One Small Step: pick up your neighbor’s trash

One Small Step is our attempt to show you all how easy it can be to improve your health, and the health of the planet. Each week, we’ll take one more little step and encourage you to take it with us. This week, I’m taking a cue from my four-year-old and committing to:

Pick up one extra piece of litter every day.

I live on a busy street, and as soon as my oldest son had gathered a repertoire of 10 words, he’d learned “whassat?” Naturally, his attention was drawn to the variety of delightful shiny colorful litter that decorated our sidewalk and we encountered on our daily walks. “Whassat?” he’d say, and I’d wonder if I could just say, “a culture of disrespect.” But he saw it otherwise. Can you even imagine something so beautiful as a Gummy Lifesavers wrapper? An empty soda can?

He wanted to pick up these beauties, and though I wanted to rant and rail on the uncaring “neighbors” who left their trash behind, I had a minor flash of brilliance: I’ll teach him to do his small part to make our world better. Every time he’d ask about a brightly-colored foil wrapper, I’d explain that it was garbage, and we’d make a game of searching for a place to put it.

Now I do this nearly every day, even when I’m not with Everett and Truman. When I’m cleaning my table at the park, I’ll pick up someone else’s banana peel or Big Gulp cup. When I walk to the coffee shop, I’ll pick up a McDonald’s bag and drop in into the gas station’s trash can. When I’m running with my boys at the high school track, I’ll pick up a broken bottle, surely left late at night by teenaged parties.

It’s just taking the “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy long followed by hikers and campers one step further. One small step, against the tide. If enough of us do it, we’ll see a shift in all our thinking.

Author by Sarah Gilbert