More than 300 beachgoers in Hollywood spent their Saturday morning cleaning up trash from the sand as a part of the second annual Free Our Seas And Beyond Environmental Art Festival.
Hosted by Nova Southeastern University and the nonprofit Free Our Seas, the festival hoped to get people out to celebrate Earth Day a few days early and learn more about threats to marine ecosystems in South Florida.
"A lot of plastic bottles, a lot of plastic bags - bicycles are a big portion of [the trash] this morning," Vince Bolocofsky said. He's cleaning up with the Broward County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
This is not his first beach clean up but he admits he's never seen five bikes pulled out of dunes in one morning before.
"What you're not seeing just looking at it, is all the microplastic and stuff that people are picking up: those little pieces of plastic that have been broken up and broken down and wash up on the beaches every day," Bolocofsky said.
Next door to the clean-up, 50 local environmental artists showed off their work - which included a grouper made out of flip flops and plastic straws all found on Hollywood Beach.
"We saw the possibilities for people who might not be environmentally minded….through the art, it peaked their curiosity," Elaine Fiore, a co-founder of Free Our Seas, which uses art centered around the environment to educate people about marine pollution.
The festival lined the pedestrain broadwalk in front of the Marine Environmental Education Center at the Carpenter House, which is a partnership between Broward County Parks, and NSU researchers. The center opened about two years ago and planned the art festival around Earth Day with Free Our Seas to gain more traction.
"Earth Day is great, but Earth Day should be every day," Derek Burkholder, the center's director, said. "Marine debris and pollution in our environment is a huge issue all year round."
Nearly 30 of the booths at the festival were set up for organizations that focus on marine conservation.
Last year's event gathered close to 2,000 people, so they expanded this year. After the beach clean-up people enjoyed live art and music too.
In addition to the featival's activities, participants could also visit with Captain, the center's Green Sea turtle in-residence. Injured by a boat ten years ago, she floats too much and needs a weight glued on her shell to be able to dive. She now lives in a swimming pool at the center.
Captain can be visited year-round, , not just for Earth Day.
"We're very fortunate to have her here as an ambassador for us to help teach people about - not only about sea turtles - but also the marine environment," Burkholder said.