“Hey, baby!” Aaron smiles at his phone. “Hey, TJ!”
The 20-year-old is in Victoria talking to his girlfriend who lives in Australia.
“How are you?” TJ asks with her Aussie accent.
“I’m good!” Aaron replies enthusiastically.
He met TJ while backpacking around Australia after they both ‘swiped-right’ on a dating app.
“It was my first Tinder date,” TJ reveals from the phone, before laughing. “I was kind of convinced he was going to be a murderer!”
Instead of getting killed, after a couple more dates Aaron and TJ started falling in love — with each other and the environment surrounding them.
“The most incredible dates,” Aaron says. “There were waterfalls! [It was] like a movie scene, looking off a cliffside.”
But then, Aaron saw the Great Barrier Reef dying, followed by the wildfires burning.
“Knowing that something like that is being destroyed because of the effects that [humans] are having, it’s kind of heartbreaking,” Aaron says. “I really realized we need to step up to the plate.”
When he got back home, Aaron decided to think globally and act locally. He took a day off work and challenged himself to see how much litter one person could pick up in one day.
“The first half of the day was mundane,” Aaron says of his time beside the highway leading to Langford. “Pick up that piece, pick up that piece, keep going.”
But, after nine hours, the pain from squeezing the garbage-grabber about 10,000 times became almost unbearable.
But, Aaron preserved — thanks to support from his friend Owen who filmed the feat, a motivational playlist created by TJ and the discovery of plants growing in a seemingly inhospitable plastic bottle and Styrofoam container.
“It was one of those, ‘Wow,’ moments!” Aaron says. “I realized, ‘Whoa, this is the inner workings of nature.’”
He was inspired by the resilience of nature and was compelled to keep supporting it.
After 12 hours of working along just two kilometres of highway, Aaron says he collected 28 bags of garbage.
“Everyone is capable of doing something if they put their mind to it,” he says sincerely, before smiling. “Maybe it wasn’t fun, but I enjoyed it.”
Now, Aaron is planning to do more environmentally friendly projects, which he’ll post on YouTube, perhaps inspiring people on the other side of the world.
“I’m really proud of him. It’s amazing,” TJ says over the phone. “I’m showing him off to all my friends!”
Showing them that instead of a murder mystery, this ended up a love story — featuring two people, one planet and infinite hope.