Community volunteers, students collect 6,000 pounds of trash at Lady Bird Lake

Morgan Severson, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 26, 2022 flipbook.

Students and community members celebrated Earth Day this year by participating in Rowing Dock’s first annual Earth Day Clean Up at Lady Bird Lake.  

The event, which took place April 22, had roughly 1,500 attendees who collected nearly 6,000 pounds of trash, said Kate Aoueille, Rowing Dock director of marketing and communications. Rowing Dock, a canoe and kayak rental service on Lady Bird Lake, partnered with Epic SUP, Keep Austin Beautiful and several other Austin-based companies to host the event. 

Attendees either entered at Rowing Dock to clean the West side of the lake or at Epic SUP, another paddleboard and kayak rental service, to clean the East side. Some volunteers also collected trash on land surrounding the lake. Rowing Dock and Epic SUP provided free kayak, canoe and SUP  rentals for the event, while Keep Austin Beautiful provided supplies like trash bags and grabbers. 

Aoueille said the pandemic inspired the clean-up because many people are enjoying the outdoors to social distance.

“We definitely saw an increase in trash and debris buildup on the lake over the last year, and we wanted to figure out a way to make a difference,” Aoueille said.

Aaron Wheat, a civil engineering and public health junior, is president of the UT chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, seven of whose members came out to the Earth Day Clean Up.

“Remembering our connection to the land, and getting out and making a day dedicated to cleaning up and giving back, I feel like it’s an important task,” Wheat said. 

Public health sophomore Alisha Collaco said she attended the clean-up event as a service opportunity for Texas Sweethearts. 

“I’d like to think that we should celebrate Earth Day every day,” Collaco said. “But (Earth Day) is a day where you can open the eyes of more people to environmental issues and things that need to be done within our local community for the environment.”

Advertising sophomore Melika Ravanassa, who also attended the event with Texas Sweethearts, said despite how busy life can get, people should make time to be outdoors. 

“As life goes on, it’s hard to appreciate Mother Nature, so I think it’s really important (to) come out here and actually take  the time to be one with the Earth,” Ravanassa said.

Trinity Surles, communications and events coordinator with Keep Austin Beautiful, said Earth Day is important because it’s not just about picking up trash, but also about creating a bigger conversation about pollution and learning sustainable habits that help the environment. 

“What we’re doing is worth nothing if people aren’t learning to make sustainable choices and  (asking themselves), ‘Why are we picking up this litter?’” Surles said. “I think that having this much engagement on Earth Day creates that bigger conversation overall and (gets) people thinking.”