CARLSBAD — “Do I really wanna pick this up? No.”
“Will I? Yes.”
Anina Molinar, a senior at Carlsbad High School equipped with a face mask, sanitary gloves and a plastic bag, proceeded to kneel down and pick up a piece of trash along the curb of Carlsbad Village Dr.
Molinar was one of 18 volunteers who gathered in a Carlsbad Village parking lot on Sept. 6 at 8 a.m. to participate in the Carlsbad Cleanup Crew (C3). Led by CHS students, the organization welcomes everyone to weekly cleanups throughout the city.
The crew splits into small groups, each group conquering designated routes highlighted for them on printout maps — up Jefferson, toward Rotary Park, down the coast and more.
About an hour later, the crew had accumulated 27 pounds of trash total.
During the early months of COVID-19 closures, C3 halted cleanups. Now, membership has begun to bounce back, but not without safety precautions: the club provides hand sanitizer and requires volunteers to bring their own equipment, wear masks and work in small groups to limit interactions.
But recently, the crew has also acquired new ways to promote environmental consciousness despite the barriers of COVID-19.
Though the crew has largely focused on litter, solid waste will likely make up only 3.9% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, according to the City of Carlsbad’s community forecast. With more work to be done, C3 now hopes to collaborate with the City Council on enacting larger environmental policies by the end of the year.
About a month ago, the crew began developing a waste audit for the City — tracking the amount of trash in quantity and weight, brands of the trash (Marlboro, In N’ Out and Starbucks being some of the most common) and location of the trash.
The data would be presented to City Council to urge potential solutions, such as putting more trash cans and recycle bins in specific areas of the Village.
“Our goal is to not simply keep picking up trash, as much as we find it therapeutic and collaborative, our goal is really to halt the amount of trash that we have to pick up,” C3 President and CHS senior Nathan Lu said. “They could really help us and collaborate with us on what the city needs to see to become more environmentally sustainable, so we hope to foster that sort of relationship and keep it growing throughout the years this program has to come.”
Here to help connect the group to the City is Rosemary Eshelman, a student services specialist at Carlsbad Unified School District.
Through her CUSD Champions program, Eshelman met Lu and C3 Vice President and CHS senior Kendal Furman and began connecting the group with resources and organizations such as Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s Green Business Committee.
At the same time, Lu and Furman are working to achieve CUSD Champions’ main goal: enabling seniors to work with younger CUSD students.
Now, Eshelman is working with Lu and Furman to create webinars for educating younger students on simple sustainable habits during Red Ribbon Week in October, an event coordinated by Eshelman herself.
Meanwhile, C3 has already held community-wide webinars on various facets of environmental consciousness, from fast fashion to animal agriculture.
“The biggest thing that we’ve found with the Carlsbad Cleanup Crew program is that our local community is very important and strong,” Lu said. “It’s humbling that we’re able to have these opportunities and show the community that there’s a lot more than just one way to help the environment.”
By educating students on environmental activism, Furman hopes future generations will be just as passionate about sustainability as C3 members today.
“I feel like kids these days have this misunderstanding that because you’re not able to vote there isn’t really a lot you can do to create an impact and to go out and actually help,” Furman said. “So one of the main reasons I’m so passionate and so many other people are so passionate about this organization is that it gives youth an opportunity to really make a difference.”
With 42 cleanups under their belt, C3 has recruited just about 150 volunteers but over 1,000 pounds of waste in the past year.
“If that says anything about how much people want to participate and help out with the community but they just don’t have an outlet, it makes me hopeful for what this program can bring to other cities,” Lu said. “If there’s one takeaway that I’ve had from our cleanups or just being together with these people, it’s that if you pay attention and be mindful in the right places just a little more, it makes a huge difference.”