We've all seen them - social media challenges that are ridiculous, hilarious, and sometimes even downright dangerous. Fortunately, we've found a challenge that is finally worth doing, one that helps build relationships, better communities, and heals our world.
This challenge was issued several years ago without much fanfare, but has enjoyed an explosion of popularity worldwide in recent months. It's a trend we would like to see continue for a long time to come.
What is it?
The basic idea is simple. The challenge is to find an area that is filled with litter, take a "before" picture, clean it up, and then post an "after" picture. A quick search online will show pictures from around the world of truly amazing transformations as garbage-covered beaches are returned to their former sandy selves.
Where should you do it?
Anywhere that's public land and riddled with garbage. Beaches, walking trails, rivers and lakes, parks, there really is no end to the possibilities.
Who can do it?
Anyone. Want to tackle it solo? Go for it, but we believe that many hands make light work so why not get your family, church, club, friends, and/or co-workers involved? It can be a great way to bond with each other while helping your community and, indeed, the whole world.
If everyone took one day of the year to participate, we could clean thousands if not millions of acres of land and help restore some of the natural beauty to our world.
Some things to remember ...
1. It's always a good idea to let someone know what you're going to do, where you're going, when, and how long you plan to be gone. Some areas may be remote and there is always a chance to get lost, get hurt, or have other troubles while out.
2. Be careful. While cleaning garbage, you never know what you may find. Be careful handling metal and glass which can easily cut skin. Wear thick protective gloves with good grips (so you don't drop the debris and cut your leg or foot) and make sure to put them in hard containers (not plastic bags).
3. Watch for syringes. The needles are dangerous, not just because of the blood-borne illnesses they can spread, but because of the drugs that may have been inside of them. If you see a needle on the ground, never try to re-cap it or snap off the needle. If you are equipped to pick it up, do so carefully and always keep the needle pointed down and away from you. Never put syringes in plastic bags or even thin plastic containers like milk jugs. Always use a heavy plastic, lidded container (like laundry soap or kitty litter containers). Never allow children to handle syringes. Always mark the containers as Medical Waste: Sharps and contact your local waste disposal business to find out how to properly dispose of them.
When in doubt, call the police and let them know about the used syringes. They will take care of them or call someone who can.
4. Though rare, you may come across dead or injured animals. Do not approach the animal. Instead, call the local DNR or humane society and let them know where you are and what the situation is and they will handle it.
5. Make sure to bring a first aid kit, just in case. Anytime you are outdoors, there is a chance for a skinned knee or small cut, but when working with garbage the risk of infection is higher. Make sure to wash your hands (up to the elbows) thoroughly with water and soap before eating, drinking, and when you are finished.
6. Take proper weather precautions. In the summer, the sun is going to be a problem. Make sure to wear proper protective gear, use sunscreen, and have an area where you can escape the hot sun while working. Drink plenty of water, take frequent breaks, and stop immediately if you feel dizzy, have a headache, or experience any other symptoms of heat stroke/heat exhaustion.
The next time you're out hiking, walking through a park, or paddle-boarding across a lake, take a moment to look around you. If you see an area that needs cleaning, why not join a movement that is gaining ground, literally, all around the world?
Get your gear, grab your friends, and take part in the #Trashtag challenge.