Picture the iconic scenes of spring break: college students blasting music surrounded by red Solo cups, people dancing well into the night and spending long, luxurious days on the beach. It’s been the subject of countless movies, with an entire MTV special dedicated to it. In my case, I grew up with stories from my weird uncle about crazy adventures in the Bahamas or Cancun. It’s a college classic—but one that’s coming at a cost to the local environment.
When tropical festivities come to a close, the aftermath often isn’t pretty. As reported in the Miami Herald, beaches are littered day after day during spring break with bottles, cups, and cans left behind by college students, unconcerned about the trash they’re leaving to get swept into the ocean. Beach officials and locals are left cleaning up after party-goers.
Officials in Miami Beach try to enforce the ban on alcohol, but the police can’t watch everyone. Local activists make Facebook pages to try and keep the beach unpolluted, in addition to the #KeepMBClean hashtag started by officials. However, spring break tourists left the beach trashed following Friday night partying, and let their garbage get pulled out with the tide. In Fort Lauderdale, police monitored some of the beach to try to minimize trash, but were unable to prevent pollution in unwatched areas.
It’s easy to forget that classic vacation destinations are also people’s homes—for our deputy opinion editor Hannah Ebanks, going home to the Cayman Islands on spring break means dealing with tourists. Cruise ships bring thousands of passengers that create additional traffic with reckless pedestrians, and booking a flight home becomes even more expensive.
Even though spring break is only a week for us, all colleges don’t follow the same schedule. Suffolk University and Harvard University go on break the week after Emerson, and classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology don’t end until March 26. While you get one week away from school, residents of vacation destinations endure spring break for nearly a month. Keep in mind when you’re partying on a Tuesday that the locals still have work the next day.
I don’t mean to suggest that spring break is evil—after all, I’m seeking sunshine over spring break myself this year. But the cultural phenomenon of spring break and all its consequences need to be addressed. Having a fun time on the beach cannot come at the expense of our environment and the local population.
To those who would rather stay in Boston or spend time back home with family and friends—enjoy your week of relaxation, however you spend it, without FOMO. Most of your peers are likely doing the exact same thing, as only 40 percent of students participate in the collegiate tradition, according to a study from the University of New Orleans on the economic impact of spring break. It might seem like a college necessity to travel to some exotic destination, but it isn’t worth breaking the bank to achieve that idealized dream—especially when CBS Moneywatch reported that affordable spring break vacations start at around $1,100.
If you are going on vacation this year, be aware of the environmental impact of your stay. Recycle your bottles, rent a bike instead of using Uber, and pick up any trash you see around you, even if it isn’t yours. Don’t forget that your escape from reality is someone else’s everyday life. Spring break is our chance to unwind, whichever way you want—just relax responsibly.