By Jennifer Pellerito

Tutu-wearing Trash Fairies founder Sara Kay walks the walk at Del Rey Lagoon and patrols lower Playa del Rey with volunteer trash fairy Betty Ross
Photos by Corrina Murdy

If you’ve noticed that tutu skirts have been trending in Playa del Rey, you’re also on to the reason local sidewalks and public spaces have been looking a lot cleaner lately. That’s the unofficial uniform of the Playa del Rey Trash Fairies, a grassroots volunteer group whose members spend at least 20 minutes a week picking up litter from their adopted “fairy zones” around the neighborhood.

About 15 Playa del Rey locals, the youngest of them 3 years old and the eldest 85, have become Trash Fairies since July. Each new recruit receives a Trash Fairy starter kit that includes a reusable trash bag, a customized trash grabber, hand sanitizer, gloves, a T-shirt and a digital discount card that grants members exclusive deals at local businesses. Volunteers work at their own schedule, bypassing the scheduling challenges of group cleanups.

“It’s really about the community taking ownership and pride in the place where they live, while continuing to protect and enhance it,” says PdR Trash Fairies founder Sara Kay, a local yoga teacher and Loyola Marymount University alum. “It’s the willingness of neighbors to be in positive action that makes this possible.”

Trash Fairies stay connected through Facebook and Instagram, where members post inspiring before-and-after photos of their fairy zones.

“Knowing that other people are doing this too is so much more encouraging,” says trash fairy Corrina Murdy, a longtime Playa del Rey resident who discovered the group on Facebook.

“Dedicating 20 minutes a week is a very manageable way of making an environmental difference right in your own neighborhood,” adds trash fairy Nikki O’Neill, a rock and blues musician who’s lived in Playa del Rey for 13 years.

In 20 minutes, Kay can fill up to two large trash bags in a high-traffic area. Lower Playa del Rey, especially near the beach and Del Rey Lagoon Park, is the most-impacted by plastic cups, fast-food packaging, discarded diapers and empty bottles or cans.

She was on a walk one day when she started feeling angry about seeing so much trash strewn around, including litter piling up just a few feet away from a trash can, but then quickly resolved to change her mindset.

“I just decided: I can sit and grumble about it, or I can go do something about it,” Kay recalls. “I’d rather inspire people through action than through lecturing.”

That’s not to say litter isn’t a persistent problem — often trash fairies will return a few days after a cleanup to find the area covered in trash once again — but the point is to remain spirited about making a difference. There’ve been times when young kids will notice fairies collecting trash and want to join in the fun.

Collaborations with local businesses include Trash Fairy Tuesday rewards at places such as Del Rey Deli and Tanner’s Coffee Co. And during last weekend’s Community Sidewalk Sale, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin called out the Playa del Rey Trash Fairies for a special nod of appreciation.

Uninitiated trash fairies can get in on the fun — no tutu skirt or fairy wings required — on Casual Fridays, which encourages anyone and everyone to pick up litter they encounter as they go about their day.

“It’s easy to say – it’s not my trash, I didn’t put it there, I don’t want to pick it up,” says Kay. But, “if everybody makes even a tiny effort, it will have a big impact.”

Join the PDR Trash Fairies group on Facebook or follow @pdrtrashfairies on Instagram to adopt a fairy zone and request a starter kit.