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By Cortney Watson
On March 19, the student and staff volunteers met at the Main Gate to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and were given gloves and trash bags to use.
The volunteers walk the road, an eye out for traffic and trash, carrying black trash bags. Occasionally someone bends over, reaching for something, or a person ducks into the woods to grab some trash they’ve spotted among the roots.
The crinkling of the bags, the crackle of grass and sticks as the volunteers walk are what’s heard. Now and again a vehicle will pass by with a gust of wind from its passing. Less often some of the volunteers speak, but they are more focused on the ground, eyes hunting for litter.
When a volunteer filled a bag, the bag was tied up and left beside the road for later pick-up, and she would pull out another bag, starting again.
The clean-up, while now an annual event, was originally just Paul Salstrom, associate professor of history at SMWC, on his own. He started it in 1999 and has done it every year since.
“Usually there were students who helped, and for a couple years in the early 2000′s it was an official Peace and Justice club activity,” Salstrom remarked. He’s the faculty adviser to the Peace and Justice club.
Then another club got involved, giving the event more visibility.
“When the club heard about it we decided to help,” explained Emma Bird, president of the Sustainability Club at SMWC. The club would hold an event and gather up volunteers to help out in the clean-up. Not as well attended in years past, it used to take around two and a half hours do get the road cleaned up. “This year the clean-up had much better attendance… it only took us about an hour to clean it up,” said Bird.
Salstrom agreed, pointing out that this year’s attendance was the largest for student participants ever.
Besides this event, the Sustainability Club also hosts other events such as celebrating America Recycles Day with a week of facts about recycling and a swap/recycling table. People could place things they didn’t want anymore on tables provided and others could take them, usually leaving something in return.
The Sustainability Club also maintains the community garden on campus, holds movie nights to raise awareness on sustainable issues. Among their latest efforts are the Eco-Bucks, awarded to students, faculty and staff seen making sustainable decisions on campus, such as walking to lunch, recycling, and the like. In return these Eco-Bucks can be traded in for designated prizes when announced throughout the semester.
Some events coming up for the Sustainability Club is a denim drive and another clean-up at Wabashiki. The denim drive is being held to collect denim to be recycled into housing insulation. Operation: Wabashiki is a clean-up effort to clean up the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife area and will be held from 9 AM to 1 PM on April 7. Volunteers will need to bring safety glasses and work gloves.
More images of the clean-up.