ETE Explores Great Falls, Cleans Potomac River Watershed

Environment, Technology and Economy Scholars assisted with the 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on April 16.

Twenty ETE Scholars joined the cleanup, the largest event of its kind, to help pick up trash on the trails while hiking along the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls Park.

The group was able to put their knowledge to work, making use of the seven principles of Leave No Trace they studied before the trip: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.

“This trip was eye opening on how much people actually care about their communities and parks,” ETE Scholar Hamza Ahmed said. “It was surprising how little trash and recycling we ended up finding scattered through our hike.”

Because the trail was heavily trafficked by other volunteers and hikers, there was little trash to be found, said ETE Graduate Assistant Liz Schotman. The group only ended up filling half a trash bag and less than half a recycling bag.

“We all practiced Leave No Trace principles by staying on the path, respecting other hikers, not harassing wildlife...The students had some pre-trip readings about [Leave No Trace] and about the park's decision to go Trash Free [by removing all the waste bins],” Schotman said. “Since Scholars’ theme is Trash, the trip definitely aligned with what we've learned about waste streams. Students also practiced the sorting skills they learned during the trash audits we performed on campus last semester, sorting the litter into the appropriate bags.”

Scholars’ Trash theme encouraged ETE to change up their annual Great Falls hike. This year, they added a clean-up component to learn more about garbage, waste, and the impact people have on the environment. Assistant Director Tim Knight said that this trip also incorporated aspects of fun, community building, and a chance for students to bond with Scholars faculty.

“I love working with ETE. The students are great, and they teach me a lot, challenging me to see from different perspectives,” Schotman said. “I've also learned more about sustainability in the process of teaching them. The rest of the ETE staff is amazing to work with, and we have a lot of fun.”

Knight described this trip as a “hands-on, experiential” way to learn about the themes they’ve studied in colloquium and other classes surrounding waste.

“We try to emphasize that there are problems, and they are big, but there are small things we individuals can do to make a positive impact,” said Knight.

Share this post