Annual College Creek clean up shows sustainability

Volunteers register to participate in 2013 College Creek Clean-Up.

Katie Grunewald

Volunteers removed more than 200 pounds of trash from College Creek at this year’s clean up.

More than 50 volunteers participated in the fifth annual College Creek Clean Up on June 29. The 220 pounds of trash consisted mostly of food containers and plastic bags.

Merry Rankin, the Director of Sustainability of Iowa State, credits the idea of the College Creek Clean Up to an intern she worked with five years ago.

“The whole idea originated from an intern who had to plan a volunteer event as a requirement to complete their internship,” Rankin said. “Interns every summer have the option of continuing the tradition, and they always have. Interns have been at the forefront of this event from the very beginning.”

The clean up was scheduled to last three hours in the afternoon, but volunteers had the option to stay later if they want.

“Last year, 640 pounds of trash was taken out,” Rankin said. “There is no way to pinpoint where exactly the bulkier things come from, but when you find tires or pieces from a construction site in the creek it makes the weight go up a lot.”

Volunteers usually fill up 20-30 trash bags, being mostly filled with food-related trash. 

Live Green! and Keep Iowa State Beautiful have collaborated for five years on the College Creek Clean Up.

“From the very beginning it has been a collaborative effort from the sustainability office, Keep Iowa State Beautiful and Facilities Planning and Management,” Rankin said. 

Volunteers cleaned a half-mile portion of College Creek that runs through campus from University Boulevard on the east side to Lincoln Way, pass Lied Recreation Center, Forker Building, east parking deck and The Knoll.

Both Iowa State students and students from outside of the state have the opportunity to get involved with this event.

“The cool thing about this event is it gets community members and students from near and far involved in sustainability and it publicizes our efforts,” Rankin said.

Not only did the volunteers clean the creek, they assisted Recreation Services Staff empty the sandbags used for flood protection earlier this year.

The volunteers emptied more than 2,000 sandbags that were used at Lied Recreation Center for flood protection this spring. The uncontaminated sandbags are no longer are needed by the university.

Using the recourses of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Waste Exchange Program, approximately 10,000 empty sandbags were placed with several other Iowa communities to assist with their own flood prevention efforts, while the sand is being reused for other Iowa State University projects.

“The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Waste Exchange Program has always assisted with materials needed for the events, like trash grabbers,” Rankin said. “This year, the most unique and most exciting opportunity was with the sandbags.”

Environmental Health and Safety worked with the College Creek Clean Up two years ago to mark storm drains. 

“It adds to the volunteer opportunity when there is collaboration with other departments and resources,” Rankin said.

Local businesses have helped support the event since it started. 

“The really unique part of this event is the support form local businesses,” Rankin said. “Lunch has been provided every year and recently businesses have started donating door prizes volunteers can win for participating.”

This year, Charlie Yoke’s donated a $10 gift certificate to all 55 volunteers. 

“There are always some of the same people, and then some new people. Rankin said. “There is a mix of students, families, city council members, Iowa State Faculty and Staff and citizens that just want to make a difference.

“I’m just excited that we have folks every year that want to make a difference.”