Hold on to Your Butt!

Of course, you’re more than welcome to grab your backside as you read this but Hold on to Your Butt is actually a wonderful new initiative from the Coffs Coast Surfrider Foundation.

Thanks to some passionate northern beaches residents, the Emerald Beach foreshore is now home to three new bins to help keep those pesky cigarette stubs off the lovely beach and out of the ocean too.

As the group says, there are all kind of butts seen at the beach but some of them are not at all welcome.

Numerous Coffs Coast residents have recently formed a Surfrider Foundation branch for the region which includes the coastal communities from Nambucca to Red Rock.

The Surfrider Foundation is an organisation dedicated to protecting the ocean through conservation, activism, research and education. The sea roots non-for-profit was founded some 30 years ago in the US and now exists in 18 countries worldwide. The Australian arm of the organisation was established in 1991 and there are now 17 volunteer branches nationwide dedicated to local and national coastal environment issues.

Hold on to Your Butt Coffs Coast Surfrider Foundation seagull

Lilli Nicolson, President of the Coffs Coast chapter would love to see Australian membership increase.

“Ideally, I wish for all surfers to become members. As a nation, we probably have the greatest population of surfers in the world and yet, Australian membership of SRA is extremely low. At a cost of just $30 a year, we encourage everyone to join. As members, people are contributing to our wholehearted and dedicated efforts to have cleaner beaches and oceans.”

It goes without saying that surfers have a deep appreciation of the ocean. Local surfer, Barney Miller is a passionate advocate for the cause as is his friend, Mick Fanning. Fanning is an honorary lifetime member of SRA. Another long-term supporter of the organisation is surfer, singer and songwriter Jack Johnson who has supported the foundation since his teens. Scroll down for Jack’s interview from the steps of the Opera House where he discusses why Surfrider is so important to him.

As you can see, in joining the Surfrider Foundation, you’d be in excellent and talented company!

The local chapter may currently be small in number (under 30 members) but they sure can make things happen. Late last year, one member became particularly concerned about the number of cigarette butts she was seeing on our coastline and decided to act.

Hold on to Your Butt Coffs Coast Surfrider Foundation bin

It took just a few months before the three receptacles were installed at Emerald Beach which is a fantastic result and a great reflection of how committed the volunteers are to the cause. Lilli says Keep Australia Beautiful NSW assisted with grant money and Coffs Coast Council were also wonderfully supportive of the local Hold on to Your Butt campaign.

The specialty bins at Emerald Beach have been introduced as a trial and the hope is that more and more bins will be installed, not only on the Coffs Coast but well beyond too.

And they are already proving to be successful. In the first week of installation, 128 butts were put in the bins. Lilli commends local smokers for being so willing to use the bins and hopes the trial will be an enormous success in helping everyone- including the local wildlife. The foundation will regularly empty the bins into collection boxes which are sent off to be recycled.

Hold on to Your Butt Coffs Coast Surfrider Foundation bin

It’s certainly a worthwhile cause. Cigarette filters were once made from cotton wool but these days, are made from cellulose acetate (plastic) and can take up to five years to break down. Discarded butts contain chemicals such as nicotine, cadmium, arsenic and lead all of which can leach into the environment. It’s obviously in everyone’s best interest to be pro-active about discarding them appropriately.

The new Surfriders branch are certainly ‘doers’ and naturally, they have more plans in the pipeline.

There will be a film night in June to officially launch the local chapter and there are numerous beach clean ups planned with the support of Sea Shepherd as well as other environmental campaigns to get started on.

Lilli hopes that these events draw much interest and increase membership to the Surfrider Foundation. She says, “As surfers, the ocean gives us so much every time we paddle out and joining Surfrider is a terrific way to return the favour in a sense. It may seem like the environmental issues we face are massive and complex but really, if everyone just did a little bit here and there, we can make a difference and quickly too – at least to our local beach. We would love more people, be they surfers or just those passionate about the ocean, to become involved in our organisation.”

Hold on to Your Butt Coffs Coast Surfrider Foundation wave

As coast dwellers, we have a responsibility to look after those special places that bring us such joy and offer such beauty. We all need to hold on to our butts and if we’re not smokers, hold onto any other items that belong in a bin instead.

Better yet, grab your own rubbish and then pick up a few extra bits of debris you see as you leave the beach.

To support the foundation in their mission to ‘inspire an engaged surfing and coastal community who are passionate about protecting oceans, waves and beaches’, go to Facebook ‘CoffsCoastSurfrider’ or visit the national website www.surfrider.org.au

 If video is more your style, feel inspired at

 Or watch Jack Johnson talk about Surfrider Foundation –