Last week I hosted a mini-reunion with some of my closest friends from graduate school. I brainstormed a number of things for us to do during their first-ever visit to Austin, TX, but one thing we did that probably isn’t a top tourist attraction was a volunteer cleanup event at Lost Creek. Having met during an environmental management and conservation graduate program, I knew this bunch would be glad to participate. After all, we were going to hike the greenbelt anyway – why not also do a good deed?
I’ve participated in a lot of volunteer events over the years, but what impressed me most about this one was that it was not sponsored by any formal organization; instead it was co-hosted by altruistic Austinite’s Diego Alberto and Kat Flemming. Using Facebook as the primary means for outreach, they asked their friends (and friends of friends) to: “Join our posse of good humans as we enjoy the splendor of our greenbelt while we scratch mother nature’s back by cleaning up the creek this Valentine’s Day!”
The event was a great success, with over 20 people attending and a lot of positive feedback from trail users. Hopefully we even inspired some to bring a trash bag along with them on their next outing.
(Video by Diego Alberto)
I got the inside scoop from co-host Diego Alberto, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Q: What personal philosophies drive you to be a caretaker of the land? Why do you think it’s important for other citizens to be good stewards?
A: Everyone has a responsibility to take care of our planet whether they are aware of it or not. It’s all about mindfulness. My personal philosophy is that a healthy dedication to our environment rewards one with more awareness. It’s a gateway to finding your connection to the universe and your purpose for existing. It can answer the big questions like “what’s it all for?” It’s much more simple than what many people make it out to be.
Q: There are many organized opportunities to volunteer in Austin that are park-related; what motivated you to to take things into your own hands?
A: I believe people do want to make a difference in the world, but sometimes they just don’t know how to get started; they make it out to be something that only an organization can manifest.
One of the goals was to show people how easy it is to add “community service” to a social event and still have an amazing time.
To be perfectly honest, I love going to the green belt and being social, but I was tired of the same old unconscious mentality that I often observed among its visitors. I didn’t feel like getting “wasted” at the green belt was setting a positive example for others because it increased the chances of them leaving waste behind. Showing people you can have substance free fun is always a goal for me because we treat our body the way we treat our environment. There’s a time and place to get trashed in most everyone’s life; the green belt doesn’t have to be one of those places.
Q: How did you advertise the event? Did hosting the event take a lot of preparation?
A: Hosting this was effortless and one of the most fun and rewarding events I have made on Facebook.
Q: Were you pleased by the turnout and impact?
A: I was surprised to see the participation of so many people with whom I was not previously acquainted. It gives me solace and hope to see first hand how many young people are making a difference in the world.
Q: Do you plan on hosting more volunteer events?
A: I definitely plan on doing this again. I have a feeling this kind of activity is dying to catch like a wildfire.
We all had a wonderful time, and I think Diego’s goal was met: it was very easy to integrate community service into a social event, and perhaps even more-so when not affiliated with any particular organization.