Every Sunday at noon, volunteers of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Island Cleanup Project meet at designated locations around the Island with garbage bags and gloves to pick up stray bottles, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and other forms of litter they may come across.
Juniors Willa Welch and Max Potter came up with the idea of creating the Island Cleanup Project after going for a walk around the East Chop area to see how much trash they might pick up.
Willa said, “We ended up coming back about 45 minutes later with a full, ripping bag of trash. That was really eye-opening for Max and [me]. That’s when we knew we wanted to start the Island Cleanup Project.”
The group held its first cleanup on Nov. 3 on William Street and neighboring roads in Vineyard Haven, following Halloween. Since then, the Island Cleanup Project has done trash collections on the grounds of MVRHS, around East Chop, and at the Edgartown Lighthouse Beach.
At the East Chop cleanup on Nov. 17, Max and Willa were joined by more than 30 volunteers, and collected over 120 lbs of trash in an hour. The M.V. Refuse District collects and weighs the volunteers’ trash bags at no charge, due to the group’s nonprofit designation.
Dr. Caroline Fyler, the MVRHS faculty advisor for the project, signs off on community service hours for student volunteers. “Anytime you go out and do something for your community, I think it’s a great way to stay connected to the Island and show your appreciation for where you live,” she said.
Max and Willa have spread the word about the Island Cleanup by going around to the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury schools to inform students about their project, and by creating social media pages where they post updates about the cleanups. The co-founders are eager to increase the number of student volunteers.
Willa said, “I think people should participate in M.V. Cleanup because it is so rewarding to see how much trash we have collected afterward, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Many repeat volunteers have been surprised to see just how much litter pollutes our Island ecosystems. Freshman Andrea Morse, a cleanup volunteer and avid climate advocate, picks up stray trash whenever she sees it.
Andrea said, “We live in a place where the ocean is a big part of our life, and we want to keep it as beautiful and clean as possible. Picking up the trash [around the Island] will help the ecosystems thrive.”
Junior Molly Menton said, “There is so much trash all around the Island that no one is doing anything about. I had never heard of anyone else doing anything like the Island Cleanup, so I volunteered. It’s only one hour a week on a Sunday, why not?”
The next Island Cleanup will be Sunday, Dec. 8, at 12 pm. Those interested in joining should follow @MVCleanUp on Instagram for updates and locations.