Saturday, October 16, 2010

Take it to the street: Litter-free zone

Initially inspired by the phrase "One man's garbage is another man's treasure," I formulated a plan to spell out the word treasure using waste as in half-eaten chicken wings, sandwiches, french fries, etc. As a culture of consumption, we often buy more than we can chew and our trash bins (and streets) and filled with the unnecessary waste. The problem I had with this idea, is something that's bugged me ever since my mom took a walk with me around our neighborhood and we cleaned it up by picking up litter. I didn't want to create more of it.

And so I've migrated to a new outlet. Walking through my neighborhood, I'm often disgusted that there is so much trash on the ground. The city provides us with trashcans and yet people are still either too lazy or too dense to use them. A particular incident that sticks with me really pushes me to change people's attitudes about littering:

While riding the subway, I watched a woman walk off the train and rather than taking an extra step to drop her McDonald's bag in the trashcan, she bent down and shoved her trash between the train car and the platform. My jaw just dropped. Really?!

We see litter everyday; it's almost acceptable to see it in the city. So I'm striving to bring more awareness not only to trashcans, but also to litter. Hopefully this will help others take action as well.

1. Garden Signs. There is a withered flowerbed behind the bus stop at State and Roosevelt here in the South Loop. No plants grow most likely because it is infested with cigarette butts that people have carelessly thrown there. I will plant small decorative signs that you'd find in someone's garden (usually promoting nice messages) to provoke some action. Signs will say things such as: "Stop! A trashcan is just around the corner," "Keep me clean!," and "This is a flowerbed, NOT a cigarette butt bed."

2. Trash Pile. Gathering all of the trash from a single segment of sidewalk into one place and pointing it out is a great way of showing other just how much litter there really is. I would pile it on top of a piece of craft paper that would read "This litter was all gathered from our Roosevelt Road sidewalks. Help keep our streets clean. Use the trashcan!"

3. Use Me. Oh those poor trashcans. Sitting there day by day with no one uses them. I'm sure they're aching for attention. I will dress trashcans up with banners that read "USE ME" in hopes that passerby will actually notice and take action.

4. Litter-free Zone. Again using a trashcan, I'll create an imaginary barrier around it in which text reads "Litter-free Zone." Litter that people have carelessly left will be gathered up against the edge of this imaginary barrier leaving people wondering, "Why didn't you just take the extra step to drop your trash in the garbage bin?"

Did you use the trashcan today?

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