18 full bags of trash were collected Oct. 21 at Twin Lakes Park in Greensburg for the Adopt-a-Highway event. Some of the strangest items collected that morning included a tire, a car engine and a jar of salsa after Seton Hill University students walked over two miles to cover the entire highway around the park.
“We had nine cars with four to five people in each. So about 45 people showed up,” said Margaret Gerthoffer, a senior chemistry major who was in charge of the event. In the past, the Chemistry Club has had as few as three volunteers, and other times when various sports teams volunteered they had around 20. “Typically, we have around seven to eight people.”
SHU’s Chemistry Club, Biology Club and Nature Club “combined forces,” Gerthoffer said, and tackled the trash that littered the area. “We have been adopting the highway for years, longer than I’ve been here.”
Gerthoffer said that whenever she was in high school she took an AP Biology course and found her passion for the environment after a research project that showed how different objects degraded. Once she came to SHU, she then joined the Chemistry Club. “They had an Adopt-a-Highway and I just came along one day and had a lot of fun.”
This is Gerthoffer’s seventh time participating in the Adopt-a-Highway event, which is planned every semester by the Chemistry Club.
“I find it encouraging to see three clubs working together. This type of collaboration is something unique to a small campus, where significant overlap exists between club membership and interests,” said Madeleine Robbins, Nature Club president. “We share energy and ideas to make a bigger, better impact for the community.”
There were only a few restrictions for what not to pick up along the road, which included broken glass, needles or anything that could easily spread disease or cause harm. According to Gerthoffer, if those were found, PennDOT would be contacted and they would take care of it. Cigarettes were strongly encouraged to be picked up because of their non-biodegradable ingredients. Deflated balloons were among the cans, cups and other items picked up on the walk.
One driver slowed down while passing the SHU students and said, “Thank you for cleaning this up, you’re doing a great job!” Another driver honked the car horn while passing by.
“It’s always been there,” said Madeline Morris, a freshman accounting major who attended the cleanup. “Our generation kind of learns from a young age to always take care of your environment.”
“I would honestly do this just for fun,” said Bri Lander, a freshman biochemistry major. “You’re getting your miles in while doing good.”
“It feels like trick-or-treating but with trash,” said Brittany Postma, another freshman Adopt-a-Highway attendee.
SHU’s Chemistry Club is associated with the American Chemical Society. “As a part of ACS they have certain Green Chemistry Initiatives and this is one Chemistry Club does each semester in order to meet our Green Chemistry Initiative. They have required months and PennDOT has required months and so one of them is October,” Gerthoffer said.
According to Gerthoffer, The Green Chemistry Initiative is a part of ACS but students also incorporate it in the labs that they do in the chemistry department. “The idea is that, specifically for chemistry, say we are in a teaching lab or using a reaction in order to demonstrate something, what if we can do that safer or use those same products every year so we don’t have to buy them and we aren’t generating waste. If we can find a better way in order to make something that is less harmful to the environment, we should do it. Anything that helps the environment is the Green Chemistry Initiative.”