Chippewa Falls, WI

Local Grade School Girls Celebrate Earth Day by Collecting Garbage

Walter Rhein

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Photo by Walter Rhein

Sofia and Ariel Jonjak are students at Parkview Elementary. Sofia is in 5th grade and Ariel is in 2nd grade. This year they were determined to celebrate Earth Day by collecting garbage after school.

Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22nd. The two girls found that even if you don’t have a full day to schedule an event, you can still make a big difference by taking advantage of whatever time you have available.

I first wanted to pick up garbage on Earth Day two years ago, but we always ran out of time. This year we finally got to do it—Ariel Jonjak

Armed with a thirteen gallon garbage bag and accompanied by their dad and their dog, they embarked on a short hike after school to pick up as much garbage as they could find.

I discovered that once you start looking for garbage, you start to see it everywhere—Sofia Jonjak

The two girls hiked mainly along the shores of Duncan Creek and in the woods behind Leinenkeugel’s brewery. Ariel was equipped with plastic gloves and Sofia worked mainly as the garbage spotter.

Sometimes they had to kick cans free that had been partially buried over time. Often, finding one piece of garbage led to the discovery of many more.

The weirdest piece of garbage we found was a box of cigarettes with cigarettes still inside. There were also a lot of cans and plastic bags—Ariel Jonjak

Sofa was surprised at how quickly they were able to fill up their garbage bag.

We were only out there for about 40 minutes and we filled our bag. We could probably walk the same route tomorrow and fill another bag and still not get all the garbage—Sofia Jonjak

The girls found that picking up garbage in the woods is like a scavenger hunt. It gives you something to keep an eye out for, and it makes a walk more engaging.

Even though it was kind of work, it was also a lot of fun. It feels good to do something positive—Ariel Jonjak

The girls have decided to make picking up garbage part of their regular walks. They plan to alternate working as the spotter and the collector. Tomorrow it will be Sofia's turn to wear the gloves.

Earth Day is special for all the people and the whole Earth—Sofia Jonjak

The girls decided that even though their Earth Day walk was a relatively small event in the larger scheme of things, it was still enough to make a big impact. By the time they got home, their bag of garbage was very heavy.

Imagine how clean the world would be if everyone picked up a bag of garbage once a week—Ariel Jonjak

So, if you happen to be driving through Chippewa Falls and you see two gradeschool girls out picking up garbage, be sure to show them some support and encouragement. Sometimes great things can begin with something as small as a short walk combined with the intention of doing a little bit of good for the community.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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