14 Jul 2015

The Nantucket Clean Team

In his 2003 single “Be The Rain,” Neil Young challenged us to “be the ocean when it meets the sky.” Confident that “you can make a difference if you really try,” he rallied us to the cause when he sang, “we got a job to do, we got to save the planet for another day.” Saving the planet seems like an overwhelming task, but sometimes when we focus on just our little corner of the world we can make a difference. When you live on a sliver of sand roughly 14X4 miles, somehow the importance of preserving it becomes magnified.

A few weeks ago on my morning walk, I stumbled across a group of Nantucket people who have put their “clean living” intentions into full-fledged action. The investment of these selfless citizens so inspired me I called a halt to my exercise routine (it suddenly seemed trivial) and ran home to get my camera so I could capture their efforts (and sadly their multiple bags of rubbish) on film.

The fact they would take an hour out of a summer Saturday morning was impressive enough, but it was the make-up of the group itself that truly was amazing. Men and women of varying ages hoisting stuffed clear plastic bags over their shoulders, moms and dads with young children each clad with their own set of blue plastic gloves and a young mother donning a “picker” had her baby nestled into her Ergo. The group sporting their coordinating ACK Clean Team t-shirts bearing an image of Nantucket and the simple words “Keep It Clean,” divided and conquered as they each took a section of the Cisco Bike Path and began collecting multiple clear bags of bottles, cans, wrappers, paper, food and other various forms of polluted “ick.”

The imagery of the group as they finished their hour long effort was a contradiction in terms – the achievement of a team effort, the willingness of a select few to lovingly care for the island and the extraordinary example of parents and neighbors not just modeling for their children how to care for the earth, but engaging them in the process. It struck me what a fantastic way it is to spend quality family time on Nantucket. The discouraging part of the imagery was the sheer volume of garbage that was collected from one stretch of bike path in one hour’s time. Who are the people who are thoughtlessly littering this beautiful place…and more importantly why is it happening?

As the island and its leaders continue to explore more options to address the litter problem (more receptacles island wide…more education and prevention…heftier penalties for offenses?) it continues to fall on those who are willing to invest their own time and effort to keep Nantucket clean. The Clean Team meets every Saturday morning from May to November in varying island locations (posted on their website and Facebook page). Why not plan the ultimate quality family activity this summer and join the team? Gloves, bags and pickers are provided…all you have to do is bring your family, friends or guests and do your part to “save the planet (and Nantucket!) for another day.”

Keep it clean!

Shellie Dunlap

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