Editorial: Cleaning up is a no-brainer, but some of us are brainless

Written by on August 22, 2012 in Blogs, Guide Point - No comments

Littering is bad; most likely everyone knows this.

We applaud Bridget Parlato and everyone participating on her Baltimore Trash Talk page on Facebook for their willingness to take action: documenting litter problem areas, cleaning up those areas, and brainstorming long-term solutions. (See last week’s article,

“Doing more than just talking trash.”

We hear about the adverse effects of littering all the time:

A neighborhood strewn with trash invites crime and lowers property values.

Garbage in the streets finds its way into Chesapeake Bay.

Litter everywhere can discourage new businesses from opening up shop and improving quality of life for all.

Various solutions have been proposed by city officials and entities: completely banning polystyrene containers from Baltimore, adding a tax to plastic shopping bags, paying dedicated enforcement personnel to patrol neighborhoods and hand out fines, etc.

We like Parlato’s argument—when you don’t put trash in its proper place, you negatively affect your own life. Until people realize and act on this, there will be trash in the streets.

Even when you don’t consider the negative health and economic impacts of littering, Parlato’s argument rings true.

When your living room has dust balls everywhere, or the kitchen trash stinks and needs to go out, life in your home is simply less pleasant. When your neighborhood or business has trash blowing around on the sidewalk, it’s also less pleasant—for you, your guests, and your customers.

It’s not different from, hypothetically speaking, neglecting to take an old banana or open bag of peanuts out of your work bag. You get banana slime and peanut dust all over everything, and you look foolish when you have to share your notes with a coworker.

We would say that Parlato’s argument has a positive corollary: When you do put trash in the proper place, you positively affect your own life—or at least you can avoid some negatives.

Editor’s Note: This lesson was reinforced for me this morning as I was walking my 19-month-old daughter to daycare. She hasn’t been walking for very long, and she trips and falls a lot. Somewhere along the short route, I looked at the sidewalk and noticed shards of glass from a smashed bottle of Smirnoff Ice, or similar non-beer alcoholic beverage. I made sure she didn’t fall there—she could have seriously cut herself on the broken glass.

“How terrible!” I thought. “Somebody should do something about this!”

Well, it didn’t occur to me until I was at work, in a preachy editorial mindset, that somebody is me.

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