Judy Bolin ’79 has spent much of her life battling litter. And now she’s pushing to add a lot more volunteers to her effort.
Bolin is the president of NC Big Sweep, a nonprofit based in Zebulon, NC, that seeks to raise awareness of the problems caused by littering in North Carolina. The group organizes an event on the first Saturday in October (that’s Oct. 1 this year) when volunteers across the state go out and pick up litter.
Bolin is pushing for a record 25,000 volunteers this year, a big jump over the previous record of 18,433 volunteers in 2009. And she would love it if many of those volunteers were fellow NC State alumni.
“There have been some fraternities (at NC State) who have particpated in the past,” Bolin said. “The more volunteers we have, the more litter we can retrieve.”
Bolin’s efforts – and her push to do more – were recognized Sunday when she was profiled as a Tar Heel of the Week in The News & Observer. The article said the Big Sweep has picked up 10.3 million pounds of litter since it began in 1987.
The article quoted Charles Miller, a longtime board member of NC Big Sweep, saying that Bolin is the driving force behind the organization. “She’s the one in the trenches,” Miller told the newspaper. “She’s the one that everyone sees.”
We talked with Bolin by telephone this week about her efforts to clean up litter in North Carolina. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
What motivates you to tackle the problem of litter? There really isn’t anything good about litter. Besides just being ugly out there in the environment, it hurts our economy and it’s a health issue for a lot of people. The thing that really bothers me about litter is how it impacts our wildlife. If they eat it or become entangled in it, they will surely die. We found 36 animal entanglements last year, a record number.
How do you respond when see litter along a roadside? It makes me wonder who did it and why.
Ever see someone litter and then confront them about it? I was down in Pender County with a county coordinator and we saw somebody throw some cans out their window. Then they pulled into a convenience store. We pulled into the parking lot and got out and talked to him about it. At first he was kind of irritated. But we were able to explain why we cared about it. I think he got the message. Hopefully, he thinks twice before he does it again.
What’s the most unusual litter you’ve ever found? We find all kinds of things out there. One county found enough basketballs to outfit the entire state. I don’t know what was going on there.