This Young Man is Revolutionizing the Way We Clean Beaches Around the World
With strength and perseverance, anyone can make a difference in the world. Regardless of age, race, status, et cetera— if there is a genuine resolve in the heart, magic occurs. Arjun Sharma is living proof of this, and he plans to tackle a worldwide issue that is plaguing beaches through his handy invention.
A high school junior in Hawaii, Sharma developed ‘CleanMyBeach’, an app that essentially bundles cleanup groups created by people around the world and assists with bringing together a community focused on cleaning beaches in their areas. He hopes that this will bring environmental awareness to come together as people and fight the bigger fight on a global scale.
Humans consume five trillion plastic bags in a year. That adds up to 160,000 plastic bags in a second. The worst part is that only 1% of the plastics get recycled. Most of them are made with polyethylene which takes centuries to break down. 10% of plastic ends up in the ocean where it is broken down into pieces— pieces that eventually get ingested by fish that are unable to digest it. If the plastic stays intact, they may possibly endanger marine lives through choking and suffocation. This should be enough to spark concern in people, but unfortunately, environmental awareness and actions are not gaining a much needed faster momentum.
Beach Samana, Dominica Republic ©Rey Perezoso
CleanMyBeach is a beacon that brings awareness and knowledge to the public— fundamental aspects in solving environmental issues. Through an integration with Google Maps, people from all around the world can come together in their local neighborhoods and clean beaches as a community. Its target market is the youth as they are the ones who will truly reap the benefits. Companies and non-profit organizations are welcome to partake so as to create significant progress.
We here at Breaking Asia are fond of inspirational stories that break societal boundaries with the desire to change the world. We believe these stories deserve to circulate and make a difference. We were thrilled to have gotten in touch with Arjun regarding his time and expectations with the app and the insights he wishes to share with his peers.
Tell us about your ‘lightbulb moment’ that led to the creation of CleanMyBeach.
Waikiki Aquarium and other organizations in Hawaii like Waikiki Ohana Workforce, HVN, and 808 Cleanups organize local beach cleanups and I have been participating in those cleanup events. But at some point, I realized that just helping as an individual at a particular cleanup did not allow me to make a big enough impact. Therefore, I created an app that can make both the organizations and the volunteers more effective by helping pick the right time and place and mobilize the local community.
What has been your greatest accomplishment with this app and how has it affected you?
The positive feedback I have received so far has greatly motivated me and has increased my determination to increase the reach of CleanMyBeach to local communities all around the globe. In addition to spending time with beach clean up organizations, I am now exploring setting up a CleanMyBeach Ambassador program where high school students can leverage CleanMyBeach to drive change in their local communities.
What inspired you to become an environmentalist, and what challenges did you face along the way?
In my travels all over the world, I have seen the trash and pollution that is produced every day all over the globe. I have traveled extensively within India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia and seen beaches covered with plastic pollution. Living in Hawaii and participating in beach cleanups grew in me my passion for ocean conservation and with CleanMyBeach, I am now able to make a difference globally.
What is the most difficult thing that you have to deal with building this app?
I have built this app in a way that it is both a platform and an application, i.e it is a generic engine which, while solving a particular problem for beach cleanups today, can be leveraged into other problems down the road like CleanMyNeighbourhood. This did make the app more difficult to design and develop but it will actually help me a lot to scale the app going forward.
Actual Debris Collected from Hawaii beach clean up – Photos Courtesy of Arjun Sharma
Tell us about yourself. What do you do in your spare time when you’re not out saving the environment?
I am an avid bodyboarder and I go bodyboarding at our local pier whenever the waves are high. Also, I go canoeing on the Ala Wai Canal through the Lokahi canoe club.
How does CleanMyBeach fit into your long-term personal and career goals?
I have a passion for the environment and I am very interested in computer science, as well. I would like to work at the intersection of computer science and environmental science. Building CleanMyBeach and working with nonprofit organizations and volunteers has been very fulfilling because it allows me to make a global difference far beyond what I could do as an individual. This is something that fits right into where I see myself long term and I would like to see CleanMyBeach help make a global difference in our environment, local community by local community.
Where do you see CleanMyBeach going in the next five years?
Right now, I am working directly with several nonprofit organizations. I hope to scale up with the Ambassador program so that CleanMyBeach, with the help of local high school students, is being used by beach cleanup organizations all over the world.
What important lessons are you trying to bring to light with CleanMyBeach? What message are you aiming to spread to society?
Environmental pollution is a global problem that has to be addressed by each community at a local level. Consumers and corporations alike should be more aware of the trash they generate and its effect on the environment. We can all make a difference and our contributions can be made more effective by CleanMyBeach. The next goal is to get the next generation (high school students) to take an active part in solving this problem in their local community. By doing that, we can hopefully address this problem.
With an app like CleanMyBeach that promotes unity and might among people, we have a chance to utilize the app in a way that mobilizes environmental progress in our local towns. Though it is remote, when done together, there is potential for a global movement that could make substantial developments in the fight for environmental awareness. CleanMyBeach is the first step towards preserving our local beaches in a way that brings people together. It is a chance to allow future generations to enjoy them as much as we have. But most of all, it is an opportunity for more tomorrows.
The CleanMyBeach app is available for download here.