Local not-for-profit offers unique opportunity for students

In an amazing combination of social justice, entrepreneurial initiative and the promotion of healthy active living, three Brock students have created a corporation with a unique mission. The Clean Earth Foundation was founded in the spring of 2016 by partners Matt Clarke and Michael Jakuszewski who are both in their fifth year for the accounting co-op program at Brock.

The two were close friends throughout their time at Brock and often took advantage of the local hiking trails in the surrounding Niagara region.

“On their hikes they noticed how badly kept our trails are and the work that needs to be done in environmental stewardship,” said Laura Anderson, a fifth year concurrent education student who is the head of personal relations for the Clean Earth Foundation.

After taking a few courses in entrepreneurship, the two decided they wanted to combine their passion for hiking, the environment and business to create a company that could address the very real issues of sustainability we face today.

The corporation’s main function has been in organizing large group hikes within the local Niagara region. On these hikes, volunteers are given garbage bags and guided through different ecosystems with the mission to remove as much litter as possible.

“I got involved because I walk my dog a lot and I noticed the problem too. So when Matt told me about the corporation he was starting up I was on board and have been doing hikes and working with them ever since,” said Anderson.

Since its inception, the corporation has organized and facilitated five hikes with volunteer support cleaning up areas like Decew Falls, the Niagara Gorge and the Port Weller Trail. These hikes typically yield several garbage bags full of litter every expedition and last around two hours. “When we’re walking it is absurd the amount of plastic water bottles we see. It takes 1000 years for water bottles to decompose, it’s devastating to the earth and we need to create awareness so people realize their waste isn’t going away if they simply throw it on the ground,” stated Anderson.

During the hiking offseason, the Clean Earth Foundation has been looking into partnering with Friends of Malcolmson, a local eco-park in the North end of St. Catharines, to offer their services during their annual community park clean-up. The community around the park is known for facilitating green projects within the park. Therefore, Clarke and his team want to go further than just organizing a hike to clean up the litter found in the park. In addition to their regular programming Clean Earth is planning to make a whole day event focused around environmental stewardship as well as the promotion of a healthy mindset and active living. Anderson believes that by including the community into her corporation’s mission they’re creating a more sustainable future because it fosters consciousness, action and addresses environmental literacy.

“Ideally we want to go from a local to a nation or even global scale. [Clarke] is interested in green technologies and using that to address global issues. It would be amazing if we could sponsor more grassroots companies so we as a corporation could help others develop their own success in environmental action,” said Anderson.

The first step towards this desired expansion has already been taken by the not-for-profit. Clean Earth has applied to the Summer Jobs for Students program through the government of Ontario which means that if they are approved the provincial government will provide funding for approximately 16 salaries. Therefore, if you are interested in potentially getting a summer job within the Niagara region that allows you to stay active in nature and make an impact on the environment you should invest some time looking into this corporation. Even if you’re not interested in a paid position but you resonate with Clean Earth’s mission to support environmental protection and consciousness while promoting an active lifestyle and want to volunteer then follow their Facebook page for information about upcoming events. Their opening 2017 events are expected to begin sometime in April when the weather is more conducive to these types of outdoor activities.

The last piece to their plan to expand is to begin working outwards with students from Brock University. Anderson hopes through their application for Summer Jobs for Students they can get more students involved with their mission. The not-for-profit will then try to take their services to locations inspired by their employees, like their hometowns. “It’s so easy to take a small garbage bag, hike down a trail and pick up little things which makes a huge difference,” said
Anderson.

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