Students participate in environmental service

By SHIRLEY MARINO LEE | September 26, 2019

Littering is a severe problem currently affecting the environment. At Hopkins, the President’s Day of Service aimed to contribute to the clean-up of trash in the ecosystem.

Improper disposal of trash can have an impact on both wildlife and humans. Marine debris can be found floating on the surface or sitting at the bottom of rivers, seas and oceans throughout the world. 

This trash will move with the currents and will be dispersed to areas where it can be eaten by birds, fish, turtles or other forms of marine life. Many animals die as a result of this, because the waste releases toxins into their tissues, and it is not broken down by their stomachs properly so it gives them a feeling of fullness that causes them to starve to death.

Land debris is another widespread form of contamination that is harmful to the environment. It is not uncommon for one to begin walking down the street or through a trail and to find multiple water bottles, cigarette packs, napkins or plastic bags along the way. This litter can also interfere with the wellbeing of animals. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) improperly discarded trash can go so far as to cause injuries to humans and foster the growth of harmful bacteria. 

The agency reported that plastic trash in aquatic habitats does more than simply affect ocean-dwelling life; it can impair navigation, harm the fishing industry and negatively impact tourism in an area. Furthermore, it can also be spread around through the wind and rain water until it finds its way to bodies of water.

Humans are fully responsible for the presence of this debris, but we are also the only ones who can reduce its presence. However, this comes at a high cost. 

Governments spend millions of dollars a year to fund efforts to clean up areas with high degrees of contamination. 

For instance, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration spends almost $8 million annually to get rid of trash along Maryland highways. 

During the President’s Day of Service, students participated in environmental clean-ups, among other projects. This event is a University-wide annual community service effort that takes place during the fall semester. 

Undergraduate students play an important role in organizing and planning this event along with the Center for Social Concern. Prior to the event, students, staff, faculty and alumni sign up to participate and are then put into groups which are assigned to different locations throughout Baltimore. 

At the various locations, Hopkins volunteers typically work alongside non-profit organizations and community centers to complete a variety of tasks, such as planting seeds and trees, or participating in neighborhood clean ups. 

Through these activities, Hopkins is able to take an active role in reversing the effects of littering. 

One such effort took place this year in the neighborhood adjacent to Chinquapin Park, where about 60 students came together to pick up the trash all around the park.

David Cao, a sophomore majoring in Biophysics, volunteered at this location and highlighted how rewarding his experience was.

“My favorite part was seeing that the place where we picked up trash was much cleaner afterwards,” Cao said.

“It was rewarding to see that we helped out the community and to know that we also helped the environment because the accumulation of trash might negatively affect the animals that live in the area.”

Cao recommends participating in the event to anyone with some free time on a Saturday. “It only takes four hours of your day and you are able to make an impact on your community and the environment at the same time,” he said. 

The President’s Day of Service may have already happened, but other opportunities to improve the state of the environment can be found around campus all throughout the year.

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