For years I've taken a bag to the beach with me when I walked and have picked up rubbish to dispose of it safely. My kids learned to clean up rubbish from the beach or carpark or wherever we happened to be. It is our habit to pick up rubbish and put it in a bin if there is one available or to put it in our car and take it home to put it in the bin.
Something I've become aware of as a teacher is the concept of picking up rubbish being a punishment. I can remember being told to pick up rubbish at school. In fact, I think there were rubbish monitors so we just took turns in picking up what others or the wind had been careless with. It was more a duty back then and it was to keep the school grounds clean and tidy. Now that it is seen as punishment, young people are highly offended if you suggest that they pick rubbish up. I have picked up loads of food wrappings, juice cartons, drink bottles and other detritus in school grounds while kids stood by and watched. When I suggested they might help they responded, "Why? We haven't done anything wrong!" I suggested that they could just do it to make their environment nicer to be in and they looked at me like I was from another planet.
So who's responsibility is it to clean up? Should it be one person and not the next? Who suffers if the rubbish is not cleaned up? Eventually, all of us. I am right behind the Take 3 campaign which was the subject of the TEDtalk. The suggestion is that wherever you are you pick up 3 pieces of rubbish and take them home or dispose of them properly. We can all do it. It won't hurt us and it will help the planet. Every little bit will help. That's what we can do to help with the rubbish that is already out there floating around and winding up on the beach or in the car-park or wherever.
What about the stuff we are still buying? How can we cut down on the amount of rubbish we have to dispose of? How can we reduce the overall rubbish load of the planet. You might think that with all those factories belching toxic waste into the air and rivers that it's not worth making the effort, but it is! It's about developing consciousness and awareness of the fact that we are all connected to the earth and that we are dependent on it being healthy. If you start with being more thoughtful about what you buy and how you choose to dispose of rubbish, you will start to notice other things you can do too. If we all stop buying plastic junk, eventually factories will stop making it. There is no point if they're not making money.
Never think it's too late to help.
You are really helping yourself and your loved ones. You can make a difference. Yes. You.
Ways to cut down on disposable items:
- Carry reusable shopping bags. They are everywhere. Keep them in the car and use them! (note to self)
- Make a picnic pack and keep it in the car (knives, forks, spoons, bowls, plates, mugs) Wash them when you get home and put them back in the car.
- Toys - there are loads of plastic toys out there. Look instead for quality wooden or fabric toys.
- Avoid buying stuff you really don't need. Get critical when you go shopping online or in the mall. Ask yourself "How will this improve my life?" and "For how long will this improve my life?" then decide if it's really worth buying. You might save heaps too! Take a holiday somewhere on a nice clean beach!
You know, it's really about living more thoughtfully and if you choose that way, your life just becomes richer and more beautiful. Really it does. Please go and check out the website for Take 3 http://www.take3.org.au and let's see if we can encourage our young people to see picking up and avoiding unnecessary rubbish as making wise choices and taking good care of their home.
To those of you who are already doing some or all of those things I thank you because you are looking after my home too. What is the attitude towards rubbish in your home or your workplace? Do you have any hints for dealing with rubbish or avoiding it in the first place? Please share to help us all with ideas that might work.