At age 62, Boyce Griffith found himself sedentary, overweight and suffering from a combination of high blood pressure and pre-diabetes. Boyce decided to change his diet and begin exercising to avoid a future filled with doctor’s visits and prescription medicines.
Along the journey toward a healthier life, Boyce discovered a way to make an impact in his community as well. During his daily 11.5-mile walks, he removes trash and recyclables from nearby trails. This cuts down on litter and also diverts a surprising amount of materials from the landfill.
Boyce is no stranger to spending time outdoors. Born in Jellico, Tennessee, a town where he joked that “not much has changed except for the size of the pickup trucks,” he recalls walking or riding his bike no matter where he needed to go. While his childhood years spent among trails and trees forged a love for the great outdoors, the inspiration for removing litter came in 2006.
“When I first started walking, I did not notice the trash,” Boyce admitted, but after seeing a woman remove litter from the trails he started doing it too. “Since January 2006, I have seen about eight to ten people carrying a bag and picking up trash.” Although Boyce wishes that this number were higher, he’s certainly amassed some impressive results on his own.
“I estimate that I have removed about a ton of trash from the trails and walked about 15,000 miles,” Boyce told us. The trash that he removes ranges in size. From discarded cigarette butts to a truck tire floating in a bog, Boyce has pretty much collected it all. “It took me two tries in two days to get [that] truck wheel and tire out of the bog,” he recalled.
Boyce is pretty resilient when it comes to making sure that trash and recyclables all get picked up and properly discarded. One time, after an empty propane bottle was rejected by a nearby facility, Boyce went home, drilled holes in the bottles “to make them safe” and made several trips to recycle them one at a time.
Being an engineer by trade, it’s pretty easy for Boyce to put his contributions into numbers. Whether it’s the fact that he’s retrieved close to a ton of waste from the trails or the hundreds of pounds of aluminum that he’s taken directly to a metal recycling facility over the years, he’s quick to share his data. But out of all of his green actions, there may be none more lasting or important than the time he inspired children to follow his footsteps.
“Small children sometimes see me picking up trash,” he said. “All of a sudden they come running with something I missed.” When asked why children were so willing to follow in his footsteps, Boyce shared his optimistic view of the next generation. “The kids are just trying to be helpful. When they grow up, I hope they will think of me when they see trash they can remove.”
Of course, those children shouldn’t be the only ones following Boyce’s example. We can all take a page out of his book by making sure that we cut down on the litter in our own communities.