Earth Day, Every Day
by Angie Ripple
You’ve probably seen Jan Schweitzer with her large yellow trash bag along a Bozeman city street or Huffine Lane at least once. For the past three years, Jan has been walking the streets and roadways of Bozeman picking up trash along the way. In good weather, Jan spends up to five days a week walking and picking. She loves to walk outside and hates that there is so much trash along the roads of the place she has called home since 1973.
The City of Bozeman has been providing Jan with yellow bags since she approached them after their annual City of Bozeman Clean Up Day in April a few years ago. Jan spoke to Kevin Handelin the City of Bozeman Superintendant of Public Works about her ongoing efforts to keep Bozeman cleaned up, and he offered the supplies they provide to volunteers for the Cleanup Bozeman Program, including a vest, gloves and yellow bags. She took them up on the bags; the first time she was given five. These days Jan takes two large rolls of yellow bags each time she restocks. On average, Jan fills three bags a week, but sometimes up to five.
Honks, waves and thanks are common on Jan’s routes, but rarely does she have any help. Two things she would like to see more of are fewer people throwing trash out as they drive (or letting it blow out of the backs of trucks), and more folks getting out to help keep Bozeman cleaned up. Jan has asked the Law & Justice Center to commission more inmates for cleanup, but has not seen a great increase in help, yet. She supports the Earth Day Clean Up created by the City, but knows that it’s not just a once-a-year problem; trash is constantly piling up on the sides of every road in town.
In a karmic way, Jan is “paid” for her efforts when she finds money along the road, which happens surprisingly frequently. The strangest thing she’s found is underwear. A common find is gloves, likely from the high number of construction workers in the area. She has found every article of clothing along the road, but mostly just trash, bits of paper, wrappers, cigarettes, and just about anything you can imagine. One of her pet peeves is Styrofoam, especially when it’s been hit by a mower, obliterating it into a million tiny pieces, which she will not pick up. Landscaper tip: Please walk the area before mowing and dispose of Styrofoam before you mow over it!
Jan had already made it to Rosauers for her iced tea (“Their iced tea is really good,” she says) when I met up with her on Huffine Lane to photograph her work in progress last fall. When I stepped out of my vehicle, I immediately discovered nearly a dozen pieces of trash. The first piece that caught my eye was a clear plastic bag, not a grocery bag, more like something you would get from an Amazon order. A small piece of Styrofoam was just a few feet from the bag, along with several cigarette butts and random bits of garbage. Jan’s bag was nearly full when she reached me; the bag included a large piece of cardboard. Her route ends at Cottonwood Road, leaving the long stretch between Cottonwood and Four Corners up for grabs for the next Good Samaritan to take over.
Jan has noticed only one portion of roadway in Bozeman sponsored by a local business for clean up; the stretch is along North 19th Ave, but she notices it is rarely kept up. Business sponsorship of road clean ups is common in many other places; many highways in Montana have this program in place. The number of clean ups and frequency is managed by the sponsor. Jan knows she can’t clean up the whole town, nor does she want to, but she would love to see more businesses sponsoring roadway clean up and more citizens participating.
You probably won’t see Jan out with her yellow trash bag until the snow melts, she takes winters off to enjoy being a grandmother. As the spring slowly takes hold in Bozeman you’ll have time to contemplate your own litter habits and/or consider giving Jan a hand this year. All she really wants to say is “Pick it up! Pick up your garbage, and maintain it!” Jan knows that as our community continues to grow we will need more individuals helping to keep our town cleaned up.
On Saturday, April 20, 2019 the Bozeman community is invited to meet at the Bozeman Public Library at 8:30 a.m. to enjoy a complimentary breakfast before setting out to Clean Up Bozeman. The City will be providing “clean-up kit” with trash bags, gloves and orange safety vests as well as information about how you can keep our community clean! Visit www.bozeman.net and www.bozemanmagazine.com/events for more information.