All it takes is five minutes and a hashtag. That’s the message behind the Instagram campaign launched by NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island staffer Leslie Vegas to rally fellow beachgoers into helping pick up trash and keep it out of the ocean. Vegas, who works as the aquarium's Education Animal Aquarist, is also an avid outdoorswoman and her frequent forays around the OBX often become impromptu litter cleanups.
“Everywhere we would go, we’d come back with a bag of trash, or two or three bags,” she says. Drawing from the interactivity of Instagram, Vegas started a new hashtag, #obx5minutebeachcleanup, alongside a page of the same name, and posted a photo of what she could gather in just five minutes. “The concept is to see what you can pick up in that amount of time,” she says. “Just take five minutes and see what’s around you.”
Or as the Instagram page puts it: “Be an ocean hero and get to cleaning for 5 minutes!” The idea was inspired by a global campaign, also on Instagram, but Vegas said she hoped to localize it and bring in the tight knit Outer Banks community, which has the beach in both its front yard and in back.
Since the launch, a handful of other photos have appeared with the #obx5minutebeachcleanup tag, and Vegas hopes the budding Instagram movement will build a life of its own. She also plans to incorporate prizes and contests – like seeing who can find the most plastic bottles in five minutes – to keep Instagrammers coming back for more. With 250,000 visitors to the Outer Banks every week during the summer season, five minutes here and there can really add up to a lot of trash cleaned up.
“Everyone’s got five minutes to see what trash they can find on the beach, even if they are just on their way back to the car,” Vegas says. “Just take a picture and tag it on Instagram and see what kind of difference it can make!”
How to do it:
- Sign up for Instagram (or get on a visiting relative’s account!)
- Go to the beach (We know: this is the hard part.)
- Spend five minutes picking up trash off the beach around you (Don’t worry! It’ll be there.)
- Put all the trash in a pile (Or make a cool shape!)
- Take a picture of the trash (Modern art is underrated.)
- Share the picture to Instagram with the hashtag #obx5minutebeachcleanup (Join the hashtag party!)
- Don’t forget to take the trash with you and throw it away or recycle it! (Pick it up, pack it out!)
- Be an "Ocean Hero!"