Alumni Spotlight: Wanda McNealy & Sharona Shnayder
On a sunny Tuesday in early May, Wanda McNealy (’20) and Sharona Shnayder (’20) met to pick up trash at the PSU Park Blocks. Frustrated by being confined at home because of COVID-19, the two friends decided to make a difference.
“I used to feel so empowered by doing things for our community but with no events taking place because of the pandemic, it was really hard – everyone was stuck inside on their phones,” recalls McNealy, who grew up volunteering for charitable organizations thanks to her civic-minded family.
Shnayder has a passion for the environment, and during a FaceTime session the two women determined to take action in a straightforward way – by picking up trash. On their very first day, they committed to doing it every Tuesday and decided to invite the world to join in.
“I knew many people would want to do this because it’s such a meaningful and simple concept,” says Shnayder. She went home, made an Instagram to post their clean-ups, and shared it with friends and family. “People loved the idea and how easy it was to get involved.”
Tuesdays for Trash weekly clean-ups went global and now take place on every continent except Antarctica. McNealy and Shnayder track participants through social media and online event registration. Inspired by their initiative, a woman in Trinidad and Tobago started her own movement there. Some women in Washington D.C. asked to become integrated into Tuesdays for Trash, giving the organization its first national chapter.
“It’s cool to see the ripple effect,” Shnayder says. “Trash clean-up is a gateway into activism and advocating for climate justice. It highlights the overall pollution that’s happening and creates a strong connection to environment. Plus, it shows people that they can be part of the solution.”
Forging Careers in Climate Justice
Aspiring to turn Tuesdays for Trash into two fulltime careers, McNealy and Shnayder incorporated the organization as an LLC. The two co-founders are recent graduates of PSU, where McNealy obtained a BS in Communications and Shnayder received a BS in Accounting.
“PSU set us up for success because our majors are great assets for structuring and growing a business together,” McNealy says. “We would love to be able to support ourselves and save the planet with chapters all over the world.”
McNealy and Shnayder believe that youth need to lead the climate justice movement because they don’t see adults in power making necessary changes or crafting policies to protect the environment. And every act helps.
“We don’t believe in failure,” McNealy asserts. “Even if it’s just us picking up trash on a Tuesday, we’ve succeeded because we’ve done something.”
Their activism and optimism is clearly taking hold. “It’s hitting home everywhere around the world,” Shnayder says. “If we can get everyone to love and care for our planet, the possibilities for change are endless.”