WENATCHEE — There’s a danger in picking up cigarette butts around the Wenatchee Valley College campus.
“Now I’m going to be seeing them everywhere I look,” said Candice Monreal, vice president of the college’s student senate.
She was one of about 20 people — mostly students — who turned out Saturday morning to pick up cigarette butts from around campus and surrounding neighborhoods. The project was part of the annual Make A Difference Day celebration Saturday, and comes in the first year that the campus is tobacco-free.
That has forced smokers into surrounding neighborhoods.
“That’s terrible,” said volunteer Jordan Hendricks. “With this project, we’re trying to connect with the community.”
“A tobacco-free campus is really for good, but it shouldn’t affect the neighbors,” said Mary Jo Waterbury. “We’re trying to make that better.”
The new rule has also prompted smokers to light up on the perimeter of the campus.
“Smoking is nasty, “ said Beka Waterhouse. “Look how beautiful our campus is. We don’t need cigarette butts everywhere.”
Volunteers met at the campus fountain at 10 a.m., armed with plastic gloves, bags and long-handled tongs. They found a few butts near the fountain but hit the jackpot on the west side of Sexton Hall.
“Oh, my gosh, they’re all over the place,” said one volunteer.
“Look at all these. I need a Shop-Vac,” said another.
“OK, this is nuts,” said another.
Not only butts found their way into containers. “I just want to pick up all the litter, too,” one volunteer said. “I found a pacifier back there.”
“And there are straws from fast-food restaurants,” said another.
The volunteers say they wish people didn’t smoke.
“It’s bad for you and I disagree with it,” said Maisy Moats. “I think this is a good cause and I want to help out.”
Monreal said she hopes a clean campus will help keeping smoking down.
“People see cigarette butts on campus and they’re thinking, ‘I can get away with it, too,’ ” she said. “Since it’s on the perimeter, it’s the first thing people see when they visit our campus and that’s not good.”
“We want to make our campus look better,” said Michael MacConnell. “People walk around and see people smoking and it’s unsightly.”
Monreal said she hopes the student senate can get other campus clubs involved in future projects to clean up butts.
In two and a half hours, the group collected 5,000 butts, she said. Want proof? They’ll be on display Monday near the fountain.
“I didn’t expect it to be that much,” Monreal said. “I thought each person would collect a couple hundred. This is great. We’re really making a difference.”