There aren’t many things that motivate the average college student to get out of bed at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.
However, the New Paltz Clean Sweep is an annual tradition that offers a sense of community, a great volunteer opportunity, and a feeling of accomplishment.
The annual event in New Paltz is one of the things that make our community so unique. People come from all over to participate in the town’s festivals and parades, and look forward to them all year. Participating in these events is a good way to meet people and network while also learning about and benefiting from the community.
The first time I participated in the New Paltz Clean Sweep in 2010, I was amazed at the turnout. Clubs, groups and individuals from all around the New Paltz area gathered in St. Joseph’s Church and got their supplies – garbage bags, trash pickers, gloves and free t-shirts. Everyone shared a provided continental breakfast, received their area assignment and hit the roads.
There’s a lot of trash. Sifting through the collection of cups, papers and plastic bags that accumulated along the roadside became a little depressing, and even annoying. It was hot, especially while reflecting on all of the inconsiderate acts of litter evidenced before me in the display of blatant disrespect against nature.
But as time went on, little treasures started to emerge. Toys, trinkets, coins and other artifacts of highway passengers were interesting and exciting to find. Filling bag after bag and finally discovering that there is no more trash to collect inspires an exhilarating sense of accomplishment. Like crawling into bed at night after washing your sheets, I had a refreshing new perspective of my town that filled me with pride and joy. Ever since, I’ve always taken the time and attention to find a garbage can or recycling bin in town instead of just carelessly throwing trash to the ground.
The Clean Sweep taught me a lesson not only about caring for the earth, but about what it means to be part of the community, and how small acts can add up to a big difference. From the event page on the New Paltz Chamber of Commerce website : “Make it greener. One morning to come together and clean up our community.”
I participated in this year’s Clean Sweep last Saturday, April 26. The event started at St. Joseph’s Church, at 34 S. Chestnut St. at 8:30 and went until 11 a.m. I shared my experience live on Twitter @audreybrand99 using the hashtag #npcleansweep.