Hero Award, March 2010: The PickUpAmerica.org Volunteers
Nero Award, March 2010: The West Virginia Legislature
There are a host of indigenous Mountain State heroes* worthy of note and folks have already been suggesting some to WestVirginiaVille after this site’s first ‘Heroes and Neros’ post. In due time, some of these long-time folks at the front lines of important issues facing West Virginia will get their… well, due. But before then, I wanted to give props – since they received no official props for their work here last Autumn in the state – to the young volunteers of PickUpAmerica.org, all but one of whom are from out-of-state. They’re back in West Virginia this weekend, visiting with a crew of us who became their admirers and supporters in a remarkable quest they’ve embarked upon. The group, co-founded by Jeff Chen and Davey Rogner, launched an effort last year to pick up trash across America, starting at the Atlantic Ocean and ending up (a couple years hence) at the Pacific Ocean. After taking the coldest winter months off, they’re returning to America’s trashy roadsides, picking up where they left off last Fall, just past Proctorville, Ohio, heading to Cincinnati.
NOTE: PickUpAmerica.org is up for a Green Giant award to build a Zero Waste Mobile Education Unit. See this video and vote for the group.
The March 2010 WestVirginiaVille Hero Award goes to PickUpAmerica.org volunteers, who spent nearly two months in the state in Fall 2010, gathering up more than 11.5 tons of trash from West Virginia roadsides. They also staged educational and public talks and events advocating recycling and a zero-waste philosophy in our toss-away personal and corporate consumption and marketing habits. They brought tons of trash to the state Capitol Complex in Charleston for a rally to focus attention on the long-stalled, literally bottled-up bottle bill in the West Virginia Legislature, which would reduce roadside littering of plastic bottles (one of the most common objects PickUpAmerica encounters) by setting up a return fee.
I spent a long, entertaining/exhausting day picking up trash with PickUpAmerica.org co-founder Jeff Chen and exuberant volunteer Johnna Jackson, to get a sense of what it’s like be a ‘trash-tern,’ as the group dubs its volunteers. It was a visceral, messy, smelly, sweaty, sometimes disgusting, eye-opening experience in the ongoing trashing of America. Then, there was the discarded meth kit we encountered along the mile or two of U.S. Route 60 near Milton, W.Va., that we were cleaning up. (We cell-phoned that one into the police, just in case it was evidentiary.) For the week afterward, as I drove down that road, I took pleasure in noting how trash-free the roadway was or, at least, the part we were able to reach with our trash pincers and six people (three others worked the opposite side of Route 60). Which, of course, given the number of bozos, bumpkins and bad-ass actors who fling their trash without a second-look back, didn’t last long, litter-wise. Still.
A video I did as part of a Charleton Gazette story on the group:
~ heroes’*: It’s hazardous to label one person a ‘hero’ when the dynamic of a group effort is at play, which enables a central person to be out front. When in fact it may be the overall effort of a mass of folks most responsible for advancing an issue or causing a paradigm shift in how we view something. We’ll keep that in mind.
Co-founder Jeff Chen ditches his orange safety vest and displays his not inconsiderable vocal chops. Jeff got up at the Schwartz’s Point Jazz Club in Cincinnati, where my sister Pam Ross, sings and dueted – with club owner Ed Moss at piano – on the 1957 Meredith Wilson song “Till There Was You.” The wonders of the iPhone.
~ Douglas Imbrogno