Trash and treasure at Earth Day Fest


Hundreds of volunteers, dozens of environmental organizations and several aquatic fauna made a lively Earth Day Festival at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum over the weekend.

The second annual event kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a warm welcome for cleanup volunteers, who had collected trash all morning from beaches across the Island. 

Beach cleaners were rewarded at the festival with a bounty of free goods, including shirts and baseball caps from the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), as well as catering from Mo’s, Bobby B’s, Scottish Bakehouse and many more.

“[We] just went as a family,” said Ross, a cleanup volunteer from Edgartown who took part at Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark. “It was, as usual, a beautiful beach. Unusually quiet off-season … We took off a big bag [of trash,] I would say,” he said, adding that his family found a piece of a frisbee and lots of construction materials.

Members of VCS also held the second-ever Trash Awards in the museum backyard, honoring the best finds from the morning cleanup. 

The winning trash included a worn monocular (most vintage) from Katama Beach, a corroded pocketwatch (most unique and cool), and a message in a bottle that originated from Nantucket (most traveled).

“They’re giving us their trash!” one Vineyarder shouted.

The event also honored Laurisa Rich, who created the Beach BeFrienders trash cleanup program at last year’s festival. Beach BeFrienders, a collaboration with the conservation society, holds monthly cleanups at Vineyard beaches and distributes cleanup kits for individuals.

“We can do our part by grabbing [trash] out of that circular disintegration process and put it in the landfill. Or, better yet, upcycle some really fun things for art pieces,” Rich told the crowd. “There is a new category at the [Agricultural] fair this year for upcycled art pieces.”

According to Rich, the BeFrienders’ regular cleanups have been making an impact. “Everybody’s been saying so far that [the trash collected] is a whole lot less than past years, so I think this monthly thing is making a big difference.”

Samantha Look, executive director of the conservation society, also noted the presence of man-made trash on Island beaches. “There’s more sort of human bits and pieces, flotsam and jetsam, than there is from the ocean at this point in many places,” said Look.

Festival attendees also visited booths throughout the museum, catching up with and signing up for local and regional environmental groups.

At the Lagoon Pond Association’s “Invaders in Our Lagoon” booth, a lineup of invasive species was presented in fishbowls. These included the ominously named dead man’s fingers, Japanese skeleton shrimp, and a mystery colonial tunicate.

The association also took signatures for a petition to better enforce a single-use plastics ban approved in Oak Bluffs two years ago. “Since the passage and enactment of these Bylaws,” read the petition, “Oak Bluffs has neither appointed an enforcing designee nor adequately enforced this Bylaw.”

Vineyard Power came to the festival to spread the word about a home energy assessment offer for moderate-income residents in Oak Bluffs. This offer covers the full cost of weatherization measures, and for those who verify their income, of electric panel and certain heat pump upgrades.

Sydney Pigott of Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, accompanied by Boxy the box turtle, distributed milkweed plants vital for monarch butterflies.

Richard Couse of MV BiodiversityWorks encouraged attendees to download the free iNaturalist app, and contribute to the Martha’s Vineyard Atlas of Life. Couse says the atlas has logged 4,000 species on the Vineyard so far. “And I’m pretty sure we can double that,” he added.

For those seeking more local environmental opportunities, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s annual Climate Action Fair will take place Sunday, May 19 at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury.


  1. I take my people on tours just about every day throughout the summer….
    Lately I have been hit fearing more comments made about how clean the vineyard is…
    People that come to visit notice the trash doesn’t seem to be an issue as it used to be….

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