Thunderstorms, snow, 117°F temperatures and even ash falling from the sky couldn’t keep Edgar McGregor from his mission: cleaning up Eaton Canyon. The 20-year-old man, who self-identifies as autistic, shows how a plan and commitment can turn an ordinary citizen into a climate activist and anti-litter hero.

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The plan was simple: pick up litter at one of Los Angeles’ most popular hiking areas within the Angeles National Forest. The commitment was another matter. McGregor visited the spot for 589 consecutive days, filling at least a couple of buckets with litter, and, on his biggest day, single-handedly stuffed a half-ton of trash in a dumpster.

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“Not worrying about litterbugs and simply immersing myself in this work has made me more excited than ever to go out every single day and pick up,” said McGregor, as reported by NPR. “There is nothing more satisfying than seeing brand new animals return to your park after months of cleaning up.”

McGregor documented his cleanup on Twitter, encouraging others to start their own litter removal projects and reposting other trash activists with the hashtag #EarthCleanUp. He originally started his campaign after hearing that Los Angeles was hosting the 2028 summer games. He didn’t want the nearby national forest to be a global embarrassment.

Eaton Canyon is the closet national forest park to where McGregor lives. About 600,000 annual visitors come to hike the miles of trails and visit the three waterfalls. But it also has seven homeless encampments, four parking lots, 11 storm drains and two miles of streambeds, all of which are prone to trash buildups — in a place with no trash service. The more time McGregor spent in the park, the more he identified with it as his own. He learned every canyon, tree and bit of trail. Litter he picked up ranged from discarded iPhones to a 1970s beer can.

When McGregor started his work in May 2019, he expected the job to last a couple of weeks. Instead, he didn’t finish until last week. “For the first time in 589 days, I can say with confidence that my park, Eaton Canyon, one of Los Angeles’ most popular hiking trails — if not the most popular hiking trail — is completely free of municipal waste,” he said in a video he posted last Friday.

But McGregor is hooked on cleaning up. He plans to maintain Eaton Canyon while turning his main efforts to other parks in need of his help.


Image via Pinguino K