by Erin Gleeson
Chip bags, receipts, plastic bottles... flowers... what’s the difference?
I’ve worked and traveled in many parts of the world, and know that in some places litter is so much part of the scenery that no one even notices. But America has been working on this problem for decades. We know that litter is ugly, that it kills wildlife, that it sickens our pets and our children, that it pollutes our waterways and is basically a sign of poor education (or laziness). If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably as concerned about this as I am, and probably wish that people would stop throwing their beer cans and candy wrappers to the wind.
But… how often do you grab a bag and start picking up?
I’ve worked in national parks and volunteered with hiking clubs to clean up natural areas. In these settings, there’s no question that litter cleanup is a good and noble thing to do. So why do we have such a problem doing this where we live? Why do we close our eyes to the wrappers and cans lining the sidewalks we walk everyday?
True, someone might be watching (oh dear!), and even more true that it’s not your trash (after all, who likes cleaning up after other people?). But it’s still your environment, your neighborhood. And it’s only when we notice and do something about litter that other people will notice and do something about litter.
Sure, picking up trash on one’s own isn’t always a lot of fun. But, going out for a walk and picking up trash is a pretty healthy habit! I usually go for a short walk after dinner, just to enjoy the evening, think over the day, digest…. I’ve taken to bringing a trash bag or two along; if I fill it up, I’ve earned some good-deed bonus points, cleared my head, met my neighbors and got some exercise! I have to say, though, it would be a lot more fun and a lot less overwhelming (there’s a LOT of trash out there) if I had company.
So, Petworth, let’s do this together!
Instead of watching TV or getting right back to work after dinner, why not invite a few of your neighbors to join you for a short walk around the block? All you need is 20-30 minutes, a trash bag or two, and a bit of spontaneity. With 2 or 3 people, you can clean up a block in no time. I’d even suggest bringing some clippers to help remove low-hanging branches from the sidewalks. There are plenty of elderly people, busy parents, absent homeowners and others who might really appreciate that extra bit of help keeping the public way clean and clear.
Petworth, let’s clean up our neighborhoods together. Once you’ve put away the dishes, grab a bag, invite your neighbor, and go for a walk. Chat, enjoy the evening, pick up a can or three here, a chip bag there… then look back the way you’ve come and be amazed at how easy it was to make such a difference!
About the Author:
Erin is originally from the southwestern US, but spent the last 10 years living in Switzerland. Her work involves working with mountain communities to find sustainable ways to adapt their livelihoods and environments to climate change and other global pressures. She has lived and worked all over the world, and seen a lot creative solutions to many of today’s social-environmental challenges, many of which can be applied right here at home. Some of the most important changes start with small, tangible, everyday deeds… like picking up litter!