By Aryn Henning Nichols
Originally published in the Spring 2018 Inspire(d)
I don’t know about your neighborhood, but in ours, it always seems like there’s a bit more grime and litter in the spring. It’s surely caused by wind blowing bits of trash out of cans all winter long, then burying them in snow for us to uncover come spring. Luckily, spring is the perfect time to get out of the house. The sun shines, the days are a little bit longer, and that first 60-degree day feels like it’s a mid-summer 80. We like to head out for walks, but not just any walks: Superhero Walks!
What’s a superhero walk, you ask? We’ll, let me tell you. One spring day, Roxie, Benji, and I went out for one of those springtime walks. It was beautiful! But then, up ahead, we spotted some trash. “Shoot,” I said. “I wish we had brought a bag!” Then, like magic, a bag blew across the street. Since it was a little chilly still, we had on gloves (hooray, it was more sanitary!), so we picked up the bag, put the trash in it, and commenced our walk.
In a few short blocks, that bag was full.
A funny thing happened – it made the walk even more fun, like a trash scavenger hunt. We plopped the bag full of trash into our can, and looked around with pride. Then I looked at Roxie. “You know, we were kind of like superheroes just then,” I said. She smiled a huge smile, “Yeah, totally!” And thus Superhero Walks became a thing for our family.
These days, we try to be a little more prepared so we can put on our “capes” whenever needed. Turn the page for some tips on being a Superhero Clean-up Crew in your own neighborhood.
Take a Superhero Walk
Head out into your neighborhood and pick up litter – like an earth-loving superhero!
- Trash bags (plastic grocery sacks seem to work well for walks – two can be nice: One for trash, one for recycling). Tip: Always store a sack in your jacket pocket so any walk can be a Superhero Walk.
- Gloves – disposable plastic ones are probably a good idea, but at least little knit ones so you’re not handling germy trash with your bare hands.
- Eagle eyes for spotting wayward litter.
- A sense of adventure!
- Simply walk along, watching for trash! Make sure to wear your gloves when you pick it up and put it in the appropriate bag. You can even make it a game, and the person who picks up the most trash gets a prize! Cupcakes? Brownies? A hug?
- Throw the trash away and put the recycling in appropriate bins, and look around at your cleaner neighborhood. Good job, superhero!
Easy! Make sure to wave hi to neighbors!
If you have kids, ask some questions while you’re walking or when you get home. Here are some ideas:
What kind of trash did you see most often? What could be done to help with that problem?
Why is it important to pick up litter?
What would our neighborhood look like if everyone littered? How would that feel?
What other ways can we take care of our neighborhoods, homes, or other spaces where we live?
Tip: Supervise kids closely – be careful on riverbanks or near roads. Have grown-ups handle dangerous items – like broken glass – or if the litter is too gross, don’t mess with it. Make sure kids know to ask grown-ups for advice on making this call.
Want to take it a step further?
Adopt a Highway
State Departments of Transportation (DOT) have ongoing partnerships with citizens to help maintain the appearance of state roadsides by making sections of roadsides available for adoption. The program also helps increase public awareness of environmental needs along highways. See your state’s DOT website for more information.
Get Social #litterati
www.litterati.org – Through this movement, more than a million pieces of trash have been Instagrammed, and then disposed of properly.
It’s pretty simple:
- Find a piece of litter
- Photograph it with Instagram
- Add the hashtag “#litterati”
- Throw away or recycle the litter
Photos of trash on the Great Wall of China inspired the design of a global map that uses GPS to display where litter hashtagged with #litterati is being collected.
“Geotags provide insight into problem areas, while keywords identify the most commonly found brands and products. This data will be used to work with companies and organizations to find more sustainable solutions,” it says on litterati.org.
Download the Litterati app to join in on the information-collecting geotagging part. (Rochester, Minnesota, is already online, but other Driftless areas may need to be added.)
According to the data collected, as of printing:
544,178 people in the US had tagged and disposed of or recycled a piece of trash.
Most commonly tagged items:
This movement encourages you to simply “Take 3” pieces of trash with you when you leave the beach, waterway or…anywhere. Snap a photo and hashtag #take3forthesea to encourage others to do the same. The non-profit Take3fortheSea was established in 2009 based in Sydney, Australia. They offer educational programs to inspire the global community to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations.
On of our favorite places ever, the California Academy of Sciences, has mapped out “A Plan for the Future We Want.” They’ve offered up some solutions and ideas, zeroing-in on the main causes of our environmental challenges: food, water, energy, us.