In the wake of a widely celebrated holiday like Halloween, there is bound to be a whole lot of garbage left behind by hungry trick-or-treaters and elaborately dressed partygoers alike. The holiday is a huge producer of waste, whether that be in the form of candy bar wrappers or in single use Halloween costumes.
“There is nothing scarier than our throwaway culture,” says Paula Chin, World Wildlife Foundation’s sustainable materials specialist in an article published in The Ecologist.
The New Paltz Environmental Alliance, better known as the New Paltz EcoAllies, is hosting a challenge following the holiday as a means to combat the environmental danger posed by Snickers wrappers and lollipop sticks strewn across campus.
In past years, the EcoAllies have had a post-Halloween campus clean up tradition, but this year they opted for their first ever online, but just as effective, challenge to tidy up our school grounds.
“We decided to host this clean up after discussing the fact that there’s always a bunch of trash left over from Halloween that needs to be picked up,” Emma Paulsen, third year environmental geochemical science major and EcoAllies social media manager explained. “A lot of people seem to be busy with school around this time but hosting a clean up virtually, and advertising an incentive, could be a great way to keep people involved in cleaning our campus on their own time!”
From Nov. 1 through Nov. 14, the Eco Allies invite their fellow classmates to take a closer look at the ground and to pick up any litter they see lying around. Of course, this cleanup is focused on cleaning the Halloween aftermath, but all trash is eligible to be entered into the contest.
Students participating in the challenge are asked to take a photo of themselves picking up found pieces of trash and throwing it away, then to post the photo to their Instagram story and tag the EcoAllies’ page.
Each photo posted or direct messaged to the Instagram account counts as one entry, and students are allowed and encouraged to enter the contest as many times as they want for greater chances at winning the prize.
One lucky winner will be selected by a random draw to receive a $15 gift card to the local business of their choosing for their cleanup efforts on Nov. 14.
The Eco Allies hope that this event inspires real and tangible change.
“The prize will incentivize kids to want to pick up trash,” said Jade Wong, third year sociology major and EcoAllies President. “I feel like most people don’t want to do anything nowadays unless they know they’re getting something out of it at the end of the day!”
Students interested in taking their environmental work a step further should look into joining the EcoAllies to be a part of their sustainability efforts.
At the club’s typical campus clean ups, an hour of scavenging for garbage produces an average of 2-3 full bags of waste that was not properly disposed of the first time around.
Wong says that the leading litter they pick up is discarded cigarette butts and disposable face masks, though those are obviously a more recent addition.
But cleaning up after their classmates isn’t all that the EcoAllies do!
“We normally host or participate in any programs relating to sustainability and overall awareness of climate change and action!” said Wong. “These programs are usually community oriented and very hands-on, and we try to do a few events a month to really keep our members engaged!”
The EcoAllies host farm work days at our campus microfarm, sometimes planting, often harvesting and currently, they are preparing the microfarm for the winter frost. The microfarm is a hidden botanical oasis adjacent to Esopus Hall. EcoAllies are always looking for more student farmers to help out.
“We recently hosted a huge clothing swap, we host weekly protests on Friday, we show educational/fun environmental movies, get professors who have insight into environmental issues to speak for us, and more!” said Paulsen on Environmental Alliance programs.
Students can catch the EcoAllies during their Fridays for Future protests outside of the Humanities building, following in the footsteps and carrying on the legacy of climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“With this event and other clean ups we hope to encourage students to play an active role in keeping our campus community clean!” said Paulsen. “We certainly hope events like this will encourage students to clean up the campus — or at the very least clean up their own trash — in their everyday lives.”For more information on the trash pickup challenge, or to learn more about the New Paltz Environmental Alliance and how to become a more involved sustainability activist, please visit their Instagram page @ecoallies_np.