The Hump

Or midpoint of any project is a good time to review.  I envisioned this project as a ‘season’, not forever, so I took this late March evening to read my own blog entries.  How embarrassed am I? Well, a little. It seems that, like most projects, this one started out pretty ambitiously and seems to have run somewhat aground. Here’s what I envisioned:

-Picking up lots of litter around my immediate neighborhood.

-Taking photos of it.

-Measuring, weighing and cataloging it.

-Blogging about it.

Noble goals, I know, but I have fallen short.  The photographing and cataloging part has gone completely ‘out the window’, as it were. I’ve managed to keep picking up litter and blogging it. Perhaps the rest is fluff anyhow.

As I mentioned in another post, nobody wants to look at pictures of litter: pictures of litter are gross. Yes, they could help electrify and motivate people to do something about litter, but this isn’t a shock blog, and that’s not something that I want to overdo.  The pictures will continue (with restraint), but no gross-outs. Sadly, if you want to look at garbage these days, you can visit almost any art gallery.

As for the tally sheets, I lost the will to keep tallying the same stuff every time I do some cleaning up.  It’s always the same crap, everyone knows what’s out there, and there’s little real need for the data. It became: collect, bag up, bring home, weigh, dump out, measure, photograph, catalog, pick-up, rebag, dispose of; too much toil. Anyway, What it is right now is me toting the pickup stick while walking the neighborhood, dog in tow, and ‘picking it up’.  Keeping it real I guess you could say, and that’s what counts.

As for this being the midpoint, yes, I’m going somewhere with that. The Month of April is The Great American Cleanup (it’s like the litter-picker’s holy month), there are cleanups ALL month, everywhere. I spent two hours at the office of Keep Islip Clean last week stuffing envelopes. The word is going out far and wide across the town (and the Nation and I suppose the whole planet) to gear up and get ready. The big push is coming, volunteers will work to banish the detritus of a bitter Winter.  I’ll blog some of it, from my point of view.

The Big Melt is on

The enormous grey piles of snow are vanishing and revealing a real mess.  There are always these types of days in late Winter, where the sun shines brightly and kids play in the streets after a season cooped up.  It’s always the same and we think: is this over?  It’s not, of course, but it sure feels nice to be warm outside even for a day.

The streets are badly damaged after three consecutive brutal Winters.  This one featured some zero degree nights, sub-zero wind chills and successive, layering, snowfalls. There are new cracks and potholes everywhere. Locally, we had the water mains burst in three spots, tearing up the pavement.  The authorities could only patch them and put some cones in place: it’s going to take a lot of work to repair and clean up. When I walk the dog, road sand left by the spreaders gets on to her jacket and my shoes and gets tracked into the house.  Trash is emerging from snowpiles like the corpse in a detective novel.

As we walk, it’s pick, pick, pick.  A one block circle brings in the usual detritus from upended recycling cans, casually tossed This Week coupon clipper, out-the-window beer cans and bottles, coffee cups, water bottles candy wrappers and cardboard.  More of the same trash that’s always turning up. Notably absent is fast food: though I don’t know why.  I ‘recover’ four or five deposit beverage containers.

As I’m walking it occurs to me that it would have been nice to have an easy metric to know how much trash I’ve removed from the community in the course of my local wanderings.  I don’t. It’s not because I didn’t think of tallying up the trash, I did.  But I haven’t bothered to keep up with it; counting, weighing and the like.  I’m not even taking photos as frequently.  As has been intimated to me – who wants to look at pictures of trash?  Indeed.

When I started this blog, I was full of ideas about how to catalog my findings. But like most new activities in life, I have gradually reduced this one to the essentials – a pick stick, a repurposed plastic bag from the store, the odd blog entry. I just do it, like the Nike slogan says, me and the dog.  It’s a habit with a purpose and it makes me feel good and that’s enough. For the record: Today I picked up 1 grocery bag of trash.

Nature Verses Nurture

Having grown up at the very time that America decided to do something about all that litter everywhere – and it was EVERYWHERE, I have internalized the anti-litter ethic.  Nothing ticks me off like a litterbug.

But people aren’t born caring about street neatness.  That’s why volunteer organizations like Keep America Beautiful and Keep Islip Clean are critical.  If people want their communities to shine, litterwise, we have to bring along the children.  Lectures and programs in the schools are important, as is sponsorship and participation in community cleanups – children will live what they learn.

And parents must set the example.  A parent who casually litters is sending the wrong message to their child.