2015 Project of the Year: Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps’ Beach Buddy Adventure Exhibit

Beach Buddy Adventure
Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps

Day-to-day human activity can be extremely harmful to the world’s waterways. Most people don’t realize it, but of all the oil that reaches the ocean, only 12% comes from large-scale oil spills; the rest reaches our shores through dumping and runoff from our streets and parking lots. In addition to oil, there are many kinds of chemicals and debris polluting our water, promoting invasive species growth, and harming some of the most vulnerable – and most important – species in the marine food chain: phytoplankton – the single-celled organisms that play an enormous role in producing the oxygen we breathe. 

To raise public awareness about the seriousness of water pollution and what can be done to curtail its effects, Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps (SRCC) teamed up with the California Coastal Commission, Thank you Ocean, and Cal Expo to create the Beach Buddy Adventure exhibit for the 2014 California State Fair.

The Beach Buddy Adventure exhibit was comprised of multiple stations, each focused on a different aspect of water pollution, including marine debris, oil spills, ocean acidification, and invasive species. Cal Expo constructed the displays for the exhibit and Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps supplied props (items the Corps pulled from local creeks, including televisions, shopping carts, and bowling balls), as well as presenters. Thirty SRCC Corpsmembers, plus Corps staff, were trained by the California Coastal Commission in the complexities of water pollution. Corpsmembers then practiced their presentations and honed their public speaking skills before spending 18 days educating State Fair attendees about the enormity of our water pollution issues.

The State Fair was visited by approximately 135,000 people. Of those who stopped by the Beach Buddy Adventure exhibit and completed surveys, 99% said they enjoyed the exhibit; 24% said they were unaware of the problem of marine debris: 23% said they were unaware of the problem of oil spills; 40% were unaware of the problem of ocean acidification; and 29% did not know about the problems posed by invasive species. When asked about the behavior changes they learned about through the exhibit, 41% said they would reduce waster by using fewer disposable items and recycling; 38% said they would recycle used motor oil; 35% said they would reduce use of fossil fuels; and 30% reported that they would volunteer for local river or beach clean-ups.

Through Beach Buddy Adventure, thousands of people learned about the seriousness of water pollution and gained information about what they can do to reduce their environmental impact. In addition, SRCC Corpsmembers learned about water issues and gained valuable public speaking experience. SRCC also received a great deal of publicity; many of the people visiting the Fair had never heard of the Corps before. By seeing SRCC Corpsmembers and staff providing a community service, visitors learned about the positive influence of Corps.