Students Organize Clean-Up Projects To Help The Climate Crisis


Media by Sid Suratia

Soham Saraf, co-branch director of the St. Louis Branch of CMP, and CMP members pick up trash at the Clean-Up Project.

Last summer, Soham Saraf, junior, was approached by a friend with the opportunity of a lifetime: to join the student-led, non profit organization known as Clean My Planet (CMP).

CMP, which expands across every continent and has close to 500 members, is completely virtual and aims to create an online hub that connects young environmentalists from around the world to catalyze conversation and collaboration to help address the climate crisis.

Saraf helped create a few of the initiatives and worked on the day-to-day activities of the organization. He soon became the co-branch director of the St. Louis Branch of CMP. One of the events the branch has done in the past were clean-ups in areas with an overwhelming amount of trash such as plastic bags, food wrappers, etc.

Clean-ups are the easiest way to make a direct impact on the communities and address a prominent issue in littering and pollution, Saraf said. 

“While it may seem like it doesn’t make too much of an impact, each time we’re picking up a piece of trash from the bank of a river or lake, we’re helping free up a small bit of area for some tree or bush to grow and potentially become a habitat for some animal,” Saraf said. 

The numbers of clean-ups every month have increased, and CMP has also started to work with the Missouri Stream Team, a working partnership with citizens who are concerned about river pollution, to supply certain tools and goods they need to keep clean-ups sanitary and efficient. 

Saraf said the pandemic has limited the number of times they can meet and the number of people they can accommodate at these clean-ups. They’re limiting the clean-ups to around 10-12 volunteers. 

“My goal with the clean-ups is primarily to help clean-up our local parks and inspire others to do the same,” Saraf said. “I’d also like to use these events to expand Clean My Planet’s base in St. Louis so we have more support for our other initiatives in order to create even more change and help make STL more sustainable.”

As MHS has about three environment-related clubs already, Saraf said it is a testament to how important the climate crisis is to the world and how many students are passionate about it.

“I think what we’re doing is extremely important and is inspiring others to become a part of the young environmentalist community that is growing rapidly around the world,” Saraf said.

Saraf also hopes to make a purposeful and long-lasting impact on the community and inspire others around the nation and the world to do the same.

“In the end, our actions pile up and create a sort of domino effect that always comes back to hurt us,” Saraf said. “Taking part in small initiatives in clean-ups can help reduce the impact of this domino effect, inspire others to take part in similar initiatives and just make you feel fulfilled.”

Marissa Liu, Parkway West junior, is the Clean-Up Director for this project. 

Liu does a range of activities including finding spots to clean up, ordering the supplies, communicating with the Missouri Stream Team, announcing and setting dates and organizing the volunteers the day of the event.

The clean-ups are important, Liu said, because of the environmental impact.

“By cleaning up streams and rivers we can help the wildlife and local ecosystems,” Liu said. “[It can] also prevent waste from flowing down, say, the Mississippi River, and possibly spilling out into the ocean.

As the students attending can use their time cleaning as volunteer hours, Liu said it is a win-win situation for all. 

“I also believe that it is a good way to feel like you are directly making an impact because you can see the physical difference before and after,” Liu said. 

Kate Krogen, senior, attended the Oct. 24 clean-up at Frontier Park.

“It was a great experience!” Krogen said. “At first, it was kind of shocking to see how much litter was there, but it felt very good to be able to clean some of it up.”

Krogen said the goal is to make the community cleaner and reduce pollution, even in a small way. 

“It was hard work, but it was nice to be able to directly help the Earth, even if in a small way,” Krogen said.

Krogen also recommends everybody to attend a clean-up for community service. She said it’s a great way to see immediate results for the planet and have a fun time while doing it. 

“It’s important to realize how polluted our planet is,” Krogen said. “But we have the capacity to change this if everybody works together to stop littering and clean up existing litter.”