Clean living can be a habit, not a form of philanthropy

By Brandy DePriest

Treading through the brush, I pick up what pieces of litter I can reach. The grabber helps, especially
when my desire to avoid water critters kicks in. It’s not that I’m afraid of snakes and spiders … as long
as they can go their way and I can go mine.

I make my way down the wooded, muddy bank to the water’s edge. There are twisted, slippery roots
that repel rubber flip flops like opposite magnets. Chucking the death shoes, I step barefoot on the
black gnarls and navigate my way back into the kayak. Slipping through the water toward the center
of the river, I sigh as I revel in the sounds — Geese, trying to distract us from their nest; leaves
rusting in the gentle breeze; distant canoers screaming in terror and joy as the current pulls their boat
and their day’s supplies down river. My eyes graze the bank, searching for more lonely shoes or
mangled beer cans or brand-new sunscreen bottles. My friend and fellow paddler exclaims, “I thought
you said we were going to get to pick up some trash!”

But this was a different trip from other cleanups. My student group at Trine has been helping the
Trading Post collect trash on 26 miles of river in the Mongo area for eight years and each year we are
awarded with bags upon bags of trash.

In the early days, we dug up chairs, pulled out small appliances, fished out shoes, and collected a
variety of beer cans from the very old to the very new. The shoes and new beer cans are still there,
but the genre of litter is very different from what it once was. Only rarely do we still find the traces of
egregious trash dumping. These days, the river trash appears to be remnants of capsized vessels from
the treacherous Pigeon River.

Canoe rental places provide the community with the opportunity to experience the river at a
reasonable rate, and there certainly isn’t a lack of demand. As an exceedingly popular recreational
activity for individuals, groups, and families, river traffic is very high in this area. However, since the
Senecals took over ownership of the Trading Post in 2007, the river has been cleaner than I have ever
seen it. This family has put its heart into the business while committing themselves to preserving the
natural beauty of the area so that they can share it with others.

There is a growing pattern of concern for the natural world, and many like-minded people have helped
the effort to keep our rivers clean. But there is still a lot to be done. We cleaned up half as much trash
as we normally do, but that trash was still there.

It was refreshing to be able to spend more time floating along and soaking in the day than I normally
do when on a river trip. I’m happy to report major shift in thought, as I watch our community
becoming more concerned about the future. These volunteer programs set a precedent that we should
all consider; eventually this will become a way of being rather than an effort of philanthropy.

Brandy DePriest is the advisor for SPEAK for the Earth at Trine University. Used with permission.  Content provided courtesy of KPC Media Group Inc., d/b/a