Earth day cleanup

University of Georgia students and Athens community members participated in the Earth Day Global Community Cleanup on April 22-25. (Photo/Sophie Ralph)

As a part of the University of Georgia Office of Sustainability’s Earth Day programing, students and Athens community members participated in the Earth Day Global Community Cleanup on April 22-25.

By the end of the weekend, students and Athens residents had collected 870 pieces of trash and recycling over 579 collection events. The most picked up items include plastics, cans and cigarettes.

Due to inclement weather, the UGA Office of Sustainability’s scheduled cleanup was on Friday afternoon, where over a dozen students gathered to pick up trash and clean up campus.

“We had a great turnout. We collected a lot of trash,” said Demetrius Jelks, the events and engagement intern at the UGA Office of Sustainability and sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major. “Anytime we can get out in the community and partner with students, or community partners, it's always a success.”

At the UGA sponsored cleanup, the volunteers picked up a total of 34.5 pounds of trash and 15.3 pounds of recycling in just two hours.

The Earth Day Global Community Cleanup was called this for a reason, as anyone in the world could participate. The Office of Sustainability did this by introducing a virtual element to their annual cleanup through the Debris Tracker app, which was used to record where and what kind of trash was found so that communities can discover areas that need extra cleanup or prevention methods implemented.

Stacy Smith, the program education specialist for Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, hopes that the Debris Tracker app will help keep Athens clean.

“[We hope] to direct resources and prevention better,” Smith said. “[We hope to] find what's causing the litter and what’s keeping it from being disposed of properly [to] try to come up with solutions.”

Students who participated in the cleanup efforts for at least 30 minutes were entered into a raffle to win a box from Community, a sustainable fashion boutique in downtown Athens.

However, many students like Julia Lee, a freshman advertising and graphic design major, and Elizabeth Sheppard, a senior environmental economics and management major, chose to participate simply to get involved in their community for Earth Day.

“I think it's part of your duty as a citizen to make the world a better place, keep the Earth clean and give back because you're using finite resources I think you need to find a way to give back,” Lee said.

Lee and Sheppard collected trash together at a cleanup sponsored by the Office of Sustainability on Friday. The pair said they did a big sweep across Legion Pool and Lumpkin Street, where they collected nearly 90 items.

While the Earth Day Global Community Cleanup lasted a few days, students are encouraged to continue to pick up trash when they see it or get involved with cleanups sponsored by Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful.

“I know this week was Earth Week, but it doesn't have to be Earth Week in order to get out in your community, clean up litter, turn the lights off and make sure you don't leave the water running when you're brushing your teeth,” Jelks said. “Every day can be Earth Day.”