Litter Cleanups Offer Opportunity for Service to Others Outdoors

The Holidays are an emotional time. It doesn’t matter who you are. There is joy and excitement, mixed with sorrow and remembrance. The rollercoaster we ride this time of year as we reflect on the past, embrace the present, and dream of the future, often leaves us longing for opportunities to do better, to be better. One simple, yet humbling way to make a positive impact on your local community while spending time outdoors is to conduct a litter cleanup.

Taking part in a community cleanup or conducting a solo endeavor is a great way to spend time outdoors during Holiday Season, while meeting new people who share your dedication to living in a better world. Organized cleanups are usually easy to find, but if you can’t find any planned cleanups in your area, then take it upon yourself to organize a cleanup. Maybe that’s you and one friend, or maybe it’s dozens of people. Either way, the rewards of a cleaner environment and personal fulfillment are priceless. 

The first official cleanup I was ever part of took place in the small river town of Rocheport, Missouri. Dozens of people worked together to pick up litter. I was proud to have my daughters take part to provide them a hands-on experience and a physical lesson about the importance of service. 

Armed with empty mesh trash bags, my daughters and I stomped off into the wilds of a riverside conservation area. It didn’t take long to begin finding trash along the levee. Every few feet, we’d spot another plastic bottle or empty can. My girls established a competition with each other as they strained their eyes for the next piece of litter. Once spotted, they’d race to pick it up. What they never realized was that no matter which of them picked up the piece of litter, their community was the real winner. I joyfully watched as my daughters learned a lesson they wouldn’t understand until later in life.  

As we made our way along the river, we picked up hundreds of plastic bottles and other shards of trash, many of which would be recycled. We found two tires and one large fuel tank that must have come off a tractor decades ago. One dried out slough we came upon was so full of trash that it honestly looked like part of a garbage dump. When the river was up earlier in the year, the slough must have been an eddy. As the water receded load and loads of trash was caught in the timber. 

We filled our bags to capacity, but then had to turn away and head back to the cleanup headquarters over a mile away. I had a bag over both shoulders, and the girls were dragging theirs, since they were too heavy for them to carry. We passed so much trash that couldn’t fit into our already bulging bags. All we could do was direct others to the spot we discovered and hope collectively our efforts would remove all the litter. 

The whole idea of a community cleanup is to function as a community. For this specific event, there was a 9 a.m. kickoff with cinnamon rolls and coffee followed by a potluck lunch at noon. A few local restaurants prepared and donated the food. Their business benefit being a cleaner community in which to live and work.  

Seeing all the folks who left the kickoff in clean clothes return covered in mud, laughing and full of joy was a reward all its own. Day in and day out we hear about all the ills and evils of the world we live in, yet good still exists around every corner. It’s evident in the smiling faces of children cleaning up a riverbank. 

If you find yourself looking for something to do over the next couple of weeks, and you want to get outside to stretch your legs, then I sincerely encourage you to consider a litter cleanup. I know it doesn’t sound like too much fun on the surface, but it really does turn into a good time. I’m sure there is a local park or common area near you that would be just a little more beautiful after a couple hours of a cleanup.

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler

bbutler@driftwoodoutdoors.com

Pic: Litter cleanups are great for gathering with friends or family to do good for the world around you.  

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