Sunday, June 1, 2014

Spring Cleaning

The last two months have been all about the environment; save the Earth type stuff. It started with the warm up. It took forever but once the snow and ice had completely melted months of discarded trash was exposed. I saw piles everywhere. Soggy paper drinking cups,  aluminum cans, and glass bottles littered the sides of the roads. Farm fields were dotted with plastic grocery bags and cardboard. Plastic bags even hung from tree limbs along the ditch bank.

Who can enjoy a sunny Sunday walk or drive when the natural landscape is so exploited and obstructed? I couldn't, I couldn't even look out my window, so I recruited my family and the annual task began. We filled bags with trash and bins with recyclable items. We filled our yard cart with the bags and bins because they were too heavy to carry home. We collected as much as we figured our garbage service would take the following day and it seemed to be more than ever.

I originally planned to just clean the fields immediately to the east and west of our property but the more we picked up the more I saw in the distance. I vowed to clean the fields between our house and my in-law's one section at a time(about a mile of roadway). I didn't foresee the amount of time and dedication it would take to tackle this disturbing and enormous job.

I continued to patrol the roadside and gather trash for the next several Sundays as it is a busy thoroughfare and irresponsible uncaring motorists always have something to throw out. I fished out floating rubbish from the small pond where egrets and waterfowl nest. I crouched under low branches and dodged thorny bushes. I learned what to wear (long pants and surgical gloves) and what not to wear (flip flops and shorts) and developed a system to deal with it all and prevent further mishaps. (Once the bottom of a paper bag broke open in my garage so I got to clean up broken glass too).

My Sunday collections were never as massive as that first day but I did feel like I was getting somewhere.  In the weeks that followed I saw more spring wildflowers. I saw new young families of geese and ducks paddle in the pond. I saw less trash. So I tried to focus on the good to be able to deal with the human waste surrounding it.

Still it was upsetting and overwhelming. I took pictures to document what was collected. I manipulated photos and added text to make a statement. I wrote a poem to express my outrage. I posted pictures of the good and the bad.

Plastic bottles, fast food packaging, empty cigarette packs, and liquor bottles were the most prevalent find but some unique items were discovered as well. I found roller blades, an SAT study guide, women's foundation makeup, a broken cell phone, a temporary license plate, and a dollar.

After picking up and sorting recyclables today I decided I needed to be done for a while. The weeds are growing and corn has been planted. Any remaining and any new garbage will be less noticeable until next spring. Even though the clean up was a huge undertaking we only made a difference in our tiny corner of the world for a short amount of time. We only improved a couple acres of land for a few wild animals and those that live nearby or drive past. But it was worth it. Imagine if everyone did their share or even a little more. Imagine if all people cared for their community and made small changes to leave less of a negative impact on our planet. We only have one home after all.


This mess sat near the corner of Rt. 41 and Lincoln Highway in Schererville. I asked the bank manager to clean it up. Someone did at one point but it's piling up again.

It is just sickening.