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John and Rhonda Bell care for the environment by picking up trash wherever they go

John and Rhonda Bell walking with trash bags on the bike path in Laie.

Each morning for the last four years, John and Rhonda Bell have gone plogging, which is jogging through Laie, picking up trash they see along the way. They shared a desire to plog wherever they live. Inspired by the Bells’ love for the land, others have started to pick up trash as well. 

Love the land

The Bells said in 2016 they started walking to the bike trail every morning. Rhonda Bell said, “It is such a beautiful walk, but there were ugly [pieces of] trash, so we decided to pick them up.” First, they started picking up only big pieces of trash, and then they started to bring their own trash bags to pick up everything they saw, the Bells said. 

They walk from their home in Laie near the campus to the end of the bike path. The Bells said every morning they collect three to four bags, which is approximately three to four pounds of trash every day. Every year, they collect about 1,000 pounds of trash. They also separate them into recyclable and not recyclable and put the recyclable ones in their recycling trash bins. John Bell, who is the vice president for Academics at BYU-Hawaii, said it is hard for them to pass by litter without picking it up. 

The Bells said there was always more trash on the days the garbage truck picked up trash and on days that were windy. They shared they think beaches collect ocean garbage, and the wind brings it to the bike path. 

Plogging soon became part of their morning routine. They do it every day, including holidays and Sundays. They said they only skip if they have other plans, such as travel or when they scuba dive in the morning. 

John Tanner, the president of BYUH, said God gave Adam and Eve a beautiful garden and commanded them to take care of it. “I don’t think that commandment has ever been rescinded. Today we live in a beautiful paradise, and we should take care of it and leave it cleaner and more beautiful.

“John and Rhonda are setting wonderful examples for every one of us. We should all stop and stoop, picking up trash and leaving the world better than we found it. It disturbs me to see people throw away trash on our beautiful campus, so I pick up trash if I see it.”

We should all stop and stoop, picking up trash and leaving the world better than we found it.
John Tanner

Inspiring others

Steven Tueller, vice president of Administration at BYUH, said, “I always admire their plogging. They wanted to make Laie a better place and multitask while exercising. They have picked up so much trash for years and make our environment beautiful for us. 

“Even though I do not walk in the mornings, John and Rhonda inspired me to pick up trash as I notice it walking on campus and in the community.”

John Bell said three to four people in the community have started plogging in the mornings since they started. He said one lady gave them a trash bag with handles and a waste grabber as Christmas gifts. The Bells said those gifts help their plogging a lot. 

Rhonda Bell said sometimes she meets people who already knew them from their early morning plogging. John Bell said a lot of people express their appreciation for them and honk their horns when they drive by. 

They said when their children were young, they used to do trash cleaning service projects for Family Home Evening to train their children to throw away garbage in trash cans. “Keeping the environment clean is everyone’s responsibility and effort,” said Rhonda Bell. 

The Bells said when they were visiting Honduras, they cleaned the beach for a week, but just after a week, the trash came back because of the tide. Rhonda Bell said, “We think Laie is a beautiful place and we want it to be clean. Picking up trash doesn’t take much effort. It is an easy and beneficial act of kindness. If everyone does their part, it will make a big difference.” 

The Bells also volunteer for justserve.org, the service project website created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They volunteer for beach cleaning and other charity projects. 

Rhonda Bell bending down to pick up a water bottle by a fence.

More about the Bells

Tueller shared, “I admire John so much because he is a renaissance man. He has so many interests and is so good at many different things. For example, he is a scientist and knows a lot about science and how the world works. He is also a musician. He plays bassoon, piano, and organ and he led the choir and wrote a musical. 

“He also loves animals and potty trained an iguana. He takes care of birds outside of his office. He scuba dives and collects seashells. He spends his time very well developing himself to be better every day. He is so smart and has great judgment. I learned a lot from working alongside him.” 

The Bells have three sons and three grandsons. After their retirement, they are planning to move back to Utah to be close to their family. They are also planning to continue their morning plogging routine and clean wherever they live. The Bells shared their plogging helps them improve their health, strengthen their marriage and clean the environment. 

Rhonda Bell’s hobbies are to crochet, knit, and do family history. She is a volunteer worker at the BYUH Sewing Center and a family history consultant in the Laie Hawaii Stake.