In the early hours of morning, the members of Life Reset and I had embarked on a forty plus mile drive to participate in the beach cleaning that had been prepared months in advance. Prior to the event, we gathered around other volunteers, set a date and location, prepared gloves, buckets, and trash grabbers. Just thinking about gazing at the vast blue ocean gloriously laid before my eyes made me excited, and I would be fully ready to scavenge any distractions that would ruin the perfect scene of nature. Being a Californian, I’ve always had fond memories at the beaches, and I’ve developed a strong sense of care and responsibility for preserving this natural beauty.
With great anticipation, our car barely made its way to hit the freeway, then the view left me appalled. The median barriers and grassy hillside were blotched with just about every article of rubbish the world could provide. Fast food debris, beverage bottles, mangled car parts, dirty t-shirts, plastic, paper, it was as though a Walmart had been detonated and the aftermath had been scattered on the streets. “It’s such an eye-sore,” I murmured as I gazed at the garbage filled sidelines of the 60 freeway. Since when have the California freeways become the biggest garbage dump? I imagined how full and heavy our garbage bags would have felt if the group pulled over and picked at the streets instead.
Indeed, the garbage pollution of California freeways has been a common sight for the last few decades, and has only worsened with recent times. With the recent pandemic, the consumption of single-use plastics has generated nearly eight million tons of garbage worldwide. These new additions of waste have quickly made their way into our environment through drains and canals to be landed in the oceans. One time of seemingly innocent tossing of a piece of trash out the car window may not seem a big deal, but that one time is practiced by 300,000 freeway users a day, and a big portion of collective trash drifts directly to the ocean water. For this reason, environmental care must start in my own town and street before stretching the effort to the coast. Striving to ensure the purity of our natural world is crucial, but how can we expect to aid the vast ecosystem when we are unable to clean the litter off of our own streets? Curbsides and sewers are choked with manmade filth, yet we have continued to turn a blind eye to our local streets and trails. Prompted by this ecosystem connection, I, along with other Life Reset volunteering peers, adopted a trail in our city to remove trash and report any damages or problems to the city. You don’t have to travel far to care for our ecosystem; it can happen right in our hometown, neighborhood, and backyards. This is a great way to be an environmental steward in the long term.