By Sustainable Wenatchee board member Betsy Dudash
I would rather be known as eccentric or odd than as a litterbug. When Woogie (my Jackapoo) and I take our daily walk, we try to carry a bag to pick up the litter we seem to find everywhere we go: water bottles, candy wrappers, beer cans and bottles, fast-food wrappers, even bits of string-trimmer string. Whatever we find, except broken glass and anything that looks a little dicey, I throw into the bag and we keep walking. When we get home, I put the recyclables in the can and throw the rest into the garbage. Easy peasy.
I’m not embarrassed to pick up other people’s litter, but I can’t help wondering why some people litter—and why litterbugs don’t seem ashamed. I assume they’ve seen the news articles or Facebook memes showing the oceans awash in tons of garbage or dead whales or other sea creatures that have been found with guts full of plastic bags and other garbage. I also assume that they simply don’t care what happens to the candy wrapper they let flutter to the ground or to the energy-drink cans they toss out the car window.
Or maybe—just maybe—they don’t understand that their litter ends up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. When it’s windy, trash blows into streets and gutters. When it rains, the trash runs into the storm drains, into the storm sewers, then into the Columbia or Wenatchee or Entiat rivers before eventually ending up in the Pacific Ocean. It really is that simple. Not littering is easy, too. There are plenty of garbage cans on the Avenue and in our parks. I carry a bag in my car for trash and recyclables. I even pick up litter when I’m out running errands, and right now have a couple of plastic bottles and flattened aluminum cans that I picked up off the street. (If you’re a germaphobe, you can clean your hands after de-littering with the hand sanitizer I’m pretty sure you carry with you. I just wash my hands as soon as I get home.) At home, I also pick up the litter that ends up in the street and sidewalk in front of the house.
For Make a Difference Day, I’m sure several groups will be out picking up litter, and that’s fantastic, but I’d like to challenge you to make a difference every day. Get a group together and pick up litter in your neighborhood, or on your favorite trail, or wherever you see it. Post photos on social media (how does #makeadifferenceeveryday sound?) and bask in the admiration of your friends and family. But beyond that, join me in picking up litter whenever and wherever you see it. Being eccentric makes you interesting. Being a litterbug. . . doesn’t.