Rock Star & Owner of Amerrickan, an Earth Day clothing line.
A quiet guy – whom you’d never suspect to be famous if you just met him in a health food store – Zach wants to MAKE change in the world rather than talk about it.
Most people know Zack from afar as a rock star bass player and singer in the band All Time Low. I know him as a great family friend who finds his deepest joy in giving back. For Zack, cleaning our collective home – the earth and sea – makes him feel incredible. He does his own personal beach ‘sweeps’ almost daily after his fitness workout on the sand, then takes people on big, multiple-beach cleanups on weekends. He has a great time and now meets amazing people he wasn’t meeting otherwise, people eager to help keep Hawaii the way they love it.
Zack dedicates most of his personal – yet huge – social media platform to this earth/sea cleaning cause. His clothing line Amerrickan devotes itself to an Earth Day focus of cleanups around the world, with proceeds going to 808cleanups and Surfrider Foundation. It offers men’s and women’s clothing, all casual apparel, currently featuring hats, shirts, hoodies and tank tops, with fashion in mind, all related to cleaning the world. For people who don’t live on the beach, he’s supporting cleanups of parks and forests.
Walking the beach, Zack brings a bag to pick up the trash left behind by both tourists and even locals: snorkels, slippers, beer bottles and cans, broken buoys, fishing weights, hooks, as well as miscellaneous stuff like a fluorescent light bulb and a hull of a boat. He knows that kids are the ones who will eventually feel the most impact from our trash, so he asks them as he walks along to give him any trash that they see. Great awareness raiser!
His group beach cleanups particularly look for ghost nets that appear on the shore overnight. These big tangles of fishnets, hooks, gear and assorted junk get wrapped around the reef and eventually choke it to death – or the sea mammals and turtles get caught and injured in them. Removing ghost nets as soon as they appear is a big priority for Zach.
On the beaches, they do lots of sand-sifting with handmade tools. Zack lets people know that bigger plastics breaking down into microplastic constitutes a huge environmental problem. Birds and fish eat them and die. The tiniest microplastic is absorbed into microorganisms at the lowest levels of the food chain and even make it into our drinking water, so they are getting into OUR body systems as well.
Sifting all the microplastic out of a 10 foot square spot would take hours. Zack and his friend Al Smith are teaming up to efficiently sift the beaches. Al, the Director of Parks and Recreation for Kailua and founder of the nonprofit Hawaii Ocean Ambassadors, originally turned Zack onto beach cleaning. Al is cutting through the bureaucratic red tape to get Zack permission to drive on the beaches pulling a mechanical sifter behind his vehicle. Once that permission is granted, Zack plans to buy the machine himself and personally do the driving – whenever he’s not on tour with his band!
Joining Zack this last Saturday for a cleanup were about 15 people, consisting of about 50/50 local folks and people who have moved here from afar. They started up at the North Shore and worked their way down the east side of the island where ocean currents bring most of the trash: Pounders bodyboarding spot, Kahana Bay, Kahuku Beach, Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach.
Knowing that most people simply don’t realize how they are contributing to this trash problem, Zack educates people in a friendly way. “Go have a great time at the beach,” he tells everyone. “Always take your stuff away, and if you can, take some other people’s junk away, too.” He lets people know, “The solution starts at your house with single-use plastics. Ask yourself whether you really need it or if can you live without it?” And he shows people how much he and his friends pick up off the beach.
Living in Baltimore where his band formed itself in 2003, Zack put together charitable events for a homeless shelter. Once he moved here to Oahu, and started working out at the beach, he saw the magnitude of the ocean debris started grabbing all the trash he came across. That eventually turned into group pickups with lots of friends – for fun and for a good deed. Zack is too active to just lie there in the sun, so beach cleaning is much more worthwhile and satisfying to the soul!
Contributed by Zack Merrick
Living in Hawaii, we experience the beauty of our ocean daily. We know our planet is suffering – a state of urgency with ocean pollution getting out of hand. Sometimes we don’t know what to do and how to help. Let’s start by minimizing our use of plastics, making a positive difference daily! We can feel good about stewarding the Earth and leave a thriving ocean for future generations. Take a look at suggestions you may never have thought of…
In the Kitchen:
Keep a stocked pantry to avoid getting takeout on busy nights.
Learn how to freeze your food without plastic so it doesn’t go to waste.
Store refrigerated leftovers in glass containers or in waxed paper bags instead of store-bought baggies.
Use waxed paper, an overturned plate or a reusable shower-cap type cover for bowls.
Wash and reuse your aluminum foil as long as possible before recycling it with the cans.
Use metal, wood and bamboo utensils.
Always leave your house with a full reusable water bottle, avoiding plastic water bottles.
Ask for no straw in your drink order.
Ask for a real mug at the coffee shop when staying in, and bring your own to-go cup when getting coffee on the run.
Bring your own container for to-go food and leftovers, avoiding styrofoam and plastic to-go’s.
In the Bathroom:
Ditch plastic shower loofahs for a real loofah or a bamboo bath brush.
Switch from a plastic disposable razor to a metal safety razor.
Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush.
Use bar soap instead of liquid soap in a plastic bottle.
Try making tooth powder to avoid unrecyclable toothpaste tubes.
Swap little plastic chapstick tubes for DIY lip balm.
Ditch plastic q-tips for plastic-free ones.
Use compostable scrubs or brushes in lieu of plastic sponges.
Put old contact lens into the trash, not the sink or toilet – they cause problems at the water treatment plant.
At the Store:
Commit to bringing your reusable bags all the way into the store.
Choose glass over plastic bottles.
Bring reusable produce bags for fruits and veggies.
Buy food without packaging or minimal packaging, bringing your own container.
Avoid purchasing liquid containers that combine plastic, aluminum and cardboard that we can’t recycle.
Ask for no plastic and for reused packaging materials for online orders.
Seek out items made of metal, wood, rubber, cloth, paper, cardboard, natural fiber – rather than plastic.
Avoid plastic furniture, tubs, boxes, sheds.
Buy the non-plastic version of a thing, so that you can repair it when it breaks.
Surround yourself with tools and items that are meant to last a lifetime. Try to buy objects only once.
Always say ‘no thank you’ to free promotional items, which tend to be cheap, plastic and easily breakable.
Try to shrink the amount you need to recycle. Zero waste is about recycling less not more.
Learn where to properly dispose of items such as old cell phones, batteries and unusable cords that can be turned in at Best Buy, etc.
Pick up litter when you’re out and dispose of it properly.
If you like these suggestions, you can check out the 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste at goingzerowaste.com