Thu, Feb 17, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Litter bugs

Pick Up America hopes its cross-country cleanup trek will leave the US a better place and raise awareness of environmental issues

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff reporter

Pick Up America’s volunteers are currently on hiatus for the winter and plan to resume their walk from Ripley, Ohio to California on March 4. The itinerary comprises eight states.

Chen is taking advantage of a vacation in Taiwan to contact local media, which he hopes will help him spread the group’s message to Taiwanese and Taiwanese Americans. Growing up in a Taiwanese American family taught him the value of conserving resources, Chen says.

“I think Taiwan does a better job of recycling than America does, probably because it is an island nation. Across the political spectrum, everyone knows that they should recycle and reuse things,” Chen says. “In Taiwanese culture, at least for me growing up, my parents taught me to conserve and not use what I don’t need.”

The idea for Pick Up America came to Chen during a college internship as a ranger in Yosemite National Park. While hiking Half Dome, Chen was appalled by the amount of litter he saw on one of the park’s most famous landmarks.

“On our way back, a friend and I just picked up every piece of trash along the trail. Yosemite is a national treasure. Why is there trash in a place we all decided we care about?” Chen says.

Chen says that people can reduce waste by taking small steps like flushing the toilet less, carrying reusable shopping totes, bringing thermoses to coffee shops and not buying bottled water.

“There is so much that is hidden beneath our consumerist culture,” Chen says. “I’m not wishing for a bad economy. I feel like we can be productive, but also consider our environmental and social impact.”

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