Earth Day, trash, and the importance of stewardship

Today is Earth Day. I’m not really a minor holiday person, preferring to celebrate the big guns two or three times a year and skipping the rest. (Ask me my feelings on Valentine’s Day.) (On second thought: don’t). Earth Day falls into that category for me. I’ve been to Earth Day celebrations before and they just seem a little…meh. I already know about solar power and recycling and the destruction of the rainforest so those events always seem sort of distant and uninteresting.

Then, last year, my daughter and I celebrated Earth Day by picking up trash with the annual Friends of Acadia roadside clean-up.

I’ve never had such an interesting outing with one of my kids.

She walked about two miles along Route 3 with me over the course of three chilly hours. She climbed under bushes, up hills, and through swamps to get to stray cans and plastic bags. She counted cigarette butts. She hauled bags of trash around that were larger than she was.

She had a blast. She took her role as the smallest person on our squad seriously and shimmied into otherwise unreachable places. We chatted about plants and animals and why do people smoke cigarettes anyway. She whined less than she does on a two-mile hike even though she was working much, much harder.


Because she felt useful. Because she could see the difference. Because this wasn’t a rainforest thousands of miles away full of animals she couldn’t imagine. It was a road that we drive almost daily, we were being watched by chickadees and red squirrels, and we were making things better for them.

This is the beginning of teaching stewardship. Enjoying the outdoors isn’t just about foraging, fishing, or hiking a good trail. It isn’t just about taking. It’s about returning a little good to a place that you love. It’s about undoing damage and trying to make our use of the land sustainable. It’s about caring for the world that cares for you. Eventually, hopefully, that kind of thinking leads to recycling, solar power, and preserving the rainforest. But for us, it starts with picking up trash.

We’ll be out there again this Saturday in latex gloves and fleeces, this time joined by my son who, at five, can finally be trusted to not run into Route 3 traffic. Honk and wave if you see us. Or, better yet, join us. You can register here at Friends of Acadia for the clean up.

(Incidentally, rumor is that there will be beer, too.)

Acadia too far? Here are some other clean-up options:

Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in Old Town is holding a trail spruce up day. More information here

Hermon is holding a community clean up day. More information here

Friends of Fort Knox is holding a park clean up day. You’ll even get a fort tour as a thank you! More information here

If none of these options work, you can do what my kids did last weekend. We took the dog and two grocery bags and had our own clean up walk on our own road. Because every day is Earth Day in your own backyard.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.