By: Dillon Pabisz
NSHSS Ambassador, Pope John Paul II High School
Sopping with sweat from head to toe, I was about to start my daily post-run, cool-down around my neighborhood lake when I noticed something shiny. Sadly it was not a Leprechaun’s gold or a long lost crystal, but a broken wine bottle. Smoky the Bear always warns against rouge campfires and matches, but glass bottles are almost as much of a threat to our forests. Stopping for a moment, I realized that there was more than just one broken wine bottle; there were old soda cans, chip bags, and bottle caps sewn throughout the grass as if a farmer had just planted a new crop and forgotten to turn the soil. This trash turned a serene lake into a miniature garbage dump. A discussion with myself ensued; “should I pick this stuff up? No, someone else will probably get it”. Immediately after I had the idea to leave it for someone else, a saying that I once heard played in my head as if from a record player stuck on one verse of a song. It echoed; “If it is to be, it is up to me” –Wise Man.
Judging by its condition, most of the trash had been laying there for years unseen or forgotten by passersby. I concluded that it would probably stay there until a bird got its head stuck in a bag or a toddler stepped on broken glass. Even then the trash may never be cleaned up. I decided to immediately go home and grab a trash bag to clean up the entire area. After about another two hours sweating in that sub-tropical South Florida sun, the lake area was cleaned up. Over three pounds of trash in that 90 minute timeframe was collected, however, I was still not satisfied. Fueled by a desire to do something that could impact more parks and communities beyond the small lake by my house, I thought that if 100 people across the world could spend two hours in the sun, the earth would become a cleaner and safer place to live in.
Out of this moment of motivation sprung a worldwide project to clean up communities across the globe. NSHSS Ambassadors, Boy Scouts and students from across the country and world became involved in turning their communities into litter-free zones. However, the most rewarding part of this initiative was witnessing how other participants organized their own clean-ups and got their community involved. The project called for people to be the change they want to see in their communities and I cannot explain my pride in all the ambassadors that actually got out there and led an effort to make a difference. Together, we have cleaned up over 3,500 pounds of litter this summer. Our project pushed the first domino over which will hopefully start a chain reaction of people getting out there and cleaning up the environment. As I stated from the beginning, “every litter bit helps.”