Fill up a 16-ounce cup with beach litter, bring the cup to a participating business in Tidewater, and get a discount or freebie. It’s that simple.
The Better Beach Project, an incentive-based beach cleanup program, is in its second year and has expanded its list of participating businesses. From coffee and beer to yoga and pet care, the rewards one can earn just from a walk on the beach are growing.
The Project, based in Virginia Beach, is the creation of Brad Milliken, an active duty Coast Guard beachgoer who was getting frustrated by constantly finding trash at his favorite waterfront spots. After both his father and dog had nasty run-ins with glass on the beach in 2017, Milliken came up with a way to make cleaning up the beach more appealing.
Milliken says he was chatting about the issue with a friend on the team at Pleasure House Brewing on Shore Drive in Chic’s Beach. “If you cleaned up around my neighborhood, I’d give you a beer,” the friend said, as Milliken recalls. He reached out to other businesses in the area to see if they’d be interested in a similar arrangement-clean up in exchange for a reward-and they were.
From April to August of last year, 1500 containers were given out, and Milliken estimates that patrons pulled 800 gallons of trash off the beach.
“Last year was all about seeing if the idea was good and if it would work…and it did,” Milliken says. Now in its second year, the effort is gaining momentum and expanding throughout the region. “We went from 18 businesses…I think we currently sit at 48,” he says. Businesses at the oceanfront, Hilltop, and Town Center areas of Virginia Beach and several in Norfolk have gotten involved.
As for cleaning up the beach and running an organization that makes it a bit more enticing, “it’s the right thing to do,” says Milliken. He adds that having a clean and safe waterfront should be a shared goal for communities; “as someone who lives here, it’s kind of your responsibility to give it that reputation.”
Click here to learn more about the Better Beach Project.