Happy Planet

Forget pouring ice over your head. The #trashtag movement is our favourite viral challenge ever.

Over the years, we’ve seen a multitude of social media ‘challenges’ – some more noble than others. From the ‘Ice-Bucket Challenge’, a silly stunt for a good cause (encouraging ALS donations) to the Cinnamon Challenge, a silly (and ahem, dangerous) stunt for…no cause whatsoever, there seems to be little rhyme nor reason as to why these challenges become viral sensations.

However, the latest craze to hit social media is a little different. The #trashtag challenge has a very clearly defined purpose, and a strong message at that. It all started on Facebook, with a man called Byron Roman:

It’s easy to see why Byron’s post caught the popular imagination (it now has over 300,000 shares). The contrast between the landscapes and Byron sitting, looking defeated, and then standing up in an active pose is a striking one. It’s hard to believe that one person can have such a dramatic impact on a single landscape.

His post was a challenge in more ways than one. It was a ‘challenge’ to achieve something and share it with the world, but it was also a challenge to ‘bored teens,’ and a challenge to the usual, narcissistic things that tend to go viral on social media. Could people respond in a similar way to something that involved actual hard work; something that had a positive impact on the environment?

It turns out they could.

All across the world, people have responded to Byron’s call. The #trashtag is being shared across the globe, and from Timor Leste to Brazil, India to Australia, children and adults alike have posted their remarkable transformations.

Speaking to Time magazine, Byron stated “when teens get bored, that’s like the worst thing you can ever have — actually, any person being bored. So, I thought, maybe someone will pick up the challenge and do something positive about it…we’re all in this together.”

It’s heartening to see a social media challenge that has a really positive and practical message. But of the thousands of images shared across the world, one image in particular sticks in the imagination. Manila Bay. Widely regarded as one of the dirtiest bays in the world, the bay is grey and overflowing with trash in the before photo, and then in an after photo, with the sun setting on the pristine sands.

#trashtag Manila Bay has been considered one of the dirtiest bays across the world. After 11 years, the Supreme Court finally issued a cleanup order which thousands of volunteers joined last January 27, 2019. from r/pics

It’s a stark reminder that we don’t have to just be antagonists or bystanders to all this environmental damage. When we work hard and work together, we can be the solution, too. 

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