An interdisciplinary research team at the University of Aberdeen including Psychologists and Human Geographers is exploring links between beachcleaning as an environmental volunteering activity and wellbeing.
Plastic pollution is seen as a major global challenge and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals recognise this challenge with target 14.1 on reducing marine pollution. Reducing existing marine litter is key and there is a growing public awareness for the need of beach clean-ups. Anecdotal evidence suggests beach clean-ups not only remove tonnages of marine litter, but also enhance the wellbeing of volunteers taking part. However, these effects are still poorly understood and hinder a wider uptake of beach cleaning as a wellbeing activity. The goal of this study is therefore to empirically investigate effects of beach clean-ups on wellbeing. This interdisciplinary research project received pump-prime funding from the University of Aberdeen to support such collaborative research addressing pressing societal and environmental research gaps. The team encompasses expertise from psychology (PI Dr. Katharina Schnitzspahn) and Human Geography (Dr. Flurina Wartmann) and is supported by research assistants Lorin Strasser (Geography/Psychology) and Lucy Halamova (Psychology).
A first qualitative study will investigate personal experiences of beach cleaning activists on their wellbeing using qualitative interviews. In the second study, we will use a quantitative approach to test if beach clean-ups lead to measurable benefits compared to beach walks (without the cleaning). The results from this study will provide evidence whether beachcleaning as an environmental volunteering activity improves wellbeing more than an activity in a coastal environment (without the volunteering aspect).