Armed with trash bags and a steadfast team of volunteers, the Zero Waste Club and local student e-commerce startup Ethic Marketplace traveled to the peaks of Pinnacles National Park on Feb. 9. In the wake of the government shutdown that left national parks littered with trash, the team was determined to leave no scraps behind.
Though much of the larger waste had already been barreled away by a previous clean-up crew, the group practiced Leave No Trace to its fullest extent. They believe even the smallest pieces of trash can make a large difference in the overall portrait of a landscape.
“We got a lot of micro trash,” environmental earth and soil sciences junior Zach Raposo said. “It’s a little impact, but that’s kinda like our whole idea, that these little impacts [are] what really make a huge difference in the end.”
Raposo also serves as the Satellite of the Ethic Marketplace, a position responsible for reaching out to companies to form partnerships.
The Ethic Marketplace is a local start-up founded by liberal arts and engineering studies senior Garrett Perkins, who said he has ambitions to turn the company into a “sustainable Amazon,” prioritizing people over profits.
“There are a bunch of companies out there that are making conscious products, and there are a bunch of organizations that are advocating for being a more conscious citizen of the planet,” Perkins said. “We’re trying to connect all of those companies . . . and kinda connect consumers to them through our platform.”
The company currently sells sustainable and eco-friendly items like jewelry, sunscreen and belts in an online shopping format. Perkins said he hopes to expand the company’s inventory to include clothing and other everyday accessories.
While the Pinnacles National Park clean-up was a first for the Ethic Marketplace and Zero Waste Club, it will not be the last. Raposo said he is already starting to think of future trips, including a trash sweep of the beach.
For the time being, however, one man’s trash is now Zero Waste’s treasure. The club hosted a craft night on Feb. 13 to start making art out of the trash they had collected at the park for the “Green Campus Artivism Show.” The Cal Poly Green Campus team created the event as a creative outlet for environmental activists. Interested parties are challenged to respond to the question, “what would you do if you knew the Earth loved you?”
“A lot of the sustainability community has a hard time mostly just, like, informing people and [with] outreach . . . so I thought this was a really creative way that Green Campus decided to show that — it’s more visual,” environmental earth and soil sciences junior and Zero Waste secretary Sarah Chow said.
The challenge of informing people of ways they can help the environment is something that brings the Zero Waste Club together — at least, it got environmental engineering junior Alex Cass interested.
“A lot of people know the phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ but don’t realize it’s in that order for a reason,” Cass said.
Cass also warned of people overlooking potentially wasteful single-use plastic containers after seeing a recycling symbol on the bottom and thinking that’s the end of it.
“If it’s one through five, yes. If it’s six, no—that’s Satan’s number,” Cass said. “Seven? Recyclable. They’re just what the material is, so like six is polystyrene, because it’s the same as Styrofoam which is not recyclable, so, trash.”
Another number six plastic is the red solo cup, which can come as a surprise to many college students who frequently use the product. Still, Zero Waste Club and Ethic Marketplace said they are hopeful that with awareness, simple decisions can go a long way in ensuring a healthier environment.