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One thing at a time … a public accounting … and Pick Up Your Path Facebook page!

In the long ago, among my early motives to pick up litter was to make myself useful. If I was going to walk, why not walk along with a secondary purpose. And a bag.

The overriding sense was to make my neighborhood a little cleaner, reclaim non-organic materials for the recycle bin and perform a civic – and oftentimes filthy – public service. It made me feel good.


Those preambles haven’t changed.

Still, there’s still some amazement that others who share my path shy away from, or steer clear of altogether, the very idea of picking up junk that shouldn’t be there.

Case in point this morning. A couple was walking my way on Sharon Road and as we got within 25 yards or so of each other, the man kicked aside a plastic Mountain Dew bottle that rested on the edge of the sidewalk.

Now, I’ve seen this duo before and while we pleasantly nod and genially say ‘hello’ as we pass as ships in the night, they are never seen (at least by me) with litter in their hands. It gripes me a little bit that after we pass each other, invariably more trash will be found on the sidewalk they had just travelled.

What I want to say to them, but haven’t (I must be a closet coward), is ‘Would it kill you to pick up that Chick-Fil-A polystyrene cup or that plastic Coke bottle?’ I dunno, maybe they think I’ll have their backs on trash they continuously bypass.

Really, trash and litter control is one thing at a time. Just remove that one thing, that one piece of junk. If only – and a big if only – we could convince people to pick up that one thing, our neighborhoods, streets and byways – and local environments – would be a lot better off.


Alrighty then. The seven day piece-by-piece litter audit begins in ernest.

There are three chock-ful bags waiting in the wings to be dumped on the driveway. Each stinking, lousy, fetid chunk of junk will be hand counted. I’ve always wondered out of morbid curiousity how many individual pieces are picked up but for one reason or another, have never gotten around to it. Or had the discipline to do the laborious tally.

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These are the first three bags due to be audited as part of the seven day trash count.

The count will be labeled by day and I wonder if the counts will fall as the seven days goes along, owing to the possibility that the prior day’s haul will lessen the available amount of trash to be picked up. The audit may be a victim of its own success.

If you join me in creating your own audit trail – akin to the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count – then please, please, please send me your totals, photos and any running commentary and I’ll post it here (and, just so you know, thanks to my friend and fellow trash picker upper, Bob Furstenau, we now have a Pick Up Your Path Facebook page). You should post photos, environmental news and commentary there, too.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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