Many of the more Internet-savvy among you may recall the recent trend of viral movements that have captured the world’s attention over social media in the past few years. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, choking down a spoonful of cinnamon on a dare or standing stock still while the song “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd playing in the background.
Some of these viral movements were little more than widespread and very silly dares but others, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, encouraged people to do something good. Now a new trend has popped up on people’s news feeds with references to the rampant scourge of pollution. It is appropriately being labeled #trashtag, and it’s creators hope it will save the world…
What is Pollution?
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, pollution refers to any substance or thing that is either harmful or poisonous to the environment or the living things that dwell there. This can be any sort of substance really, but for the sake of brevity, we are going to discuss the pollutive effects of plastics, chemicals, and most importantly, litter.
The concept of reigning in the effects of pollution is a relatively recent one. Prior to the 1960s, most people didn’t even consider the long-term effects of their litter, carbon emissions, or the toxic runoff of the so-called “nuclear age.” Today though, after learning what can happen if pollution is left unchecked, some people are trying to change things…
It’s no secret that human beings are adept at overconsumption of resources; just look at NASCAR. Nevertheless, there have been great strides over the years in the areas of recycling, conservation, and even cleanup. If these strides had not occurred, we may all be up to our necks in our own trash. And make no mistake, that could still happen.
When Byron Román first posted on social media with a subtle encouragement for “bored teens” to go out and pick up litter, he didn’t expect a response. Rather, he expected the response to be overwhelmingly smarmy and sarcastic. Nor did he expect that this somewhat innocuous post would make any sort of difference. He was mistaken…
Byron’s post read, “Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it.” He also attached a before and after photo of a messy area being cleaned up by another young man. With a mere seven days, the post had exploded into a full-blown movement.
Byron’s initial call to action received hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. One of his friends in Guatemala was amongst those who spread the word and posted his own image and the same message in Spanish as well. He tagged it #BasuraChallenge and #Trashtag…
It seemed that there were plenty of so-called “bored teens” all over the world who wanted to make the planet just a little cleaner. They cleaned up beaches, parks, schools, streets, just about anywhere they could. But what prompted these teens to get up and do something when so much else has failed to do so?
Steven Reinhold, a UCO people ambassador, and outdoorsman recalled the moment that they saw the #trashtag for the first time. “Me and a buddy of mine were out on a road trip in California and a receipt blew out of a window. We kind of felt bad about it because it was in a really pretty location, so we decided to pick up 100 pieces of trash.” And so it began…
All Around the World
In India, a world away, a group of teens picked up mounds of discarded plastic thrown out by the local people of Junagadh. Across the ocean in California, another group worked to clean off a local beach by getting rid of bottle caps, plastic straws, and deflated balloons. They were doing what they could to make a difference and it was showing.
Making a Difference
Byron’s initial goal was only to try to enlist some help with the environment. All he wanted was to see if he could transform boredom into something positive, a challenge like the Ice Bucket Challenge that might make a positive impact on the world. He never envisioned that the hashtag would actually add up enough to show change…
As stated earlier, pollution prevention and waste management aren’t “new” things per se, just newish. Nevertheless, the current vogue amongst environmentalists is to minimize waste completely. There’s just one problem with that theory, you cannot simply ask all of humanity to curb their waste…or can you?
Dilution, a Solution
The old saying used to be that “The solution to pollution is dilution” but this aged dictum doesn’t really apply in a world where not much dilution has been done. That said, we are trying to lower carbon emissions, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rely on inexhaustible sources of energy like wind and solar power. Then again, not everyone is doing their part…
President Donald Trump has made no secret of the fact that he considers environmentalism a bit lower on his priority list than say war or finance. Unfortunately, that only serves to make the problem worse. Four years of lowered or eliminated environmental support from a country as powerful as the United States could spell disaster for the planet as a whole.
Beyond Our Help
As it is, many believe that the planet is already beyond our help. That it doesn’t matter how much we do as far as minimizing our carbon footprint, global warming is progressing too quickly to stop it. Anything that we would possibly need to do now to make a difference would be hugely impractical and infeasible. Obviously, the folks behind #trashtag don’t agree…
Spreading the Word
The original post has garnered 323,000 shares on Facebook in the first few days and the hashtag on Instagram has more than 25,000 posts. It’s clear that Byron Román’s message had spread like wildfire. What’s more, the positivity that the movement engenders has been resonating with the younger generation in untold ways.
Clean the World
Young people everywhere have been picking up litter in every corner of the world. People are cleaning out lakes in China, disposing of refuse or recycling in parts of Vietnam or the Philippines. The best part is that people have been taking notice and are thankful for the movement itself…
We’re In This Together
Many people from all over the world have sent messages thanking Byron for starting the trend and it seems now more than ever, even Byron is beginning to believe the hype. Perhaps we are all in this together, just as he purported in his original post. Still, Byron isn’t the first in recent years to motivate folks.
Not the First
Byron may have popularized the clean-up movement with his clever #trashtag terminology, but he isn’t the first. Afroz Shah is an Indian lawyer living in Mumbai. Like Byron, he saw how filthy and polluted his city’s popular Versova Beach had become. What was once a beautiful vacation locale, Versova has become infamously dirty. So in 2015, he worked to do something about it…
Even if they didn’t have the reach of Byron’s hashtag, Shah’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. In 2016, he was awarded the United Nations’ top environmental honor and became known as “a Champion of the Earth.” Meanwhile, the true impact of #Trashtag has yet to be seen.
Byron hopes that viral campaigns like #trashtag is the first step into global environmentalism and eliminating litter altogether. “I think that would be a better approach to it,” he told TIME magazine. “This is a movement to inspire people to be better stewards of the environment.” Let’s hope he’s right.