The PEPSI Stronger Together Program along with Force Blue and Florida Fish and Wildlife have teamed up to clean up the beaches of Florida. The campaign picked only 4 counties in the whole state and Okaloosa was one of the few chosen.
One of the special parts about the initiative is they have partnered with veterans to do so.
PEPSI Southeast Senior Director of Communications Elisa Baker says, “This is PEPSI’s Stronger Together first time in Destin and we are so excited to be here.”
Baker says they started the campaign last year and have helped multiple states since then. However, they really want to focus on Florida this year due to the need.
Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg says, “Here in Destin and Fort Walton Beach we have a very active fishing community, we have a very active tourism community and generally a lot of trash is produced.”
Fogg says the Destin community has seen more people than normal this year, which is bringing in more trash than they expected.
Sgt. Kyle Corbit with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Beach Unit tells WKRG, “You know we had almost 2 to 3 pounds of lead weight and fishing line. We filled our whole bag of fishing line, lures and filled our bags rather quickly the last time we were out here.”
It’s a problem the veteran organization Force Blue is eager to fix.
Steve “Gonzo” Gonzalez is a retired Navy Master Chief and says “Our goal today is to set the example because you have Seals, Air Force Pararescue, Combat Controllers, Marine Force Recon, civilians, scientist, local divers, and a lot of people from the Destin area… our goal is to set that example showing if these ladies and gentlemen can do it then we can do it as well.”
They had about 20 veteran plus volunteers that not only cleaned up the beaches but dived into the Destin waters to clean up as much litter as they could.
Also hoping to pass on a bigger message.
Gonzalez says, “You got to care for your planet. We only have one. So you got to care for it and the time to do it is now.”
After their clean up in Destin they will be heading to Jupiter Island, then Fort Lauderdale, and ending it all in Tampa.
Okaloosa County also has their own “Leave No Trace” effort to continue to keep their beaches and water as clean as possible.
For more information about how you can help, click here.
Over the course of the summer, the Coastal Conservation Ops program will visit the following locations:
- Jupiter Island, July 26: Shallow water green sea turtle survey and rescue.
- Fort Lauderdale, August 23: Coral reef monitoring mission to record any signs of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease – a condition affecting over half of Florida’s coral species — and to treat those colonies that may be threatened.
- Tampa (Anna Maria Island City Pier), September 9: Marine debris removal operation in celebration of the NFL season kick-off.