One local resident has taken it upon himself to adopt Grand River/Riverside between Lowell and Saranac, spending the summer picking up trash, making the landscape and community a better place.
Aaron Goodwin and his wife have lived in the Lowell community for 14 years. He’s originally from Comstock Park and his wife is from the Dewitt area. Goodwin frequently rides his bike along Riverside, which is how he noticed all of the trash. At first he would complain about it, but July of this year a podcast would make his words change to action.
Out on a bike ride, listening to a Dad Edge podcast, Goodwin found his inspiration. The episode’s topic was about taking action. “It was then I decided that complaining wasn’t doing any good and that the next best action for me to take was to pick up some litter to make the world 1% better than it was yesterday.” says Goodwin. The following day he and his daughter purchased a grabber stick and began picking up litter along the road.
The pair spent an hour picking up trash along Grand River Road starting at Division and worked to the east. They ended up with 32 gallons of litter, which they kept in a Radio Flyer wagon as they walked along. The next day Goodwin spent an hour picking up trash at Recreation Park along S. Hudson. “Energized” is how he explains how he felt after these two days, explaining “I was simultaneously helping mother nature, cleaning up our community, enjoying the outdoors, getting my steps in, listening to podcasts on self-development and being productive while I am in between jobs.”
Goodwin set a goal for himself to clean up Grand River Dr./Riverside Dr. between Lowell and Saranac. Over the course of a month, he spent 17 days, starting in Saranac, making his way toward Lowell. He also spent six days cleaning up parts of Oberley and 28th Street. His goal was completed within the last two weeks. During this time, Goodwin collected over 1,300 gallons of trash from the side of the road.
What does one do with over 1,000 gallons of trash? Goodwin disposed of it himself. He quickly learned his personal 96 gallon trash and recycling bins were being filled to capacity each week. So he contacted Red Creek, the company he uses to see if they would donate a trash cart. They thanked him for helping clean up the community and generously donated a cart to the cause. When they received a call from Goodwin requesting a recycling cart, they donated that as well. Most weeks both donated carts have been completely filled.
When asked what is typically found tossed along the side of the road, Goodwin replies, “The majority has been single use plastic water bottles, plastic grocery bags, beer cans, fast food containers, empty cigarette packs and butts, and liquor bottles.” He has also found a handful of interesting items including a driver’s license and credit cards that were stolen, a few pocket knives, a full-sized basketball hoop and pole, a hair club for men CD and a collection of old cassette tapes.
“The funniest item is when I stumbled across the plastic packaging from an adult pleasure toy. When I saw that I busted out laughing. Someone on Riverside Drive went to bed with a smile on their face.” he says of the most humorous item found. But the vast majority of items picked up alongside the road were single use plastic items which could be recycled or pure trash.
What metal Goodwin has found he is saving and will donate it to the Boy Scout Scrap Metal Drive. He found $3 in loose change and $20 worth of bottle returns. And he is a bit distraught the discovered Moody Blues cassette tape was not in working condition.
Hopes of Inspiring Others
Goodwin doesn’t consider himself a “tree hugger” but feels with “awareness, mindfulness and common sense” changes can be made by individuals. And the efforts of individuals will start to add up.
Daily photos of his journey have been posted on Facebook. “I post pictures and try to use humor to educate and inspire others.” he says. His friends have thanked him for what he has done and some have been inspired to stop during a run or walk to pick up litter. Some have even stopped as he has been working along the road to express gratitude and even mention a difference has been noticed.
The distance of road Goodwin covered is six miles one way. But he traversed the route four times, totaling 24 miles. Once each way to collect by the side of the road and once each way to concentrate on ditches, where much of the litter had gathered over the years. “Could you imagine how much could get done with more helping hands?” he asks.
Goodwin says he makes it a point to pick up at least one piece of litter when he’s out running an errand. His single act takes little effort but he feels it can have a big impact if everyone did this. He throws down an even bigger challenge for people saying, “If you want to get a bit more involved, the next time you are waiting around for your kids to get done with a dentist appointment, band or sports practice, instead of sitting down and flipping through social media for 60 minutes go for a walk outdoors and pick up some litter. It is a win win for everyone.”
He also invites people to join him in cleaning up the next country road. He tackled a road from Lowell to Saranac on his own. It would have gone a lot faster and likely would have been more fun if others were helping.
A Personal Study of Litter
Goodwin feels litter comes from “a combination of different types of situations and people”. He says some litter on purpose, citing tossing cigarette butts or fast food wrappers out vehicle windows because they are lazy, perhaps caring more about the inside of their car than the road they are driving on or the community in which they are driving through, or even live in. He thinks some people are drinking and driving and don’t want evidence in their car so an empty bottle or can goes out the window. Another category of people are those who are unaware trash is flying out of truck beds, windows, or trailers. And he says he has no explanation for those who toss full bags of trash into the ditch.
How can people be more cognizant of their actions when it comes to trash? Little, easy steps according to Goodwin. He believes if those who smoke use an empty pop can as an ashtray and empty it on their own, cigarette waste can be avoided. Those who have trash in their car, bed of their truck or in a trailer should make sure the items are secure and don’t become debris on the side of the road. And he encourages people to make sure the lid of their trash carts is completely down when putting it on the side of the road for pick up.
A Call for Action
This summer Goodwin left a job in the IT software world, where he worked as a professional services consultant for 25 years, after experiencing health issues and feeling unfulfilled. “I am in the process of figuring out how I can bring together my skills and experiences of implementing solutions and working with customers and align them with my passion and desire for making our earth 1% cleaner and greener each day all while supporting my family.” he says. The decision to leave his job and a podcast heard while on a bike ride allowed him to spend time making one country road better.
But there are many more out there in need of attention. He invites those in the Lowell community to join him as he looks to clean up Grand River west of Segwun. Send him an email if you’d like to be involved. The Grand River/Riverside Dr. between Lowell and Saranac is a better place thanks to Goodwin. The community is as well thanks to his efforts and inspiration. What do you plan to do in order to make the earth 1% cleaner and greener?