Earlier this year, we had a potentially crazy idea: Why not dedicate two straight weeks just to picking up trash? (With a few stops along the way to eat, sleep, and explore, of course.) So this June, we teamed up with our friends at REI to help us scout sites near their Northeastern stores, then drove off with plenty of empty trash bags and gloves in tow. Our fearless road trip crew, Cara and Rachel, navigated their way through six states, coordinated every cleanup, and kept a detailed log of their trip that they shared with us below.
"Adventurous, Challenging, Rewarding"
"Exciting, Educational, Rewarding"
With REI King of Prussia and REI Conshohocken
We kicked off our trip at Devil’s Pool in Wissahickon Park, a legendary Philly swimming hole at the foot of a waterfall (it also happens to be more or less in our backyard).
Miles traveled: 12.3 (just a short drive from our flagship store!)
Pounds collected: 823
Weirdest trash: A religious shrine
With REI New Castle
We’re certainly no strangers to the Delaware River — it’s just a stone’s throw away from our headquarters and a frequent cleanup destination. But this time around, we picked up trash along the banks in Delaware state’s Battery Park. We managed to pick up a lot of small plastic, which doesn’t amount to a lot poundage-wise but makes a major impact on the health of our oceans.
Miles traveled: 46
Pounds collected: 121.3
Weirdest trash: A chain with handles
With REI Christiana
This cleanup site was strikingly beautiful: A sandy landscape with a backdrop of pine barrens. It also happened to be our highest trash yield of the trip — a gung-ho group of volunteers helped us pick up over 3,000 pounds of waste, including illegally dumped construction gear, furniture, and bits of scrap metal.
Miles traveled: 52.7
Pounds collected: 3,175.6
Weirdest trash: A headlight from a Mercury Cougar
With REI Princeton
One of our favorite cleanups of the trip, thanks to a great group of volunteers. They had amazing attitudes, and many local neighbors walked by, saw what we were doing, and spontaneously joined in. Isles, our trash partner, made their own grappling hooks and fished for bikes in the canal. We got six of them!
Miles traveled: 36
Pounds collected: 866.4 (including a lot of household items)
Weirdest trash: A melted shoelace
With REI East Hanover
We found a ton of old road materials and tires (including an old hubcap) in this otherwise serene and green park.
Miles traveled: 56.8
Pounds collected: 324.2
Weirdest trash: A stuffed animal squirrel
With REI Paramus
For our fourth and final stop on the New Jersey leg of the trip, we stopped just short of New York to pick up plastic bottles and construction debris.
Miles traveled: 39.4
Pounds collected: 228
Weirdest trash: A lawn flamingo
With REI Yonkers
Our volunteers were the definition of teamwork, from hauling in a sofa and two mattresses to dutifully picking up teeny tiny bits of Styrofoam.
Miles traveled: 16.9
Pounds collected: 1,318.6
Weirdest trash: A T.V.
With REI Carle Place
This site happened to be right next to a nesting area for piping plover, small shorebirds which are an endangered species. It felt good to know that the small bits of plastic we removed from the beach had a direct, positive impact on their habitat. Bonus: We got to relax on the beach before and after the cleanup.
Miles traveled: 44
Pounds collected: 97.7
Weirdest trash: An acrylic fingernail
With REI Cranston
We had the best time exploring Providence before our Seekonk River cleanup. It’s a beautiful city, and we loved being near the water. Seekonk is an extension of the Providence River, and it’s a fish, crab, and bird habitat also used as a recreation space for rowers (like Brown University’s crew team).
Miles traveled: 196
Pounds collected: 78.1
Weirdest trash: Hawaiian print fabric
With REI Norwalk
A small but mighty group of volunteers met us at Oyster Shell Park, a fishing and oystering destination, to pick up litter and debris (including a shipping container, plastic eggs, and a few coconuts).
Miles traveled: 135
Pounds collected: 134.6
Weirdest trash: A playing card with a holographic bulldog on it
With REI West Hartford & REI Milford
For our final stop on our cleanup road trip, we picked up litter and debris along Hanover Pond, a haven for bikers, hikers, and runners nestled by Hanover Trail and Quinnipiac Trail. Hanover Pond is also home to plenty of trout, which come from the Quinnipiac River (and attract countless fishermen).
Miles traveled: 51
Pounds collected: 78
Weirdest trash: A soaked scarf