Spring is here, and that quintessential feeling of needing to clean out, purge and otherwise rid your personal environment of all the junk is in full effect. The sunny days and temperate weather are inspiring folks to start pulling weeds that sprouted up (literally overnight) and clean out the garage. Many are beginning to contemplate spring garden plans with visions of summer evening barbecues in their heads. Yes, spring is a typical time of rejuvenation for our personal habitats, but what about the entire community? Couldn’t we all stand to take a moment and contemplate the beauty of the natural environment that surrounds not just the place where we live but also the streets we commute on, the parks we play at and the businesses we patronize?
Our quality of life is directly affected by our environment. You all remember the drought we’ve been having, right? What if our city leaders never had the vision for T-Bar, for example? If this project never happened, our quality of life would be greatly affected. After all, we need water to live. Or what about that little ice-storm we had recently? Power outages occurred, personal property was damaged, and the cleanup effort extended into several weeks. The same can be said of litter — it directly affects the quality of life of our community.
Did you know that litter cleanup costs tax payers in Midland County hundreds of thousands of dollars each year? Your tax dollars fund not only regular solid waste pickup, but also recycling services, large item removal from illegal dumping and litter remediation programs overseen by Keep Midland Beautiful. For example, the inmate crews you see dotting Loop 250 are funded by your tax dollars funneled through KMB to pay the police officers who supervise these crews. Your tax dollars support the “Pick Up Some Trash to Pick Up Some Cash” fundraiser program that KMB oversees, where nonprofit groups can earn up to $3,000 per year to pick up litter. Your tax dollars buy the trash bags, gloves and safety vests KMB sends with its volunteers, so picking up trash is convenient for them. In addition, the economic impact of litter on businesses and the economy are well documented; I invite you to look into it. I don’t know about you, but I can think of many things I would rather see these tax dollars spent on than litter cleanup.
Litter is a preventable problem. It’s a result of human laziness, self-righteousness and apathy. Yes, sometimes litter is accidental. That is where KMB comes in. We want to educate more on the issue of litter prevention, not spend great amounts of time and effort remediating it. If people didn’t litter, there would be no need to clean it up. Imagine that. Then imagine all the wonderful things Keep Midland Beautiful and the city of Midland could do with the savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Here are a few ideas:
— More funding for EMS, fire and police services;
— More funding for transportation, to fix holes in the roads and add infrastructure;
— More funding for parks, to plant trees, drought tolerant landscaping and beautify public spaces;
— More funding for student environmental education.
Gosh, I feel like I could go on forever (but this column ends very soon, I promise). I think you get the idea. Of course, I want KMB to continue to be funded so that we can do all of the other great things we do. Our mission is to educate and engage Midlanders in litter prevention, beautification and waste management. I want to focus more on the prevention aspect and less on litter cleanup. Won’t you help me?
Join Keep Midland Beautiful as we clean up litter in our community this spring by signing up on our website at www.keepmidlandbeautiful.org and clicking the events tab. You can clean up now through the end of May to participate in the Great American Cleanup/Don’t Mess with Texas Trash-off. We will have a celebration picnic for our volunteers on April 11 at Hogan Park with food, fun and prizes.
Now I challenge you to take it even further. Here are a few suggestions:
— Pick up a piece of litter every time you go outside. Show others through this one act that your care about the quality of place in our town.
— Tell others how they can prevent litter: tying trash bags, closing lids on trash containers, securing truck loads and asking others to not litter.
— Join the Not In My Town initiative and let the community know that you do not accept littering in our community. You can sign the pledge and get great information at www.litterfreemidland.com.
We humans have a herd mentality. Right now, the behavior of littering is normalized. When people see litter everywhere, they won’t feel bad about adding to it. On the contrary, a clean environment encourages its care. Let’s get it cleaned up and keep it clean. Help me change the “dirty mentality” and make the norm in Midland to keep litter in its place — the trash.