Ruth Gowitzke Staff Writer
“Town Wide, Town Pride” is an annual community clean-up event sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement that occurs every April. This year was the 11th time Eastern has hosted a community beautification event like this. I have been part of “Town Wide, Town Pride” for the past three years at Eastern, and this year I was able to help clean-up a local Willimantic resident’s yard by raking leaves. I was also able to help clean-up efforts at a local Walmart, where trash had been building up in the parking lot.
There were a lot of items that I was disheartened to see on the ground, such as various Walmart trash bags and receipts, as well as many fast food containers. I know when people go shopping, they are not concerned about the trash they are dropping on the ground, often because they have kids they are trying to wrestle in the car or because they are in a hurry. It is imperative, however, that there is something done about the amount of litter collecting throughout the community.
According to ct.gov, there has been “an anti-litter law since at least 1987.” The website also stated that in 1992, “littering was made an infraction.” This information is important because even with the inclusion of the anti-litter law, the amount of trash collecting in the environment hasn’t changed much. For example, when I volunteered last year, I had to pick up trash on a local bike trail. It was unfortunate to see all the paper, fast food cartons, and even needles that were discarded on the ground. The bike trail is supposed to be a place for locals to exercise and enjoy nature, but instead they have to worry about all the pollution that is occurring around them. According to the same government website, “About 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used every year in the U.S.” This webpage has not been updated since Jan. 19, 2015, however, so there is a definite chance that this statistic could have increased since then. I know that by spending time in the field, I have picked up at least ten trash bags in the areas I have volunteered at. It is likely that the people around me who were helping picked up a lot more as well.
“Town Wide, Town Pride” helps gets rid of some of the litter in Willimantic, but more needs to be done. There should be more opportunities for students to volunteer to clean up the trash around Willimantic. I think it would be good to have volunteer opportunities earlier in the fall as well, when it is still warm out, and there is less school work assigned. This way, students will feel more encouraged help with volunteer efforts. In fact, I heard there were about 200 students who volunteered for this year’s event, but a handful of them didn’t even show up. This low turnout may have been caused by rainy weather, but with finals coming up soon, students have less time to volunteer for events such as this one. That is why it is imperative that there are more opportunities made for students to volunteer in, not just to get them involved, but to also help the environment on more than just one day.