I admit it. I’m one of those anti-litter freaks. My intolerance of litter goes way back. It wasn’t instinctual and, like many people, I had to learn it. Thankfully I had someone there to teach me.
When I was 11, I visited my uncle in Missoula. He lived near the University of Montana. I would go exploring the foothills by myself and sometimes he would join me. On one hike, we kept passing bits of trash along the trail. A beer can here, a McDonald’s wrapper there. I would hike past them but my uncle kept stopping and going out of his way to pick the stuff up. I sighed, impatient. Then he handed me some. “Why are we doing this?” I asked. “Do we really have to carry all this trash around all day?”
He was not exactly amused and probably surprised by my bratty whine. He didn’t shed a tear like the Indian in the commercial, but he did sternly explain that if everyone littered and nobody cared enough to pick it up, the whole mountain would look like a dump. Then he took the trash away from me to carry it himself and didn’t say much for the rest of the hike.
I was embarrassed and felt like a complete loser, but the message was driven home. Ever since that day I have made it my mission to pick up any litter I find. Even if it’s out of my way.
Yup, I’m that guy.
Imagine how hard it was for me to live in NYC. Manhattan is like litterZILLA, so what would otherwise be a pleasant walk on the Upper West side was an exercise in restraint. Must… keep… enjoying… too much… garbage…can’t… ignore…
Still, litter irritates me to no end. I just don’t get it. I see an empty Big Gulp cup lying on its side, not three feet away from a trash can and my skin starts to turn green. I grunt and burst out of my shirt, leaving only knee-length cutoffs. That cup is now in mortal danger.
So yeah, I have this thing about litter. And when I can, I do something about it. So for my birthday on Saturday, I’ll be in litter cleanup heaven. Yup, I’m that guy.
Join us this Saturday, September 21st for Heal the Bay‘s Coastal Cleanup Day! We’ll be there with our buckets collecting old water bottles, cigarette butts, wrappers, and other trash that makes our beaches and creeks nasty.