It’s no secret that we’re trashing our planet. The oceans are full of plastic, beaches are often littered with cigarette butts, and discarded water bottles act as trail markers on the mountains. Because environmental issues are looking so dismal as of late, it can be easy to simply look away and not think about them. It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the planet’s health.
But lucky for the Earth, a few individuals around the world are taking things into their own hands with the Trashtag Challenge. Simply put, the Trashtag Challenge entails a before and after photo of an area you’ve cleaned up. Although it’s popularity skyrocketed in March of this year, it’s actual origin goes back to September 15th, 2015. Steven Reinhold, a North Carolina-based activist first coined the term following an incident where a piece of trash flew out his car window and he vowed to pick up 100 pieces of trash to make up for it.
Back to 2019, Byron Román posts the following photo on Facebook with the caption, “Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens. Go take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it.”
Within a week, this post was shared over 330,000 times, and more and more individuals shared their own #Trashtag successes.
In an interview with Ocean Conservancy, Reinhold says of the sudden boom in interest, “But one of my favorite things scrolling through Instagram and seeing people sharing pictures all over the world, in 20 different languages. You can’t always get a translation, but you see #trashtag.” He goes on to say how cool it is that there’s finally an online challenge that’s actually doing some good (we’re looking at you, Tide Pods).
This whole explosion of international do-gooders goes to show that, if humanity bands together, we really can make a difference. One individual can change something in their environment, however small. Now imagine what could happen if 100,000 more people decided to go out and clean their local park.
This is my formal challenge to you. Get involved in #Trashtag. Go find somewhere that’s crying for help and be the change.