With litter, everywhere is your neighbourhood

Have you ever heard someone say, when questioned as to why they are dropping litter, “it’s not my neighbourhood” or “I don’t live here” ? Whether you have or not, it is a thought that without doubt runs through the mind of at least some people who drop litter.

I read a thought-provoking article this week by Kyle Price who writes for the News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington state in the US. The point that he was making was that, where littering is concerned, we should consider everywhere to be our neighbourhood. Kyle cited examples from beaches to national parks to roadside verges – all places which are far from where people live and so are considered fair game for disposing of unwanted packaging.

And this set me thinking. Keep Britain Tidy will be launching their excellent new message “Love Where You Live” in October. This is a much-needed and more personally relevant update to the traditional “keep Britain tidy” exhortation that has been with us for the past 60 years. Love where you live – cherish it, respect it, look after it and also look after the other people who live in it.

And it made me realise that we mustn’t fall into the trap of regarding “where you live” as the street, neighbourhood, village or town where we happen to be based. No – we live on Planet Earth and that means that we must love the whole planet and certainly not restrict our environmental amorousness to our direct locality. How else are we going to persuade people not to chuck rubbish out of car windows (which people rarely do in their own neighbourhood), not to drop litter on the beach (some of which then gets washed away to grace lovely places many miles away) or even not to heave their bulky unwanted items over the garden fence (especially when there is a railway or a road on the other side).

Kyle Price also wonders whether we should step up our attempts to involve offenders in clearing litter but he concludes that he’s not sure he wants “the cleaning of the Earth to be a job that’s relegated to criminals. It really should be a job for all of us”. And he thinks, in response to his occasional feeling that picking up litter is a futile exercise, that “a community often experiences a powerful, positive change not when one person performs a huge feat of generosity and goodness – the positives usually happen when a large number of people perform many small actions”.

So listen out for Love Where You Live next month and please bear in mind that you live not only at your address – you also live on Planet Earth. In Kyle Price’s words : “Everywhere is our neighbourhood”.

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