Pennsylvania 4-H Challenges Youth to Clean Up Communities | Agricultural education and youth organizations

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — The average person produces 4-1/2 pounds of trash a day — about the equivalent of a standard bag of flour, according to the Pennsylvania 4-H State Council — and all that trash doesn’t end up in a trash can. This fact prompted the council to challenge 4-H members across the state to clean up parks and other public places in their communities by picking up trash.

Each year, the council facilitates a statewide service project. The idea to focus on garbage collection this year came about after council members chose their theme for the year: “Explore Your Way”.

“We wanted 4-H members to explore opportunities in various areas of the project, but also in their own communities,” said Alice Polcrack of Sullivan County, council chair. “A lot of young people don’t spend a lot of time outdoors and we wanted to change that during our tenure. We hoped this project would encourage more young people to explore their communities, help develop a greater appreciation for the environment, and increase service-learning opportunities for 4-H.

The council aimed to address growing environmental concerns in an effective and accessible way.

“Pick up litter is something almost anyone can do, even if it’s something as small as putting a piece of litter in the trash while walking,” Polcrack said.

Clean and well-maintained environments help keep places enjoyable for hiking, picnicking, playing sports and enjoying the outdoors, the council noted.

“The impact is visible out there in their own communities,” said Cassidy Baker, Penn State Extension 4-H and Lawrence County-based youth development educator. “They give back directly to the areas where they live.”

Examples of places to clean include parks, city sidewalks, beaches, creeks, lakes, rivers, and outside malls or malls.

If 4-H wants to participate, the board recommends first checking with local waste authorities or park staff on how to properly dispose of waste. Then 4-H members can get their 4-H club, a group of 4-H friends or family members together to pick up trash using standard 30-gallon trash bags. Board members encourage 4-H members to wear gloves for safety and cleanliness.

After collecting litter, 4-H members can report the number of bags collected and take photos of their collection to help track the impact of the project.

At the end of the State Council’s term at the State Leadership Conference this winter, the council will highlight the top five fundraising groups.

Sam Nicola, a 4-H Youth Development Educator in Northumberland County, helps advise the State 4-H Council. “Beyond just cleaning parks and roads, the project provides a great way to get out and get involved,” he said, noting the opportunities for fresh air, exercise and connection with others.

The challenge started in May, with 110 bags collected so far. Polcrack encouraged 4-H members to continue submitting their results.