We’ve all seen lots of public service announcements in our time on everything from wearing seatbelts to spaying and neutering our pets, but a new PSA recently released by the City of Red Wing in conjunction with the Red Wing High School 11th grade Environmental Science class stands out from the crowd. Once you hear the quirky, unexpected, and catchy rap-based PSA, ‘The Blades,’ it will become your inner soundtrack every time you mow the lawn. That’s exactly what the PSA’s creator, City of Red Wing Environmental Officer, Paul Drotos, was after when he wrote the rap and conceptualized this PSA.
“I was tired of the ‘same old, same old,’” said Drotos when asked how he came up with the unconventional format for the PSA. Tasked with implementing the City of Red Wing’s stormwater pollution prevention plan, water permitting and testing, Drotos thinks about water pollution all day long. He knows exactly what washes off of Red Wing’s lawns and ends up in our river and he’s on a mission to educate others about it. Every year he spends an outdoor day teaching third graders about water evaporation and erosion through games and activities. Drotos also enters the high school classrooms each year to teach about stormwater pollution and he is always on the hunt for creative ways to get the message across. Crafting public service announcements is one such creative way he’s found to get the kids engaged. “I can think of no better platform or audience for improving the environment than students,” Drotos stated. “They get the problems and they want to be a part of the solutions.”
The specific problem Drotos wanted to address with the class last year was grass clippings from lawn mowing. Most people don’t realize that the billions of blades of grass blown onto our streets and sidewalks after mowing end up being washed down our city storm sewers, causing water pollution for our river. It’s an ingrained routine repeated all across America, all summer long, and most of us don’t even realize we’re doing it. To combat such ingrained patterns, Drotos knew he had to come up with something pretty unconventional and the genesis for ‘The Blades’ was born.
Not a musical man by nature, Drotos sat down and wrote his first rap song. Once he had that, he and former City of Red Wing videographer, Kyle Fitzpatrick, roughed out the visual idea of the PSA to go along with song. High School Environmental Science teacher, Janean Robert, offered extra credit to any students willing to help with the PSA and production work began. City of Red Wing AV Tech, Patrick Harris, stepped in to act and work as part of the crew. Costumes were made, students rehearsed, Kyle directed and worked video editing miracles to create the final finished product that is affectionately known as ‘The Blades.’ The students just celebrated the release of the PSA with a pizza party and had the satisfaction of seeing their individual parts come together in the finished product.
‘The Blades’ is airing on Red Wing’s government access channel, Channel 6, and is also available on the City’s YouTube channel. It has been shared with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and will be shown at the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition’s annual meeting. Its simple message tells the story of how much of our pollution comes from the little things that we do that add up to big problems. Fortunately, this problem has an equally simple solution as quoted in the PSA’s lyrics: ‘Mulch your grass. It’s a blast. Stop pollution!’
Watch Drotos and Red Wing High School's other PSA, Stormwater 101