By Laura Chamberlin, Program Manager, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative
Trash Free Community. Seems like an idyllic phrase, that might never be achieved, but in fact each day communities right here in the Potomac Watershed are working to achieve this goal. The efforts communities are taking to end litter are wide-ranging, but the common thread among the efforts is the use of small, creative steps to reach their goal.
Schools are the centers of many communities. With 17 Trash Free Schools there are quite a few success stories to share, such as the story of Walker Mill Elementary School, near Capital Heights, MD, where the school and community have really embraced the spirit of being trash free. Mayor Kito James has encouraged his town’s schools to partner with AFF, as well as look for ways to bring other community members into the effort. This school’s amazing Student Green Team (with over 50 members!) produced their own litter prevention posters, created field day activities using the trash from their lockers, and conducted schoolyard cleanup and beautification activities. With this inspirational school in the lead, the other schools and the rest of the community will not be far behind.
Nearby, in the Branch Avenue corridor of Prince George’s County, businesses are taking the lead for community improvement. Under an initiative led Branch Avenue in Bloom, there is a movement to create a business corridor that attracts people and supports the local economy. Part of this project includes partnership with AFF to cleanup up of vacant lots and trash hotspots. Sam’s Car Wash, one of the businesses in this corridor, has taken the extra step to display litter prevention banners on their property and provide a bus stop with a trash can, and have seen an immediate reduction in the litter in this area. Stretching their creativity, AFF worked with Sam’s Car Wash distribute reusable bags with litter facts to their customers, helping to reach people in their vehicles, a common place for littering to occur.
It is difficult to reach out to all the communities, schools, and businesses in the watershed, so when a community group from the other side of the river, Woodbridge Potomac Communities Civic Association (WPCCA) in Woodbridge, Virginia, responded to a Call to Action for more Trash Free Communities we were excited to collaborate. Working with WPCCA, who has also brought in Keep Prince William Beautiful and the Prince William County Police, AFF has provided the organizations with the online toolkit and a starter set of posters, as well as conducted presentations and reached out to support from the local governmental agencies. Currently WPCCA is working to get a Litter Prevention PSA aired on the 7pm News Show on Radio Valida (920 AM), a Spanish radio station in Woodbridge. Leveraging their local connections with AFF’s toolkit, WPCCA is well poised to create a Trash Free Community which will display materials, conduct litter prevention activities, and spark change.
Feeling inspired? Ready to move beyond cleanups? Please contact us at [email protected] to find out more about how your neighborhood or town can become a Trash Free Community.