By Cara Hollis
No, not really, but the 25,281 pounds of trash that were removed by Clean Up The Lake during the 72-Mile Clean Up, is equivalent to the weight of a 40-foot school bus. Crazy, right? That number represents decades of trash accumulation in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Some of it accidental, some of it intentional, all of it harmful.
Clean Up The Lake staff and volunteers spent 81 days scuba diving along the shoreline of Lake Tahoe. Bringing up trash, getting it to shore, categorizing and cataloging it, and ultimately disposing of it properly. A herculean task. It took 136 different volunteers and a total of 6,715 volunteer hours to achieve. The results are a much cleaner lake and a much healthier ecosystem, but there are a couple other results that Clean Up the Lake is hoping that the 72-Mile Clean-Up will achieve. First, for people to start paying attention. Second, for people to know that small changes in their behavior matter.
First, is the goal of getting people to pay attention to the environment, especially when it comes to their everyday decisions. Hopefully, a big number like 25,281 pounds of trash is eye-opening all by itself. When you break down the numbers and look at what came out of the lake, you can start to see that each item represents a decision. Like the 232 plastic water bottles that were taken to the lake and lost in the water, or the 171 tires that were dumped in the lake. All these items represent decisions made by individuals. Individuals that maybe didn’t know that Tahoe Tap is some of the cleanest water in the world and that they didn’t need to take plastic onto the lake because they could fill their water bottles. Individuals that didn’t know that tire particles are harmful to water quality and aquatic life, so it is worth it to dispose of them properly. (Rosane, 2022). If Clean Up the Lake can encourage people to take the needs of the environment into account when they make some simple everyday decisions, they will have a positive impact.
Once people are paying attention, then the next goal is to get them to know that their decisions matter. If they choose not to use plastic straws, or not to take plastic bottles onto the lake, or to clean up trash they see around the lake, those decisions matter. One person’s decision can seem too tiny to have an impact but making decisions that are positive for the environment over a lifetime has a cumulative effect. Also, those seemingly tiny decisions can inspire others and wind up having a network effect, cascading to many other people, and inspiring them to make changes.
Ultimately, if the work Clean Up the Lake is doing can get people to make small changes in their lives that reduce their impact on the environment around them, then maybe next time it won’t be a “school bus-sized” amount of trash coming out of Lake Tahoe.
This project was made possible by donations from Tahoe Blue Vodka, Tahoe Fund, Nevada Division of State Lands, Vail’s Epic Promise, Martis Fund and other grant giving agencies. If you would like to help us keep your favorite lakes beautiful, a link to make a tax-deductible donation to Clean Up The Lake 501(c)3 can be found here.
Rosane, Olivia. Tire Particle Pollution May be Harming Fresh Water and Estuary Ecosystems, World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/tire-particle-pollution-may-be-harming-freshwater-and-estuary-ecosystems/
11 March 2022