A couple of years ago when this semi-angry blog sprang up, its sole focus was my efforts to keep my neighborhood litter-free during my daily walk. But the job never got any easier; there was always more junk to pick up that day, and the day after that. It was a never ending process. I tried to encourage others to do the same thing (with limited success) since it was the one way individuals like you and me could make a difference.
It finally dawned on me that anti-litter volunteerism was really one part of a larger environmental picture. Thus, Pick Up Your Path took a turn toward an environmental blog – but with trash and junk removal still at its heart.
And that’s where things stand right now: a manifesto that puts the sordid, yucky business of picking up other peoples junk somewhere in the environmental pecking order.
You’ll read about who’s doing what – or not doing – on the overall environmental front. It’s a mixture of good news and bad news. Those who do right by the environment will be applauded; those who don’t will be called out.
Yet there will still be plenty of content on the anti-litter front.
Every day that I walk, I fill bag after bag with the trash of others – all manner of plastic (bottles, bags, car parts, candy wrappers, drinking straws), paper (food wrappers, old newspapers, empty envelopes, McDonald’s and Burger King cups, cardboard pizza boxes), polystyrene foam (‘peanuts’, chunks of broken or shredded coolers, fast food containers), aluminum cans (Coors, Bud Light, MGD, you name the brewer, I’ve scooped it up).
My daily route is 2.5 miles. One circuit around one big block; it’s one hell of a mess. Litter is too polite a word; it’s really junk, trash, and, to be indelicate about it, man-made shit.
Honestly, I’m sick of seeing other people’s trash strewn all over. In part, it clutters and junks up my path. But on the other end I worry about where it could end up; our soil, streams, lakes, and rivers, our oceans.
It is amazing to me that in the space of 24 hours, more litter will pile up. To put a twist on a famous (and debated) quote from the late Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL), ‘A Miller Lite bottle here and a Big Mac box here, and pretty soon you’re talking real trash.’
So there we are. Every day there is more ‘something’ to be picked up, sorted, recycled. Drive down any arterial that leads to a residential area and you’ll see the remnants of idiots lying against curbs, huddled down in the grass, blowing free across the street or in danger of falling through a storm grate with the next stop a stream, lake or your water supply source.
And I photograph it all. Every day, every bag, all of it dumped out on my driveway.
Most of the photos you see archived are from that time when my posts were rants against slobs and morons. I know it sounds weird to photograph what I collect but the photos seem to put the mess in the correct context.
Virtually everything that can be recycled is recycled post-walk. I’m not oblivious, though, to the idea that even if it is not recycled its disposal is at least managed by the city of Charlotte. At least it has been removed from the lesser of the evils – rather than foul our water supply or soil, at least it is contained. Long term that may not be a solution but for now it is.
So my proposition to you is pretty simple: when you walk, carry a bag with you (I use plastic grocery bags, which themselves can be recycled). Pick up anything and everything that you dare. Recycle everything that you can. Take charge of your little loop of the world even if others won’t or don’t care to.
Is this a rant? You bet. I’ll post photos you don’t want to see. Statistics and trash factoids you may not want to know about. But if you and I don’t stoop to reclaim our turf, we let others – who stoop to nothing to spoil our landscape and waterways – to win. I’m not willing to go there.
We can be a citizen’s brigade that stops the mess one walker at a time. Join me. Send me your photos and stories. Let’s share our experience.
Pick up your path!