Get out and SOLV some problems

A few years ago, “Popular Science” gave Portland the extreme honor of being named America’s Greenest City.

A few years ago, “Popular Science” gave Portland the extreme honor of being named America’s Greenest City. A quarter of our residents commute by bike, we have one of the best public transit systems around, and we’ve got renewable energy sources coming out places where the solar cells won’t charge. Despite all this, it’s a safe bet that every day you see something that’s causing damage to, or otherwise harming our planet.

Litter on the streets and trails of parks, English Ivy choking out native shrubs and flowers, and sites that have become miniature impromptu landfills are just a few of the culprits. Even though Earth day isn’t until April 22, this year, one of Oregon’s oldest environmental nonprofit organizations is celebrating early with a whole host of volunteer events that will give Oregon and the planet a little much-needed TLC.

SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) was founded in 1969 by then-Governor Tom McCall. The goal was to reduce litter and vandalism around Oregon and foster a community of environmental stewardship. One of the biggest wins for McCall and SOLV was the passing of the 1971 Oregon Bottle Bill, which was the first legislation of its kind passed in the United States. This bill, amended in 2009 to include water bottles, places a five-cent refund on every can and bottle used to package beer, carbonated soft drinks and water purchased in the state. It is responsible for the 90 percent return (and therefore recycle) rate of such containers, as well as the statewide reduction of roadside waste.

Currently headed by Melissa McDonald, weekend clean-ups as well as big statewide events are a staple of this group’s endeavors to make an Oregon that will be sustainable and beautiful for years to come. The events that they are perhaps best known for are the twice-yearly SOLV hosted beach clean-up days. These volunteer-powered events began in 1984 and have grown so much in popularity that every coastal state now has one.

As much as 54.3 tons of trash are collected and removed each year by SOLV volunteers. Although most of the trash is generally comprised of small pieces, big items like refrigerators and car engines—even the kitchen sink have also been known to wash up. However, SOLV is anything but a one-trick pony. Every year, on average, they also host around 50,000 volunteer opportunities across the state. These projects run the gamut from neighborhood clean-ups, to invasive species removals and native species plantings as well as general environmental maintenance. It’s estimated that since 1997, SOLV and its merry group of volunteers have contributed about $60 million in services to the state. SOLV itself is funded primarily through donations, and currently has only 20 employees. The rest of SOLV’s workers are everyday people willing to donate their time to keeping Oregon green and luscious.

This year, Earth Day is coming early for SOLV with their SOLV-IT volunteer day presented by PGE on Saturday, April 16. There are over 125 projects scheduled across the state, with 22 of them happening right here in Portland. The events are set to happen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are all about cleaning up streets and park trails, re-planting native species, and removing weeds and other invasive flora, cleaning up illegal dump sites, and watershed maintenance. You can visit SOLV’s website at to sign up for the projects, but you’ll want to be sure to sign up soon because volunteer spots are limited, and some events are already full.

With only a chance of showers in the forecast, this weekend is the perfect chance for you to get out and show the Earth a little love. After all, we here in Portland have a reputation to protect. ?