Five days a week, Joe and Joan Blow scoot across the leather seat of their $62,000 luxury SUV ready to go to work. They pride themselves on their 5600 square foot home and their four vehicles. On the armrest next to them is their morning healthy breakfast, a pair of nutritious and carbs-enhanced protein bars which cost 4 dollars each. Their appearance is very important to them, as is efficiency at work and this is why they will consume this healthy snack on the way to work instead of eating it when they should be working. They wouldn’t want their coworkers to think they are slackers.
The drive takes 11 minutes and exactly 6 minutes after they leave home, they toss the wrappers out the window of their lavish SUV, as they are quite serious about keeping the interior as clean as possible. After all, it did cost a lot of money.
10 minutes pass and along comes Mike and Martha Somebody out for their morning walk. They take their morning stroll very seriously, as they believe the key to longevity is not only a proper diet, but regular exercise. In hand are used grocery bags and each day they pick up plastic bottles thrown down by other jogger/walkers and 5 times a week, a pair of protein/granola bar wrappers. When they drop the bags into the park garbage can, they get a rewarding amount of satisfaction out of not only picking up trash, but reusing the garbage bag.
The trash picker-uppers cannot comprehend how other people driving by the park or out exercising, justify throwing plastic bottles along the road and trail, but continue to pick them up and dispose of other people’s trash. The thought comes to them that more people like themselves are not the solution. All this could be prevented by people stopping this socially unacceptable, aberrant, and criminal behavior.
Mike Doe has been smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for about 30 years and plans to quit. It’s just that driving a truck 5 days a week for a living leaves him with a lot of time on his hands and frankly, he likes smoking. The only time he smokes is when he is driving and this realization hits him, as he unrolls the window of his truck and flips the smoldering butt out. What he doesn’t realize is that over the course of his driving career, he has tossed out close to a half million cigarette butts, or that at the minimum, one of those butts will take a year and a half to decompose. He is also responsible for the burning of 112 acres on the edge of the Sam Houston National forest 6 years ago.
He has no clue that four houses were also destroyed by him flicking a burning butt out the window of his truck down close to Falfurrias in the late 90’s when everything was so dry. He may be shocked to find out he’s not the only one doing this and that each year 1.69 billion POUNDS of cigarette butts end up as toxic waste.
A long time ago, I came up with a saying I am fond of repeating to… me. “You can’t save the world, Bert.” No, I cannot change anyone. I cannot force my beliefs about littering on a single soul. I can however pick up trash everywhere I go including parking lots when I’m walking from my Jeep to the door. I can attempt to influence other like-minded people to do likewise through conversation, social media, and this column, but the real answer is education and understanding by those people who continue to drop trash everywhere they go.
My saying helps me cope with people who seem oblivious to the obvious. Take for instance the walker who eats a protein bar or drinks an energy drink while exercising in Jenkins Park and then without so much as a care in the world, drops the empty bottle or wrapper along the wooded trail. Incomprehensible! They go there to enjoy the wooded trail and then they trash it? I can sum my reaction with one word: huh? This is witnessed every single day by those of us who pick it up.
Like the elephant meal, it can be consumed one bite at a time, but only if the elephant doesn’t continue to revive itself along the way. Each parent, each peer, each casual acquaintance can do their part by either teaching their children, stopping this behavior, or by example and that my friend is the answer.