Clean Up Trash, Drink & Be Merry at the Grand Finale Pub Crawl Pick Up

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For the past couple years organizers at The Wynwood Yard have combined do-good-ism with hedonism with The Pub Crawl Pick Up. On a semi-regular basis, participants would sample beers in Wynwood bars and restaurants while picking up trash along the way. With The Wynwood Yard closing down this month,  Sunday, April 7 at 3 pm will be the Grand Finale Pub Crawl. Tickets for the event cost $20, $5 of which will go towards Debris Free Oceans and another $5 will benefit a participating non-profit of your choice. Your ticket also includes $20 worth of vouchers for the  International Beer Day Festival and a complimentary bite at Charly’s Vegan Tacos.

We spoke to Julie Frans of The Wynwood Yard  and Caiti Waks of Debris Free Oceans about how the Pub Crawl Pick Up came to be, their Grand Finale, and why urban clean-ups are just as important as beach clean-ups.

How did the Pub Crawl Pick Up first start?

Julie Frans / The Wynwood Yard: The Pub Crawl Pick Up series was born out of a desire to create green initiatives beyond recycling at The Yard that would stick. Besides nixing straws in the summer of 2017 and reducing the amount of disposable goods we were giving away needlessly, we wanted to find ways to reduce single-use plastic cups at The Bar at The Yard – not an easy task for an outdoor venue!
We teamed up with Caiti Waks of Debris Free Oceans, who helped us think of new initiatives that would help us reduce our waste as a venue, bringing the DFO team to meet with our bar staff for inspirational talks to increase awareness and interest around the topic. The idea of branded stainless cups at the bar with a fundraising element came up and Pub Crawl Pick Up was born, allowing us and the community to take reducing our carbon footprint one step further. The first Pub Crawl Pick Up was in August 2017. Participants had a great time doing good, getting outdoors and sharing brews and eats along the way. It was so popular and well-received that we decided to make it a bimonthly “party”. It’s continued to grow as more and more people become interested in making positive change in Miami.

What are some of the craziest things you’ve picked up?

Caiti Waks / Debris Free Oceans:  We haven’t necessarily picked up anything so “crazy,” but instead, I feel it is crazy how many cigarette butts we pick up on a regular basis. By now, we’ve picked up thousands, and unfortunately, they all seem to accumulate around gutters located just outside of popular bars. It seems the cliche image of taking a drag outside the bar and then flippantly throwing your cigarette butt on the ground is still a popular cultural phenomenon in Miami. Cigarette filters are made from plastic, and they don’t biodegrade. Our storm drains lead directly to Biscayne Bay so it is shocking how many cigarette butts likely make it to our local watershed from being thrown on the ground outside of our bars and restaurants.

Everyone can identify with a beach clean up, but why are urban pick ups important?

Waks: Urban pick-ups are extremely important so that people can understand the connection between our actions on land and the results in the water. Many times, people assume pollution in the ocean must be from ocean dumping, but in actuality, trash and other pollution in the ocean comes mostly from our wasteful habits on land that exceed what the Earth can handle. Stopping garbage at the street prevents any of the trash from entering the storm drains, which lead directly to Biscayne Bay and our ocean. I think once people realize this connection, they become more cognizant of not only the trash they see on land but also other actions they take on a daily basis, like applying too much fertilizer on their lawns or throwing away too much plastic.
The Pub Crawl Pick Up series at The Wynwood Yard is especially important for another reason – it not only teaches people about where trash goes at the end of its useful life, but it also provides people with an opportunity to stop pollution at its source by eliminating single-use plastics. Each participant is provided with a reusable stainless steel cup so they become used to carrying their own cup, asking for drinks with it at different establishments, and realizing the benefits that come along with that including many compliments and discounts! Even further, by partnering with multiple for profit businesses in the area, we are also familiarizing businesses with this practice of using reusable cups and normalizing the refill concept into our local culture.

What do you have planned for this final pick up at the Yard?

Frans : We wanted to thank and highlight all of the businesses and organizations that have supported this program from the beginning.  For each of the clean ups, at least one beer sponsor and one or more food sponsors offered donated food and beverage to quench the thirst and satisfy the hunger of the cleaner uppers as they walked through Wynwood. The Local Beer Fest at The Yard, happening in conjunction with Grand Finale Pub Crawl Pick Up, came from wanting to loop in all the breweries who have supported this green initiative. The timing of Grand Finale Pub Crawl Pick Up is perfect because it’s in April, which is Earth Month. It gives us the opportunity to kick off earth month with a bang, in a collaborative, celebratory way at The Wynwood Yard.

What are are your favorite memories from the previous pick ups?

Waks: Hands down the best memory occurred on our first pub crawl pick up when Trashe DFO (pronouced Trache d’feaux) entered into the Debris Free Oceans community. Trashe was a puppy we found on our way from Wynwood Brewing Company to J Wakefield. Covered in fleas and desperately needing a home, a woman who had her in a box sold her to one of the pub crawl participants for $20. Stacey, a long-time pub crawl participant, took her into her loving home with 2 other dogs. Stacey now brings Trashe to every pub crawl and all types of events in the community, and we absolutely love seeing her every time!
Frans: +Up-cycling jean bracelet workshop with Colleen of The Full Edit. Not enough is known about the impact of dyes, growing cotton, and the textile industry on our environment. Colleen made learning fun, fashionable, and inspiring. Dave L painting the mural on the O-Cinema wall, illustrating our national parks and reminding us how close we are to nature and how our daily actions affect the national parks around us. All the while, representatives from our local national parks spoke about the challenges they face and how we can work together to preserve these areas. Brian Nassajon’s gorgeous spread at Mason Eatery. The group came in, so sweaty and thirsty after an extra humid afternoon clean up, and everyone’s jaws just dropped! All the food we enjoyed through the 18 months of clean ups were great, but this one topped the charts! The bag monster, Surfrider’s mascot, made quite a scene walking through the streets of Wynwood last year on Earth Day. I have lots of respect for the guy that wore that costume in the oppressive heat and humidity… THAT is true devotion to the cause!

Do you plan to keep this going once the Yard closes down? 

Frans: We will be taking a break through the summer, and launching The Doral Yard in the fall. We will continue to support Debris Free Oceans in their ventures, and join them in their clean ups around Miami. We have developed a long lasting collaborative relationship that will continue to evolve through future iterations of The Yard and the evolution of the Yard model. We will definitely be doing a lot of sustainability focused events and initiatives at The Doral Yard, including clean ups and educational festivals, and will always look to DFO as our expert resource and partner. Increased awareness is needed everywhere, and sustainability is a core value of ours, so no matter where our yards are in the city, we will strive to bring people together to learn, offer service, and have fun while doing it!

David Rolland

David Rolland edits the JitneyBooks.com blog. He is the author of the novel The End of the Century.