If you hope for a greener world after coronavirus, these two LGBT+ hikers may be your heroes.
Caleb Merendino and Benjamin Swanson love the great outdoors, from camping to time on the beach. But they were so worried about the growing piles of rubbish and pollution, that they started a non-profit to do something about it.
Moreover, they are not afraid of hard work. They’re leading from the front. The two of them have collected 205 bags full of trash during 10 clean ups in just two months. Meanwhile they’ve inspected 68 sites and reported 62 cases of pollution to the authorities.
Swanson is associate director of the new Advocates for Clean and Clear Waterways. But he told GSN that he and Merendino, the executive director, are not afraid to get their hands dirty:
‘The stereotype is that this work is typical for inmates and an occasional volunteer service, while other members of society largely turn a blind eye. We assert that everyone is responsible for the conservation of our environment, from the top down.’
Together we can create meaningful change
The pair are based in Washington DC and they are focusing most of their efforts in DC, Maryland and Virginia.
But they are also going further afield in the US. They’ll be doing clean-ups in the Gulf, Outer Banks, Florida and Atlantic Region.
It’s not just their hands-on approach that sets them apart. Swanson told GSN that it’s rare to have an LGBT+ led environmental organization. However, he believes our community has an important voice in creating a cleaner, greener world.
‘We believe that an LGBT+ response to the climate crisis and other environmental issues is exceedingly important.
‘Our community is impacted by homelessness, and climate change worsens the quality and struggle to survive on the streets.
‘In addition, as one of many marginalized groups, LGBT+ individuals empathize and frequently experience environmental issues affecting other marginalized and low-income communities.
‘We are all in this together, and when we come together as one, that is when we can make meaningful and systemic change.’
Moreover, he says everyone can play their part. You don’t have to join an organization or volunteer for a formal clean up to contribute.
He told GSN: ‘The pandemic has unfortunately impacted clean-ups and efforts globally. However, nobody needs to be involved in a clean-up to create change and make a difference.
‘It’s as simple as someone picking up that plastic bottle on their running path or reporting water quality issues or excessive litter to officials.
‘We are in this to empower individuals to take the small steps required to facilitate this type of change.’