The Great Global Cleanup

Earth Day Network cleans up local park for National Public Lands Day

This past Saturday, September 28, Earth Day Network staff and interns said they’ve had enough trash talk in the office and decided to volunteer in their own backyard.

The event, hosted by the Rock Creek Conservancy, was part of National Public Lands Day, a day of service put on by the National Environmental Education Foundation and National Park Service.

As the cleanup coordinator for the Great Global Cleanup™, I carry with me a trash can-do attitude and leap at any opportunity to have our D.C. office participate in projects I help organize. Best of all, there is a tangible reward and impact in seeing spaces we all share cleaned up, spurring additional environmental awareness to problems like plastic pollution.

Photo Credit: Lucy Mui

For the event at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, a group of 10 of us from EDN joined more than 165 other volunteers on a variety of projects, like a trail cleanup, invasive species removal and native shrub plantings. Over two hours, we trekked along Rock Creek, picking up a rolodex of environmental contraband: Styrofoam, plastic bottles, wrappers and, in my unique case, a car muffler. When the cleanup was over, we had collected over 500 pounds of litter.

Kit Nga Chou, a fall intern at EDN, came away from the cleanup with a better understanding on the consequences of waste.

“Finding items that are promoted as ‘convenient’ aren’t actually so when it takes several volunteers to fish it out from the river,” she wryly observed.

Nationwide, National Public Lands Day brought out an estimated 156,000 volunteers across 2,117 sites in all 50 states. Founded in 1993, the day is the largest coordinated day of service of public lands, bringing together a diverse range of participants and projects that speak to the universal truth that we all have a vested interest in preserving the spaces we all share and benefit from.

Photo Credit: Lucy Mui

“These experiences catalyze environmental stewardship — what park neighbors do in their homes or buildings can help further restore Rock Creek [Park],” said Jeanne Braha, the executive director of the Rock Creek Conservancy, in an email.

Following the success of National and World Cleanup Day, in which 20 million people across 179 countries and territories participated in cleanups, National Public Lands Day lends credence to the growing momentum surrounding the global response to out-of-control waste and the individual empowerment that derives from these community cleanups. All told, this core energy will culminate in Earth Day Network’s flagship volunteer program — the Great Global Cleanup™ — in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in April 2020.