In the spirit of Alima, the watershed hero in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, I highlight the heroic activities of one person or a group of people who are making a difference to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. One voice or a collective, their activism and motivation can inspire us all to make a positive impact in our local and global world. That is why they are watershed heroes.
Davey Rogner and all the volunteers of Pick Up America removed 201,678 pounds of garbage from American roads as they drove 3,762 miles across the United States in three years. Davey Rogner and Jeff Chen, both natives of Silver Spring, started Pick Up America as a part of their non-profit Harvest Collective to bring awareness about the litter epidemic in the US and educate children about consuming zero waste.
I first met Davey and Jeff at the Montgomery County Watershed Summit in 2010 where they were keynote speakers. After listening to their speeches and talking one-on-one, I was inspired by their leadership and dedication to improve nature’s health in our country. From 2010 to 2012, I followed their progress and their amusing stories of life on the road while crossing America in their used-veggy oil bus. Their stories included: their most unusual finds along the roads, heart-warming people they met, educational endeavors with kids and the art they created while road-tripping. I recently explored Davey’s favorite kidventure spot, the Paint Branch stream next to his home. We sat streamside to chat about his accomplishments thus far, his dreams for the future and who inspires him to be a watershed hero.
What have been your proudest accomplishments with Pick Up America?
For three years, Jeff and I ate, slept and breathed Pick Up American, our goal to be the first citizens in the US to make one continuous trip across America removing litter from our nation’s roadways. We traveled 3,762 miles for three years cleaning-up 100 tons of trash and educating over 10,000 students about reducing their consumption to decrease waste. As our used-veggy oil bus made its way from town to town and state to state, we created a media following to tell our unique story. Over 200 news stories were written about our passion to help communities, including two on national TV news, one was being named ABC World News’ “Persons of the Week”. To leave our indelible mark on some communities, we built eight repurposed art structures, such as bottle-filled benches in Moab, Utah and Denver, Colorado. We filled used water bottles with plastic garbage, such as cigarette butts, and put the bottle bricks together to construct a public bench. I hope to build one in Silver Spring.
What are your goals now that you have finished Pick Up America?
The energy I gained from fulfilling a mission with Pick Up America allows me to dream bigger with Harvest Collective. My enthusiasm and passion for nature is expressed by creating a collective to enhance the way spirit flows through people and ecosystems. This collective is three pronged: food growing and ecosystem enhancement, art and music, which includes after school programming, and body work, such as yoga and meditation. This collective is based on a share system to enhance community and the resiliency of its members to depend less on the global marketplace and systems. For example, if a person donates 10×12 feet of their lawn for farming or volunteers an hour to farm a plot, then they receive a share. The shares are then traded for other services in the collective, such as after school programs or a session of yoga. I am currently writing a business plan to solidify these ideas for implementation. The Harvest Collective will celebrate these ideas and share them with the community on September 22nd.
Join the Harvest Collective and friends for an unveiling of their new business plan that involves building edible landscapes, sharing our abundance, and providing direct access to bodywork, all while supporting local artists and musicians. The event is family friendly and will be on Sunday, September 22 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring from 5-9 pm. It features a three course vegan meal, massages and tarot readings by donation, an auction/raffle of plants and services, face painting and balloon animals by BEE BEE clown, and live jazz/acoustic music from the MSB Trio, Andrew Grossman, Whales, and Ian Collins. Tickets cost $20 at the door.Pre-sale tickets cost $15 and are available at www.theharvestcollective.bigcartel.com. The event is discounted at $5 for UUCSS members.
Who inspires you to be a watershed hero?
It is easy for me to find inspiration from many people: musicians, naturalists, family and people I meet who are developing ideas to solve problems. I am a creative and spiritual person, which is often depicted in the music I create. I often find inspiration for my music and ideas from musicians like Joe Strummer of The Clash or Bob Marley who were able to create vivid stories of life during their moments in time. Musicians who walk the walk and not just talk the talk also inspire me, like DJ Cavem. He rose from ashes to use his success to build a sustainable, eco-community in his hood.
Davey shared with me his favorite and inspirational spot in nature, a series of boulders that mark a fall line on the Piney Branch. As we sat, he stated, “I gained much strength from Aldo Leopold. Being an environmentalist is knowing nature.” How sweet those words are. Finally, my hard working dad has inspired me all my life. Work ethic and determination were passed from down to me from my father.
Davey, we are inspired by you: your spirit and your zest and passion to create a better community, locally or globally. This is why Davey is a watershed hero.