Yesterday was an important one. Earth Day! For the past 49 years, we have recognized this day as one of climate action. And while we focus on our sustainable practices on this day each year, it’s important that we continue this momentum for the other 364 days of the year.
This past Saturday, Native Sustainability hosted an Earth Day cleanup at the Minnehaha Falls Off-Leash Dog Park. With about 20 incredible volunteers, and pups surrounding us, we dispersed into this beautiful dog park to collect as much trash and recyclables as we could in two and a half hours. Below, Edie poses with our collected waste - about 10 bags in total! The waste included everything from plastic bags and aluminum cans to ceramic dishes and abandoned toys. The most profound part of this was that at first glance, the Minnehaha dog park appeared relatively garbage-free as we walked in. Witnessing this much waste collected from a seemingly clean park put a lot in perspective for us all.
Our cleanup was a branch of the larger city-wide Earth Day cleanups happening all over Minneapolis. Organized by the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, groups of volunteers spent the day cleaning up outdoors.
Here are some key takeaways from our cleanup:
Plastic comes in many forms. It is all around us. And it won’t be going away during our lifetime. Plastic particles, large and small, comprised the majority of the waste we collected on Saturday.
Litter can show up everywhere, but certain areas tend to have more accumulation than others. Areas we noticed significantly more litter included:
Low-lying areas where gravity and water flow can wash particles down into. Being located along the Mississippi River, this particular dog park contains bluffs and ridges with deep gullies and ravines. We found large amounts of trash down in these lower areas.
Along the bases of fence lines: Fences catch pieces of waste blowing in the wind. In just 10 minutes we filled an entire trash bag with waste along the outer fence of the dog park!
Off of maintained trails. Chances are, most of the trash along these frequently walked paths get picked up more often than that in less visible areas. But just because it’s not easily seen doesn’t mean it’s not there!
Waste lasts a long. Time. Adjacent to the dog park is an area of land that was formerly a dump site. We found the remains of decades-old trash around this dumpsite, so much that we could have been there for days picking it all up. It is so critical for us to think about the full life of material items we consume. Do we really need it? How can we most responsible dispose of it when we no longer need it? Is there an alternative that might be compostable or reusable?
You never know what you’ll find! Our most interesting find of the day was a mallet which Megan took home to add to her toolbox. Cleaning up always pays off one way or another.
Happy Earth Day EVERYDAY!