For the second of our Everyday Heroes series we were excited to be able to interview Geoff Galen (or Uncle Frog to everyone on Instagram!). Geoff picked up our 20,000th bag of litter and he’s inspired his family to collectively fill 944 bags of litter this year!
"It’s real easy to complain. It’s real easy to say someone should be doing this. But it’s about taking responsibility. It’s about saying you know, this may not be my job, but let’s just make things better."
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Geoff. We love your posts on Instagram. For those that don’t know, can you tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a retired food and beverage director, living with my lovely wife in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. I’m a proud graduate of the University of Illinois (BA, Mathematics). I’m also an avid golfer and fantasy football enthusiast.
Had you ever litter-picked before?
In the workplace, I always kept things tidy and picking up litter off the floors was part of the job. But I’d never thought about doing it as a hobby until this year.
You’ve become such a huge part of our campaign. How did you get involved with just1bag2020?
Short answer: my niece, Andrea. Longer answer: COVID quarantines closed down the golf courses, and this led me to taking many long walks just to get out of the house to get some fresh air and exercise. On these walks, I noticed the same bits of litter day after day, week after week. In particular, there was a half-full plastic jug of chocolate milk that I passed by every day. Finally, I took a garbage bag and some gloves and picked up the milk jug and a whole lot of other stuff. I sent a picture to my niece, and she turned me on to just1bag2020. My wife bought me a grabber, and from then on my obsessive-compulsive nature took over!
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found?
Hmmm. My wife says it’s the roll of tape that says BURIED SEWER LINE-CAUTION. It could be the large black bag that says SOILED LINEN, or the dead hawk.
What’s your favorite thing or place to litter-pick?
I love to pick up in my local parks, so that the children and dogs don’t have to deal with the crud. As for a thing, having been in the food and beverage industry for so long, the variety of minis or “nips” (tiny plastic bottles of booze) I find is kind of fun and interesting.
There are nips everywhere! What’s the best thing someone has said to you while you were litter-picking?
My friend John told me (after watching me pick up our home golf course (again and again)), that I’d inspired him to pick up a bag and do some picking for himself.
That’s incredible! You’ve definitely done a great job of recruiting other people to start litter picking 😊
Has picking up litter led to any changes in your day-to-day life?
I’m getting a lot of exercise! I’m constantly amazed at all the stuff people just throw out, on the street or in the parks, without caring for anyone or anything else.
It’s crazy isn’t it?! What has litter picking taught you?
First, that people are pigs. Second, though, is that one person can make a real difference. I take pride in how my neighborhood looks; I get thumbs-ups and cries of “Thanks!” from cars zooming by. Maybe my example has caused a few people to think about what they’re doing, and to become better stewards of their communities.
You’re a huge inspiration to so many. What would you say to someone who’s yet to collect just one bag or go out on a litter pick?
I tell people that it will make them feel better, it will make them feel like they’re doing something real and important.
It’s real easy to complain. It’s real easy to say someone should be doing this. But it’s about taking responsibility. It’s about saying you know, this may not be my job, but let’s just make things better.
Thanks so much, Geoff. Keep up the great work!