I am not a fan of litter, and have been known to devote some time now and then to picking it up. I was even (very, very informally) interviewed about it by an MSU student several years ago. My litter-cleaning habit hasn’t changed too much since our move to Seattle, though I am conscious of some adjustments I’ve made.
I’m a bit more circumspect about things I pick up in the city– Seattle has a lot more “bio-waste” than the MSU sidewalks and parking lots did, so if anything looks like it was pressed against a wound or orifice, I usually won’t transport it bare-handed. I’ve seen too many discarded needles and plastic bags of poop to just grab things too casually. And speaking of feces bags, those aren’t just transient leavings: a lot of Seattle’s dog owners seem to believe that leaving abandoned poo-baggies along sidewalks constitues “proper disposal.” This is not the case– if you don’t want to carry a little sack of poop to a trash can, then you should reconsider whether or not you’re responsible enough to be the caretaker of a dog!
But Seattle’s primary “litterables” seem to be the same as Bozeman’s: discarded containers and wrappers for things that go into mouths. Food wrappers, bottles, cigarette butts, cans, pizza boxes, plastic forks, and the like. I sometimes wonder what would be left to pick up if everything that wrapped or contained something edible was designed to wholly dissolve in a rainstorm. The occasional AA battery? Infrequent socks & underwear? Plastic sacks? Incidentally, I don’t find as many sacks around Seattle as I did in Montana, as the city benefits from a local “ban” on them. Generally, I have a suspicion that the folks who complain about the bag ban have never bothered to extract them from trees & bushes, or from blocking a storm drain. They’re insidious– like tumbleweeds that never deteriorate.
Anyway, seeing as how it’s Earth Day and all, would you like to join me in adopting a year-round environmental habit? There’s a lot of things one can do with very little effort. I could probably write about it all day, but here’s something you can try: drink tap water. I pick up a lot of empty water bottles, and it makes me cringe to think of the amount of effort that goes into manufacturing and transporting these things around the country simply due to a marketing effort that has convinced us that our faucets are inferior, or worse, unsavory. Bottled water has its utility, of course, but if one is just hanging out around one’s home, why not just fill a glass, or refill a reusable container? If you don’t regard your home’s tap water as drinkable, then you shouldn’t be solving that problem by buying bottles by the gross, you should be writing your local and state government officials. There are many places with horrendously contaminated water, but the solution should be to decontaminate those aquifers for future generations, not simply buy palettes of water from a factory in perpetuity.
Oh, and like last week, I have a poet recommendation for you this week too! I found I like breaking that into a separate post, so look forward to seeing that later today, if you’re interested. UPDATE: Here it is.