Friday, May 28, 2010


For quite some time now, I've been thinking about writing about litter...aka...trash.  For the past 15 years or so, I've been walking or jogging through my little city.  From the beginning, I couldn't help but notice the trash that littered the streets.  While I am sure Decatur is not the worse example of the negative impact of humans' disrespect..yes, I said disrespect...of our environment; however, it can be disturbing to see the speckling of wrappers, bottles, cans, and containers starkly in contrast to the seasonal delights of nature.  Amidst the cherry blossom and dogwood trees, a beef jerky wrapper or crushed McDonald's cup..or, as I also personally observed this morning, lovely hydrangeas, gardenias, honeysuckle bushes, punctuated with Skittle and Snicker wrappers, a Capri Sun pouch, and a few nondescript plastic and styrofoam remnants.  I can't help but feel a bit saddened at their sight.

Without delving to deeply into the anthropological or sociological implications of the types of litter I witness, I cannot help but notice that, in my own personal observation from over a decade and a half of traveling through my city, 90% or more of the waste I see is less-than-favorable food food.  It appears to me that those willing to trash the outside environment may also be less mindful when it comes how they treat their insides.  Let's just say I have never found a organic chips or raw fruit/nut bar wrappers lining my path in all the years I've been mindful enough to notice. 

Also, I am not claiming to be without fault or responsibility myself...I know I've added to this problem in my past at some point or another.  However, once I became mindful of how I treated my body on the inside, I also become mindful of how I treat the world outside of my body.  When we know better, we DO better.  What I began, many years ago...when not running late for work or an appointment, was to make picking up litter a sort of exercise and game.  I am not claiming to have had the sole intention of cleaning up the universe...I must admit that my initial motivation stemmed from my own obsessive compulsive nature and a desire for a few more squats as part of my exercise routine.  I don't think that really matters, though...after all, the only reason I began doing yoga was for the yoga butt, not peace nor stillness. 

Intentions aside, while walking home this morning after teaching my regular Friday 6am hot yoga class, I began to think about the issue of litter and steps we can all take to be part of the solution.  Here are a few steps that we can make in order to turn what appears to be mindLESSness into mind-FULL-ness:

  • Awareness...notice your surroundings in your neighborhood, even if it is just the street in front of your own home.
  • Move...if you've not already implemented a walking or jogging regimen, begin one, even if just for 5-10 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week.  Start where you are and build from there.  Do squats or lunges each time you lean down to pick up trash.
  • Action...when you set out upon your walk or jog, make a goal of picking up at least one piece of trash.
  • Share ...tell friends and neighbors or make a game or contest out of numbers of items picked up or perhaps on who can find the weirdest or funniest or most interesting discarded object(s).
  • Be safe...careful of what you pick up...wear gloves if needed or just leave any item in question.
  • Expand...allow this mindfulness and PRO-activity to grow into other areas of your life...begin composting or recycling if you've not already done so.  Use less, need less, walk more..know that less IS more.  One thing I began doing is using less napkins or reusing a napkin if it wasn't soiled.
Change begins with awareness and from there, the possibilities are endless.  If every person picked up just one piece of litter a day, the world would be less polluted.  I know there are still landfills and waste and a pile of plastic and trash in the ocean the size of Texas.  There is no such thing as perfection.  It's a start, however, so why not?  Sometimes I make it part of my squats or lunges for that day and call it a work out.  Other days I decide that for my half mile or so jaunt, I'll focus on even a modicum of tidiness on my side of the street and recycle what I can from that day's "loot."  Maybe I am just a nut, but you know...even if it is only a small area or if it gets trashed again the next day...just feels good.  Maybe, just maybe, a little proactivity can be a fine example for others too....who knows, this could be the next trendy thing!

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