"Let's Get Dirty" with Ian Somerhalder: join his April 21 California clean-up campaign

We tend to think of litter as this annoyance that blights our landscape, yet not something that is too terrible, and most of us don't take the time to pick it up.

Does this photo change your mind?

An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed from ocean debris each year (Photo: NOAA)

We've heard much about the islands of plastic in the oceans, but it's essential we start connecting our own behavior with those islands. What gets tossed in California doesn’t always stay in California—it’s estimated that up to 80% of trash in the ocean is derived from land-based sources. Ocean debris is not benign as it has been cited as causing the death of approximately 100,000 marine mammals a year.

Some more astonishing litter facts: Did you know that over 51 billion pieces of litter are found on roadways each year in the United States? Or that the state of California spends $41 million a year on highway litter removal alone? Beyond removal costs or blighting California’s scenic landscape, litter can cause health issues, harm domestic animals and wildlife, pollute water sources, and lower property values.

Ian Somerhalder, star of Vampire Diaries, is organizing a California clean-up day (Photo: IS Foundation)What can be done to reduce the impacts of trash on our planet? Ian Somerhalder, who stars in CW’s Vampire Diaries, has a solution. Watching a video of a 2007 clean up initiative in Estonia where 50,000 people in one day collected over 10,000 tons of trash to remove pollution from their communities inspired him to organize a similar effort in California. His non-profit, the Ian Somerhalder (IS) Foundation, is hosting a statewide clean-up day on April 21, the "Let's Get Dirty" initiative.

I am proud that the non-profit organization I work for, National Wildlife Federation, is helping to support this important event,  which aims to join more than 2,000 schools, including colleges and universities, to assist in cleaning up trash in their communities. With support from cities, counties, local businesses, youth associations, schools, non-profit organizations and individuals, the group anticipates 80,000 volunteers across the state of California picking up trash--and helping to improve the environmental health of their communities and the state.

The IS Foundation works toward finding solutions to conservation issues and green energy along with advocating for animals and wildlife. The organization aims to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures.

So sign-up your school to join Ian Somerhalder in cleaning up California. For more information or to register your school for the “Let’s Get Dirty” event visit the Foundation's website.