Imagine if this was your backyard.
What you don’t realize is this is your backyard.
Littering doesn’t just affect you when it becomes a personal issue, like having your lawn strewn with various soda cans, water bottles, food wrappers and other miscellaneous junk. It affects you and everyone else from the minute someone tosses an old cigarette butt out the window to the second trash falls off the back of the garbage truck. It may not always be 100 percent intentional, but it is 100 percent fixable.
I felt like a rugged Santa Clause this afternoon, delivering trash to dumpsters around the world. With my sunglasses on, my iPod turned up loud and a decent pair of latex gloves already sticking to my skin and making my hands soggy, I set off down the road with one purpose in mind: to pick up trash.
When I was younger, I used to recruit my friends to walk around the neighborhood with me and do this very same thing. We weren’t as successful, and I’m sure my parents didn’t appreciate the increased bill from Waste Management, but in our own small way we were making a difference. And that’s all that mattered.
Lately I’ve become more and more enraged with the current state of our environment. The world has become one big garbage-filled playground, and no one seems to notice or care. Sure, there are organizations that include trash cleanup as one of their priorities, but it never seems to be enough.
People need to start being responsible on an individual level, as well. I’m in the process of starting a volunteer organization that will allow me to recruit friends and activists from the surrounding area, getting together maybe a few times a month in different locations to assist in environmental cleanup. But in the meantime, I decided today was a perfect day to get started on my own. I picked a local area of road near my house, so I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere. I didn’t give myself a time limit; the limit would be when the bag was full. When the trash bag became almost too heavy to carry home, and the sweat from my forehead started dripping into my eyes (they weren’t kidding, that really does burn), I knew it was time to call it a day. I checked my watch: I’d been out for an hour.
But in one hour I collected enough garbage to fill an entire trash bag.
My finds included a grungy t-shirt, an old CD, various bottles and cans, and a soggy towel.
One hour. There are 24 hours in one day, 8,760 hours in one year (yes, I used a calculator). Can you imagine how much trash we could remove from our parks, from our neighborhoods, from our sidewalks and highways if every person in the world spent one hour a year collecting trash? That’s math I can’t even do.
But I do know that it would make a huge difference in local, national and international ways. But until we take initiative, nothing will change.
So get out there, do it on your own, or with a few friends. Or find an org in your area that you can participate in. It’s okay if you don’t know where to start, the point is to just start.
Help keep our roads clean by not littering. If you don’t like trash littering your car, buy something to throw it in. Plenty of stores sell trash bags for your car, most of them under $20. There are easy ways to do your part and make a difference, big or small.
The point is to open your eyes. Realize that your actions and the actions of others, and more importantly, the inaction, is causing our environment to become dirty, polluted, destroyed.
But we can change that. We just have to be willing.