Take a walk on a Lake Tahoe beach, especially in the peak of summer, and you’ll likely find some trash either in the water or washed up on shore. The lake’s clear waters and irresistible surrounding landscape provide tourists and locals alike the perfect escape into nature, but often, visits to Tahoe result in more than just sunny days left behind, as plastic finds its way into the pristine lake. This is where Pablo Agostini comes in.
Agostini, student at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, has been working with Clean Up the Lake, a local Tahoe organization with a mission to promote local cleanups, mitigate plastic pollution and educate the public about stewardship and sustainability. He’s been invested in the health of Lake Tahoe and sustainability practices since he started his studies, leading him into a stewardship-focused path.
“As a skier and outdoor enthusiast, I always say I got into sustainability for selfish desires, which were to continue having fun outside,” Agostini said. “As I got more invested in sustainability and started taking classes with different University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe teachers like Brennan Lagasse and Andy Rost, I learned about the very real negative impacts of not integrating sustainability into our lives. When I am enjoying the sunsets at Ski Beach and the amazing backcountry, the last thing I ever want to see is a plastic bottle. Living in such a beautiful place pushes me to want to protect it and take care of it, and I think that anyone who moves to or visits Tahoe would feel the same way.”
With this mindset, Agostini was determined to make a difference in the community and landscape he loves. When looking for ways to give back to Tahoe, it was clear that Clean Up the Lake was the organization he wanted to work with.
“I chose to work with Clean Up the Lake because they are an organization based in Tahoe who needed help from a graphic designer, and that is what I wanted to focus my service on,” Agostini said. “I want to be a designer and work in a creative space, and working with Clean Up the Lake allowed me to gain important experience in that sector. Moreover, I have been fortunate enough for the past 2.5 years to call Tahoe my home and I wanted to give back to this wonderful place. Working with Clean Up the Lake allowed me to both give back to Lake Tahoe and progress my design skills.”
His work extended beyond the desk. Agostini wanted to fully understand the impact of plastic pollution on the lake before diving into his graphic design role to see with his own eyes the work happening outside of office walls.
“While working with Clean Up the Lake, I had the opportunity to go out and do some proper clean ups on the boat. I was surprised by the amount of trash we found, especially considering it was one of their smaller pickup days. The pollution statistics I had read on their files do not do justice to actually seeing the pounds of trash pulled out of the lake.
Moreover, I also observed that Clean Up the Lake is trying to do more than just clean the lake – it is also focused on developing programs for youth to learn and be more conscious of where trash ends up. They operate the LEAP program (Litter Education Awareness Program), which addresses the root causes of litter in our global environments. These programs are designed to tackle these issues by increasing youth awareness of pollution that exists above and below the surface within their local communities.”
Back in the office, Agostini teamed up with Cara Hollis, communications and outreach coordinator at Clean Up the Lake, to create an animated PSA video as part of an educational campaign, specifically for kids, that teaches how to mitigate plastic pollution with simple solutions. After working together to create a script, Agostini drafted up storyboards for the animated piece that Hollis would use at youth talks, with the hope that it would reach beyond the classroom.
“I hope that people understand the main challenges when it comes to plastic ending up in lakes and nature. I also hope that people can learn some simple ways to mitigate pollution in the outdoors.”
As Agostini works toward graduating, he already has plans to continue in the field of sustainability and graphic design.
“Once I graduate, I want to keep working on my design skills and hopefully find a job for an outdoor company in a creative role. I also want to keep learning about sustainability and different ways of integrating it into a business environment.”
About the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe
Located less than one mile from the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe’s Wayne L. Prim Campus merges experiences across education, research, creative and scholarly work in a stunning mountain environment. Beginning Fall 2024, undergraduate students are invited to earn their Certificate in Sustainability during a single-semester program that will incorporate outdoor and experiential learning into the coursework. Events and activities throughout the semester encourage a deep sense of community while inspiring environmental stewardship of the Lake Tahoe Basin and all our planet's most precious natural resources.
In addition to its education offerings, the campus offers a robust program of community events and private conferences, welcoming the brightest minds in science, art and sustainability to Lake Tahoe.
The 18-acre setting in Incline Village includes 10 classrooms, several meeting/conference rooms, both large and medium events spaces, a cafeteria and catering service, highly equipped laboratories, 88 dorm rooms and the Lou Sardella Student Commons Lawn. The natural setting provides a living laboratory and serves as creative inspiration for scientists, artists and students alike.