The Earth Day Service Project was created to protect the environment around Governors State University’s campus. Inspired by the Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve that lies just outside of GSU and our institution’s renewed commitment to sustainability, particularly through the adoption of a sustainability cohort for freshman in 2014, a number of students, faculty and staff took on the mission of removing waste from our campus. Volunteers arrived excited and energized at the prospect of working with like-minded individuals on a common goal.
Our day began with volunteers signing-in and gathering together in student commons for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of volunteers who had not originally signed up, but wanted to join us regardless. We were particularly gratified to have such a turn out when the weather was less than ideal as it had snowed the night before, and much of the ground we planned on cleaning was still covered with snow.
Volunteers were instructed on safety procedures, and what to expect on the grounds before we left campus. Our volunteers were then divided into groups of three, given gloves, 56- gallon trash bags and trash grabbers, and sent to their respective zones for the clean-up effort.
The day was one full trash bag after another being filled and carried to the dump trucks. Some of the bags were heavy, weighted because of the sheer density of heavier trash like glass bottles, car bumpers, and even PVC piping, and required two people to carry. Many objects that were found required a lot of labor to remove, such as hubcaps, engine parts, fence hinges, rusted buckets, tires, and pole wires. The group that went to the Field Station was able to pick up old abandoned laboratory experiments.
Students seemed more energized and motivated every time they picked up something interesting. Many participants stumbled upon the same question: “How did this even get here?” Analyzing how old the materials looked, it was suggested that these were left behind by residents from the past decade, who were more likely farmers.
The day ended with the three dump trucks filled with trash bags and large items picked up off the grounds. Our mission was accomplished, although it felt like there was a lot more that needed to be done. After the event volunteers were seemed to have a greater sense of responsibility towards their own surroundings, as well as a greater respect for nature. The volunteers agreed that it was a project that should be continuous around this and future years, as there will always be much more to do.