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Why I Sweep: Confessions of a litter picker


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This is one in a series of guest blogs about Riverkeeper Sweep, our annual day of service for the Hudson, involving more than 100 shoreline cleanups and planting projects on a single day in May. Please visit to sign up for a project happening near you on Saturday, May 4.


“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Confessions of a litter picker: Sarah Underhill

I find it very satisfying to clean up trash.

It’s humble work, and it feels good to me. There’s the physical labor, whether it’s just stooping to pick up discarded beer cans and take-out coffee cups on the way to the mailbox, or lugging tires and dead appliances out of the creek bed and working up a sweat.

There’s a feeling I get when I am doing the right thing that lightens my heart.

It’s fun. Working together with other people in a group to accomplish the cleanup amplifies whatever endorphin cascade is triggered by altruism. I feel less isolated, working with like-minded people for a common goal: a restored, cleaner waterway in my neighborhood.

I’m not above feeling some righteous anger at whoever dumped off that old couch or threw their Coors Lite can out the car window, but that’s not the point. I know that trash and garbage will be dumped again, that the cleanup will have to be ongoing and the work will never really end.

What matters to me is that cleaning up a section of the creek does make a difference: visually, in the health of the creek, and in my heart.

Sarah Underhill is a member of of the Town of Wawarsing Environmental Conservation Commission (ECC), Ulster County Environmental Management Council and the Rondout Creek Watershed Alliance.

Learn more about Sarah’s Riverkeeper Sweep project May 4 and sign up to volunteer: Wawarsing: Rondout Creek between Foordmore Road and Port Ben

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