Over 20 of us huddled under a tent – likely far exceeding its maximum coverage capacity – by the side of the Merrimack River in Haverhill, Massachusetts on a rainy day in August, trying to get to know one another without (literally or figuratively) stepping on one another’s toes. We were on the second day of a two-day river cleanup but were forced to delay the start time due to a thunder storm that had moved in quickly and was since refusing to budge.
The day before had been sunny and warm: perfect for the first day of a river cleanup. The second day, our luck had run dry but our clothes had gotten soaked even before stepping foot on the riverbank. Nevertheless, the employees of Keurig Green Mountain waited patiently for the rain to pass, filling their time catching up and sharing stories from previous years’ cleanups.
Eventually, the sounds of pelting rain on the top of the overstuffed tent became softer and the rumble of thunder in the distance disappeared. Thrilled that the cleanup would not be rained out, we all gathered our life vests, water bottles, and gloves and headed down to the pontoon boat that would be taking us out on the river.
Like the cleanup the day before, we worked with local group Clean River Project to work our way up and down the shores of the Merrimack River. The founder, Rocky Morrison, his crew and two other boats accompanied us, hauling trash and maneuvering a small crane to help with larger items, like a car axle. I watched volunteers help one another climb over fallen trees on the shores and team up to roll 30 water- and sand-logged tires down the beach toward the boats. We all paused to marvel at a 25-pound snapping turtle one of the crew picked up by the tail. When I’d gather the volunteers back by the boats and suggest moving to another cleanup spot, they did not hesitate for a minute. This dedication and enthusiasm led us to pick up 2,200 pounds of trash and 600 pounds of metal in two days!
While I was amazed at the commitment and energy of the volunteers, this attitude is not unique to the Merrimack cleanup. Keurig employees turn out in large numbers, over multiple days, in cities and towns across the country to show their dedication to clean rivers. A couple of weeks before, nearly 200 volunteers in Vermont came out over the span of a week to clean up 2,880 pounds of trash and 2,380 pounds of metal. They hauled 105 tires (and an ATM) from the banks and depths of the Winooski River.
Earlier in the summer, volunteers in Knoxville, TN; Windsor, VA; Sumner, WA; and Castroville, CA participated in similar events. Over the course of these six events, 460 volunteers picked up nearly 10,000 pounds of trash. At some sites, trash was not as much of a problem and volunteers restored riverside lands by planting 75 trees and shrubs and 1,000 grass seedlings. While the activities and experiences (and weather) differed at each site, they all proved the same thing: Keurig’s volunteers are committed to cleaning up their local waterways. National River Cleanup was proud to clean up with the Keurig volunteers across the country for the 11th year and we look forward to returning next year for even more fun![slideshow_deploy id=’24903′]