App: Clean Swell
Background: This citizen science smartphone app encourages users to clean up beaches in their area and track when and what they picked up (Clean Swell, 2016). The app not only keeps track of all of the user’s beach clean ups but it uploads this data to the Ocean Conservancy’s data pool that records what app users are cleaning up all over the world (Clean Swell, 2016). This data can provide global insight into the trash carried by the ocean currents and help educate lawmakers about possible solutions (Clean Swell, 2016).
My experience: I really like feeling that I’m making a difference (don’t we all?) and this app provided me with that feeling. I went to my favorite nearby beach (Alki, pictured below) and cleaned up trash I found there while recording what I found on the app. This would be a great app for people who like clear, simple conservation actions like cleaning up trash. It also allowed me to be part of an important, global citizen science project!
Clean Swell could not have been simpler to use. I signed in by providing my email address and then got to work cleaning up the beach! When I found a piece of trash, I simply clicked the category for the type of trash I found, from toys to fishing gear. After I finished, I entered an estimate of how many pounds of trash I had collected and an estimate of the distance I covered. The app saved this in my history so that I can eventually figure out how much trash I’ve collected in total. Clean Swell even gave me a badge to celebrate my first trash collection!
While Clean Swell did not provide me with any explicit facts, it did help me learn about beaches around me. I had no idea how many cigarette butts are left on the beach! I think I’m going to include that new knowledge in some of my conservation messaging in my talks at the aquarium. Collecting trash also gave me a chance to look at the other things that appear on beaches: crab shells, seaweed, rocks, clams, and more.
Nature/Conservation Connection: 5/5
One conservation connection that Clean Swell provides is obvious: when we clean up trash on beaches, we’re cleaning the ocean and making sure that marine animals don’t ingest what they shouldn’t. The other nature connection isn’t so obvious but it’s just as important. Clean Swell gets people outside, exploring natural places around them! After all, you can’t do a very good job cleaning a beach when you’re sitting inside. Getting people to explore the outdoors is a very important feature of this app because even just being in nature allows people to connect with the environment and hopefully, be more motivated to help save it.
Clean Swell by Ocean Conservancy. (2016). Retrieved February 24, 2017, from