Facing a seemingly unending quarantine, spending your whole Saturday at a desk isn’t too uncommon. This is especially true for high school students, where each week flies by in a blur of lined paper and Zoom classes. The majority of steps accumulated each day are from traveling between your chair and the fridge. But, this was far from the case on Coastal Cleanup Day, during which dozens of Homestead High School students embarked beyond their desks to participate in the statewide cleanup on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
“I liked how we could go outside, get some fresh air and relax, while helping our environment at the same time.”
As a part of Homestead’s California Scholarship Federation (CSF), I was ecstatic that Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful and Grassroots Ecology had partnered to set up at-home cleanup events. We had over 50 CSF members, as well as six Science National Honor Society members, get out bright and early, donning their face masks, to clean up our local communities.
Several students, including myself, wondered if we wouldn’t find much trash to clean. After all, we are lucky enough to live in areas where people are more environmentally conscious and community maintenance is a priority. Yet, to the surprise of many, our streets and parks were far from litter-free. At the end of the three-hour cleanup period, each one of our members had bags filled to the brim with bits and pieces of litter.
“This was an insightful experience on how much of a problem littering is.”
As soon as I stepped off my driveway, I was met by a candy wrapper, concealed by freshly fallen leaves. Twenty steps later, I stumbled upon several cigarette butts. Walking along the curb of my road revealed an unexpectedly large amount of trash, to the point where just traveling a short stretch from my doorstep yielded half a bag of litter. Personally, I had two takeaways from this:
You don’t realize how much trash and litter is out there until you attentively look for it
If there is so much trash in such a small area, then there must be immensely more in other areas that needs to be cleaned up
Our members shared very similar eye-opening experiences. Many were surprised by how many plastic wrappers, cans, cigarette butts, and bottle caps they found outside their homes. Some quotes from students include:
“I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride by cleaning up my community.”
“[The event] made me appreciate the people and organizations who try to keep the environment and oceans clean and safe for wildlife. In the future, I will try to be more mindful about where I dispose my trash.”
Several members also had interesting finds during their cleanups, including a bottle of rum, and even a bird band from an American White Pelican tagged in Nevada in 1997!
At the end of the day, we were all satisfied and refreshed by our cleanup adventures. Our members realized one piece of trash they pick up is one less piece that will end up in our waterways and other bodies of water. We are very grateful to Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful and Grassroots Ecology for organizing these cleanup events, and will continue to clean up our communities, one piece of trash at a time!