Downtown students are cleaning up their act — and their city.
Hit the Road, a student-led organization, is empowering students to benefit the community by cleaning up trash on the streets. The group is not a club, but it is rather a conglomeration of students coming together for a common cause.
Students have gathered twice so far, once in April to clean up an area of Johnson City behind Walmart, and once on Sept. 15 to remove trash from the three bridges in Downtown Binghamton on Clinton, Court and Washington Streets. Julie Quinn, who originally organized the cleanups, estimated that the students removed around 20 bags of garbage from the area on each trip.
More than just students, some local Binghamton residents picked up gloves and bags to lend a hand once they saw what the students were doing.
“It really inspired me that people saw something being done, and just wanted to get involved themselves,” Quinn said.
Quinn, a senior double-majoring in history and geography, started Hit the Road this past April. Quinn modeled the program after one she participated in her hometown, called Keep Rockland Beautiful, which is part of a larger, national movement called Keep America Beautiful. Quinn said that the program was originally going to be a chapter of the national organization, and it still might, but the benefits associated with national membership — namely free gloves and trash bags — have all been provided by the city of Binghamton and Broome County Highway Department.
“I don’t agree with our disposable society,” Quinn said. “I think that a society of perpetual waste is unnecessary. There’s two ends of that, we need to stop creating the garbage, and then pick it up once we throw it away.”
Quinn is a member of IDEAS, Vines (Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments) and NYPIRG, and recruited volunteers from each group to help with the cleanups. Ultimately, Hit the Road will come under the purview of IDEAS, but for now it is run by Quinn with manpower supplied from the three clubs. The first cleanup in April was staffed by 15, but numbers swelled to around 60 for the September event.
Quinn plans to continue the Hit the Road initiative by organizing weekly side-street cleanups throughout Downtown. Starting next week, she plans to organize a cleanup every Tuesday morning. Participants will meet from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. to clean up the side streets of Binghamton, like Oak and Murray. Each event will supply students with cleanup gear and will be followed by a social breakfast.
Student participation in street cleanups is active in other groups as well. This Sunday, Sept. 29, the West Side Neighborhood Project will be hosting a cleanup starting on the corners of Leroy and Murray. Mary Dribnak, a senior majoring in environmental studies, is recruiting BU students from Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC).
“It’s important that the students and community members come together to show they genuinely care for the cleanliness and beauty of a neighborhood,” Dribnak said.
The next cleanup is scheduled for Oct. 13, and Quinn aims to cover all of Riverside Drive and hopefully Main Street as well. Additional weekend cleanups are slated to occur every two or three Sundays until it gets cold.
Leading up to the Oct. 13 cleanup, IDEAS is holding a weeklong event, beginning Oct. 7, called Trash on Your Back, in which participants will literally carry around trash bags of their waste throughout the week. The program is meant to raise awareness of how much waste a person produces everyday, with the aim that people will reevaluate their trash-producing habits and see what throughout the week could have been recycled or replaced with a reusable item.
“Trash on Your Back is a great way to discover how much you waste, and teach others the quantity of waste produced by individuals,” said Jacob Robison, a senior majoring in environmental studies.
For more information about upcoming trash cleanups and ways to get involved, like “Hit the Road: Binghamton Street Cleanups” and “West Side Neighborhood Project” on Facebook.
—Dorothy Farrell contributed to this report