I happened to check: today is my 1,300th consecutive day picking up at least one piece of litter per day. It’s my dirty sidcha.
I do it to develop leadership experience and skills to hasten the day when we view single-use packaging how we now view asbestos and leaded gasoline. Yes, you too will cringe at takeout and to go, now matter how much you relish it today. One day operators of factories producing cups, bags, bottles, and such will shut their machines down because no one will buy their poisonous waste. Your buying packaged stuff finances them even if you believe you dispose of it benignly. Luckily, the more you buy fresh produce from, say, farmers markets, the more you can finance them to enter food deserts and make them a thing of the past.
Besides, what would you rather do than pick up litter, watch TV?
Since the pandemic, everyone getting takeout two or three meals a day plus disposable-cup coffee two or three times a day, I now pick up more like 20 pieces without deviating from my path. I’ve also switched from jogging to plogging, which has gotten me on TV a couple times.
My mindset: I’m not trying to fix the world by myself so I don’t feel responsible to pick up everything. My main reason for doing it is to develop the skills to lead others to do it. My main effect isn’t what I do with my hands but how many others I lead to do it too. Eventually picking up litter will become normal, then buying single-use anything will go the way of leaded gas and asbestos. We’re leading that cultural change.
My habits: I’ve never used gloves. I don’t think I’ve ever brought a bag with me. I pick up trash and put it in the nearest can. If one of the things I pick up happens to be a bag, I’ll use it to collect other things. I live in Manhattan so there are trash cans around, though since the pandemic, they’re filled to overflowing by around noon.
Sadly, when I took the train across the country, even at whistle-stops in the southwest, a day from any city, with no cell phone service for two hours in either direction, when I got off the train to stretch my legs, I could find Coke bottles, empty Newport packs, and cigarette butts.
My personal challenge: I try to do it showy enough that people see and consider adopting the habit but not so much that I look like I’m trying to get their attention.
The guidelines I find help me: I rarely pick up anything
- Wet or in a puddle.
- Cigarette butt-sized or smaller
- Too far from my path
But Josh, what one person does doesn’t matter
Tell that to the people running for Senate and City Council that come to me for advice, or the corporate leaders, or the television producers who value experience.
It’s what matters.
Besides, I enjoy beautifying my neighborhood and our world, meeting my neighbors. Yesterday, waiting for a walk sign, I picked up some litter. A guy thanked me and offered me candy. I declined the candy but we talked for a while. You meet great people picking up garbage.
Happens all the time.
Today I picked up with this group:
Here’s a picture of some neighbors I picked up with a couple weeks ago.
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