Littering Trashed My Perception


Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Rascal and I have been going for 20-minute morning walks around the neighborhood, willing spring to show up. Along my way, I have noticed the budding tulips, the hardy hostas coming back for a new season, the flowering pink trees and the plastic water bottles, beer bottles and McDonald’s bags at my feet. There was even a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s littering my pathway one morning. The beauty of spring gave way to the trash littered along my walk. I even began counting plastic water bottles. On a one-mile walk I counted 18.

Soon, my walks turned into meetings with the voice in my head that insisted we had to do something about the litterbugs. Launch an ad campaign, hire a litter rapper, build an app, reintroduce people to Iron Eyes Cody!  Last Tuesday, I took pictures of the litter while I walked home so I could not only write a blog post about all about our awful neighborhood litterbugs, but so I could also show it to you. After snapping a picture of two glass beer bottles, I reached down with judgment and frustration, picked them up and threw them into the garbage. Strangely, the next thing I noticed was the lilac bushes getting ready to bloom and a really beautiful red tulip just a few feet from the beer bottles. After I snapped a picture of a McDonald’s bag, I threw it away…and noticed a bunny hiding behind a bush. Soon I was reinvested in coming of spring as I walked along…and completely forgot to write about the neighborhood litterbugs when I came home.

My morning walks have been different ever since I picked up those two beer bottles. I now make it point to pick up a couple pieces of litter on my walk. Just a few—I don’t even carry a plastic bag—and what I have noticed is that the idea of litter no longer consumes my thoughts or gets in the way of seeing the tulips or smelling the lilacs. I’ve also noticed kids using garbage cans, and one older man greeted me while bagging someone else’s left-behind litter. Before I had trashed those two beer bottles, our conversation would surely have been about trash and litterbugs, but instead it was about being grateful for the beautiful sunny day.

Perception is funny, isn’t it? The mere act of throwing away the litter I was complaining about completely changed my walk. I saw less litter and more beauty. Now, I also notice people supporting my efforts to stamp out litterbugs. I suspect launching a litter campaign would have increased the amount of litter I saw and supported my viewpoint that our neighborhood needed my campaign.

The litter wasn’t mine, but the experience of the litter was—and through my action, I changed my experience.

Any thoughts?

I have not always been a litter pacifist -Litter Fist Fight.

15 thoughts on “Littering Trashed My Perception

  1. What a great example of creating your life the way you want it to be. Makes me think about all the different ways this could work. I guess the possibilities are limitless. It is easier tho just to blame other people and shake your finger. Changing your thinking is hard work. At least for me. Great stuff. BTW, Litterbugs! I can’t tell you the number of parents that let their kids leave there sports snacks and water bottles on the sideline. Like the field has a maid to pick up after them. Next game, it will be hard, but I’m just going to start gathering the trash without saying a word except to my own kids!

    • Changing your thinking is hard, I would much rather trash other people. Ha. Oh, I would say something to the kids, I’m afraid in that circumstance they would let you take over garbage duty. But you could just take some plastic bags and hand them out to all the parents wordlessly :-D.

  2. Nice post. I think one person can do a lot to improve things. Complaining about a situation is usually just a wastes of energy. I also agree that basic good citizenship means picking up after yourself and parents, teachers, and coaches first need to make sure they are picking up their trash and then insist that the kids do the same. Leave a place cleaner than when you arrived. I hadn’t thought about Iron Eyes Cody in a very long time.

    • Me either, someone else reminded me of the old “chief.” Cole says a lot of his friends just throw their stuff on the ground which really surprised me. Littering was such a big deal when I was a kid.

  3. you’re right. complaining doesn’t do it, action does. just making that 1st effort to take care of someone else’s trash is a huge one. getting past that *it’s not mine* point of view. well done, katybeth! looks as though you have followers now.

    • Funny, I think those people were probably always there, but until I took action I could not see them. Kind of like learning a new word and then hearing it every where you go. Thanks.

  4. Good for you! I’ve always heard that we can change our circumstances by changing our perception. By your good deed of picking up some trash, you were able to focus on all the beauty of Spring. Much easier on the psyche to turn our thoughts to good things, rather than concentrating on negativity — there’s quite enough of that going around anyway!

    • Exactly. My goal in the beginning was to enjoy a walk with my pup and see the beauty of spring. Picking up a few pieces of trash, rather than making other people bad and wrong helped me do that …the win was really mine.

  5. My parents used to walk the mile out of their little sub to the ‘big road’ and back each day. They always took a plastic bag and picked up all the litter. They noticed after some months of this that there was less and less…and that people waved to them as they drove past. When they died in 2004 a group of neighbors told us they were going out each weekend to pick up litter in Mom and Dad’s honor. That was 9 years ago..they still do it today.

  6. I’m a pretty regular litter picker upper. One time at an amusement park that was not as clean and well maintained as Disney I reached down while I was walking and scooped up a pile of napkins that were laying in the street, only to find they were covered in vomit. People are gross! However, I still pick up the trash

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