Trash Walk with Travel Nurses- Cleaning up litter one assignment at a time

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By Shelby Zomcik

March 21, 2021

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Trash Walk with Travel Nurses

trash walk with travel nurses

As a night shift nurse who worked in Pennsylvania for 3 years, I rarely saw the sun.  Between sleeping during the day to stay awake all night at work and being winter for roughly 8 months out of the year, I’m sure my vitamin D levels were about zero.  This was one of the reasons that sparked my move to California and begin travel nursing.

I wanted to spend more time with the sun.  The other motivation for my journey across the country to the Golden State is that California has always been my one true love.  Even before I ever set foot on the west coast, I knew I wanted to live here.  Between the Hollywood movie magic and the variety of unique nature from the Joshua Trees to the redwoods, I knew I had been born in the wrong state.  So after years of California dreamin’, I finally made a move, and my love for this state only grew.

So much litter

The only thing that I really found below my very high expectations was that there is so much litter. Now I’m not saying that other states don’t have a litter, too- they do.  But California is my soul state, and it made me so sad to see all the plastic bottles and fast-food wrappers scattered everywhere.  Throughout the streets and even on hikes through the mountains, miles away from the nearest town.  I was finally able to soak up some sun in the middle of January (unheard of in Pennsylvania). But on my strolls around town, instead of enjoying the warm breeze blowing through the palm trees, I was stepping over empty Starbucks cups and used napkins.  It infuriated me to think that people were trashing such a beautiful state.  Instead of ignoring the problem or waiting for the city to do something about it, I decided to start doing Trash Walks.

Trash Walks

Trash Walk is a pretty self-explanatory name that I’m sure I’m not the first person to use. But to elaborate anyway, I go on walks throughout the city with a few garbage bags and a trash grabber tool and pick up any litter I may come across.  I was already going on the walks, and honestly, I felt awkward before not knowing what to do with my hands as I just roamed around my new town (do I wave at people? Am I swinging my arms the right amount? Good old anxiety).

So after my first trash walk, I posted a picture of myself and all the litter I had collected on my Instagram. In the hopes of inspiring more people to do the same.  I have set a goal to collect 50 garbage bags full of the trash before my contract is up in August, and I move on to the next city.  The Gypsy Nurse saw my post and then asked me to write this article. I was ecstatic to do so.  If my Instagram post, or this article, can inspire even one other person to not litter, or do a trash walk in their own city, then I’ve succeeded in helping the world, no matter how small that help may be.

Why Trash Walks?

Why do I care about helping the world so much?  Well, I’m glad you asked, and it’s not because I’m some tree-hugging hippie.  I became a nurse because I wanted to help people.  And I wanted to make peoples’ lives better, or even just a little easier for a short while.  I know how tough life can be and how refreshing it is when someone is kind to you.  Unfortunately, I’m sure many other nurses can relate, but this work line isn’t all smiles and holding hands anymore without going into the gritty details of the previous statement. I’ve been feeling burnt out and unsatisfied with my career choice lately.

Doing these trash walks has helped fill that emptiness I’ve been experiencing with nursing.  I feel like I’m helping again, just like I have always wanted to do as a nurse.  And thankfully, the earth doesn’t fight back when I try to help it, which is a nice change of pace.  Thus far, I’ve collected 7 of my goal of 50 bags of litter from around my community.  I’m planning to do this with every new contract I work.  And I’m hoping I can inspire some others to do the same.

Feel free to follow my #trashwalk progress on my Instagram @shelbyz3


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