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Expo guests leave business behind for Salt Lake service project

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 9:05 p.m. MDT

Matt Conforti picks up debris as representatives from Pennsylvania retailer United By Blue hosts a cleanup event around the Jordan River and surrounding area at Jordan Park on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For Liza Haffenberg, the irony of coming to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market expo is spending most of the day inside.

"This is hopefully, at least for us, what it's all about," Haffenberg said, reaching for a piece of trash along the river trail and commenting on the mild evening temperature.

Utah's nationally famous outdoor show has "more stuff than anyone could ever need," Haffenberg said. But for the New York resident, spending an evening outside clearing trash in Salt Lake City's Jordan Park emphasized the love of nature and dedication to improvement that comes with it.

Haffenberg was representing PIPs Rewards, a program aimed at incentivizing social good, when she joined the team of about 30 volunteers and headed to the park Thursday. Sponsored by sustainable outdoor clothing retailer United By Blue, the park cleanup has become an annual tradition for the group.

The evening ended with a relaxing, catered barbecue dinner in the park. As the volunteers chatted, they commented on how clean the park and Utah are, making it the perfect location for the twice-annual expo.

Amanda Anderson, volunteer coordinator for Salt Lake City, thanked the group and briefed them on their assignments as they dispersed, armed with blue buckets provided by Ocean Minded, a footwear company that helped sponsor the project.

"We have a lot of wonderful volunteer groups in-state, but it really means a whole lot when people who are visitors here come and see how gorgeous Utah is, see what beautiful outdoor resources we have, and want to help our own citizens protect it," Anderson said. "It's really heartwarming."

United By Blue sales representative Jason Lawrence brought his wife and 3-year-old son with him to the expo. The family walked the trail slowly as Lawrence helped his son, Luke, pick up wrappers with a trash grabber.

"It's so important for us to be cleaning up Mother Earth and to show our son what's important," said Rachel Lawrence. "It's important as parents to teach our children to clean up after ourselves, to keep our water clean. That's life."

Jason Lawrence, of San Diego, participates with United By Blue in at least four cleanup projects each year that his company puts on in the West. After spending Thursday at the expo, he looked forward to spending the evening with his family.

"At the end of the day, it's nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and walk along a river," he said.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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