My Plastic-Free Journey
By Kristin Weed, KIBCU President & Founder
Featuring, Betsy Ricketts, Co-founder
Doing Good Together - Community Litter Pick Up
"It starts by not walking by a small piece of trash in the parking lot or on the ground near a garbage can. Then it leads to filling up a bag with litter while walking your dog. Eventually it could lead to cleaning up a whole road or community or beach."
Betsy Ricketts of Grasonville, MD felt the need to do more when she started noticing how much debris was scattered throughout her community. She and a few friends started a Facebook page called doing good together - community litter pick up, a group that travels locally to places that need a good trash cleaning based on feedback from friends and followers. She then shares before and after photos hopping to inspire others to start doing the same.
"I felt the need to do more. So I decided to pick up litter! It's so easy to do, and it feels good to do something for the environment with results that you can actually see. I’m always looking forward to the next cleanup!"
We interviewed Betsy to get a feel for what it was like for her and her family to slowly start removing one single-use plastic's item a month for 2019. We wanted to talk to someone who had taken it completely upon themselves to create a positive and sustainable change in their lives, sharing with us the small wins and the struggles so that we could share with all of our supporters and followers to demonstrate that it is easier than one may think.
How long have you been cleaning up?
I started doing clean ups every weekend since the beginning of January this year. I should have started years ago! They started small, with quick cleanups on my lunch break at work. But since then, the frequency, volunteers, range of locations and trash loads have all increased greatly!
Where do you clean and how do you choose a specific area?
Kent County and Queen Anne’s County are my main focus right now. These counties have been my home for 25+ years, so I wanted to give back. I choose the areas based off of suggestions from Facebook followers. We keep a running list of all suggestions to ensure no road is left untouched. Together with family, friends and volunteers we have had successful cleanings in Grasonville, Centreville, Chestertown, Crumpton and Rock Hall, so far!
What are the most common items you find and collect?
To list a few; plastic bags, beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts and fast food trash. We see a lot of Styrofoam cups with the plastic lid and straw still attached. It is really frustrating. I think picking up cigarette butts is a job in itself. Those suckers are EVERYWHERE.
Have you stopped using any single-use items based on what you have seen when you are cleaning up?
For my first clean up, I bought a case of water for my family to drink, then I realized even if I do not throw this bottle out my car window like the people we are cleaning up after, does not mean I am doing right by our environment? So I bought a water cooler and have my family and friends bring a reusable water bottle. I have made changes towards living a plastic free life, such as switching to reusable grocery bags, reusable straws and reusable sandwich containers. I did not realize how much plastic I was using until I stepped back and observed my consumption habits. I will continue to make conscious efforts to reduce my waste!
Have you gotten anyone to join you? If so, how?
My family is always the first to volunteer! They are my biggest support system and show up every weekend, with coffee in hand. One of my first clean ups was in Chestertown, by the suggestion of Brandy Pinder (a Facebook follower). She reached out to us and together with my sister, my boyfriend Robert, Brandy and her two friends we cleaned up the road she lives on. On the following weekend, we chose a spot recommended by another follower. Together with my family and Robert’s family, we cleaned up a 3 mile stretch of road. My hope is that people in the community will reach out to us when they see a problem area!
How do you suggest that others follow your lead?
It starts by not walking by a small piece of trash in the parking lot or on the ground near a garbage can. Then it leads to filling up a bag with litter while walking your dog. Eventually it could lead to cleaning up a whole road or community or beach. We see so many things around us that we can not control and it is daunting, but if we recognize the need for small changes it could lead to something much larger and greater for the future of our planet.
Come join us! Anyone who is interested in joining us for a clean up can contact us through our Facebook page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have weekly clean ups and could always use the help. Together, we can do good things.
**Betsy Ricketts lives in Grasonville, MD with her boyrfriend, Robert, and two adorable dogs, Prince & Pumpkin. **