By Jenn Sosa, Carlos Martinez and Alexa Vega
Three Leadership Public School-Richmond students share their volunteering experiences at the Richmond Greenway and to reflect upon the impact of trash in their communities.
We are three students that attend Leadership Public Schools-Richmond and we are part of a new 2-week summer camp – Community Leadership Institute (CLI) – that focuses on the assets of our community. CLI is a service learning program that sheds light on the importance of working in our community. As a result, we had community guest speakers including staff from Chevron and RYSE and volunteered with The Watershed Project.
Recently during our CLI program, we got the chance to meet 3 wonderful people – Sharon, Calvin, and Sara – who are part of a program called The Watershed Project, a non profit organization based in Richmond. The main goal The Watershed Project sets is to spread awareness about protecting our local watersheds to our communities. They do so by teaching beneficial ways we as the youth and community can come together and help prevent waste from going through the watershed.
The Greenway is near our school, so it is easy to just walk over there and lend a helping hand. The Greenway is such a beautiful place to take a walk or spend time with your friends. Although it is a very nice place, it also becomes an easy target of littering. It’s always easier to litter in a place that is already full of trash, so we often don’t think twice. If we were to litter in a clean place, we would start to feel guilty. Most of the time it is full of trash, so when it comes to cleaning it is a challenging process. Our group was split up into 2 groups, one was cleaning up trash and the other group was pulling out weeds. The process of cleaning up the garden was fun and important because it created an opportunity for us to learn about how important it is to care for the environment.
An important lesson we learned was to become a responsible consumer. As Americans, we are taught to become consumers in every way possible, but we don’t learn how to do it properly. An example of this is when we throw plastics into the trash when the bottles could be recycled. Or we sometimes litter and all that trash makes its way into the ocean. We learned that a responsible consumer will always be aware of the trash they are producing and will do everything in their power to prevent all this trash from harming the environment. While cleaning up the Greenway, we were able to connect this to the Broken Window Theory which states that if there is broken windows in a community and no one cares, then why should we. It goes back to this idea of Environmental Justice because if we follow this, then our community wouldn’t improve because we wouldn’t be taking care of this beautiful asset that our community has.
Overall, this was a life changing experience because we hadn’t cleaned up the streets before which opened our eyes to see how much we could help the environment. Cleaning up the streets was our way to give back to the planet after all the planet and environment has done for us. We plan to continue making the change by volunteering with local environmental organizations. Some easy actions we can take as individuals include helping to plant trees and plants in our local parks, gardens, recycle, pick out weeds and pick up trash such as plastic and pet waste to keep our parks in good conditions for the community to enjoy.