When I was younger, my entire family traveled to an island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, every year. The following was an experience that I will always remember. On a particular day, I was walking with my father along a wooded trail when something caught my attention. There was a blue trash bag under a branch; it was wet, soggy, and covered in dirt. We walked over to it and picked it up. Mud coated my hands, and water made a sludgy liquid: it was disgusting. The soil left on my hand didn’t bother me as much as the fact that someone put that plastic bag on the ground without regard to where it would end up. When I walked away, I remembered seeing a video that showed a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose. Seeing someone had left behind this plastic bag that could cause similar harm to ocean life angered and disgusted me. Since then, I have been picking up trash that I see on the ground.
Every year, my school holds a service day. All the adviser groups choose something that helps the environment for service day. Because I love helping out my community and wanting to make the world a better place, this is something I look forward to. There is one instance in particular that has stuck with me. During one service day, my group chose to work in the woods behind a grocery store. The area looked like a normal wooded area at first, but I soon found out that it was an abandoned spot where people coping with homelessness camped out. I was shocked at the amount of trash I saw. There was an old barbecue grill covered in beer. Trash was everywhere. This place was like nothing I had ever seen. My heart went out to the people who lived there, but I also felt disgusted that there was nothing in place to help prevent a buildup of trash in the woods where animals live. I spent the rest of the day clearing up the woods because I wanted to help as much as I could. I filled several bags with garbage. Tents were removed, and we even found a teeter-totter made of branches from fallen trees that might have been played on by people who had camped there. It was never the same for me after we finished. Whether it’s service day or not, I always try to help however I can.
As another way of helping the environment and reducing trash, students at my school decided to carry a small bag around the school for a week to see how much waste could be reduced. My own bag held all of the trash that I brought to school for lunch and snacks. Seeing the amount of trash I produced every day allowed me to try to change how much trash I was sending into the world. In all of my classes, I still carry it around with me and use as little plastic as possible. This also benefits my community.
A few years ago, my family and I went to a lake about an hour from our house. When I arrived, the lake wasn’t swimmable. Plastic bags, beer bottles, old food cans, and other trash were everywhere. The scene left me speechless. Trash covered the surface of the lake. It was almost impossible to see the water. A man was distributing large trash bags with small kayaks, and I offered to help. After I received my bag, I saw many people getting in boats to help clean up the lake. We were given a net to help us fish out the trash. We spent an hour and a half cleaning up, but once we were finished you could see the water again.
Although I can’t single-handedly stop climate change or prevent littering, I can help clean up the environment and raise awareness. In the future, I would like the world to strive toward producing less trash, because if we can do that, then we can protect the environment. I hope that I can make a difference and plan to keep trying to support the community as best I can. I do believe we can change, and by doing these little things, we can stop climate change.