One summer staff made a game out of camp clean up. A group of two or more walking through camp could play. The rule was that if someone spotted a piece of litter, they could point at it and call it out. Someone else in the group would have to pick it up. Everyone wanted to be the ‘spotter’. It was easier to point than to bend over and pick up. This idea has come home with us.
When Mike and I hike or walk we are often looking down for sunbathing snakes. This makes it easy to see garbage. The Arizona sunshine makes many items shiny enough to catch the eye. There is no silver foil gum wrapper escaping our attention. With Mike’s two recent knee replacements, I’ve noticed he’s a better spotter and more diligent about seeing things that I need to dig out of a cactus. I’m game. It’s easier for me to bend down and I can’t imagine if one of his knees locks up and he goes down that would be a good use of our time. Although me trying to help him back up would make for a good story.
Michael Jr.’s girlfriend, Dani, works for a company that organizes clean ups. They provide clean up kits for public sale and the last time I checked, they were all sold out. That is a lot of people doing trash duty. The company also coordinates events where folks show up to volunteer their time to clean up! And time off for its employees to pick up trash one day a week during the workday. Keep Nature Wild is making the earth a better place and providing an opportunity for their folks to be out in nature.
Dani posts her photos of what she finds, and the items become a topic of conversation. We wonder how someone can eat a protein bar and the wrapper ends up on the ground. Kleenex that misses your pocket? And the balloon advertising a dentist office that is twenty miles from home? Most are probably incidental, but empty beer cans? That is someone that doesn’t feel ownership of their environment. Keep Nature Wild is trying to instill this love for the outdoors, restoring a spot’s beauty, and creating a sense of community.
There are other groups around the world creating communities and making litter collection fun.
Sometimes, it can be disappointing to clean up the same stretch of trail every week. However, when I’m out the next week and see a few more of my fellow hikers with their own collection bag, I’m filled with joy. And I’m reminded of Gandhi stating ‘you must be the change that you want to see in the world.'