I’ve lived in Charlottesville, VA for about 3 1/2 years, and most people that live here, have gone to school at University of Virginia, or have visited find that this is a really pretty city. I agree, but I must say, it’s also pretty trashy! And I mean that in a literal sense. There is a lot of litter here, everywhere: trash, broken bottles, food, dog poop. And it’s on the downtown mall and public sidewalks where people walk, run, bike with their kids, or push their babies in strollers. I’m ashamed and embarrassed about it, annoyed, and quite frankly, confused. In this day and age where the environmental and sustainability messages dominate the print and airwaves, who litters? Who purposely rolls down their window and throws out their McDonald’s bag, or tosses their beer bottle on the sidewalk, or allows their dog to do their business without picking it up? Who is that unconscious?
I’m a Texan—one of the obnoxiously proud ones—and love the phrase we coined in the 1980s, “Don’t Mess With Texas.” It became the anti-littering campaign for the state, but it also started a movement, giving rise to a new consciousness about what it means to not trash our state, our neighborhood, our country, our planet. And that was over 25 years ago, before “green” became the most common word in the English language.
And when I moved to New Hampshire clean living and respect for the earth was a lifestyle; not because it’s the “in” thing, but because it makes sense. Why would you trash the environment that gives us our food, our air, and our water? The general commitment to recycling, local food, and protecting that which is precious is evident and can serve as an example for the rest of the world. In fact, I featured Keene, NH as a case study in my final Capstone project on Sustainable Communities for my graduate program in Sustainability through Arizona State University. Residents would never dream of throwing away a bottle or can in the trash—it gets recycled—much less on the sidewalk or in the park!
Which brings me back around to Charlottesville. There is no more beautiful place on earth than Charlottesville in the spring, when everything is in
bloom with the colors and brilliance of the flowers and leaves. Unfortunately, many natural plants and shrubs are interrupted with a drink cup or fast food bag, and you may not be able to lift your eyes off the sidewalk where you’re walking for fear of stepping in dog poop to even notice the cherry blossoms on the branches above you. I’ve heard the term “sustainable city” sort of loosely thrown around here at times; but before we can even begin to spell it, we must start with the very basic environmental concept of not littering! It’s not for lack of trash and even recycling receptacles. And it is certainly not up to waste management or city personnel to clean up after the city’s residents. Have some respect, and “Don’t Mess with Charlottesville!”...or any other city in the world for that matter.
Published by: Connie Glover in Sustainability