When Steve Johnson found himself a victim of the down economy, he didn’t take much time to wallow in self pity. Instead, he decided to put his newfound free time to use volunteering for a worthwhile cause. Steve soon become active in the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation’s beach cleanup program. His dedication to the cause eventually landed him a job with the organization, where he has earned the unusual title of “Dog Poop King of the Seacoast.”
“I used to be a cubicle monkey at Liberty Mutual,” Steve explains. “I was laid off and had to make a decision about life. I took a hard look at what I did with my free time and what I cared about.”
Steve’s actual job title is Special Projects Coordinator and he is now the driving force behind the Blue Ocean Society’s SCOOP campaign. The program is focused on encouraging local dog owners to pickup and properly dispose of pet waste on our beaches. It’s a job Steve takes seriously and for good reason. Volunteers have spotted more than 300 piles of poop on the beach during a single cleanup, according to an article published in Foster’s Daily Democrat.
Dog poop is a source of harmful bacteria and can pose a serious health threat to the thousands of adults and children who visit our beaches each year. Animal waste is also a source of nitrogen pollution in the Great Bay Estuary, according to the 2009 State of Estuaries Report.
Today, Steve spends much of his time walking along sandy beaches talking to dog owners. He takes a positive approach to public education, petting dogs and chatting with owners before broaching the subject at hand. His main goal is to get people to spend a moment thinking about the harm that pet waste can do to our health and the environment. In return, Steve gives each dog owner an action packet that includes a disposable bag for picking up dog poop (made from eco-friendly vegetable based materials), an organic dog biscuit donated by Barkin’ Biscuits of Stratham, and a pledge form.
“A little foresight, humility, and sacrifice has enormous consequences for everyone else who shares the beach,” he notes. “If you take ownership of a living animal, you should take ownership of the environment you both live in,too.”
Getting people to realize how little time and effort it takes to properly dispose of the stuff is also a big part of Steve’s job.
“It takes the same amount of effort to sit there thinking about whether or not to pick litter up as it does to just do it.”
It’s a theory Steve has tested, through an experiment he conducts as part of his educational work with local schools. He times volunteers as they walk at a normal pace to a trash station set up across the room, at the same distance one would find a typical trash can at the beach. It usually takes about 6 or 7 seconds.
Steve is all about using humor to generate public interest in the SCOOP campaign. He hopes to create posters depicting a typical beachside public bathroom, only with signs for “Men”, “Women”, and “Dogs”. He also wants to record videos for the campaign starring local residents and their furry friends.
You can help! Contact Steve using the information found below:
Or learn more about the SCOOP campaign:
This post was written by David Anderson of the New Hampshire Coastal Protection Partnership. Please send your news about any Great Bay related events or programs to Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.