Oregon Teen Recovers 100+ Pounds of Sports Equipment to Avoid Harmful Environmental Impact
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Oregon Teen Recovers 100+ Pounds of Sports Equipment to Avoid Harmful Environmental Impact

The Climate Leaders Fellowship program he conducted research on climate change in his local community and set out to make change.

The online virtual program is offered in a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation. It’s an incredible virtual volunteer opportunity for students to unite and make a positive impact on the world!

Read Zachary’s impact story below!

Zachary Hayes
Tigard, Oregon
Lake Oswego High School

Hello, my name is Zachary. I live in Tigard, Oregon and I go to school at Lake Oswego High School. In my free time I like to make ice cream, play action adventure games, and hangout with my friends and play billiards for fun.

As a member and now a leader of my school’s climate chapter consistently supporting our efforts in invasive species removal on campus, I noticed we wouldn’t just find weeds in our “Ivy Pull” events–but sports equipment from the adjacent sports fields.

After doing some research I found out that more than 10.6 million pounds of sports equipment is thrown out every year and some of it could take more than a 1,000 years to decompose.

Partnering with two close friends on the project–Alex Wang and Kai Donahue–we set out to recover what sports equipment we could from our campus’ dense himalayan blackberry and English ivy cover.

While tennis balls were our target item, being non-biodegradable and disposable, we found softballs, baseballs, soccer balls, and lacrosse balls where we were least expecting them.

While the times we met varied, we mostly met on weekends if not after school and on a bi-monthly basis. We would often spend three hours straight collecting balls, surprised by our often hefty buckets and the amount of balls we had found.

While I strove to make this project independent from my school activities, the progress made by a non-profit organization with district contractors and my schools’ green club to clear cut invasive brambles helped us indirectly find tennis balls in previously unreachable areas.

Because of this support and my team’s hard work we managed to pick up more than 100 pounds of sports equipment off our campus and fill eight 6-gallon drums!

The tennis balls, which were the largest part of our haul, will be repurposed into dog tug toys and donated to the Oregon Humane Society whereas the rest will be donated to various second hand sports retailers.

We also recorded the process and retroactively posted it to our instagram, “Love15,” to hopefully promote awareness of and dissuade future careless littering.

Overall, the Climate Leaders Fellowship has taught me a lot about climate leadership and how to “weaponize” it into a narrow niche that fits my personal passions. It not only gave me ambition but the mobility of being anywhere in the world and the creativity generated from my peers and I look forward to joining another cycle and expanding the scope of my project in Spring!

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.