Friday was the annual Earth Day, a day in which the world officially recognizes the need to be clean. SCHEELS sponsors its annual Earth Day Run, but for some SCSU students the day is a day of community service instead of community exercise.
The campus organization Students Organized for Change (SOC) spent the early afternoon walking around campus picking up discarded garbage. Wielding gloves, plastic bags, and grabbers, the cleanup crew could be seen getting rid of everything from discarded plastic bottles to dead bats.
SOC member Emily Herne is happy about the turnout they had to help clean, and the support they got from students.
“There have actually been a lot of people who have stopped by the tent just to check out what we’re doing,” she said. “A lot of people seem really interested in our organization.”
This is the first year that SOC has done an Earth Day cleanup, but the goal of their organization is to make a positive change in the community. Herne is joined by several others at the tent, all hoping to make their mark on the world by cleaning the marks of others.
“We’ve seen a lot of old, gross food packets, and trash,” Herne said. “It’s really prominent down by the river, and unfortunately there’s just a lot we can’t get to.”
The trash along the river points out an important issue that the SOC organization is trying to deal with. Herne and her friends believe that keeping the river water clean should be something that everyone in St. Cloud is concerned about.
“The river is just so important because it it effects the nature and wildlife around it,” Herne said. “Pretty soon the community will start to be effected by it too.”
The concern for the nature surrounding campus is why SOC used the hashtag #nuturenature while promoting their cleanup. Anyone using the hashtag on Twitter while cleaning up the campus got a goodie bag with an assortment of items, in honor of trying to make a difference.
Targeting the dirtier areas on campus, SOC teamed up with the campus facilities management to learn where the more prominent spots were for litter. The cleanup crew found that most of the larger items were scattered around areas where people eat. SCSU student Maddy Wagener came out with the organization to help clean the campus and found that there were limited amounts of places where students could safety discard their recyclables and trash.
“There are designated trash cans and recycling units near building doors, but there aren’t really any outside where students are walking between classes,” Wagener said.
After spending hours cleaning up a variety of trash, Wagener says the most prominent thing found was used cigarettes.
Hidden behind buildings, wedged in corners, and stuck to the sidewalk, SOC members found piles of cigarette butts scattered across campus. SCSU implemented a tobacco free policy in 2012, and has seen substantial decrease in students who have reported being exposed to second-hand smoke. However, just because something isn’t seen, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The piles of used cigarettes point to a larger issue of tobacco-use on campus. Despite the policy that anyone found using tobacco will receive warnings, and eventually fees, students are still managing to find ways around it. Wagener says that the cigarettes found throughout the afternoon were in “sneaky” spots around campus. She believes that simply adding cans where students can throw their used cigarettes would tremendously alleviate the issue, and make it easier to nurture nature.
Herne and Wagener urge students to take the time to properly dispose of their trash, and to take out things that can be recycled.
“Living on this campus, you just get used to seeing it everywhere,” Herne said. “We really want to show people that it’s easy to recycle and help the earth.”
Herne believes that students are often so busy that trash just gets thrown by the wayside. She thinks an important step towards cleaning the campus is adding more trash cans around the areas where people eat, so students don’t have to go out of their way to throw things away. Herne and Wagener also urge students to stop every once in a while to pick up obvious trash around campus, so little-by-little the campus will slowly become cleaner.