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Where My Peers At? Why Philly Spring Cleanup Day Matters
Philly

Where My Peers At? Why Philly Spring Cleanup Day Matters

why volunteering matters

The 7th annual Philly Spring Cleanup Day was on Saturday, April 5th. Over 14,000 volunteers helped pick up 970,900 lbs of trash and 29,940 lbs of recycled materials. Pretty awesome, right Philly?

GPB has been hosting a park cleanup at the 8th & Poplar fields for the past 3 years, when anywhere from 7-25 volunteers arrive to pick up trash, dispose of empty 40’s, and ultimately better our community.

While the volunteers that show up are great, I’ve noticed the majority of faces helping out are community groups, sustainability professionals and personal friends. Out of 30-40 teammates, only a couple of my kickball and softball teammates volunteer in these efforts. And although the PR efforts have reached Saturday morning news level, many friends are unaware about the annual citywide cleanup until I personally mention it to them.

As I was cleaning under a park bench on a beautiful Saturday, I considered why more peers don’t participate in these cleanups. I’ve even invited the Sport & Social Club organizers to assist with no avail. Where’s the disconnect between a field we use for 20 Sundays per year and our obligation to improve its condition?

From researching another post, I’m surprised to find the balance of passionate community members who want our streets clean versus the indifferent mentality that things will become dirty again – and often, it’s the same person. Walk through the Center City streets, and notice how clean they can be when paid workers sweep litter off the streets. The socio-economic differences as we leave center city zone into bordering neighborhoods is obvious.

So who owns the fields and public parks we enjoy? Literally, Parks & Rec and neighborhood associations tend to ‘own’ them. But do they belong to the people who enjoy them, versus the questionable characters who may frequent and litter these places? Where’s our obligation to help out: is it because (hey peers) we’re a younger generation of renters and forget about what we can actually impact?

We know that there’s a connection between a neighborhood’s litter and graffiti appearance and an increase of crime. But we shouldn’t wait for one day each year to give back to our communities. The more we read about our city’s budget crisis, failing schools and overall dire situation, how much are we doing to improve Philly on our own?

If we start taking a little more ownership of the streets we live on, parks we enjoy and fields we play on, we can make a difference. There’s many opportunities locally to volunteer, from water cleanups with United By Blue to searching for opportunities Volunteer Match. Plus, you can meet many people with 8 ways to get involved in the sustainability scene. But you don’t even have to do anything formal; picking up an empty bottle or plastic bag and putting it in the trash is one tiny step.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish if we just put our minds to it.

Readers, do you volunteer in the neighborhoods? How can we encourage the various generations, especially the younger ones, to become more involved?

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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