70 Rutgers students celebrate homecoming by cleaning up New Brunswick
Students helped tackle the buildup of trash off campus during the Homecoming Community Clean Up this past Sunday.
The event, along with other community initiatives coordinated by Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships, highlighted environmental issues surrounding the University.
This year’s cleanup drew 70 students from across the University to the Honors College. The group then split into sub-groups that surveyed the streets surrounding College Avenue, said Emily Pretsby, community service coordinator for the Honors College Student Advisory Board.
The trash unearthed included cigarette butts, empty bottles and cans found around off-campus housing, Prestby said.
“It was eye-opening to see the amount of garbage that is produced by Rutgers students and left out in the streets and ditches,” she said. “Not only does it look bad, but the littering has a larger effect on the environment because the litter can contain harmful chemicals that contaminate the soil and water in our community.”
Pretsby said cleanups like this are a prime way to give back to the community and highlight the environmental impact students leave on New Brunswick. Just one person’s litter significantly contributes to the overall amount of garbage the group clears up and leaves a lasting environmental effect.
The actions taken by those serious about reducing waste in the community can make a major difference in helping reverse environmental effects, she said.
“I participated in a cleanup last fall, and enjoyed participating again this year,” Pretsby said. ”I hope to get more involved in events like this where I can give back and take care of the environment we live in.”
The Scarlet Knights Team Up to Clean Up program kickstarted their environmental initiatives in the Fall of 2016. Under the leadership of Caryn Washington, assistant director of Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships, the organization focused its energy on trash cleanup after home football games.
Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships works with the University to help students interested in living off campus by providing online resources and educational programming, according to their site. The organization provides students with tips and information about off-campus living including understanding leases, security deposits and rental responsibilities.
Environmental cleanup programming headed by Washington works under the organization and produces programming throughout the year that encourages students to connect with the community through service.
“Our philosophy is whether you are a commuter, an on-campus resident or an off-campus resident, we are all a part of this community and should work together to keep our community clean,” Washington said.
Over the last two years the organization has partnered with the Honors College to build a cleaner environment on campus, she said. During this year’s Homecoming Community Clean Up, Honors College students partnered with Washington’s “Give Where You Live” intern group leaders to expedite the cleanup process.
“I like working with the Honors College, as it allows us to reach even more students,” she said.
Environmental awareness is a looming issue, particularly off-campus, Washington said. Outside of trash removal, she hopes events like this help foster environmental mindfulness among students. The organization looks to impart good neighbor habits to all students living and socializing off campus.
Washington said community cleanups are a great way to directly impact the community and that she encourages all students to volunteer a few hours of their Sunday to take part in one.
“I think this effort is helping to have residents look at students in a more positive light and hopefully allows students to build a stronger and more personal connection to the community,” she said.