As an organization, Trash Free Maryland has typically worked to support the cleanup efforts of a diverse range of partners, and coordinate with those groups on gathering data and photos in support of root cause solutions to litter. We see our role in organizing and leveraging expertise, relationships and awareness to advocate for policies and programs that prevent litter at the source.
And we imagine a Maryland that we do not have to clean up, but rather one that we simply keep clean. As we work toward this though, cleanup efforts are critical, and there’s no doubt they are a great way to give back to your community. They are family friendly, you can see the results of your service immediately, and for many there’s almost an ineffable satisfaction of putting misplaced things in their proper place – a bag or bin.
So this summer we embarked on an endeavor intended to connect community members to litter and trash pollution in a new way – their appreciation for local, craft beer and the importance of clean, healthy waterways to ensure their brews stay trash free! This initiative – Cheers to Clean Water – is a partnership between nonprofits and for profit businesses committed to fostering cleaner, healthier communities in which they operate.
The inaugural event kicked off on September 8, with over 130 volunteers conducting litter cleanups at one of four sites within the Baltimore City. These volunteers also helped collect certain materials separately in order to help evaluate policy effectiveness of the foam ban in Baltimore, and to support future legislative efforts. In total these volunteers collected over 4,500 pounds of trash and recyclables, 1,687 pieces of EPS foam, and over 600 plastic bags in just over two hours.
This partnership allowed us to tap into the networks of local breweries, and put litter in a new light. Local brewery fans became volunteers, who served as community scientists and can grow into advocates for sustainable solutions in order to protect their communities, and also craft beer, such as laws banning foam food containers and instituting fees on plastic bags, improved city or county services and infrastructure, or using their power as a consumer to drive source reduction and sensible trash management. The visibility was invaluable. And the reward – the post-volunteering high, as well as the beverage voucher – made for a lot of glasses well over half full.
Learn more about the initiative and the partners and supporters who made it possible here, and stay tuned for future Cheers to Clean Water events!