In 2010, as Daniel Toben walked from his dorm room to class on the campus at North Carolina State University, he was struck by the depressing amount of plastic bottles and cans that filled the stream of water running parallel to his path. In that moment, Toben decided he wanted to make an impact. That’s why today, he’s building a career through an environmental activist group — the Earth Stewards — while working as a manager at Jimmy John’s.
“In the last 15 years, more than 50 percent of all plastic produced in human history was made,” Toben said. “I have always kind of imagined making a big environmental impact. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to look out for the future of our planet.”
Toben’s early cleanups were encouraging, but he knew in order to make a real difference he’d need the help of others. So Toben went to Instagram, where he shared a photo that detailed the work he’d done in the community. As word spread on Toben’s work, others were eager to help, whether it meant donating their time, cleanup materials or even funds to purchase a pickup truck to haul away trash.
“I remember that Instagram post got like three or four times the likes that any of my other photos had,” Toben said. “I started sharing photos and videos once a week and it seemed like more people were reaching out to show their appreciation and support. It wasn’t long before our mayor and county commissioners, local news and radio outlets began reaching out and it evolved into this community effort.”
While there’s still plenty to do in building the Earth Stewards, Toben is appreciative of the support he’s received thus far from the community, and specifically from his team members at Jimmy John’s.
“Working at Jimmy John’s has been great with helping facilitate building my career as an environmental activist,” Toben said. “The group of people I work with are so positive and they’re people who support what I do. They love to share ideas on how I can make the Earth Stewards better and really respect me for my efforts.
“The big thing for me has been the hours I work, which allows me to go and coordinate group cleanups in the mornings or during other days of the week. Having such schedule flexibility has allowed me to go follow this passion.”