It is better to start young, but it is never too late to pick up the litter clean up habit. Here are some thoughts on how!
Written by Merran Van Der Tak
Retired marketing queen, lifelong smoker and full time #LitterHero.
After she retired in her late-60s, my mother-in-law started jogging every morning. There was a small woodland park behind her house with a trail along the stream. Her route took her through the park then up into “embassy row”, the part of Washington DC where many embassies and ambassadors' residences were clustered.
Shocked by the amount of litter she saw everywhere on her first jog, she took a large bag with her the next day and picked up litter as she went along – not only in the woodland but also on the streets and pedestrian areas around the embassies. The bag filled up quickly. She carried it with her until she found an appropriate place to dispose of the litter. Her daily “jog” became a stop-start clean-up exercise.
Until she was in her mid-80s and no longer mobile, she jogged every morning and always took a bag for collecting litter. Her jogging became slower as she aged – and the bag felt heavier as each year passed – but she persisted. It was pleasant when we visited, to be able to stroll in the pristine woodland. Needless to say, we helped to keep it clean.
My husband and I continued the habit when we retired to Portugal and began to walk (or, in his case, to jog) in the hills of Sintra. A bag or two for litter always went along in the back-pack. We picked up as much as we could carry as we followed the trails through the forest.
The hills here are much much bigger than the little park behind my mother-in-law's house, and our efforts here are just a drop in the bucket. But if each person carried his or her own litter home instead of dropping it, each of them would hardly notice the extra quantity or weight in their pockets. Instead, with my scrawny 45kg, I end up lugging a bag for kilometres until we reach a disposal bin.
And the trails through the hills are still full of litter. Perhaps we do not go out walking often enough. But where are all the other litter-collecting walkers?
Obviously, we cannot pick up all the building rubbish and discarded appliances which people drive into a wilderness area to dump waste. The logic of dumping waste in such a way defeats my logic. Why drive so far on rough trails – perhaps in the dark – when there are places and systems for disposing of it properly, accessible on nice paved roads? Yes, there is a charge for disposing of some items but it must be less than the cost of fuel and wear-and-tear from driving into the wilderness.
In many countries, school groups and scouts are organised (with protective gloves, proper instruction and supervision, etc.) to go out collecting litter in scenic areas. It probably beats sitting in a class-room but they are still learning something – they are often shocked by the horrible things which they find. Hopefully, it will make them think twice before they drop their litter in the future.
It might be too late to educate some of the older folks about proper disposal of litter. But, if youngsters can be taught (and enlisted to help to clean up), the next generations might be able to jog through their retirement on pristine trails without stop-start weight training at the same time.
If you believe in a globalized world that what goes around comes around, then good citizenship is a no-brainer. Here's a list of 10 things you can do right now to be a better citizen!
A web search for Good Citizenship comes up with about 5,580,000 results. My definition is simple and I try to use it to guide my decisions and day to day life. It's one of the very reasons I decided to pursue the #LitterHero ideal and put this website together! I don't always succeed, but it's a kind of way point that I can always refer back to.
Essentially, the idea is an ancient one: do to other what you would have done to yourself; in this case, I like a tidy back yard, a clean street, a pure environment enjoy and clean oceans for myself, my family and friends. To achieve these lofty goals all you or I have to do is consider other people as we go about our own lives.
You don't have to believe in karma to realise that what you do will have an impact on other people. If your impact is positive you will build good things around yourself but if your impact is negative, you will destroy and harm yourself and others. You can have your cake and eat it too, so long as you don't leave the box on the side of the road.
So here's a list of 10 things you can do right now to be a better citizen, starting from the 4th grade up.
Source Ms. Sanches Class
Cigarette filters are not as bad as nuclear waste, but they take seven years to bio-degrade. In the words of a lifelong smoker, here's how you can make a bad habit into a habit that's not so bad for the planet!
Written by Merran Van Der Tak
Retired marketing queen, lifelong smoker and full time #LitterHero
If you are a lifetime smoker, as I am, quitting can be difficult.
But it should not be difficult to see that cigarette ends are litter. Just look around the entrances to buildings (where people cannot smoke inside), or in parking areas – even in scenic places – where people have decided that their car ash-tray is full. Take a look at your own ash-tray or around the places where you usually smoke.
Cigarette filters are not as bad as nuclear waste, but they take around seven years to bio-degrade. Some of our cigarette ends might stay around longer than we older smokers do. There are cases where fish have choked to death on them - at least that stops them from getting hooked, I suppose.
Smokers already suffer social stigma. Cigarette ends everywhere just make it worse – another reason for non-smokers to think that we are low-life.
I am a heavy smoker. It is more than 40 years since I dropped a cigarette end anywhere except in a proper receptacle. If I am far from receptacles, I dispose carefully of any burning ash and residual shreds of tobacco, then the filter goes into the plastic around the lower part of the cigarette packet or even into my “butt pocket”.
No, they do not make my clothes smell, although that might depend on the brand and how carefully I remove the shreds of tobacco. For longer outings, I carry a portable ash-tray with lid – there are lots of options available, even a little plastic bag would do. These days, there are even start up companies producing pocket ashtray, I rather like these from Portuguese non profit Biataki.
If dog-walkers are required to collect their dogs' waste, why not cigarette smokers?
Cigarette ends are litter – don't drop them. Please! Instead, why not help pick them up, take a photo and share it today with the hashtag
Local events to aim to raise awareness, build community and clean up a local street, park or neighborhood. Join or start one today, get involved!
Cleanup events are one of the most powerful ways of spreading a positive message and being an actual Litter Hero. Whether an event is attended by 2 people or 200 people, the statement is clear:
"We have a litter problem here, and together we can make this part of the world cleaner".
LitterHero clean up events are design for maximum positive impact and minimum hassle. We do this by limiting numbers to around 30 people max and scheduling at a time when people with children can also attend, usually Saturdays around 10:30 am.
Another powerful driver is that we like to keep our events very short! 30 minutes of clean up time is enough for even a small group to make a big impact and also keep people of all ages engaged and more importantly, increase the desire to clean up even more!
In a nutshell, here's the secret sauce:
If you would like to host your own litter clean up events through a local #LitterHero group or on your own, here is a good article to help you get started.