Cleaning up Austin

March 31, 2022 Chelsey Sleator
After seeing so much trash on the side of the road, a member of the Schwab Cycling Team decided to take things into his own hands.

April 22nd is Earth Day, an international celebration to pledge support for the environment. Michael Rebers, a member of the Supervisory Risk Management team and a 13-year Schwabbie based in Austin, is bringing this planetary commitment to Schwab year-round via the Adopt-A-Highway program.

As a member of the Schwab Cycling Team, Michael explains that cyclists get very intimate with the trash on the side of the road. And Michael realized that if he wanted the problem solved, he would have to take matters into his own hands.

“I wanted to adopt a highway as an opportunity to give back and keep the road clean for other cyclists,” said Michael. “And everyone I talked to at Schwab was so positive about it and excited about it.”

In 2018, spearheaded by Michael and on behalf of the cycling team, Schwab officially adopted a stretch of Parmer Lane in Cedar Park, TX—a highly visible and trafficked road, that also serves as a main artery for Schwabbies headed into the office from the northern suburbs.

Since then, Michael has organized quarterly cleanups, where Schwab volunteers have picked up almost 200 bags and 3,000 pounds of trash. “The work is harder than you think, but more rewarding than you could imagine,” says Michael.

quotation-mark

“Charles Schwab has a long-established culture of giving back. Adopting a highway in Austin is a perfect way to give back to our Austin community. I am honored to lead a company in which so many of our employees are willing to devote their own personal time on behalf of their employer to make their community a better place. You are what makes Schwab such a wonderful company. Thank you, Austin!"

- Walt Bettinger, Chief Executive Officer, Charles Schwab

He also explains that they’ve found some interesting items, like a hot tub cover, cash, car keys and in January, a deer skeleton of which, to honor the deer, Michael kept the antlers and hung in his garage.

But the thing they find most are water bottles—Michael estimates they have picked up thousands of them.

“When you finish, you look back and see all the bags you’ve filled, and you get a sense of pride,” explains Michael. “You know you’ve done something good and not everyone takes the time to do that.”

But Michael acknowledges that there is more to do. “Every time we go out there, there is just as much trash as last time,” he explains. “This is always something we need to do and will always be something worthwhile.”

One fact that strikes Michael is that less than 10% of Texas’ state-maintained roads have been adopted.1 So, when he learned that Schwab’s Westlake campus was also looking to adopt a highway, he was happy to help provide any guidance he could.

“I would love to see the growth of this program to all the major Schwab centers,” said Michael. “It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding.”

Michael encourages Austin-based Schwabbies to look for opportunities to participate in a cleanup via the Austin Happenings newsletter.

“One thing is for sure, none of this would be possible without the generosity of Schwabbies and their families volunteering to help,” attests Michael.