Students must avoid damaging beach communities


Gwen Snyder | Views Layout Editor

For many Tulane students, the spring semester means going on beach vacations with friends, whether it be for spring break or formal. While these trips offer a fun getaway for college students at Tulane and colleges across the country, they also wreak havoc on coastal communities, threatening local economies and ecosystems. Students must be more conscientious of their actions while visiting other communities and properly dispose of any waste that they create while at the beach.

Approximately 40 percent of college students travel for spring break, spending more than $1 billion annually. Beaches are a popular spring break destination for students, including those here at Tulane, and coastal towns often come to rely on tourists to support their economies.

College students have developed a reputation for acting irresponsibly and dangerously during spring break and formals. In 2017, volunteers picked up more than 850 pounds of trash that had been left on the beach by students visiting for spring break. There was even a slip-and-slide left behind that posed a serious threat to sea life. Locals, angered by the heaps of trash left behind by visiting students, described the scene as ridiculous and disturbing.

Miami city officials deploy hundreds of police officers to Miami Beach during “high impact” periods, such as spring break, to monitor and protect the large number of visitors. These officers report rampant pollution, including overflowing trashcans, discarded bottles and abandoned floatables. This disrespectful behavior not only reflects poorly on the students and the institutions they attend, but also strains the resources of coastal communities like Miami, as officers and officials must deal with the aftermath of partiers’ negligence.

Discarded trash severely damages aquatic ecosystems as well. Plastic items are broken down and consumed by small aquatic organisms, which are then eaten by increasingly large fish. Through this process, toxins from pollution work their way up the food chain and into fish that are eventually eaten by humans, which some studies show may threaten the health of their central nervous systems. Plastic pollution, including six-pack rings and packaging, also kills animals such as sea turtles by entangling them, causing amputation and choking.

By hurting the aquatic environment of areas, pollution from spring break and formal trips also damages local economies. When beaches are too polluted for recreational use, fewer tourists visit, which reduces the revenue of coastal communities and threatens the jobs of those who live in them. Moreover, this decrease in economic activity can affect the country as a whole. Coastal communities contribute an estimated $6 trillion toward gross domestic product and are responsible for 47 million jobs. Carelessly leaving trash on the beach can threaten the livelihoods of millions of Americans.

Spring break and formals should remain a time of celebration and relaxation, but college students must be mindful of the impact they have on the places where they party. Though discarding an empty beer can or deflated innertube may not seem like a malicious action, these forms of thoughtless littering are hazardous to the people and animals that depend on the ocean to survive. A weekend of fun in the sun should not result in years of irreparable damage to our nation’s sea life and coastal communities.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Madeline is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]

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