By Marielle Echavez, Staff Writer

October is National Campus Sustainability month which encourages and celebrates sustainability in higher education. 

 

On Saturday, Oct. 5, Chattanooga held its annual Tennessee River Rescue where community members are split into zones, and they are able to help clean up different parts of the river. In honor of National Campus Sustainability month, UTC held its own college zone to participate in the cleanup.

 

Greyson Dukes, a senior double-majoring in environmental science and philosophy and religion, coordinated one of over a dozen zones. 

 

This is his third year being in charge of the “college zone” and fourth year participating. 

 

This year’s college zone had 51 volunteers, filled an entire dumpster, and collected 17 tires all within around four hours. 

 

According to Dukes, one of their volunteers found a beer can from before the year 2000. 

 

“No matter how thorough we are, there’s always new trash and there’s always old trash. I want people to see that we’re responsible for what’s here,” said Dukes.

 

Dukes emphasizes the importance of water, and especially clean water. 

 

The Tennessee River is central to Chattanooga and many other surrounding cities. 

 

It even provides drinking water to millions of people.

 

The Tennessee River Rescue not only helps clean the river, it also raises awareness to the importance of clean water. 

 

“Access to clean water, for consumption, for recreation, for sport, is essential,” Dukes said. “We need it to live. It brings tourism, and it’s what brings a lot of people here more permanently, like me.”

 

Dukes said one thing he enjoys about this event is that every year, he sees familiar faces, but he is so glad to see new faces each year as well. 

 

A couple new faces was a mom and her 3-year-old son who wanted to help after he saw a video of a turtle that died because it had plastic in its stomach. 

 

“That little boy came knowing that there was an environmental problem, and left knowing he could make a difference,” Dukes said. “That’s the sort of thing that impacts your outlook, that’s the sort of thing my mom did and that I’d do if I had kids. That’s the reason I do this.”

 

Dukes’ said his biggest hope is that people carry part of this with them. 

 

He hopes that people pick up trash when they are walking to work or to class and are generally aware of helping the environment. 

 

The Tennessee River Rescue is an event that happens only once a year, so it’s impossible to clean up every single thing within a day. 

 

It’s important for people to know that there are ways to be better and more sustainable.

 

“I want people to see themselves as agents of change, as people who are helping,” Dukes said. I want people to be conscious of our planet’s health and the things they do, or don’t do, to help.”

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