Baltimore’s favorite trash wheel has it all: a daily diet of litter, a namesake beer from Peabody Heights Brewery, and now, a not-so-secret national society dedicated to ridding the world of trash.
Inspired by Mr. Trash Wheel—the downtown water wheel that captures debris from the Jones Falls River—and its thousands of internet fans, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore has launched a social media campaign to muster grassroots environmental action. This March, with the help of grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Order of the Wheel was born.
The exclusive club comes with a fictional centuries-old backstory and benefits like a secret handshake, special merchandise, and quirky code names such as Garbage McTrashface and Barnacle Churnerton. But joining is not so easy; applicants have to be selected by a board of “Great Grand Wheelers” to become a pledge. Then, pledges have to complete five assigned tasks—like decorating oil receptacles and purging plasticware—and share their completed missions on social media with the hashtag #OrderOfTheWheel to be inducted as an official member. So far, there are more than 1,600 people pledging across the U.S.
Zoe Ubaldo, a special education teacher at Gilmor Elementary School in Sandtown-Winchester, pledged to learn more about local environmental issues, even encouraging her fourth and fifth grade students to get involved by collecting litter on school grounds. “I made it a game, where the more trash they picked up, the more playtime they got afterward,” she says. “They were annoyed with how much litter had accumulated, but they were excited to help clean up.”
After the induction ceremony this spring, members will act as ambassadors within their communities to create clean, trash-free environments. “After all,” says Allison Fomich, who is pledging to inspire eco-conscious habits in others, “our voices and efforts have more impact when we’re together.”