Celebrating Business: Zack Merrick – Earth/Sea Cleaner
Rock Star & Owner of Amerrickan, an Earth Day clothing line.
A quiet guy – whom you’d never suspect to be famous if you just met him in a health food store – Zach wants to MAKE change in the world rather than talk about it.
Most people know Zack from afar as a rock star bass player and singer in the band All Time Low. I know him as a great family friend who finds his deepest joy in giving back. For Zack, cleaning our collective home – the earth and sea – makes him feel incredible. He does his own personal beach ‘sweeps’ almost daily after his fitness workout on the sand, then takes people on big, multiple-beach cleanups on weekends. He has a great time and now meets amazing people he wasn’t meeting otherwise, people eager to help keep Hawaii the way they love it.
Zack dedicates most of his personal – yet huge – social media platform to this earth/sea cleaning cause. His clothing line Amerrickan devotes itself to an Earth Day focus of cleanups around the world, with proceeds going to 808cleanups and Surfrider Foundation. It offers men’s and women’s clothing, all casual apparel, currently featuring hats, shirts, hoodies and tank tops, with fashion in mind, all related to cleaning the world. For people who don’t live on the beach, he’s supporting cleanups of parks and forests.
Walking the beach, Zack brings a bag to pick up the trash left behind by both tourists and even locals: snorkels, slippers, beer bottles and cans, broken buoys, fishing weights, hooks, as well as miscellaneous stuff like a fluorescent light bulb and a hull of a boat. He knows that kids are the ones who will eventually feel the most impact from our trash, so he asks them as he walks along to give him any trash that they see. Great awareness raiser!
His group beach cleanups particularly look for ghost nets that appear on the shore overnight. These big tangles of fishnets, hooks, gear and assorted junk get wrapped around the reef and eventually choke it to death – or the sea mammals and turtles get caught and injured in them. Removing ghost nets as soon as they appear is a big priority for Zach.
On the beaches, they do lots of sand-sifting with handmade tools. Zack lets people know that bigger plastics breaking down into microplastic constitutes a huge environmental problem. Birds and fish eat them and die. The tiniest microplastic is absorbed into microorganisms at the lowest levels of the food chain and even make it into our drinking water, so they are getting into OUR body systems as well.
Sifting all the microplastic out of a 10 foot square spot would take hours. Zack and his friend Al Smith are teaming up to efficiently sift the beaches. Al, the Director of Parks and Recreation for Kailua and founder of the nonprofit Hawaii Ocean Ambassadors, originally turned Zack onto beach cleaning. Al is cutting through the bureaucratic red tape to get Zack permission to drive on the beaches pulling a mechanical sifter behind his vehicle. Once that permission is granted, Zack plans to buy the machine himself and personally do the driving – whenever he’s not on tour with his band!
Joining Zack this last Saturday for a cleanup were about 15 people, consisting of about 50/50 local folks and people who have moved here from afar. They started up at the North Shore and worked their way down the east side of the island where ocean currents bring most of the trash: Pounders bodyboarding spot, Kahana Bay, Kahuku Beach, Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach.
Knowing that most people simply don’t realize how they are contributing to this trash problem, Zack educates people in a friendly way. “Go have a great time at the beach,” he tells everyone. “Always take your stuff away, and if you can, take some other people’s junk away, too.” He lets people know, “The solution starts at your house with single-use plastics. Ask yourself whether you really need it or if can you live without it?” And he shows people how much he and his friends pick up off the beach.
Living in Baltimore where his band formed itself in 2003, Zack put together charitable events for a homeless shelter. Once he moved here to Oahu, and started working out at the beach, he saw the magnitude of the ocean debris started grabbing all the trash he came across. That eventually turned into group pickups with lots of friends – for fun and for a good deed. Zack is too active to just lie there in the sun, so beach cleaning is much more worthwhile and satisfying to the soul!