In today’s society, environmental matters are very prevalent. Whether it be the growing fear of climate change, increasing concerns about plastic being thrown into the ocean, or the mounting challenges of acid rain, air and noise pollution and waste disposal, more people are starting to realize — and worry — about the adverse effects our environment can have on us. However, with the help of some local organizations, we can improve the state of our St. Louis community.
One such nonprofit organization is entirely run by students. The organization is called, Clean My Planet. Created because of a passion for local change, these students are tackling St. Louis-based problems, and working with people from other states and countries to make the world a better place.
Chris Chen, executive director and sophomore at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, wants to primarily help through projects in our community.
“Clean My Planet focuses on connecting like-minded youth around the world want to collaborate in addressing environmental issues,” said Chen. “We do this through more traditional means (as opposed to political protests) and creative projects.”
For Chen, creating the organization seemed the right thing to do after exposure to other global issues.
“When I went to China in the summer of 2018, I saw that there was a lot of pollution compared to St. Louis,” he said. “In a lot of the major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the sky was always filled with smog. There were a lot of people wearing disposable face masks like the ones a surgeon might wear. When I came back, I searched for ways to help the environment in my local area and I only found a few avenues that I could do so--but most of the organizations I found were more political. A few friends and I started Clean My Planet that summer.”
Currently, the organization is working hard to become recognized in the community, and he is working to improve student membership for future events.
“We officially launched a few months ago, so we’re still in the early stages. To date, we’ve done a presentation on oil spills at a local elementary school. We’ve also hosted a river cleanup near Jefferson Barracks Park, and we picked up a good amount of trash. For 2020, we’re going to establish a branch in Portland, Oregon, and we’re still planning other ideas for local and global projects.”
Evan Schreiner, also a sophomore at Ladue, has worked hard Clean My Planet. Co-founder and leader of community engagement, he has played a large role in its creation.
“We only really started off with our school community and friends we knew, so when we got 30 to 40 members right off the bat to join the community, that was impressive,” said Schreiner. “I’m in charge of community engagement, so I run social media. I feel like I have strong people and logistical skills, so I understand what will work. We have all these goals, but we’re still working on how to approach them.”
Because of his focus on social media, he gets to understand both global issues and St. Louis based issues.
“In the near future, we’d love to do another river clean up because we felt that it was really productive,” he said. “On another note, we’re working on a product. We have some international members that are working on circuit boards to make an air quality test. There are a bunch of homes in that area [New Delhi] that need it. We’re working with those members to get parts and everything they need to create a prototype.”
Overall, he’s proud of the great work that was put in in 2019. The effort to create the major two events was successful, and he knows that they were both successful.
“Our first event was at Spoede Elementary School. At their science fair-like thing, we were able to talk to the students about the dangers of oil spills. We also had a stream clean up with about six or seven of us. On that cleanup, we teamed up with River Stream Cleanup Missouri. It funds small groups like us to go out and do river cleanups. They sent us all the materials we would need to host our own event, and the whole thing was really cool to see in action.”
A friend of Chen and Schreiner, Ladue sophomore Harry Shipley, has also become involved with the organization.
“Clean My Planet began for me when Evan told me about it in the fall,” said Shipley. “After I told him that I was interested, he gave me opportunities to become involved.”
His experiences as a volunteer at river streams have been fun as well as impactful.
“At the first clean up, though it was only another student and me, it was fun to walk around. We hiked around the park for almost four hours and found a lot of trash on riverbanks. We would walk on the banks and find trash in the water buried in sand or tangled in tree branches.
“My next experience as an attendee was also good. We went to Jefferson Barracks Park on the Mississippi River and walked the banks picking up trash and debris that was left by floods. We found lots of plastics and glass bottles. Overall, we collected at least four full trash bags, and it was a great experience.”
Overall, they are excited to see where this organization leads them. They know that their work will continue to produce great rewards.
Says Chen, “With the headlines of pollution and biodiversity loss jumping off of newspaper pages, it’s undeniable that the urgency for action is real. I hope that Clean My Planet will spread some form of that urgency and awareness to people around the world.”