Members of the Arizona State University community have the chance to make a positive impact on the environment by taking part in Rio Reimagined Earth Day Cleanup Week events both virtual and in person — with the collective goal of removing 2,500 pieces of trash throughout the week.
The cleanup is headed by the Rio Reimagined Initiative, a forward-looking project to revitalize 45 miles of the Rio Salado. It was established in 2017 by late U.S. Sen. John McCain and is part of ASU’s University City Exchange Office.
Kylie Cochrane, an ASU senior who works with the initiative, says that anyone can make an impact through small actions such as picking up trash.
“As a community member you can make a difference by cleaning up both natural and man-made areas that have been trashed,” said Cochrane, who is studying journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “It all comes down to making a big impact through small actions.”
Cochrane said this event has been organized with COVID-19 in mind, utilizing a hybrid of in-person and virtual elements.
Volunteers have two choices: an in-person cleanup of the Salt River on Saturday, April 24, and/or a virtual cleanup of their own neighborhood utilizing the Litterati Citizen Science app. The app allows residents to pick up litter in their area and document how much they collected by uploading a photo of the trash collected into the app. The app allows friendly, fun-natured competition while providing a safe way to pitch in.
“With Litterati, the litter collected is tracked to identify data trends in neighborhoods that have higher amounts of trash,” Cochrane said. “You have a hands-on opportunity to do something about it and contribute to a cleaner community.”
The Earth Day cleanup kicked off the Litterati app portion on April 17, and the week will conclude with the in-person cleanup at the Salt River on April 24.
The in-person cleanup is expected to attract dozens of volunteers to the dry bed of the Salt River, often used as a dumping ground for such items as couches, auto parts and more. Public- and private-sector partners are supporting the event by providing equipment to remove large trash items.
Cochrane said that with everyone working together, it is possible to celebrate the Earth and act locally on behalf of Arizona’s ecosystem — revitalizing not just the river, but its surrounding communities, too.
“That’s what Rio Reimagined is all about. It’s a long-term revitalization project,” Cochrane said. “The goal is to respect and reconnect to our rivers, and an easy and first step is cleaning.”
Top photo: A previous, prepandemic river cleanup event. Photo courtesy of Colleen Adams