Dayton man celebrates ‘dirty 30’ with trash challenge

Nathan Kessler already had a green thumb before the coronavirus pandemic; the crisis though gave him an opportunity to start a project both timely and impactful.

Days before Earth Day, Kessler celebrated his 30th birthday on April 16.

“That was day one,” Kessler said. “My goal was a bag a day, for 30 days. My dirty 30, I mean, c’mon.”

A party or traditional celebration was off the table thanks to COVID-19. So Kessler marked the milestone picking up trash with a couple friends along the Great Miami River.

Kessler made a commitment to pick up one bag of trash every day for 30 days after his 30th birthday. He started a Facebook and Instagram page called The Great Dayton Clean Up where friends and strangers can follow along and join in.

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“This pandemic is also a good time to think about how much less you lived on because stuff is closed down,” Kessler said. “How much of that was actually needed and how much you just don’t need — just the frivolous things you don’t need to have everyday.”

During the pandemic, Kessler has continued working full-time and renovating a house in Kettering. The goal of the project was to show people that it is still possible to help in some small way, each day, even when life is busy.

“Keep bags in your car, even just a grocery bag,” Kessler said. “If you see stuff, just pick it up. … I also want to push myself in that way — to be busy and still get a bag a day at least because there’s that underlying goal there to make people realize, it’s not that hard.”

Another goal of project is to get kids involved as much as possible.

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“It’s the future generations who are going to continually deal with this ever-growing problem,” Kessler said. “I don’t want them to think that this is normal. A majority of them probably already do. But I would like the bring it into their growing consciences.”

When he is not working full-time as a home inspector or picking up trash, Kessler is a photographer, taking photos almost wherever he goes. This includes when picking up trash, too.

He usually collects in the evening. Kessler has documented every day of The Great Dayton Clean Up journey with colorful sunset photos of, yes, trash.

The last official day of Kessler’s cleanup was Friday. He hopes it inspired at least a few people to use the pandemic to become more mindful of their waste.

People can visit the project's Facebook page to see how they can do a cleanup challenge of their own.

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