Every time you step outside, you’re bound to encounter litter in some form or another.
Today, I challenge you to pick it up and place it in the recycling bin (or trash, if it cannot be recycled) so it won’t pollute the environment anymore.
It’s day twelve of the zero waste challenge! We’re starting to get into more advanced topics as we head into the rest of the challenge.
Today we’re talking about picking up litter.
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I’m going to be honest with you: I hate picking up trash. I do not like it, I do not find it incredibly enjoyable, but here’s the thing: Most people don’t.
It’s not typically a favorite pass time for people. Also, there is a little bit of a stigma attached to picking up litter.
Whenever someone picks up litter, others tend to look at them funny. They think it’s weird, or that the person doing it might be being forced to do it as a community service act.
A lot of people are disgusted by the thought of cleaning up someone else’s trash. Their attitude is largely “I didn’t drop it, why would I pick it up?”
This makes cleaning up litter a strange sight to them (unless you’re a sanitation worker).
I think this says a lot about people’s view on climate change as a whole: They believe someone else will come along and fix it, that it’s not their problem because they didn’t start it.
But you still live here, on Earth, right? It’s still your home – shouldn't you take care of it?
The same goes for picking up litter: Sure, you didn’t drop the litter, but it’s still in your area, polluting your neighborhood. Shouldn’t you take care of it?
So, whenever you get out there and you pick up litter, what you’re doing is breaking a kind of taboo. You’re saying “this is okay, this is correct, this is the right thing to do.”
What you’ll notice is as you are picking up litter, you will inspire other people to pick up litter.
I work in a pretty popular area and during lunch, a lot of people go on walks or run. A lot of people are very active during their lunch breaks.
When I go out, I walk (typically with my dog) and we will pick up litter. As we pick up litter, we are giving other people permission to pick up litter and it’s amazing.
On the days I don’t pick up litter, no one picks up litter. On the days I pick up litter, everyone is picking up litter.
That’s because I am giving them permission and saying “this is okay, this is normal, this is great. Let's take pride in our area and clean it up.”
Here are a few reasons you should pick up litter in your community (if you’re not already convinced):
Keeps your neighborhood beautiful – Litter is an eyesore, after all. Litter can negatively impact your sense of community and make people feel less safe. By picking it up, you’re showing pride for your community and beautifying the area.
Protects wildlife – The animals in your area could confuse litter for food or nesting materials. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen birds pick up pieces of plastic. If litter gets into waterways, chances are it’ll harm aquatic ecosystems as well. Picking up litter helps prevent wildlife from chancing upon it.
Reduces costs – A lot of money is spent on litter cleanup in the United States. These costs are shared by government and local businesses, so picking up litter can help put those funds to something else your community will benefit more from.
Protects children – Little kids are more likely to pick up litter out of curiosity. Unfortunately, this is a safety hazard, seeing as kids are known for putting things in their mouth that don’t belong. Keeping litter off the streets reduces this risk.
There are so many reasons to pick up litter. Even if you pick up just 10 pieces of litter in 10 minutes, you’ll be making an impact.
Whatever trash you do pick up, make sure to put into a bag or lined trash can, and not just loosely in an unlined one. Loose trash often winds up as litter again on trash collection day.
Also, I encourage you to smile and say hello to any passersby as you pick up litter. It shows you take pride in keeping your community clean, and encourages others to take part too.
If you’re really feeling inspired, consider hosting a community cleanup! That’s definitely more advanced stuff, but it’s a great thing to do if you feel your area needs it.
I know it may be a little bit chilly for some of you, depending on where you live, so maybe just take a very short trip out to pick up litter. But I encourage you and challenge you to get out some point this weekend and pick up litter.
Especially, I hope, you will take this challenge with you whenever you’re out and about.
take the challenge!
Whenever, you’re outside I challenge is to pick up three pieces of litter! Take a few moments out of your day (whether it be on your walk to your office or during your lunch break) to pick up three pieces of litter. Doing this will help prevent wildlife from mistaking it for food or nesting materials, and you’ll make picking up litter less taboo for everyone else.
If it’s really cold out and you don’t plan on going outside anytime soon, then I challenge you to at least once a week go for a 10 minute litter patrol around your neighborhood.
Picking up litter encourages others to do the same.
Will you be taking the challenge?