Be the change

A sampling of the litter found on a Florida beach. Photo by Jennifer Hartzell

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is a motto I try very hard to live by, and to teach my children. I especially take this to heart as I go about my day and see litter on my street, in my neighborhood, and in my city. While I do not want to pick up that litter, I do, because that’s what I want everyone to do. If I don’t do it, why would anyone else?

This column is somewhat of a follow-up to my column in the last issue, about plastics in our rivers, lakes and oceans. Last week, my family and I were fortunate to vacation in Florida. We were on the east coast of Florida, near Delray Beach. This is a wonderful area of Florida if you haven’t been, as there are lots of great restaurants, shopping, ice cream, etc. However, along with great places to frequent comes lots of waste, especially single-use plastic waste.

My sister, my two daughters and I took a short stroll on the beach one day, and it turned into an impromptu beach cleanup. We did not set out to pick up trash, but could not help it. As we started walking, one of my daughters pointed out a plastic straw, so we picked it up. Soon, it became a mission for each of us to find plastic littered along the beach – and unfortunately there was plenty.

Almost all of what we found was plastic. Some of it was in its original form, and some of it was pieces of plastic. We found straws, broken beach toys, plastic bottles of all sizes, lots of plastic bottle caps, plastic forks, fishing line and more. When I say our beach stroll was short, I mean short; I don’t think we even went a quarter-mile. We had to head back to dispose of the trash we found, as we could no longer carry it.

What if every time people found litter, they picked it up? How much plastic could we prevent from getting into Lake Erie? My guess is we’d make a pretty good dent in what gets out into the lake. So many plastics end up there because they were sitting on a street or on a lawn, and got blown or washed into the storm sewer drain, and right out into the lake. How many times do you walk by a plastic bag caught in a tree? Or a plastic water bottle on the street? Picking up litter in your daily life is performing a beach cleanup every day.

Along with picking up litter as you come across it, another important thing to do is refuse single-use plastics. I feel like I’ve written that a million times in this column, and I’ll probably write it a million more. Refusing single-use plastics is the best way to keep plastic pollution out of our landfills and waterways. I am happy to report that I have become much better at refusing plastic straws. While on vacation and eating out multiple times, I made sure that when ordering, I said, “No straws please.” I also requested that my children be served their beverage in a glass, and not the single-use plastic cups with lids that so many restaurants give to kids.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Pick up litter when you see it, and teach your children to do the same! 

Read More on The Green Report
Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 10:00 AM, 05.02.2017