Most viral challenges have a reputation for being anywhere from incredibly stupid to downright dangerous. Now, instead of encouraging people to put things in their mouths for a few followers, we’ve cycled back to the wholesome days of the Ice Bucket Challenge. #TrashTag is the new trend that’s sweeping the internet, leaving clean beaches and tidy roadsides in its wake. This viral sensation could be just what urban areas and beaches need to get the attention they deserve. Indeed, people participating in the hashtag deserve the praise they get after cleaning up litter-heavy areas. How did it all start, though, and how can you be a part of this planet-saving trend?

Years In The Making

The #TrashTag Challenge originally dates back to 2015, but it wasn’t until recently that it took off as the viral sensation most of us are familiar with. Credit for bringing the challenge into the spotlight goes to Byron Román, who posed for two photos, on in the middle of a trash-strewn field and one in the middle of the same clearing, surrounded by bags of garbage. His post read: “Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens. Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it.” His post spurred the birth of community cleanup efforts worldwide, all filed under the tag #TrashTag.

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Much like the Ice Bucket Challenge from a few years ago, which raised over $115 million for ALS research and led to the discovery of a new genetic link to the disease, the #TrashTag Challenge is here to do good. Following Román’s Facebook post, the trend took off as hikers, bikers, divers, and country drivers shared their cleanup stories with the rest of the world. With the new hashtag to drive their efforts, many beachgoers have been working cleanup duty to make the world’s shorelines cleaner, more beautiful places to visit. A group of around 500 volunteers in Mumbai cleaned up over 1,000 pounds of trash along a single beach in just under two years. Such concentrated efforts not only beautify our planet, but they make it a safer, more habitable place for all living things.

Getting Involved

How can you get in on the action? The challenge encourages people to go out and fill up as many trash bags as they can and to take before and after photos of the area you’re cleaning. Some of the dirtiest places are along main roads (though highways should be avoided for safety reasons), parks, and beaches. Anywhere with a lot of people and not many trash cans is a fantastic place to start your search for a place to clean. Even if you don’t find a heavily-polluted part of town, you can still participate and make a difference by picking up litter you see along the sidewalk or outside of grocery stores.

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Outside of the #TrashTag Challenge, you can help clean up your community by participating in any town cleanup events or by seeing if there are any environmental Meetup groups interested in kicking off a clean initiative. Stay on top of your town and state representative’s green legislation and be sure to support it. If they don’t have an environmental plan, consider getting a group of like-minded people together to pen one and send it out with all of your signatures to let your rep know that you’d like to see some environmental love. On the home-front, do your best to reduce or eliminate plastic waste by opting for reusable bags and storage containers, and choose your pesticides and herbicides wisely to protect threatened species. Every little bit helps!