This month, more than 500 local volunteers have made a positive difference for our local waterways by participating in the Statewide Rivers Alive waterway cleanups in Georgia. Over 50 locations in Liberty County have been cleaned up so far by these amazing helpers, who ranged in ages from 2 (yes, they had a little help from their parents) to 80. Several more groups have cleanups scheduled in the next three weeks. Rivers Alive is a statewide effort to preserve and protect our waterways in Georgia. Rivers Alive events also are part of the international efforts of The Ocean Conservancy.
In Liberty County, we hold our main Rivers Alive cleanup day on national Make a Difference Day, which is always the fourth Saturday in October. Over the years, however, we have had many groups schedule other days for their cleanups, which allows them to participate even if they have a conflict on the day of the main event. So, it is not too late for you, your family, your organization or your neighborhood to make a difference. Just call Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We still can schedule a cleanup date that works for you. We have plenty of places around our community that could use some sprucing up.
Volunteering with Rivers Alive is one way to make a powerful statement about the importance of protecting our waterways. However, I realize these cleanups may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Making healthy choices every day about how we handle litter prevents unpleasant consequences for our green spaces, waterways and wildlife — and for us. Pollution is never a good thing for a community, and it can be quite costly, too. So, taxpayers listen up! Litter prevention should matter to you. There are plenty of ways to make a difference every day in the community.
Here are some other ways that individuals can create positive change:
• Don’t ever litter — no matter what. Someone always pays a price if you do. We end up with an ugly, unhealthy environment and, ultimately, somebody (hopefully) has to clean it up. There is a price associated with that. We all pay a price each time some sloppy, clueless person litters.
• Pick up litter when you see it and when you can. Maybe you cannot participate in a full-fledged cleanup, but you can pick up litter as you walk or drive down the road. Even just a piece or two of litter picked up every few days can make a long-term difference. We call these folks who do this “road warriors.” Just think what our county would look like if all 65,000 of us were road warriors.
• Clean up the right-of-ways in front of your home and/or your business. It sure will look neater. Don’t make that silly mistake of riding over litter with your lawnmower when you are cutting the grass. Then you have much more litter in tiny pieces that are much harder to pick up.
• Consider adopting your street or road. Over 40 groups, families, individuals, churches and businesses have gone through the adoption process here in Liberty County, and our roads are cleaner because of it. Choose to adopt and we’ll provide supplies and signs for your area. Just a minimum of one cleanup a quarter is required. Call 880-4888 to learn more.
• Look for projects in your neighborhood and help neaten the area. We love to recognize neighbors working together to make their neighborhoods cleaner, more attractive, and safer. We often can help with some supplies and tools for projects.
• Get your organization or school involved in “greening projects.” Many neighborhoods, streets, churches and school campuses could benefit from an interested group willing to help out and tidy things up.
• Be a “beach keeper” when you enjoy St Catherines Island’s beaches. These beach keepers pick up their own litter and any other litter that they see when they spend the day on St Catherines. We love these people because the litter and debris we collect during our annual beach sweeps over there has been reduced from over 2,000 pounds at the first one in 2007 to just 320 pounds at the recent one in October. What a difference individuals can make!
There are so many ways to make a difference every day whether you are a “joiner” or a “loner.” Pick some tasks that fit your personality and your lifestyle and just watch the changes unfold.
Swida is executive director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.