Six Lessons Learned While Picking Up Trash

A handful of Back Creek Conservancy volunteers (out of 30+) who picked up trash for Project Clean Stream.

It’s amazing what you learn about your surroundings and your community when you spend three hours on a Saturday morning picking up trash with volunteers as I did April 1 for Project Clean Stream, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s regional spring cleanup event. Here are my top six lessons:

1. There are hidden natural gems in Annapolis. Those who drive along Bay Ridge Avenue may not notice the enchanted forest behind the SPCA and beyond it, where a stream quietly snakes its way along a valley and right into the marina-lined and sailboat-filled Back Creek. Standing in those pretty woods with a trash bag in hand, it’s hard to imagine that you’re that close to Bay Ridge Avenue.

This quiet patch of woods and stream are next to the well-traveled Bay Ridge Avenue. Photos by Lisa Borre/ Back Creek Conservancy

2. We cleaned up the Back Creek watershed for Project Clean Stream 2016 and hauled out one ton worth of garbage. One year later, we again hauled out 2165 pounds. You can’t pick up that much garbage in three hours without recognizing a problem. Could it be that we need more trash pickup days in Annapolis? How’s your neighborhood doing? 

3. My team’s designated area was in the woods behind Georgetown Elementary School. Why on earth do they still have vending machines in schools? I picked up endless candy wrappers for Nerds, Skittles, and Hershey Bars. Some was litter, some probably debris from overflowing garbage cans or dumpsters following a windy March.  

Local sailor Carole Jordan doing her part to clean up her local stream.

4. Plastic bottles are blowing out of trash cans. They are blowing into what would otherwise be precious wooded areas; they are floating downstream into our Bay. They are everywhere. The more you pick up and put into your trash bag, the more you resolve to never buy one again.

5. Picking up trash in the woods and marshes is dirty and exhausting and just about the opposite of what “yachting” feels like… but once you’re home and clean, you feel really good about how you spent the morning. And there’s still time for a good afternoon sail. 

Take one garbage bag and one hour to walk the shoreline near your boat, and you might be surprised (and very unhappy) about what you find.

6. You want to meet caring, good-humored, enthusiastic, active, outdoorsy people? Volunteer at a cleanup event. We list such events in the SpinSheet calendar and at spinsheet.com.  ~M.W.

Looking for a neat volunteer opportunity? Sign up or volunteer for the Back Creek Conservancy's Feet for the Creek Walkathon. There will be live music by Guava Jelly, a food truck, and beer at the end. SpinSheet is a sponsor. More here.