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Students step up for Spring Splash

Several organizations leading cleanup efforts

Shannon Columb and Brad Allen

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Hordes of college students trashed during one of Whitewater’s largest annual events has its pros and cons, depending on whom you ask.

But many students from several organizations are stepping up to lead efforts to clean up garbage in the community after the event. Students are working in hopes of maintaining a cleaner community and avoiding the risk of harming the overall image of the student body at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Spring Splash has drawn its share of concerns within the community, with some residents attributing excess amounts of trash scattered throughout lawns and streets to attendees of the event.

In the absence of official sponsorship, student leaders and some community organization have stepped up to pull together and manage ways to clean up the expected trash in the community after this year’s Spring Splash event has concluded.
The Royal Purple investigated the organized efforts to cleanup the event that are already underway.

Cooperation among several entities

This year’s Spring Splash cleanup efforts will be led by junior Draesen Mueller, the Panhellenic Council Outreach Coordinator for the Alpha Sigma UW-W sorority. She has also helped with organizing the logistics.

Whitewater Student Government (WSG) has been working with the City of Whitewater Police Department, University Police Services, student fraternity and sorority leaders, John’s Disposal, Students Allied for a Greener Earth (SAGE) and Dean of Students Artanya Wensley to organize cleanup efforts.

John’s Disposal did not offer to comment on the specific details of how the company will assist with cleaning up after the event has ended. In an email statement to The Royal Purple, Project Manager Sarah Jongetjes said John’s Disposal encourages attendees to recycle.

Mueller is also working with the Panhellenic Council, which governs and handles recruitment efforts for the five main sororities at UW-Whitewater. Mueller is working with the Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Council to lead cleanup efforts.

“I’m feeling pretty optimistic about it [the cleanup efforts],” Mueller said. “I have a lot of leaders working with me on this.”

An estimated 300 to 400 students are expected to take part in cleanup efforts the day after Spring Splash.

“[These students are] showing we’re responsible and impacting the community,” Mueller said. “Being part of Greek life, we have a lot of bodies, so it’s easy for us to get the job done.”

Student volunteers will be split up into many groups, with some teams focusing on sweeping up broken glass, while other squads of volunteers pick up trash or shovel up other waste products.

Local nonprofit organization Downtown Whitewater, Inc. has reportedly offered to make available supplies for student volunteers to use during cleanup efforts after Spring Splash.

“Downtown Whitewater [Inc.] has a plethora of supplies that will be at our disposal,” WSG Sustainability Director Aaron Kosma said. “All parties are working well together.”

WSG has opened an online form through which students interested in joining Spring Splash cleanup efforts can sign up. The form can be found at orgsync.com/114782/forms/249820.

Students with questions are encouraged to contact Kosma at [email protected]

Mueller said the cleanup efforts will be “messy as always, but we’re prepared for that.”

“It would be nice if people could clean up after themselves,” Mueller added, “But that generally doesn’t happen.”

A multi-faceted issue

“Whitewater Student Government isn’t saying ‘don’t have fun,’” Kosma said. “[But students should] be respectful of your neighbors and the Earth. Do your part to help recycle.”

Kosma added that the Spring Splash event, while not sponsored by or affiliated directly with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, does inextricably reflect upon the overall image of the university.

The WSG Director of Finance and Entrepreneurship, Tyler Frigo, said the event is a multi-faceted issue in the local community.

Frigo said the community sees an economic burst each year as more students are visiting the city from out of town.

“That’s weekend revenue in a town with a university that’s generally referred to as a suitcase college, where students aren’t usually there,” Frigo said. “But there is concern of certain things happening such as public indecency, trash in the community or destruction of property.”

Citing police reports from previous years, Frigo said it was not specifically UW-W students who caused damages to properties and littered during last year’s Spring Splash. But, he added, “the community doesn’t necessarily see that,” because it can be difficult to tell which students at the event actually attend UW-W or not.

“We can’t point fingers and say who is doing it,” Frigo said.

Also citing conversations he’s had with several local business owners, Frigo said the annual Fourth of July event and other celebrations yield more trash and damages in the community.

In the March 8 edition of The Royal Purple, it was reported that owner of the Black Sheep and Casual Joe’s, Tyler Salisbery, said the weekend of Fourth of July tends to invite more trouble than Spring Splash.

“The community wants students to spend money, but the only types of businesses or activities not already offered on campus are bars and restaurants,” Frigo said.

Frigo said a challenge presented by Spring Splash is how the community can embrace the event in a way that businesses can capitalize on the festivities and keep those spending dollars local.

Whitewater Student Government representatives ask students to look for recycling bins and to know which items can or cannot be recycled. WSG members said they wish for Spring Splash attendees to go out and have fun, while still being considerate.

“Take care of each other,” Frigo said. “Call in crimes if you see them happening, it’s just like any other public event. Behave in a way that doesn’t hurt the image of the community or the university.”

How to remain eco-friendly

Considering the impact that improperly disposed bottles or cans can have on the environment is perhaps not the first item of the mind of some Spring Splash attendees.

“People don’t really think about what happens after they use a product,” said Mary Huff, co-vice president of SAGE.

“Even if trash is properly disposed of, there is still a chance it may not end up in a landfill, and although plastic is convenient at large-scale events like Spring Splash, it does the most harm to the environment,” Huff said. “Plastic doesn’t biodegrade properly. As plastic breaks down, it releases cancer-causing contaminants that can affect wildlife.”

To limit the amount of plastic waste, Lorenzo Backhaus, co-vice president of SAGE, recommends event-goers avoid anything plastic and purchase alcohol in bottles or cans. Huff and Backlaus also advise event-goers to bring their own cup and carry their trash with them until they can dispose of it properly. Party hosts should also have garbage and recycling available.

Huff advises students to limit their environmental footprint as much as possible.

“By lessening the amount of litter produced by this event and disposing of trash properly, “more respect [is given] to students and the environment,” Backhaus said.

This is the first year SAGE will be holding an official clean-up event following Spring Splash. Students are encouraged to join the organization in their efforts on Sunday, April 30. SAGE will be meeting at 12:45 p.m. in front of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Visitor Center.

If interested, email [email protected] Time spent cleaning up can be used towards volunteer hours.

Far-reaching environmental impact

A few times a year, the UW-W Sustainability Department organizes cleanups of Whitewater Creek. This year, they are holding one a week prior to Spring Splash and hope to hold another clean-up in May.

“Storm drains are a common magnet for trash,” UW-W Sustainability Coordinator Wesley Enterline said. “Even though throwing garbage down a storm drain may seem convenient, it causes more damage than one may think.”

Around this time last year, Enterline recalled collecting about ten bags of trash from Whitewater Creek. Over time, bits of plastic that break down in and around the creek can affect the food chains of fish in the creek and also be a choking hazard for animals in the ecosystem.

“Contrary to common belief, storm drains do not lead to treatment plants,” Enterline said. “Instead, they drain out into waterways, such as Whitewater Creek.”

Trash in Whitewater Creek does not stay there either. It can flow downstream, which can cause issues for other ecosystems as well.

“That one bit of plastic could end up all the way down in the Gulf of Mexico,” Enterline said.

During this year’s Spring Splash, Enterline stresses attendees to “think about [their] local waterways” before tossing trash down a storm drain. Decreasing the amount of Spring Splash trash will “[make] a big difference [in] how the city perceives college students,” Enterline said.

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Students step up for Spring Splash