Earth Day 2018. Make a Better ________.

It's April 22nd, and that means it's Earth Day. There's a line between enthusiastically rallying support for proactive and pro-Earth causes for Earth Day and using this day, this one day, to influence long-term positive change. The kind of change we want, the kind that leaves our beaches and our communities in a better state than where they are now or where they were, requires momentum and momentum has to start somewhere. Earth Day to me is similar to traditional beach cleanups- a great start, but perhaps not the answer to long-term change. This sentiment is echoed throughout the world in various campaigns with phrases such as "Every Day is Earth Day" and "Celebrate the Earth Every Day." Whatever the campaign, we stand by the idea that Earth Day is not about today. It's about tomorrow and the tomorrows after that. 

The engine that drives the Better Beach Project is fueled by the belief that long-term change is possible and that it comes from the strength in relationships forged within a community. Our approach has been to tap into the power an influence of local businesses within our communities, and we've found that this approach has been successful at raising awareness and actually removing debris and litter from our beaches. The namesake, subject, and focus of this project has been beach oriented. The Better Beach Project is beach oriented because our community is beach oriented. As we have grown, we've discovered that while our efforts in VA Beach are most effective in the water and the sand, the approach could grow roots anywhere. 

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Wherever you are, whatever kind of place is special to you- you have the ability to impact that place in a positive manner. For us, it was the beach. For you, it might be a lake. A trail. A field. If you have a place that's special to you, it should be protected and maintained. If you don't have a place that's special to you, you should pick a place, maybe somewhere that needs some love, and make it special. All it takes is a little bit of your time. Our time is valuable, but I can assure you that you will not consider this time to be wasted. 

The engine that drives the Better Beach Project is fueled by the belief that long-term change is possible and that it comes from the strength in relationships forged within a community. Earth Day is a great opportunity for us to rev that engine. In the weeks, months, and years that follow this Earth Day, I encourage you to not take your foot off the pedal. 

Better Beach Ambassadors

Throughout the summer we plan on highlighting those who positively impact the Better Beach Project and their communities. A Better Beach Ambassador is someone who, through their actions and dedication to the improvement of our communities, demonstrates a commitment to community ownership, responsibility, and accountability. 

If you would like to nominate someone as a Better Beach Ambassador, please reach out to us through our Contact page with a brief description and contact information for your nominee. 

Our first Better Beach Ambassador is Tyler Hoppel from HK on the Bay.

Name: Tyler Hoppel

Business/Organization: HK on the Bay


Why are you participating in the Better Beach Project?

We are participating in Better Beach Project because we simply love going to the beach. We grew up on these beaches and believe that it is our purpose to ensure that we save the beaches so our children can enjoy them as much as we did when we were kids. Our beach is the bridge between us and the ocean, with warmer weather it attracts thousands of visitors to our communities. Our beaches are such fragile environments that we must be attentive in how we treat these beautiful stretches of land. 


What does community ownership mean to you?

When the community works together to to achieve a common goal of making our beaches cleaner and safer, they gain a sense of ownership. I think the community of Chic's Beach already has that sense of ownership of our beach. Between the Chesapeake Beach Civic League, Save the Bay day and now the Better Beach Project, I think it's safe to say that our beaches are in really good hands. These organizations are giving us the tools to have a better beach, it is our job as the community to come together to use these tools.

Grassroots: What it means to us and what it might mean to you

When the Better Beach Project began in early 2017, a considerable amount of our operation could be summarized as the passionate airing of our frustrations about harmful litter on the beach to anyone who would listen. We had identified a problem and a potential solution, but could not implement that solution alone. Put simply, we believed (and still believe) that communities are improved when the members of a community put forth sustained effort to improve it. To date, we haven’t found anyone who disagrees with this train of thought. Our thought was that if we could get people to apply our idea to the beaches, they might see the simplicity in its application to any other location.

In the first year of our initiative, we partnered with 18 Virginia Beach businesses near our neighborhood and asked them to provide small incentives to people who brought them litter from the beach. 16 ounces at a time, we removed approximately 800 pounds of trash off the beach over the course of one summer, most of which was broken glass, rusty bottle caps, and cigarette butts. Moving into our second year, the number of participating businesses has more than doubled and our geographic footprint has expanded considerably. Along with additional attention from local and social media, the use of the word “grassroots” with respect to the Better Beach Project has increased.

For precisely no good reason at all, I wasn’t initially sure of how I felt about having our initiative labeled as a grassroots movement. Maybe I thought the “G” word was too political, too hipster, or small-time. I couldn’t justify this feeling, and I certainly had no disdain for other grassroots-associated movements. Removed from how I inexplicably felt about the link between our initiative and the grassroots movement label, the Better Beach Project quite literally wants to connect people to the ground. With their eyes, with their hands, and with their hearts, we want to connect anyone who will listen with the idea that we can make our beaches and our communities better by removing the litter that degrades them.

Most grassroots movements begin as ideas that direct attention and support issues that benefit the masses. Grassroots movements are often described as “movements of the people” or a collective of ordinary folks that comprise the engine that drives a larger initiative. What intrigues me the most about grassroots movements is how they grow. Something that we strongly believe about the Better Beach Project is that there’s nothing unique about our initiative, our participating businesses, or the communities where our project has grown roots. Nothing is stopping any business anywhere from doing the sort of things that we are doing, and nothing is stopping any community from practicing a little extra vigilance with regard to the removal of litter.

We don’t see our initiative as a leading-from-the-front movement that requires participating businesses and their customers to fall in line behind us, but rather that our purpose is to facilitate the relationship between businesses and the community, providing an example of how both parties can mutually support the other. It started small, has grown, and will always be focused on localized opportunities for positive change, particularly in ways that affect and benefit ordinary people.

Are we a grassroots organization? You bet we are.

How Context Shapes Content: Rodney Mullen TED Talk

"There is an intrinsic value to creating something for the sake of creating it, and better than that, there is a beauty in dropping it into a community of your own making." -Rodney Mullen


I love a good TED Talk, and this is one of my favorites from one of my favorites. For those who do not know much about Rodney Mullen, he revolutionized skateboarding and is is widely considered to be one of the most innovative skaters ever. He's also incredibly thoughtful and able to articulate his thoughtfulness in a way that connects skateboarding to the bigger picture. The point behind this particular TED Talk speaks directly to the motivations behind the Better Beach Project. We wanted to create something positive and drop it into the community we impact. Call it what you want: problem solving, creative thinking, community service- we strive to add value to our community and hope to inspire others to do the same, making better beaches along the way. 


What do skateboarding and innovation have in common? More than you might think. A successful entrepreneur and innovator, Rodney Mullen is widely considered the most influential street skater in history, inventing most of the tricks used today. By the time he was 23, Mullen had already set new milestones for skateboarding winning 35 out of 36 freestyle competitions.


Following the events of the Shamrock Marathon weekend, we will be meeting up with our friends from the Virginia Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the VA Beach Skimmunity House on the north side of the 15th Street Pier to clean the beach from 2pm - 5pm. 

Come say hello, grab a container, and help us make the most of the opportunity! The Shamrock Marathon weekend is one of the oceanfront's most significant and popular events- what better way to demonstrate to the locals and visitors alike that we have every intention of making our beaches better. 

Hope to see you there! Be sure to check out our shared Facebook Event Page for updates!


Better Beach Project x The Inertia

Check out this article about the Better Beach Project over on The Inertia!

The Inertia

Many thanks to Zach and Juan for their support! It's always a good situation when we can team up with platforms that help our message reach those who care about it most! While you're on their site checking out our article, definitely check out everything else they have going on! 

Always glad to work with organizations that support the movement to make a better beach!

Looking Ahead

School is back in session, signaling the beginning of the end of summer.

The official end date for our project is the last day of August. As that day draws near, we wanted to give a quick recap of the project and share our thoughts for moving forward.

We can't begin to thank everyone enough. We extend an enormous amount of gratitude to the participating businesses and are extremely thankful for their collective dedication to supporting actions that improve our community. We are excited to announce that, even though the project will be "ending" for the summer, many of the businesses will continue to honor their deals! Next time you find yourself in one of the local businesses, ask them if they are continuing to participate!

We also would like to thank everyone who supported this project. Your ability to help spread the message directly contributed to cleaner beaches. We have received lots of questions asking about the scope of the project and where we plan to take it after the conclusion of this summer. We plan on maintaining partnerships and relationships with each of our participating businesses, and are working to expand down to the oceanfront of Virginia Beach, starting with the ViBe Creative District. The oceanfront may require a slightly different approach, but with the assistance of local businesses in the area, we are confident that we can inspire change.

The goal of this project was to influence long-term positive change in the mindset of the community by incentivizing the removal of litter from the beach. What began as an idea to clean up the beach evolved into a demonstration of the power of community. The links between local small businesses, their patrons, and cleaner beaches are more profound than just removing trash from the beach. We are proud to be a part of this community and hope you are too. - Brad, Marissa, and Ollie the Dog

Better Beach Project response to 2017 Virginia Beach College Weekend

This is what 16 oz. of broken glass, bottlecaps, and a fishhook looks like. This is what's hidden in the sand while you go long for the frisbee, dive for the volleyball, or run into the water.

By removing these potentially harmful items from the beach, we are looking out for ourselves, our friends, and our community.

Even though they may not know it, when visitors from all over come in droves to the beach, they are trusting us to keep it safe for them to enjoy.

Let them.

Article from The Virginian Pilot

The following text is copied from the Virginian-Pilot Online, from an article written by Mechelle Hankerson on 30 April 2017.  The original article can be read here.

Kristen Zeis - The Virginian Pilot

Kristen Zeis - The Virginian Pilot


Brad Milliken was playing fetch with his dog on Chic's Beach when he noticed a chunk of glass in his pet's paw.

“I could see he was leaving little red spots on the sand,” Milliken said.

Frustrated, he started collecting glass litter from the beach and kept it in jar on his dresser. Taped to the container was this message: "Make your beach a better beach."

Now he wants other residents to help him on his mission.

Milliken and his wife, Marissa, launched Your Better Beach for the summer. Beach-goers can pick up plastic containers from participating businesses near Chic's Beach, fill them up with glass and plastic found in the sand, and return full containers for discounts at the merchants.

Participants can collect trash from any beach, but only businesses near Chic’s Beach are participating right now. After this summer, Milliken may expand to include merchants near other beaches.

“It’s all in the spirit in cleaning the beach and keeping the beaches desirable,” said Milliken, who moved to Virginia Beach in 2014 as part of his Coast Guard orders. It’s the first time he’s gotten to live near a beach.

Milliken doesn't want to place blame on anyone - most of the glass and plastic seems to wash up from the water, he said - but the beach is a "big point of pride" in the neighborhood and should look well-kept, he said.

At Lynnhaven Coffee Company, co-owner Chris Bailey said families seem excited about the project. Full containers can get customers a free 10 oz. latte at the coffee shop. Most people fill a container over a weekend, he said.

It’s been a good chance for beachgoers to appreciate the natural resources of the area.

“The Chesapeake Bay is pretty much the lifeblood of this area,” Bailey said. “Hopefully people will start to educate each other.”

Right now, eight businesses participate in the Your Better Beach project and about 20 others along Shore Drive and in the Great Neck area are interested, Milliken said.

Pleasure House Brewing was one of the first businesses to sign on with Milliken’s idea.

“It’s kind of a community thing,” said Tim O’Brien, owner of Pleasure House Brewing. “Everyone uses the beach. It just makes sense to keep it clean.”

Mechelle Hankerson, 757-222-5124,