Pictured (l to r): Kevin Brown (Beaches Watch Board of Directors), Faith Bean and her service dog Puma, Maria Mark (Beaches Watch President)

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, Beaches Watch presented the Fland Sharp Memorial Scholarship to a deserving Fletcher High School student who shares in our mission to preserve and improve the wonderful quality of life of our special beaches communities.

The Beaches Watch scholarship was recently renamed the Fland Sharp Memorial Scholarship to honor Fland Sharp, a Fletcher graduate who dedicated his life serving our beaches communities to preserve and protect our quality of life and was a founding member of Beaches Watch. It is our hope that each year, the deserving scholarship recipient will follow in Fland’s footsteps of community service and contribute in their own way to improving the quality of life of our beach communities.

Faith Bean was selected to be the recipient of the Fland Sharp Memorial Scholarship. Faith has been a part of the beaches community for over 10 years. Her essay focused on how single use plastics are adversely impacting our environments and the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. Faith will be attending the University of North Florida where she will be studying coastal environmental studies.

We are pleased to give Faith a $1,000.00 scholarship, thanks to the generous support of the Beaches Watch membership!

Read Faith’s scholarship essay:

I have lived and been a part of the beaches community for over 10 years. I have watched the community grow and change as I have and the connection between this large small town has been something that has astonished me every day. I recently became more involved in the beaches community over the past year through Mr. Kevin Brown and Beaches Watch who have both taught me and inspired me to make an impact on the people around me through knowledge and perseverance.

In the past few years, the community (and the world) have grown their knowledge about their environment and their impact on the environment. Which has brought on the reusable product revolution. Straws, utensils, grocery bags and many more things have suddenly popped up. With these, the resurgence of recycling has also been on the rise. However, because businesses have to pay for recycling, many choose not to and everything, including recyclables go to the landfill.

As a result, I believe the way to improve the quality of life at the beaches community would be two main things: reducing single use plastics and make recycling something more accessible for the general public and businesses.

Education about single use plastics through non- profits like beaches go green as well as ways to reduce waste has been on the rise within the past couple of years. Consumers are more informed about their decisions based around single use plastics, however, the average consumer still prefers convenience for themselves, making the recycling program we have in place a problematic thing. As there aren’t any ways for the general public to recycle while they’re out an about besides at certain grocery stores. What about a night on the town at the Atlantic beaches town center? When someone may have a bottled water. They may want to recycle it, there is no convenient way to do so, so it gets thrown away.Therefore, a beneficial way to keep those plastics out of the landfill would be to provide recycling bins around the area so that it is accessible for the general public to use. Convenience means they are more likely to recycle rather than just throw something away.

Businesses should also be considered when recycling is concerned. While the general public is a large contributor to throwing away recyclable containers, businesses also contribute. Therefore, legislation should be considered to require businesses to have a part in the recycling program. This will drastically reduce the amount of recyclable materials going to the landfill.

We should also consider cigarette specific recycling containers placed around the beaches area as they are the #1 contaminate worldwide and are the most littered item. Cigarettes are recyclable through certain processes, again convenience of access to these bins would mean the average person is more likely to use them and reduce the number of cigarette butts contaminating our beaches community.

Also, in the means of recycling the first “R” in reduce, reuse and recycle is reduce. As in reduce the amount of single use/ throw away items there are in the first place. This is where legislation would be useful. Requiring business to provide environmentally friendly and compostable straws, utensils, and carry out containers is one way to reduce single use plastics, while still having the plastic straws which some may need. This is a better solution than an all-out ban of plastic straws as some disabled people need those to drink, and cannot use other alternatives.

As I plan to stay in the Jacksonville area through choosing UNF as my college of choice, I look forward to continuing my participation of making the beaches community a better, more environmentally friendly place. I hope others, including our leaders, will take a stand beside the community to make it a better place for all citizens.