Registered: July 2015
View this Member's Photo Gallery
My name is Sofia and I am an eleventh grader at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia.
My mom would always tell me not to litter. She would scare me with stories of animals that had been severely injured because of it. Of course as a child these stories would petrify me and I wouldn’t dare to throw my Kit-Kat wrapper on the ground because who knew in which bird’s stomach it would be a week from then. Today, I am grateful for the “scary” stories my mom would tell me. Thousands of animals are injured yearly due to litter and even more are killed by pollution every year. Littering along with other anthropogenic contaminants not only adversely influence animals around us but also affects the quality of the water we drink.
This year, I was challenged with the task to lead a project that would leave an impact in my community. I found information about River’s Alive, a program in which you can sign up for cleanups to keep local waterways clean, so I organized a group of middle school students to clean the headwaters of McNutt’s Creek in Athens, Georgia. Not only did I want students to take part in keeping their waterways clean, but also to learn and understand how littering can affect our drinking water. I wanted to spread environmental awareness to middle school and elementary school students. It took a lot of planning, and commitment but in the end was a rewarding experience.
McNutt’s Creek is a tributary that runs along the outskirts of Athens, Georgia. The headwaters of McNutt’s creek are located at the St. Joe’s school property. My brothers attend this school and I thought it provided the perfect ground to develop my project. I began by communicating with the principal and teacher at St. Joes, along with the leader of an organization in Athens called “Keep Athens Clarke County Beautiful (KACCB).” Mrs. Stacy Smith, the leader of KACCB, and I met up a few times to speak about my project and water quality itself. She was also involved with River’s Alive and could provide me with all the materials I needed for the cleanup. We eventually determined the segment of McNutt’s Creek in which we would perform the cleanup. Prior to the cleanup, Mrs. Smith gave a fifteen-minute presentation after I had briefly spoken to the students, and helped them get a better scope of littering and water health. The students were very engaged and many knew a lot about littering and its effects. On the day of the cleanup, there was a group of twenty-three students who came out. We split up, so girls’ caravanned to a bridge, older boys traveled furthest down the creek, and younger boys crossed the creek. They were all very excited and were able to collect a huge amount of trash and recycling. We were able to fill up eight trash bags and three recycling bags. A few students had some interesting finds. This comprised of: an American flag, a tire, a car seat, two basketballs, a car battery, a couple credit cards, and a chair. The guidance counselor at St. Joes filmed most of the cleanup and developed a video. She entered it into an environmental awareness competition and it ended up being a finalist for the middle school category. Subsequent to the cleanup, I presented what’s called an “Enviroscape,” to elementary school students at St. Joes. An enviroscape is a model of a watershed used to explain the water cycle, and how pollution can affect our waterways. It was incredible to be able to interact and essentially teach the kids about the pollution that can enter our waterways. While watching the reactions of the kids I realized the importance of instilling environmental awareness at early ages. They were surprised by how dirty our drinking water can get.
When we litter not only do we impact our drinking water but also the species sharing the planet with us. For example, I was shocked to learn about Peanut. Peanut is a small waist turtle that was found trapped in a six-pack ring. She resembles the shape of an infinity sign. As time went by and Peanut got older, her organs failed to develop completely and she had to be moved to a zoo where she received special care from vets. Luckily, Peanut was freed from the plastic. This carelessness could have resulted in the death of a defenseless animal’s life. There are many other examples like this one. Often times, we as humans don’t realize the impact we have on our ecosystems, so it is essential to educate people, especially the young generations, to love, respect, and protect our environment. We are all part of a river continuum. We may think that anything we throw into our local rivers, streams, or tributaries only affects our community’s drinking water and our community’s wildlife, but we are all part of a watershed that eventually runs into the ocean. Therefore, our practices may end up affecting coastal ecosystems as well.
Through research I learned that Georgia has 70,150 miles of streams and rivers, and they provide us with drinking water and recreational activities. If we don’t take care of our water we can eliminate the features it provides. I learned that people throw all kinds of things into our waterways. Drainage from the roads (stormwater) is one of the leading contributors. If we don’t do anything about this our water will be affected and therefore our well-being could be as well. I also learned that people show a true interest in helping out and getting involved if they are educated on what litter can do to our water.
In the future, I am interested in continuing the work I started at St. Joes by establishing an “Environmental Club.” It is vital to know the effects of pollution on our water and in establishing a club the dangers of pollution could be emphasized constantly. Students could learn even more about water quality and take part in more cleanups.