Growing up, I lived in south Houston, Texas in a suburb called Clear Lake. We were in a place that was about halfway between Downtown and Galveston Island, and that’s where I spent most of my life. When I was young, until maybe seven or eight, we used to visit Galveston beach and Galveston Island a lot, since it was the nearest attraction site, especially to entertain young kids like me.

For my mother’s fortieth birthday, we celebrated by blowing out her candles in the open trunk of our car, parked on the shore of Galveston beach. I remember specifically that we weren’t allowed to walk around without our shoes on, but I took them off anyways despite the warnings. I wanted the feeling of being on the beach seen in the movies, wind blowing through my hair, feet dug into the sand, water washing over my toes, but as soon as I stepped out of my flip flops, I just jumped right back onto my shoes.

Galveston Beach

You see, on Galveston beach, there used to be a good amount of trash mixed into the sand - and not all of it comes from beach-goers. The feeling of the trash along with the natural silt on the beach from the gyre in the Gulf of Mexico unfortunately ruined the movie-like experience for me.

The Gulf of Mexico has a diverse, productive, and beautiful coastline, including Galveston beach, but it’s not resistant to the impacts of debris. The area has constantly been proved to be a place of hardship, especially for marine life.

In 1987, The New York Times reported 3100 tons of garbage floating down into the Gulf of Mexico in search of a dump. This shows that water pollutants, no matter where they start in the ocean, can congregate to create a mass that heavily impacts one area in the way it did here in the Gulf of Mexico. Even today, large masses of ocean pollutants have been found and dubbed as “trash islands.”

Marine pollution isn’t a problem just in the Gulf of Mexico though. In fact, the world’s largest trash island, twice the size of Texas at over 600,000 square miles, is found in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. There are so many other parts of the ocean that need help.

Here’s what you can do: you can volunteer abroad this summer on an opportunity (like this one here!) where you can help the ocean recover from mass pollution and help stop perpetuating the same problems from occurring again and again.