.S.’s Golden Gate Yacht Club staging an improbable come-from-behind victory, winning eight races in a row to defend the Cup with nine points to New Zealand’s eight.

With all of the media coverage and big name sponsors associated with the Cup (Louis Vuitton, BMW, Oracle, etc.) the event is a showcase for our oceans.

The excitement about the 35th Cup, being held in Bermuda, is unprecedented and with this they have the opportunity to remind us all about the importance of protecting the sea and helping to clean up oceans.

Unfortunately, the America’s Cup is not off to a good start.

After achieving the highest honor possible during the 34th Cup for implementing environmental sustainability best practices, it is surprising that the organizers of the 35th Cup created potential harm to the ocean by releasing balloons in Gothenburg.  The image above is lovely, with a little girl raising her hands enjoying the event.

Would she be cheering, though, if she knew that sea turtles, whales, birds and many other sea creatures are known to have suffered and died from ingestion of or entanglement by balloons?

We have mentioned this in many of our previous posts. As a sad update, researchers from Queensland recently found that 78% of the plastic recovered from a sample of sea turtles came from eating balloons.

Remember, what goes up must come down.  As our friends at Balloons Blow say, “Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!”

Below is a picture that I took this past summer. A dead bird wrapped in the string of an old, washed out helium balloon.

IMG_2670

If you think this sight is uncommon, you would be wrong.

If you do a Google search (click on the search link below), you will find that balloons are a major cause of death for birds and marine animals.

Google + Balloons + Harm + Wildlife

You can find more information on the documented problems by clicking on following Balloons Blow link:

The Ugly Truth

Beyond balloons, the Cup organizers are also standing still while eleven acres of marine habitat are destroyed to increase the size of the race village.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.25.54 AM

According to a post by Sailors for the Sea, the proposed landfill in Bermuda will bury 11 acres of marine habitat that is known to support protected species including sea turtles, eagle rays and parrotfish.

As Scuttlebutt Sailing News reports, the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) plans to go to court to challenge these plans, which they say are in violation of existing environmental regulations.

“We have met several times with America’s Cup Bermuda Ltd. head Mike Winfield or members of his team and have jointly attempted to reach resolution on those portions of the application that directly affect the America’s Cup organization” and “unfortunately those attempts were not successful,” said BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward.

Louis Vuitton (The LVMH Group), BMW and Oracle can demand that America’s Cup change its environmental footprint. These companies already are publicly behind important environmental efforts. Below are links to the public environmental statements that LVMH, BMW and Oracle make on their websites:

LVMH Environmental Charter

Oracle Environmental Policy

BMW Group-Wide Environmental Protection

I want the 35th America’s Cup to be an outstanding and joyful success. The imagines from Bermuda will be stunning, with cutting-edge hydrofoil boats racing literally above the water.

America’s Cup sponsors, while enjoying and celebrating joy on the water, don’t let this opportunity to make a difference in cleaning up oceans go to waste.

#KeeptheCupClean

 

Preston McSwain can be found during the day working as the Managing Partner and Founder at Fiduciary Wealth Partners.  To see more of his posts about his day job, investments, and on issues such as clean oceans, and education, connect with him through the following social media links:

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About.me

FWP

 

You can quickly run out of superlatives when talking about whales.

They are the largest, loudest, longest-lived and most voracious animals on the planet.  In particular, the sperm whale is one of the most magnificent.

Sperm whales have the biggest brain of any animal – a massive 18 pounds compared to our human brain of only 3 pounds.

At 65 feet long, they are perhaps the largest predators that have ever existed.

They spend 90 percent of their lives at great depths, able to dive deeper than any other animal – sometimes reaching over 3000 feet or almost 2 miles and staying under water for more than 2 hours at a time.

The sounds sperm whales make, which scientists believe are communications, can reach well over 200 decibels – as loud as a jet engine and powerful enough to be heard six miles away.

It has been documented that they can live as long as 230 years.  This means that sperm whales may be swimming in the sea now that were alive before Victoria ascended the throne or Captain Cook discovered Australia.  Bowhead whales, their close cousins, live to even greater ages — up to 300 years, making them the planet’s longest living mammals.

To sustain itself, a sperm whale must consume up to 1,000 squid a day — that’s approximately 1,100 pounds of calamari!

Although it has a 10 foot long jaw studded with 42 enormous teeth (each up to 2 feet long), it does not bite its prey.  Instead, it sucks up its food like a giant vacuum cleaner, swallowing squid whole.

And what does research show that sperm whales often Hoover up?

Plastic bags and balloons.

As an example, over 1,700 pounds of plastic (much of it supermarket bags) recently was found clogged in the stomach of a whale that died on the French coast.

Living so long, and being such large consumers of what is in the sea, sperm whales give us a good picture of the changing health of our oceans.

What changes have we seen in sperm whales over the past 200 years?

Well, in less than a whale generation (remember they can live to age 230) it is estimated that their population has been reduced from 2 million to 360,000.

For many years, hunting had a significant impact on the sperm whale population.  Hunting sperm whales is now widely banned, but unfortunately our current activities create longer-lasting dangers.

One of the greatest problems faced by any marine species is the sheer amount of plastic (especially plastic bags and balloons*) in the ocean.   The fact that plastic bags and balloons don’t biodegrade only compounds the problem.  For decades, if not centuries, the plastic just breaks downs into smaller and smaller fragments that enter the food chain for sea life — and eventually the food chain for humans.

By virtue of its position at the top of the marine food chain, the sperm whale is affected more than most any other creature by the pollution we dump in the sea.

It is sadly ironic that a simple plastic food bag that holds food to sustain our lives, or a party balloon that is meant to bring short-term joy, can have a powerfully long-term negative impact elsewhere – causing unnecessary death for generations of whales and other marine animals.

My family and I are again fortunate to be on Martha’s Vineyard, and I am back to my daily beach walks.  What am I finding again?

Plastic bags and balloons.

It was raining here yesterday, so I am caught up on my clean ocean reading and writing.  An article by the Daily Mail from the U.K. titled “Sperm Whales – How Plastic Bags Are Poisoning The Planet’s Greatest Predators” provided much of the inspiration and information for this post.  The full article can be found at the following link:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2096142/Sperm-whales-How-plastic-bags-poisoning-planets-greatest-predators.html

The wind blew hard yesterday, which means that on my walk this morning I am likely to find many plastic bags and balloons on the beach.  If everyone did just a little bit to help, maybe some day I will not be able to take pictures like the one below (taken at South Beach on Martha’s Vineyard).

photo 2

Plastic in the ocean is truly a whale of a problem, but small actions, taken together, can create whale-sized, scalable change.

Help us Clean Up Oceans!

 

* During the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers collected 120,450 pounds of bags from beaches in the United States.  For more information about plastic in our oceans please click on the following click:  Facts About Ocean Pollution

 

Preston McSwain can be found during the day working as the Managing Partner and Founder at Fiduciary Wealth Partners.  To see more of his posts about his day job, investments, and on issues such as clean oceans, and education, connect with him through the following social media links:

Twitter

Linked In

About.me

FWP

 

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