#Trashtag Challenge Opens Up Environmental Issues And How Our Role As Agent Of Change Can Make A Difference

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#Trashtag Challenge sparked interest on social media
Photo By: Andrew Malone/Flickr

They say cleaning is good for the soul and living in a clean environment gives you harmony and peace that you need. One of Marie Kondo’s principles in decluttering is to free your mind from worries through organizing things around you and also your stuff. This inspires a lot of people to go through Kondo’s books and online videos to fully grasp the idea of tidying up. Aside from Kondo, the newest social media challenge had people across the globe cleaning up not just its for their mess but also tidying beaches, parks, and rivers.

Over the weekend, the viral challenge which spread across social media has a goal to make the world a cleaner place.

It is called a ‘Trashtag Challenge’ which inspires people on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit to explore outside and look for a place that is filled with litter or garbage. To participate in the dare, one has to clean up the litter-filled area and then post the before and after photos of the chosen place using the hashtag #trashtag.

The newest social media challenge is a refreshing change of pace after several dangerous and harmful challenges took over the internet in the past years. And in the last few months, there were reports from authorities alerting parents on the 48-hour challenge which dares kids to disappear for almost two days without contacting anyone especially their parents. The said challenge, although, has no proof of young children participating in it, alarmed parents and police.

Though some challenges are lighthearted and fun just like the ‘eating finger challenge’ on Tiktok, others have the potential to cause real harm. The blue whale challenge in Europe is similar to the recent ‘Momo challenge’ which spread across social media. These two are known to contain tasks that can harm kids, who are the main target of this challenge. Even teens created their infamous dare last year, called ‘Tid Pod Challenge’ which challenges each other to eat the toxic, detergent-filled pods. And in January, a car accident was reported after a participant took on the ‘Bird Box Challenge’ where he and others challenged themselves to do daily tasks while blindfolded.

Due to a recent call of several right advocates on social media to alter its challenges into more valuable ones, #Trashtag is the first product of its consistent efforts to create change. And as far as hashtag activism goes, #Trashtag is one of those rare social media movements that translated to real, instant change on the ground.

However, the challenge is not entirely new. In 2015, UCO, a company that produces gear for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities, founded the #Trashtag project to inspire people to clean up almost 10,000 pieces of garbage in the wilderness by October 2016. The movement gained traction again, as more and more people learn about the challenge and already shared their before-and-after photos of clean-up efforts.

The rise of the Trashtag challenge reveals an on-going issue that people tend to forget. The real threat to the environment is not ‘pollution’ but apathy. Caring less about environmental issues affect almost everyone, especially the kids of future generations. A 2015 Gallup poll found out that, today’s Americans for example, interest in environmental issues dropped compared to the ’80s and ’90s with concern significantly plummeting in the 2000s.

#Trashtag also attracts critics and several environmentalists who claim that teens participating in the clean-up drive are more absorb on the “Popularity” or “Likes” they could get rather than focusing on the essence of the challenge. One of its mechanics is to include an inspirational caption or encouraging words on the photos itself, to spark the enthusiasm of keeping communities clean. But for some, it becomes a venue to gain popularity and obliging to the said challenge for bragging rights which may eventually lose its intrinsic value if such action continue to emerge.

It’s true! Some bored teens took efforts on caring for the environment as of the moment through social media. However, we hope that they are also keen on making their voices heard on another bigger issue like climate change.

However, teens are not the only agents of change; we all are stewards of this creation. Every “little bit” helps a lot in preserving our environment, and just like what old people continue to say ‘it is not too late to make a change.’ Let us challenge ourselves to keep on cleaning even if the #Trashtag momentum phases out on social media.

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