Monday, June 14, 2010

Help Keep America Lookin' Good

I remember that silly owl from the PSA's during my childhood, telling me not to litter. After a few clicks of my mouse, I discovered that his name was Woodsy and we can watch most of the old commercials on Youtube.

I wonder about the effectiveness of public service announcements. Do they actually encourage or discourage a certain behavior? Did I really not do drugs because someone showed me that egg in the frying pan? Did my parents give me the birds and the bees talk because a PSA told them it was ok to talk to your kids about sex? Did Woodsy really keep me from littering?

During this week's visit to Frick Park, I climbed up to my usual spot and discovered a few cigarette butts. Now, I don't mind if people smoke. I prefer they do it away from me and that they clean up after themselves, but this really seems to be an acceptable form of littering. Why is that? Perhaps smokers think it's just one little cigarette butt. But they add up. Maybe they need to check out Woodsy again.

But it's not just cigarettes. Or trash really. Humans have a lot of stuff. And inevitably, we lose some of that stuff. Other things I've found in the park include:

- An old water bottle
- A sock
- Sunglasses
- A grocery list
- A pacifier

It makes me wonder if there are many spaces that have yet to be invaded by our stuff and our carelessness. I also wonder how someone left the park without a sock. Wouldn't they have noticed it was missing when the walked out on their sockless foot?

This weekend, when my mom and I went camping, we produced a very small bag of trash. We burned most of the paper products we used in the campfire. We had almost no food waste (we like to eat) and we recycled our plastic, glass and aluminum containers. I even saved the plastic grocery bags to take home and recycle. At home, I compost my food waste, and recycle everything possible, including paper products. I'm not sure why these things come easily to me and not to our friends who can't seem to throw away a cigarette butt in a garbage can.

I feel very tree-hugging, crunchy-granola when I write about littering and recycling, but I kind of figure there are basic things that should have sunk in by now. I don't care if you smoke or take your socks off in the woods. Just clean up after yourself please.

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