Monday, May 9, 2011

Litter Walks

I've already mentioned it, but I recently read a life-changing, super-inspiring book, No Impact Man by Colin Beavan.  So, as I was walking home a few weeks ago I was pondering this book and what steps I could take to increase my sustainability, something I've been working on for many years.  I already recycle.  I already commute by bicycle.  I use baking-soda-type-make-it-at-home cleaners.  I buy in bulk.  I buy organic.  I garden.  I shop second-hand.  I conserve water.  I keep the thermostat down low.  These steps were all taken incrementally.  But, what should I work on next....? 

In order to even out the "scorecard" of his impact Colin makes positive impacts to make up for the areas where he was unable to reduce his impact to zero.  His first attempt at a positive impact was picking up trash along the riverside with a friend.  Ah HA!  I thought.  THAT is what I'll work on next.  Not on doing/using less of something but by doing MORE of something.  Also, he discusses how litter, especially plastic, causes serious harm to birds and other wildlife.  That was a major driving factor for me as well.

So, I've started picking up litter as I walk (I walk home 2.5 miles Monday through Friday, as well as pleasure walks).  And, boy oh boy, is there A LOT of litter!  Once you start to pay attention you can see that it is scattered everywhere (at least where I live) in a truly horrifying amount.  That was sort of baffling to me.  I never SEE people litter, but they must be or else how does it all end up floating around out here?  Do they wait until no one is looking?  Is it done under cover of darkness?  I don't know and I don't understand.  There is too much for it to be accidental. But, I digress. 

I now alternate my time while walking between enjoying the birds and trees and sunshine to scouting and collecting garbage.  This might seem a sort of obvious eco-activity, and I know there are people that have been doing it for a long, long time, but it was new to me.  It is SOOOOOOOOOOO easy!  I keep a bag for trash and a bag for recyclables. 
Just like Colin Beavan I severely underestimated the amount of trash I'd pick up and had my bags overflowing before I was half way home on my first time.  And that was before I hit the worst part:  near the high school. 

It made me think that if everyone just picked up a bag or two a week it would make an incredible difference.   Imagine how much cleaner and nicer things would be and how much better it would be for wildlife!!  And it is so simple.  Just about everyone could do it.   Little things add up!   I also think it would really help foster a desire to take care of our neighborhood, city, state, country, world, etc if it wasn't already looking crummy.  It is my theory that litter encourages more littering.  So, maybe, just maybe, I can help stem the tide of litter and all the ills that follow along behind it. 

I'm hopeful that as I keep at it sooner or later my commute may not be lined with litter!   I'm also hopeful that I can encourage a few friends to pick up the habit.   Perhaps I really am too much of a dreamer...  Oh well, I'd rather be the type that tries.
All the photos are from just one little walk worth of trash picked up.
Footnote:  I am trying to make/find a couple bags that I could use instead of these plastic bags I snagged from the library.  It seems in keeping with No Impact Man to find a non-disposable bag for this project.  So far I haven't discovered the perfect bag which requires a combination of ease of washing, durability, portability, etc.  Oh well, the grocery bags work for now and are recycled when I am done.   Any ideas?

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