Despite the litter-fest that was Floatopia 2009, more students are participating in beach cleanups than ever before, coordinators say.

Through efforts organized by a variety of environmental groups on campus, many students are spending their free time working to keep the beach and local community clean and garbage free. In fact, the past few quarters have seen a record number of participants in beach and street cleanups, Kelsey Fisher, a third-year global studies major and coordinator of the Coastal Service Program – the arm of the Associated Students Coastal Fund that supervises paid cleanups – said.

“More and more groups have been signing up for our cleanups in the past few quarters,” she said. “In fact, this quarter, our weekends were completely filled with cleanups by the end of the first week. They’ve become so popular students are having to race to get their paperwork in to sign up.”

Fisher credits the surge in cleanups among students to the current global economic crisis, as student groups learn about the opportunities to make money by cleaning the beaches.

“The economy is hurting the school financially, and the school is cutting its budget,” she said. “The cuts have left student groups in desperate need of funds to operate, and those groups have found [the Coastal Fund]’s paid beach cleanups.”

In addition to these paid cleanups, organizations such as UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board and the Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation have organized volunteer trash cleanups for years.

Maile Smith, a third-year environmental studies major and chair of EAB, said these environmental advocacy organizations have seen a swell in participants and volunteers due to increasing interest in the environment and the local coastline.

“It’s great to see so many people at the cleanups, showing that they care about keeping Isla Vista as clean as they can,” Smith said. “It used to be harder to draw students in to volunteer work on a Sunday morning, but it’s becoming a lot easier.”

While Floatopia recently garnered criticism from county officials and environmentalists as evidence of student apathy, there were several organized cleanup efforts the day after the event.

One of the largest of these was a combined effort by the Associated Students Coastal Fund, A.S. Environmental Affairs Board and the Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation.

Adrian Evarts, a second-year environmental studies major and I.V. Surfrider representative, participated in the cleanup, which resulted in the collection of 130 beach towels and almost 40 floatation rafts. Evarts said Floatopia serves as an opportunity for students to become more involved in protecting the local coastline.

“It was a huge cleanup and took almost all day, and we still only got a fraction of the trash,” Evarts said. “It was a great joint effort, but for future festivals we’ll just have to take more preemptive measures to ensure that UCSB can work as hard as it can play.”

Lauren Cobbe, a fourth-year global studies and Italian major and the chair on the board of directors for the Associated Students Coastal Fund, said she believes UCSB students in general have made a great improvement on the local environment through cleanups, restoration projects and other volunteer work.

“In light of recent criticism, it is really important for the community to realize that UCSB students have a long history of supporting the environment, be it through restoration projects or beach cleanups,” she said.

Cobbe also said she believes that the life Gauchos enjoy this close to the beach can only be preserved if they continue to work hard to protect it.

“I don’t think that the irresponsible behavior demonstrated at Floatopia represents the true nature of the UCSB Gauchos,” she said. “It could be a turning point in awareness and activism on campus, as many students have expressed disgust about the waste from the event.”