“Want to help me pick up trash in a park” was the text I received from Katherine. Not exactly the message most people would expect to receive, but my friends know me well.
Katherine is a talented (and speedy) runner who is a member of Portland Running Company’s Race Team. She’s also an ongoing supporter of my Small Change and Make a Pact, Pack it Out initiatives. So, when an email landed in her inbox from Portland Running Company with an incentive to clean up a park for extra Grand Prix points, she didn’t hesitate to jump at the opportunity and invite me to join her.
On Tuesday evening our destination was the Mountain Shop to attend a gathering of Sisters (and Misters) as part of Trail Sisters NW Road Trip. Before we headed to the store, we had an important mission—pick up litter in a city park and we chose Fernhill Park in NE Portland as our target.
The rain and blistering wind didn’t deter us from our mission; in fact, it added to it. We donned heavy rain jackets and gloves, and set out with large plastics bags to strategically map our course. We gave ourselves about an hour to navigate the park and pick up all the litter we could find.
The most common items we picked up included miscellaneous wrappers, paper scraps, cigarette butts, pop cans, and beer bottles (one of which was graciously placed next to a garbage can). Overall, we picked up 215 pieces of litter. Our clean-up demonstrates how small bits can really add up—and how quickly a park can be cleaned up.
I’ve written many times about my trashy runs and frustration with seeing litter on our trails and wildplaces. Today my goal is not to disparage litterers (after all, I doubt they’re reading my blog), but rather encourage creative ways to engage the community in litter clean-ups.
We all want clean neighborhoods, trails, and parks, but sometimes we need a little nudge to make it happen. I applaud Portland Running Company for providing a creative way to encourage its runners to clean up Portland’s parks. Museum of Litter, an online project dedicated to the elimination and prevention of litter, offers many suggestions for eliminating litter in our cities. Model good behavior and initiate or join a project in your community—others will follow your lead.
For most it won’t end with one litter clean up. Once you start, you can’t help but notice litter. It’s a good habit to pick up and every bit counts. I challenge you to pick up at least three pieces of litter today – imagine the result if everyone did it.
A special thank you to Katherine for being a good steward and bringing me along as part of her park clean up.