What might surprise you about mother of three and real estate agent Jennifer Richardson is that she spends her weekends cleaning up litter from some of Baton Rouge’s busiest intersections in hopes of making a difference.
Like many of us, Jennifer grew up in the Baton Rouge area and always thought of our city as a gorgeous place with good people and natural beauty.
However, over the past decade, she has witnessed the devastating effects of waste buildup on our local environment. Complaints about trash in ditches and drains that will ultimately wind up floating in canals and waterways, thus endangering wildlife and our quality of life, piled up with no real effort being raised to stop it.
Realizing Louisiana’s capital city was in danger of losing its charm, she was spurred to action. In January of 2021, she used the power of the social media platforms Facebook and Nextdoor to take matters into her own hands.
Picking the weed-infested intersection of the Baton Rouge Country Club at Essen Lane and Jefferson Highway as her first target, she amassed a group of over 40 volunteers to help with the cleanup process.
“We felt so unbelievably good at what we could do as ordinary citizens. The group that came was amazing as it was during COVID and we weren’t socializing at that time. We came together with all kinds of diversity in our group and we all wanted to do it again very soon!” reminisces Richardson.
Picking their locations at random based on reports from group members, you can often find her and her group of volunteers out every Saturday scouting locations with industrial trash bags, trash pickers, and good attitudes. Retired members of the group can be found picking up litter daily. Each cleanup session ends with hundreds of pounds of trash collected but beautified roads left behind.
While some may stray away from this “dirty job,” Richardson finds great satisfaction in seeing the results of her work. She and her volunteers have formed a niche in our community dedicated to helping each other and the city as a whole.
“We’re like a family now. We’ve done it in the rain, the heat, and the dark of the morning. With boots and gloves on, we start cleaning up. It’s remarkable how in an hour you can turn a blighted, disgusting city into something beautiful,” she remarks.
But where does all this trash come from? Richardson has found that depending on the area, litter can come from cleared homeless encampments, leftovers from panhandlers, and general rubbish misplacement from drivers and garbage trucks. However, it isn’t hopeless. Keeping Louisiana litter-free is something you can do with simple, proactive prevention.
Doing your part by keeping a small trash bag in your car, properly disposing of cigarette butts, reducing and recycling plastic containers, bags, and straws, as well as making sure you securely tie your trash bags shut before sanitation services collect them can make a huge difference.
If you’re craving the hands-on approach, new volunteers shouldn’t be wary of the trash or fear being underprepared. Trash bags and trash picks will be provided by the group in case you decide to join them, so all you need to do is bring gloves, sturdy boots, and a positive outlook.
If you would like to join Jennifer and her team of volunteers in leaving Baton Rouge looking better than we found it, look out for her call to action on the Nextdoor app, or join her Facebook page, Keep Tiger Town Beautiful.