Eliminating Street Pollution

I propose that it is within ‘our reach‘ to eliminate street pollution in the next 10 to 20 years. Street Pollution is simply the trash we all see when we walk about our planet. For those who require a reason why this is an important topic, continue reading. Street Pollution is all the trash one sees in our streets, parks, freeways and alleys. Left unchecked, and following rain and wind events, street pollution typically ends up in waterways, sewers, creeks, rivers and ultimately, our oceans. Once it enters large bodies of water it is dubbed, “marine litter”.

Boys playing in a body of water full of litter

Street and Marine Pollution is getting worse not better. I’m writing this post while vacationing in the Keys of Florida where I am saddened by the quantity of cans, bottles and paper tossed about. When we visited bird, turtle and dolphin rescue and rehabilitation centers, it was impressed upon us that humans are the casual-agent behind most of these creature’s mishaps. Unfortunately, most injuries/illnesses were due to marine life consuming garbage, being hooked then released back into nature without first removing hooks, becoming entangled in plastic wraps, ties, etc., and/or being run over by power boats.

Learning this encouraged me to think about what could be done to eliminate street pollution. Surely, the answer isn’t to wait on more government mandates or more laws to be put into place. The answer lies in the hands (literally) of everyone on our planet. We must be more diligent to not litter and be willing to pick up trash when we see it.

OK, so maybe you have already stopped reading this post since it may seem just a tidbit idealistic. Well, we are the Garden Dreamers, and idealism is our forte. So, without haste, I’ll continue.

Should 1 million people, throughout the world, agree to pick up only 1 piece of trash every day for one year, this equals 365 million pieces of litter. If we extend this to ten years, the total number reaches 3.65 billion pieces of garbage which would end up in the garbage can and ultimately, in the land fill. I know what you’re thinking, garbage should be recycled, not placed in a land fill. Well, keep reading because I have made a provision for recycling, repurposing and reusing.

Now, for the important piece, how am I going to amass 1 million people to take on this very important task? It’s easy, we’ll rely on social media and word of mouth. Just think about it for a moment, when Anglo-Saxons first stepped foot on what is now called the USA, how do you think the native Indians in the NW area of their continent knew about this? Heck, it certainly wasn’t due to the Pony Express!! So, it was obviously by word of mouth.

The other piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed deals with achieving milestones by the 1 million strong task force. This is the motivational piece. I mean, what is the point of picking up trash if your labors go unnoticed. Don’t worry, I promise that your efforts will not go unnoticed. I have established thresholds and a recognition system, and yes, it includes a ball cap. The thresholds are 500, 2,500, 10,000, 25,000 and 100,000 pieces of litter per individual. Each threshold will be commemorated by adorning your greenish, bluish or brownish colored ball cap with a different colored shirt button. By the way, each person will need to acquire their own ball cap and buttons (I hope this isn’t a deal breaker). And yes, we’ll have a logo (forthcoming) which I hope you’ll transfer onto your new cap. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go back to the buttons.

Once you’ve acquired your ball cap, and fashioned the logo, for all to see, you can begin the process of picking up and properly discarding litter in a waste receptacle. Of course, you’ll need to count the number of pieces gathered on each outing. When you’ve picked up and properly discarded 500 pieces of litter, you have earned the privilege to sew a brown colored button onto your hat. Additionally, your title is then Street Cadet. The following table shows the progression of colored buttons, titles and pieces of litter retrieved and disposed of. Here’s a perk to keep you engaged. You’ll most likely find some buttons along the way thus making your efforts more than worthwhile.

Table 1. Schedule of title and color of button awarded relative to the number of litter items removed from nature (OK, or the street, back alley, etc.) and placed in a trash receptacle.

Number Litter Items


Color Button

Street Cadet
Street Trooper
Street Captain
Street Ecologist
Street Environmentalist

Do you remember when I said that there is a provision for those who desire to recycle, repurpose and/or reuse a litter item? Well, here it is. For every piece of mislaid trash, that is either recycled, repurposed and/or reused, these items count as three (3) pieces of litter. For example, if you gather 5 pieces of wood to build a planter and then attach 2 pieces of litter (neat objects) to it, the total count of retrieved litter is 21. Please, do not runout the door to begin looking for street trash, or on second thought.

Many of you are probably wondering, how in the world is anyone going to keep track of all this data? Well, the raw data will stay in the hands of the litter gatherer. This is called, dodging a bullet. However, when an individual reaches a threshold (see table) they should email their accomplishment to thegardenalchemist@thegardendreamer.com. Of course, please include your first name or nick name along with the location where the majority of the debris was gathered. Don’t worry, your e-mail will not be used, sold or traded for any purpose. If this isn’t good enough, then contact me via this post and let me know the news.

As goofy as this all sounds, it’s for real. And, if we don’t start doing something more to eliminate street pollution, we will certainly place our planet in a ‘world’ of hurt. See what I did there? Also, this is a program based on the honesty of the players. Nobody is getting paid or getting their name in the paper, it’s just the right thing to do. So, get your hat ready and begin to pick up litter, and, don’t forget to announce this initiative to your circle of friends.

Not the end….

Waste Not, Want Not…

The title for this piece, “Waste Not, Want Not, is an old proverb dating back to 1872 and found in “Under the Greenwood Tree” by Thomas Hardy.  The idiomatic expression is noted as, “If one is not wasteful then one will not be needy”.  In a later writing (1910) by Edith Nesbit in “The Magic City” we find the following usage, “They take the cocoa-nut@s to the town kitchen”, said the captain, “to be made into cocoa-nut ice for the army breakfast; waste not want not, you know.”

The phrase, Waste Not, Want Not is seemingly simplistic and practical.  In the days when goods and services were less abundant it was natural for one to be frugal, resourceful and not wasteful.  Although, in the 21st century, Americans have become much more affluent with ample access to food and goods.  Well, perhaps it’s time to once again take stock in this earlier saying.   Quite frankly, I believe it has greater significance now than it did in 1872.  It embodies the essence of recycling as something important for us to consider in everyday life.

I have recycled the typical home-waste products (newspaper, glass, plastic, food scraps, metal, etc.) for almost 45 years.  We must rethink our role as a consumer of stuff and come to grips with being better stewards of our planet.

Although recycling alone is a critical effort toward the protection of our environment it seems that a more wholistic approach is in order.  Yes, I know this isn’t a new concept, but I believe that I may have something to add to this important environmental topic.  Evaluating what, how and why we consume goods is equally as important.  That’s where the rethink component comes into play.

When it became possible to recycle plastic bags, I promptly began to store all our veggie and grocery plastic bags in a blue recycling bag.  I was amazed at the quantity of plastic used by only two adults!!  During a period of two-years, we filled approximately 1 dozen blue recycling bags which were taken to Walmart’s drop off zone for plastic bag recycling.

If I hadn’t started recycling plastic bags, I probably would have never come to the realization that by doing so would make a difference toward the protection of our environment.  Take my lead here and begin stuffing a blue bag today.  I promise that you’ll be surprised at how much plastic you’ve been discarding to the landfill!

The second thing that occurred to me is the way in which I think about recycling, so I began to reconsider a more closed loop approach.  I understand that I have not created something new and am perhaps only borrowing other’s ideas, regardless, it’s a topic worth speaking about since the pollution of our environment effects every living organism on the planet.