Written by TVCR summer intern, DiLexxus Mathis, from the City Kids Wilderness Project. This article was originally printed in the Teton Valley News on August 7, 2014. It is republished here with permission.
When I was younger, my mom would force me to sign up for things I really wasn’t interested in; one example was a Saturday Environmental Academy. Even though I enjoyed it, I had enough of school during the week and believed Saturdays were meant to relax. However, when I began the program I was amazed by all of the things I didn’t know. I loved that every weekend we’d go on field trips to explore places like the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the Botanical Gardens, and the Anacostia River. We even went dragon boating on it! The water was pretty gross and that in itself was a lesson to us about littering. That river was where the trash we presumed to be harmless when dropped ran off to when it rained – the exact water that we were boating on and with any sudden movements we could fall into!
I was only in the fifth grade, but from then on I vowed to never litter again. Getting older, it makes one more conscious of the real world and issues that actually matter. In school: they teach us, we understand the lesson, but what do we do about it? I learned about the watershed, recycling, and global warming and how they all relate, but what can I do to one that won’t harm, or could help the others? I saw the effect trash and our carbon footprint had on the environment in pictures and in documentaries, but I didn’t believe I could feel a real connection to the environment because I’d never visited anything besides other bustling cities. Then, in the sixth grade my mom signed me up for City Kids Wilderness Project (thanks mom)! It was there that I truly appreciated the outdoors. The flowers, mountains, the wildlife, even the air was lighter in Wyoming than D.C! I’m so grateful that I was fortunate enough to witness these things first hand.
Then, it hit me. If the entire world continues to practice these poor habits of getting rid of waste, no one will be able to enjoy the beauty of nature anymore. If the climate continues to change so drastically, animals, insects, and plants will begin to die and potentially become extinct because of our carelessness. Being a kid, I felt like there wasn’t much I could do to change the world, but I had to start with the people around me and myself. I began unplugging lamps, televisions, etc to conserve energy. My mom stopped throwing her cigarette butts on the ground and began buying more reusable bags. My uncle took empty cigarette carts and made them into picture frames.
After taking those baby steps in middle school, I finally got to high school and joined our Recycling Club. Every Monday and Wednesday we meet up after school and collect materials from the recycling bins. It makes me smile when I see the trash cans half empty and full recycling bins. It shows that our club matters and our school supports us wholeheartedly. It’s just one school, but change is something that happens gradually; all it takes is one foot in front of the other and people fighting for the same cause.
DiLexxus Mathis, a high school senior from Washington D.C., is spending her sixth summer in Jackson with the City Kids Wilderness Project. She did a short-term internship with Teton Valley Community Recycling in July to explore her career interest in recycling. For more information, visit tetonrecycling.org or call 208-354-2800.