Since the weather has been pretty darn nice lately, I decided to replace my usual cardiovascular workout via the Elliptical trainer at the gym for power walks around my neighborhood. Being out in nature makes me happy, but that quickly sours when every time I go out for a walk, I find myself picking up trash -- lots of it. Just two days ago, at the beginning of my walk, I found 2 plastic bags. My initial reaction was fear of animals getting caught in them, so I picked them up and proceeded to fill them with recyclables as well as items for the landfill. Then I found a third plastic bag and filled that up fairly well, too. I ran into a neighbor who I've seen on my walks before and she said, "Thanks so much for doing this! I do it, too." She went on to explain that she had spotted another resident who cleaned up after our fellow residents. I was grateful to hear that because all of that trash, unless picked up, would end up in our treasured Chesapeake Bay.
We agreed that some of the waste we picked up had been blown around on trash day. However, some of it was just plain laziness... people treating Earth like a community trash can. When I see someone throwing a cigarette butt out their car window or dropping an ice cream wrapper on a sidewalk, I'm tempted to say, "Would you drop that trash on the floor of your living room at home?" Perhaps some people would, but I think the majority of us would not. We need to think of Earth as our living room. If you wouldn't throw it away on your living room floor, why dispose of it on Earth's floor?
Asking Your Attendees to Keep the Earth Clean
When planning your next conference, ask your attendees to participate in your event's green initiatives including picking up a piece of litter each day. This is exactly what Cisco Systems did for Cisco Live 2008. In addition to asking attendees to participate in the hotel's linen reuse program, lowering their thermostat, reducing water and light usage and unplugging their phone chargers, Cisco encouraged attendees to pick up a piece of litter each day.
If we all made the effort to dispose of our waste appropriately (and making the landfill the last option), perhaps one day, we won't need to use the term litter.