Ah, springtime, and a cheapskate's fancy turns to ... trash. As Jim Carrey said in the movie The Grinch, "One man's toxic waste is another man's potpourri." Well, not really. But I've found some pretty nifty stuff scavenging through what others have cast aside.
In the springtime particularly, I combine my love of trash picking with my passion for being outdoors and helping the environment. This Saturday (April 10th) I'll be participating in the 22nd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, sponsored by my friends and neighbors at the Alice Ferguson Foundation here in southern Maryland. Over the years more than 50,000 volunteers have spent a day picking trash out of the Potomac and its surrounding watershed.
Last year alone, that effort netted 290 tons of trash collected at over 500 sites throughout the region. Not only is it a day to give Mother Nature a makeover -- and realize just how much trash ends up in our rivers and other waterways -- but it is, at least for me, "My favorite shopping day of the year." (Check out the photo of some of my prized Potomac finds over the years.)
If you don't live in the Potomac watershed or can't join us on Saturday, don't despair: This spring and summer there will be more than 3,000 river cleanup projects across the country, all looking for able volunteers. The nationwide campaign -- 2010 National River Cleanup -- is coordinated by American Rivers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring America's rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature. On their website you can find a cleanup near you. Or, if you want to organize a river cleanup of your own, you can register it on the site to help generate volunteers and publicity for your project -- American Rivers even provides free trash bags and instructional materials to cleanup organizers if you register your cleanup in their database.
June is National Rivers Month, and many cleanups happen during that month or earlier, a sort of spring cleaning as people get outdoors to enjoy nature's waterways. Since the start of the nationwide cleanup campaign in 1991, more than 600,000 volunteers have cleaned up 100,000+ miles of waterways. All that trash, and still no sign of Jimmy Hoffa.
It's true what they say: Everybody lives downstream from someone else. The goal of the Alice Ferguson Foundation is to make the Potomac "trash-free" by 2013. I wholeheartedly support that goal and will do my best to make it happen, although when that glorious day comes I'll need to find another source for occasional anniversary gifts and other trash treasures I've been picking up in the Potomac every April.
Jeff Yeager is the author of the book The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and the forthcoming The Cheapskate Next Door. His Website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com. Follow Jeff Yeager on Twitter and Friend Jeff on Facebook
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