Every year around Earth Day, my town does a cool thing: they provide these blue bags for residents to collect litter on the side of the road. But better than that, after it’s filled up with garbage, you can simply leave it and the town will pick it up. They do this for 2 or so weeks. The rest of the year, you’re on your own if you want to be a good Samaritan–and mind you, many of us are in my neighborhood. But those of us that are, are then left to bring the bags to the recycling center.
Today, when I filled two of these bags, which I did on my own (you can collect with a group), I was awash with a mix of emotions. It ranged from anger, pride, disgust, annoyance, dismay, hope and sadness.
Fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, I participated in the very first Earth Day. Back then I was a kid and it was a fun thing to do, but I had no real sense of the long-term impact of what I might be doing. Although I was a person that did have certain leanings, even then, I can’t say that I felt the same passion about the planet that I do today. But the seed was planted.
As I walked outside on this lovely New England today, I reflected on how much hasn’t changed in these 50 years. That we still have to go around and pick up after other people who continue to toss their garbage outside as they drive along. I guess I was kind of dumbfounded. I did a survey of what I picked up and here were the top findings:
1. Soda cans
2. Alcohol bottles
3. Fast food garbage: bags, plasticware, boxes etc.
4. Cigarette boxes/cigarette butts
5. Coffee styrofoam cups or plastic cups
6. Candy wrappers
7. Plastic bags
I found this rather interesting. It’s tempting to make a judgement here, but I won’t. You all can make your own. I personally keep a garbage bag in my car. I’m not sure I can understand what possesses someone to toss something out the window? Why, if you are eating fast food, you can’t simply wait until you get where you are going to dispose of your waste there?
Remember the days where there was a deposit on bottles? Then people didn’t just toss them! They would go around TRYING to find them so they could make a buck! Maybe these coffee places should make more of an effort to make everything recyclable if their some clientele may just throw stuff out their windows? Like those recyclable peanuts they use to wrap things–could this same material be used for iced coffee?
But what it comes down to is a change in attitude. I do see it in the grocery store. Thirty years ago I was the only one bringing in my own bags–now I see lots of folks doing it AND the stores promoting it! Some even give you a discount if you have them! Maybe coffee shops could do this by telling you to bring your own drinking cup and get a discount? Or you could get a card that would get stamped every time you had your own cup. Eatable candy wrappers? Deposits back on bottles? Come on people, this is America! We have to be smart enough to figure out how to make this better!
When a bagger in the grocery store still rolls their eyes at me when they have to pack my bags (which is rare now), I tell them (because they are usually young), hey I’m doing this for you! The less garbage we all produce, the longer this earth will be here for you. Does it sink in? Maybe not. But it makes me feel better to say it.