Families help environment during pandemic

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Pictured, Parker and Connor Hargan are among those helping to clean up trash around Monroe County while going on daily walks during Illinois’ stay at home order.

Several families in Monroe County have started doing what they can to help the environment during the coronavirus pandemic using what they call their “PE time.” 

These individuals take gloves and bags with them when going on daily walks to pick up trash they find along the way and dispose of it properly. 

“I think this is a time for Mother Earth to heal herself, and I thought ‘why not help her along,” said Amanda Hargan, who helped start this effort. “A friend of mine and I run the bike trails around town, and we had noticed that there’s just so much trash along them and in our parks as well. It’s just a good opportunity while we’re out and about getting some fresh air to help Mother Earth a little bit.” 

Hargan got the idea for this after a friend of hers on Facebook shared that she collected some trash while on a walk. 

Hargan, a Waterloo resident, decided her family would start doing the same and shared photos on social media to see if others would join in. 

“Hopefully, as many people who can do it will do it,” she said. “I’m hoping it spreads.”

The movement is already gaining momentum, as a handful of families in Waterloo and one in Columbia have started making this part of their routine. 

The Cub Scout pack Hargan’s son is part of also started encouraging its members to help.

While it may be small, as each family is only picking up what they find on a walk around their neighborhoods, Hargan said it does make a difference. 

She said her family is gathering a bag or two of trash each day, plus a bag of recycling. 

This has also served as an opportunity for Hargan to educate her children. 

“I’m really proud of them because they’re really motivated to do it,” she said. “We also reflected on how maybe we all could be a little more responsible with our trash and recycling. It does frustrate us a little bit that we’ve spent this many hours and we’ve hardly made a dent in our town.”

Hargan exhorted people to help in any way they can – like making masks or checking up on those who may be struggling with the stay at home order. 

She also encouraged more people to join in her way of making the best of this situation. 

“If you have the time and you’re out and about anyway, take a trash bag with you and some plastic gloves and get to picking up trash,” she encouraged. “We might as well do something purposeful during our quarantine to make this a good time for everyone.” 

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