Skip to main content

Life in the Trash Lane

A Day in the Life of a LL&W Crew Member

A Day in the Life of a LL&W Crew Member

Article 8 - April 26, 2019
Written by Leah Cafarelli

Ohhhh, Alternative Spring Break. A joyous time where hundreds of college students from all over the country unite for one common goal. No no, not to see how many PBR’s they can funnel in 60 seconds. A different goal. During spring break with Living Lands & Waters, that goal is garbage removal!

Yes, waking up at the crack of dawn, throwing on some rubber boots, grabbing a roll of garbage bags and strapping on a life jacket. Sure, there’s still beaches, boating and the occasional beer. But it’s more in the realm of littered river beaches, boats filled with garbage bags and the occasional beer that someone left behind on a fishing trip and wound up floating down the Mississippi River for 5 years. Crack it open...if you dare!

We host this bada$$ program for three weeks (three week-long programs). The students travel to Memphis on Sunday and we host a welcome dinner that night to introduce them to our crew and organization, and to break down the weekly itinerary. The students then work full days with us Monday through Thursday! We meet at 9 AM, load into boats and clean up until 4 PM.  

Being a Living Lands & Waters crew member is much more than a full-time job; it’s a fast-paced, whirlwind lifestyle. The month of March completely proves this. We throw our hands up and dive face first into our work every single day. This means waking up early, caffeinating, jumping in a boat and continuously moving until it’s time for bed. Here’s a pretty basic layout of a day in the life of an LL&W crew member during Alternative Spring Break...

5:50 AM: Nope. *snooze*

5:55 AM: Noooope. *snooze*

6:00 AM: Wake up this time and try to get to the coffee maker before the other crew members drain it of its contents, leaving you to have to refill it. DARN, late again.

6:05 AM: Refill coffee maker.

6:15 AM - 7:00 AM: Sit in bed, drink coffee, and mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead. Unless you’re like the other half of the crew, in which case you’re still sleeping at this time.

7:00 AM - 7:30 AM: Head to the galley and make yourself some breakfast. Usually a bagel and cream cheese. Unless you’re David, in which case you’re probably eating some chili or a burrito or whatever we ate for dinner the night before.

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM (if we’re efficient and kept it to a reasonable timeframe): Crew meeting! Half the time is spent going over the actual plan for the day and what each crew member’s responsibilities are. The other half is spent on witty banter between Chad and Nozzy plus everyone thinking up some shenanigans to throw into the daily itinerary to keep things fun and interesting for everyone. We conclude with safety. Below is a Kodak moment capturing a real morning meeting in all of its glory!


8:00 AM - 8:45 AM: All hands on deck...time to get the boats ready! Pack each boat with life jackets, cleanup gloves and crates of supplies. Check the boat tanks and send the empties with someone who has time to run to the gas station. Fill the igloos with water and distribute them into the boats. Set up the DJ boat and start the tunes. Make sure each boat has some shovels. Ponder why one boat has 10 shovels and three boats have none. Do we need tarps? Grab tarps just in case. Head over to the boat ramp!

8:45 AM - 9 AM: Everyone gets situated at the boat ramp. Lay out the life jackets. Make your boat look neat and tidy (as neat and tidy as a garbage boat can be). Go over the plan again. Get your game face on. Greet the spring breakers!

9 AM - 9:20 AM: Get the party started and the people going! The LL&W crew takes this responsibility very seriously. We know picking up garbage isn’t the MOST fun activity, so we take plenty of time to come up with epic motivational morning pep talks, thanks to The Coach and The Ref. It’s hard to explain, so check out this video of the crew pumping up the spring breakers ye ole Scottish way.

9:20 AM - 9:30 AM: Load everyone up into the boats. It’s garbage time. We usually split up and head over to clean up spots that were predetermined in the morning meeting. It’s the most fun when you get to team up with other crew members and tackle a spot together, but sometimes you just gotta lone wolf it! Sometimes you forget where you were supposed to take your boat. Sometimes you realize you can’t get your boat into the area you were supposed to clean up. Most days you just gotta wing it and do your best!

9:30 AM - Noon: Pick up all the trash!  There aren’t too many jobs out there where you find yourself strolling through the woods, maybe even down a shoreline, garbage bag in hand, on a mission to make a difference (or where you live on a barge with all of your co-workers). Being out on a cleanup is definitely the best part of being a crew member. We’re out there making sure everyone is having a fun and safe time but ultimately have a fun time ourselves! There’s usually a group thread going with crew members bragging about their garbage finds or asking what the next plan of attack is.

Noon - 1:00 PM: Head back to the barge for some grub! We get lunch catered for large programs such as ASB, which is amaaazing. Usually, one or two crew members are in charge of picking it up, bringing it to the barge, setting it out and making sure everyone got enough to eat!

1:00 PM - 4:00 PM: Rally up your students, who are probably moving a little slower at this point. Help them load back into your boat and head over to a new cleanup spot. Do what you can to help everyone get back in the river cleanup spirit! As a crew member, it’s your duty to make this experience enjoyable. Turn on some music, strike up a conversation or two, create some friendly competition, whatever it takes! The garbage piles will start getting massive and that’s when you call the garbage boat to pick it up and bring it back to the barge.

4:00 PM - 5/5:30 PM:  Time to get everything back in order. We drop the students back off to their vehicles at the boat ramp and say goodbyes. Pack the lifejackets back up and make sure everything is in our boats that needS to be. On our way back to the barge, we clean our boats, rinsing the crazy amounts of mud out and making them moderately shiny again. Then we unload the last of the garbage onto the barges, tallying up what we collected for the day. A crew member or two usually tackle cleaning up the house. This involves plenty of elbow grease. Dishes need to be washed, floors cleaned and bathrooms sanitized. It’s like your typical household chores but x11. Next, we make sure all the cleanup materials are put away and re-organized for tomorrow’s event. If we’re lucky, finishing up these tasks usually completes the work day but most of the time we also have to hop on our computers and answer some emails that we got behind on. There’s also a line for the shower and a dirty “crew load” goes in the washing machine.

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM: Go be a normal human (IF you have the energy)! Some of us are able to muster up the motivation to hit the gym, go on a hike, explore the city we’re in or maybe do some barge grocery shopping. Others hang back and chill out or play some video games. Chad and Tammy are probably out scouting tomorrow’s cleanup location or looking for cool driftwood. When we’re lucky, someone offered to cook dinner and is in the galley making that happen. That’s not expected, though! We tend to eat a lot of leftovers due to our limited fridge space and time! There’s usually a point in every night where everyone ends up in the galley hanging out, listening to music and eating food.

Taking the doggos to land to give them a nice walk.

8:00 PM - 10:00 PM:  Around this time is when everyone slowly retires to their room to watch some Netflix and catch some Zs.

2019 proved another successful year, removing 116,855 pounds of trash from the Mississippi River (our cumulative ASB stat is 1.4 million pounds)! We’re always sad when ASB comes to an end but also fulfilled. It’s a crazy whirlwind for three weeks (more if you’re Leah, our ASB lead) but all good things must come to an end. Until next year, Memphis!!

*Tentative Dates - Subject to change slightly.*

Week 1: March 1st – 5th

Week 2: March 8th – 12th

Week 3: March 15th – 19th

To reserve your spot for or get more information on Alternative Spring Break 2020, click through to our website.

True Story

This is the true story of 10 full-time river rats, several part-time seasonal river rats and three office folks picked to live on a barge, clean up rivers and their watersheds, work alongside volunteers and have their lives turned upside down. Follow along to find out what happens when people stop being trashy and start getting environmentally savvy!

Our Impact

  • Pounds of Trash Removed


  • Volunteers Engaged


  • Students Educated


  • Trees Planted


© 2024 Living Lands & Waters

Powered by Firespring