I grew up on a dairy farm and everything—and I mean everything no longer needed and considered trash—was either burned or put in a barrel designated for glass or metal to be disposed of. After all, the last thing we needed was to have paper flying around in our crops or getting tangled in our hay fields. Food that could no longer be used or vegetable and fruit peelings were thrown out for the animals to eat or tossed onto a pile to decompose.
When I see plastic bottles and soda cans along our roads, papers soaring through our parking lots, or candy and gum wrappers scattered on our sidewalks, I always wonder what possesses people to litter. Are they lazy? Do they do it because they see others doing it? Have they no waste containers in their cars? Not even a plastic bag from the grocery store? It only takes a moment when traveling to save paper cups, napkins and paper wrappings and deposit them in a trash container when you stop at a rest area or reach home. Obviously, fines for littering aren’t enforced and certainly aren’t working.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Loretta Brown, a marine debris education and outreach specialist with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, a nonprofit organization based in Homer, believes littering is a behavior problem that must be addressed. And she has developed some theories about what makes people throw out their trash.
“People want to make it invisible to themselves, to get rid of the trash and the smell. Most people litter when they’re not being watched.” She goes on to say, “It probably goes to our roots as a species. We’ve always had refuse of some kind. In the beginning, it didn’t matter if you threw things on the ground, because it was biodegradable and would rot. It wasn’t a problem until plastic was invented.”
Julie Decker, director of the Anchorage Museum agrees. In one of the museum’s exhibits, trash is put on display with emphasis on the plastic trash collected from beaches worldwide that wash up on Alaska’s shores because of the unique flow of the ocean currents. The exhibit places litter under museum lights so that people will look at it, talk about it, think about where it came from, and ultimately change their behavior.
But I truly wonder whether there will ever be a time when everyone’s behavior finally changes. Those who take pride in their work, their environment, their families, and their surroundings will always take the time to see that they don’t soil our beautiful land.
But what about the rest of society? Will they see the light and change their behavior? We can only hope.
This is my first in a series of “Hey Jude! What Bugs You?,” where I highlight events and incidents in our lives which drive us absolutely fanatically crazy. Come join me every week. And please be sure to give me additional ideas about might be bugging you. It’s not like life doesn’t throw a curve at us on a daily basis. So here goes…
While I was in Florida, I saw a handicapped elderly lady, using a cane and parked in a handicap parking spot, hobble over with her cart to the cart collection stand, deposit her cart, and then slowly limp back to her car. It was no easy task, and it took both energy and time for her to accomplish her good deed.
Why is it, I asked myself, would this dear little lady, who really had the best excuse in the world NOT to return the cart to the proper area, choose to do so?
It’s called responsibility and respect toward others. It’s being accountable when no one is watching.
What amazes me is how shoppers at the mall or at large major retail store can push a cart for hours on end around the inside of the facility, only to push it outside and abandon it beside their car, on a curb, or in another parking space. Or even better—in a place where the wind can easily send it flying into another car. Why don’t these thoughtless shoppers take just twenty-five additional steps and place the cart safely in the proper cart collection area?
We’re getting to be a sloppy, egocentric world. We don’t think. We depend upon others to do simple daily tasks for us. We don’t care about keeping our world tidy or even care about the next person—certainly not about the next person’s car or his belongings. We feel entitled. We feel we purchased merchandise at a particular store, so the business should be responsible for collecting their carts.
Sorry, folks, but two extra minutes of your time for safety sake and to help others is a no brainer.
It’s best said by Krista "KK" Weatherspoon in 50 Things to Know:
“Taking the time to help other people without expecting a reward or gratitude is definitely important in living an optimistic life."
So, let’s lead an optimistic life and push the dang empty shopping cart back to the collection area where it can do no harm.