The Robbinsville Clean Team, an action-based monthly initiative to clean up the town, urges residents to get in on the fun.
The grassroots effort began just six months ago. A group of residents decided they would turn their individual attempts to keep their streets clean into a joint initiative for Robbinsville.
“I just got tired of seeing trash,” said John Finnegan, who launched the effort after constantly finding cans and bottles floating in Town Center’s lake while on his walks.
Finnegan, a Robbinsville resident for 18 years, created a post on the Robbinsville Facebook page, asking residents if they would be interested in meeting at the gazebo by the lake to exchange ideas. The Robbinsville Clean Team was born.
“It’s certainly enriching,” said Ruchi Khera, a banker who commutes from Robbinsville to New York City. “From an individual perspective, it might seem like a big task but when a few of us get together, it doesn’t seem that daunting.”
Robbinsville is a relatively clean town, Finnegan said. But township crews can’t be everywhere. And when trash accumulates in certain areas, residents become frustrated.
The Clean Team has the town’s littering behavior down to a science. They’ve figured out the three main reasons for the garbage on the streets. Some people don’t properly cover their recycling cans on windy pickup days. Some people are messy or forgetful and will leave wrappers and bottles by the lake. Then, there are the people who actively throw trash or cigarette butts out their car windows.
So, the members of the Clean Team decided that for one Saturday a month, at 9 a.m., they would meet at the gazebo on the lake by Town Center to clean up Robbinsville for an hour or two. A little bit goes a long way. The next event is Oct. 13.
“It’s building,” said Finnegan, who co-founded Earth Savings, LLC to educate people about the benefits of living a sustainable life after working for Bristol-Myers Squibb for over 25 years. “Everyone shows up with their own bag, gloves, trash grabbers, and goggles if they have them. We’ll divide and conquer, depending on how many people show up and where the majority of the trash is that month.”
All of the members agree that it’s a fun way to get some exercise. They split into pairs and walk around chatting while they clean up the town. People see them out on the road and thank them for cleaning up. They try to keep it positive.
Many of the residents don’t limit their efforts to once a month clean up days. They’ve created a lifestyle out of the habit and contribute a little bit every time they go for a walk.
“I would just pick up stuff that I see in the streets,” said Frantz Price, a retired economic consultant. “I would do my little share of it and other folks have been doing the same thing.”
Price, a Robbinsville resident since 1996, says he likes to see things nice and clean, and he respects the environment so his efforts with the Clean Team happened naturally.
“I love nature, but I don’t call myself an environmentalist,” Price said. “I just did it simply because I thought it was the proper thing to do.”
The team plans to turn their efforts into something sustainable. Finnegan says the key to the Clean Team’s longevity is to keep it simple and consistent.
Robbinsville High School has agreed to give students credit for community service hours. The Clean Team encourages their participation, and says the satisfaction of belonging to something positive stretches even beyond the task at hand.
“Not only does it help keep the town clean, it encourages a bond among neighbors you won’t find otherwise,” Khera said. “Everybody’s busy in their day-to-day lives and everybody has their own friend circles. But it’s opportunities like this that bring the town’s folk together.”
The Clean Team hopes that when residents see their neighbors cleaning up, it will prevent them from littering. Ultimately, they hope more people will join in on the effort to bond and clean up the town.
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