‘Be a Tahoe Hero’: Incline woman launches trash program

Miranda Jacobson / Tahoe Daily Tribune
Carolyn Usinger normally takes trash to the dump in her car, and after many asked her how they could help, she began working with IVGID to create a better way for everyone to pick up trash.
Miranda Jacobson/Tahoe Daily Tribune

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline Village’s Carolyn Usinger, known for picking up litter on major highways around Lake Tahoe, has created a program that allows anyone to pick up trash. She has also announced a number of recommendations to local agencies and community members in order to alleviate the amount of trash left in the basin. 

“I’ve been picking up all this trash all over Tahoe and it really doesn’t do any long term good,” said Usginer. “So I’ve been thinking about how to engage the community in reducing the trash overall.” 

Her solution is to help make it easier for anyone to pick up trash around the basin. Her program, Be a Tahoe Hero, lets people pick up a Hero Stick which is a combination of a trash grabber and a walking stick. 

“You can take it wherever you want and us it as a walking stick,” said Usinger. “And if you see trash anywhere, you can pick it up. The grabber has a bag with it, so you can put it in the bag and take it home, stick it in your trash can, and then keep the bags for your car and return the grabber.” 

The bags are small enough to be able to throw away in home trash bins. Usinger is hoping to work with agencies around the basin to eventually create a community bin where people can drop off the litter they pick up without being fined. 

The idea comes after Usinger was guilty of two misdemeanors for illegally dumping trash in the Nevada Department of Transportation dumpsters twice over holiday weekends. 

“I want to make it easy to dispose of the trash so that you don’t get ticketed or given misdemeanors like I was, and I want to discourage people from trashing Tahoe,” she said. 

The sticks are also great for hiking clubs since they are able to be customized, and help prevent erosion that a ski pole might cause while out on the trails. 

People can pick up Hero Sticks at the Incline Village Library, the recreation center, and the Incline Village Visitors Center. 

“If anyone else in the Tahoe or Truckee or anywhere who reads this and wants to do it for their community, I’m happy to work with them to do it,” said Usinger. “It’s designed so that it can be done in any community, and it’s to engage everybody in the community to embrace the idea that they live up here for the beauty of the area and to trash is it just crazy.” 

Usinger has been working with the Incline Village Greater Improvement District to implement her program, along with implement the rest of her recommendations. 


The recommendations include making sure everyone is picking up trash, making it easy to dispose of trash properly, and discouraging people from littering in the basin. 

Examples of ways to make positive changes include but aren’t limited to creating designated trash bins for litter dumping, creating an app for volunteers to document their pick-ups, and the use of stickers to discourage littering. 

Take Care Tahoe is a huge proponent in spreading the word through stickers and other artwork posted throughout Northern Nevada and California. 

Their website,, features education about littering in the basin, along with calls to action and downloadable graphics to continue spreading the word. 

Usinger is excited to continue reaching out to agencies like Tahoe Care Tahoe to find more solutions to reduce waste ending up on in the landscape of Lake Tahoe. 

Usinger has recently teamed up with photographer Court Leve to inform more people of her journey to keep Lake Tahoe clean. Since receiving her misdemeanors, Usinger reported she’s received mountains of support from community members, including Leve. 

“The overall awareness of having people know that we have to fight to get trash picked up in Tahoe has been good,” said Usinger. “Everybody has to come together and say, ‘This is not what we do, we don’t want trash all over the place.’ We need to ask our friends not to drop trash, we need to pick it up ourselves, and we need to insist that government make it easy to pick up trash.” 

To check out the video about Usinger, visit

Miranda Jacobson is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at

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