Last weekend I made it out to one of Asheville Greenworks community cleanup events. If you’re not familiar with this small environmental nonprofit, you certainly should be. They not only host important community-wide events collecting hard-to-recycle items (tires, old TV sets, styrofoam, etc.) and litter collection events, they also educate, train and provide experiences outdoors to young people in low-income communities, allowing them to connect with nature and gain valuable training alongside area environmental groups. I keep their Hard To Recycle events on my calendar and try to save batteries and non-working electronics for their events. I’ve also volunteered in quite a few trash pick-ups over the years, although the one I participated in last Saturday was the first in a long time. This article isn’t about how wonderful that is or how praise-worthy those actions are. We should all be doing these things all the time. We’re in (and have been) in a detrimental place environmentally for many years due to over-consumption, over-population and lack of care and control in government regulation.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing a group of guys who called themselves team ‘Packing it Out.’ As avid outdoorsmen, they were tired of going outdoors and seeing single-use trash all around them. So, they set out to hike the Appalachian Trail and remove what they could along the way. They (he and two friends) ended up removing 1,000 pounds of trash from the trail that summer. They set out again to on the same mission this past summer on the Pacific Crest Trail, this time keeping a live tracking device on them so people could come out, hike with them and lend a hand along the way. This trash wasn’t theres yet they were tired of seeing it and since this is their home as well, they decided to each do their part to help keep it clean and free of toxic trash. “Each person that picks up a piece of litter inspires someone else and so on. It changes our collective ethic.” You can read the full story here: ‘Three Men Thru-Hike, Remove 1,000+ Pounds of Trash Along the Way’.
Shortly after writing that story, I noticed that a dear friend of mine began picking up trash he saw as he walked along the river or was out at the park or saw a plastic bottle rattling through the parking lot. He mentioned that just hearing their story reminded him of that same universal truth about this being our collective home and rather than look at something and think, “I wish people wouldn’t do that,” to simply bend down and pick it up. In doing so, you likely inspired one on-looker to do the same and if nothing else, you did make a small difference with that action.
This Saturday, Asheville Greenworks is hosting another community cleanup in West Asheville from 10am-noon and are even offering a complimentary breakfast from Zia Taqueria. Yum. Maybe I’ll see you out there. And if you can’t make it, perhaps you’ll change your mind about catching the next fly-by newspaper or lone wrist-band discarded from a concert the night before.
“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” ~Wendell Berry