How To Avoid Drowning In Trash

An Earth Day Tale


Cleaning up the L.A. River with Black Girls Trekkin' and FOLAR.
Cleaning up the L.A. River with Black Girls Trekkin’ and FOLAR.


My shoes, already slightly soggy from the receding river sunk further into the marshy mud of the Los Angeles River. I took my free hand that was wrapped carefully in a spare plastic bag and dug at the discolored plastic that was half buried in the dirt and pulled out a destroyed to-go cup and plastic utensils. I added my find to another plastic bag that had expanded to accommodate a few pounds of nothing but trash that I found in the middle of the river.

I spent Earth Day weekend cleaning up a few well-trafficked nature areas in Southern California. The hiking group that I was with, Black Girls Trekkin’ and I carried bags of trash out of these areas and had to leave knowing that there were more pounds of trash still sitting on the sides of these trails. However, it’s not just hiking trails where I found trash.


All of the trash in the center of the L.A. River
All of the trash in the center of the L.A. River


On highways and freeways, I have to dodge car parts from accidents and piles of trash on the roads. Little pieces of brightly colored plastic decorate the dark asphalt like disgustingly dirty glitter. Plastic bags blow in the breeze as cars picking up wind and speed push the delicately drifting thin pouches of non-biodegradable crude oil. It’s everywhere, but it doesn’t need to be.

I can’t force people to pick up their trash, but I can throw away my own trash and pick up trash when I see it. Those people who went to school post the cartoon Captain Planet and the Planeteers have learned a little bit about the basics of recycling, which is great. However, we can also do our part by reducing and reusing things before they get sorted into recycling.


Easter Trash hunt with Black Girls Trekkin' in Los Angeles, CA's Griffith Park.
Easter Trash hunt with Black Girls Trekkin’ in Los Angeles, CA’s Griffith Park.


There are way too many cute reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and to-go cups for cold drinks for people not to use them. Reusable grocery bags and containers for snacks and lunches along with reusable straws are readily available too. I’ve even found reusable produce bags and coffee filters. I try to choose more biodegradable options when I can. If you ask to borrow a new toothbrush from my house, you’ll be handed a more eco-friendly version, and I try to do my best to limit the amount of plastic that comes in and out of my home overall. In many cases, I have found that I saved money, and in every case, it just took me changing my mindset and remembering to grab my reusable items when I step outside my door.

In many ways, we can feel overwhelmed by the amount of pollution and trash that is being produced by major corporations. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try collectively reducing the amount of waste we produce as individuals. The Earth is still our home, and until Elon Musk and the rest of the private sector of space exploration finalize a plan to colonize Mars, we are stuck on this fairly small little blue planet.

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