Take Spring Cleaning To A Whole New Level
Cleaning up our planet is a global act of kindness.
Daily walks have been the saving grace of many people's quarantine routines, myself included. One day I pondered about how I could make this new routine more meaningful and proactive. So, I picked up a pair of gloves and a bag before heading out to the familiar streets. Living in a small town, I wasn't expecting to come back with a bag full of litter. Yet, I did. I filled that bag up so quickly it really opened my eyes to the amount of litter around my town. After a few days cleaning up my neighborhood side streets, I decided to challenge myself to pick up litter for a whole month.
A few streets turned into more and then those streets turned into bigger areas and bigger bags. I targeted more areas such as my town's local lake and shopping centers. I found an alarming amount of litter in the areas that were meant to be spots dedicated to appreciating the beauty of nature. Around the local lake, I collected over 250 cigarettes, which could have easily been eaten by an animal or washed into our waterways. Another day I collected 1,000 cigarettes in two hours in one parking lot. A local waterfall was also on the list of places to clean up, as it is a popular summer hangout spot. Sadly, the beautiful falls were covered in alcohol bottles including dangerous broken glass.
Roadsides were the most saturated spots for litter. Once I started really looking around I noticed how unbelievably dirty one county road was. It was a long road on a steep hill. Once I set out to clean it, I was completely floored because there was about two times more trash hidden under the blanket of leaves than I anticipated. Speechless is the only emotion that could properly describe my reaction. After several hard days, I cleaned up the road to the best of my abilities, which measured up to about nine large garbage bags and several regular plastic bags! It was a daunting task, but it was very rewarding to see the hill cleaner.
During the month I kept track of the most common items collected. The number one item I picked up the most was alcohol bottles. Cigarettes and juuls were the second most common litter I collected. Other common items included fast food containers, plastic bottles/bags, and styrofoam. This is a strong reminder that our daily habits contribute to the future we will live in, we may use these items for just a few minutes but they exist for years afterward.
My town may just be a minuscule section of the world, but no action is too small to make a big difference. Whether you set out with a large bag or just pick up three pieces of litter, it all matters. Of course, please take all precautions necessary during this time by wearing a mask and protective gloves. I hope that this sets an example for how we can improve our habits and mindsets to benefit the world and ourselves.
The ideology of giving back has occasionally been associated with donating money, gifts, or other items of monetary, materialistic value. Sometimes people don't have the extra cash to pay for the next customer's coffee. Sometimes people can't donate money because they have to work two jobs to pay rent. In this call for giving back, I want you to explore the idea of taking away. Picking up litter is one of the most direct ways to give back to our communities at an individual level.
Many people view litter-pickers with a negative bias. "Those" people must be crazy right? Taking on the responsibility that someone else carelessly did not. I'm not saying I'm a hero for picking up trash, but it certainly instilled positive stewardship within me.
Taking a step back, important positive impacts occurred on the outside as well. Members of the community, people I have never met, thanked me. A woman came out of her home to personally thank me for picking up the alcohol bottles, people so recklessly leave on her yard. Another day a man came up to me to say, "That is the sweetest thing I've seen in a long time." The best part? My friends joined me some day and their family members even decided to go litter-picking themselves! This simple ripple-effect action provokes selfless actions to be a good steward. This simple action is an act of kindness to our planet and everyone who lives on it.
Yes, the main mission of litter-picking is to clean up our communities and world. However, the real impact happens when our positive actions shift the thinking and actions of others to take better care of our planet and each other. Be generous with your kindness.