Pick up your own trash

Last Friday, I became an angry man about campus. Amazingly, I was not angry with any of my midterm exams, the papers I have to write or the readings I have to read. Instead, I was angry with one of my fellow students, who had intentionally littered the IU campus. At the time of my trek across campus, the Arboretum was in its typically beautiful state amid the falling rain, marred by nothing. Green grass and trees starting to bud accented the conversation I was having with my friend. Looking around the Arboretum, I noticed one of my fellow students coming across campus.

I kept talking to my friend, giving no thought to the young man walking toward me. He had been drinking from one of those bright red Coca-Cola cups and decided he was finished. Instead of depositing the cup at the next available garbage can, he set it on top of one of those posts by the side of the walkway. Now the unsightly and unnatural bright red cup marred the view. I was annoyed enough that I actually stopped the young man and made him pick up his trash.

I also gave him a short lecture on the inappropriateness of his actions by pointing out that there were a lot of trash cans around the campus. He seemed unmoved and I suspect he threw it down on the ground once he was out of my sight. Why was I annoyed with him so much? Because this student made an active choice to litter the grounds of IU and mar an otherwise beautiful campus. In short, his actions were intentional, deliberate and destructive.

I admit that, a couple of times, I have littered around Bloomington. The most recent case was when I reached into my mailbox and took out a stack of fliers. One of them got out of my hands just as a gust of wind swept by. The flier blew down the street and I chased after it but lost the race. It was neither intentional nor deliberate. It was destructive.

I did penance for my accidental littering by being extra conscious for the week after the accident. I picked up litter at every opportunity. In fact, the very next day, I picked up two fliers at rest beneath my mailbox. Clearly I don’t like it when I unintentionally litter, but people who intentionally litter really make me mad. This guy had a choice facing him when he finished his soda. He could either take the otherwise empty container to a trash can or leave it for somebody else to pick up. He chose the latter and sullied the view of the arboretum.

I’d like to keep the IU campus and Bloomington as beautiful as possible. If we all start picking up some of the litter we see on the ground, as well as confronting the litterbugs around us when they litter, perhaps we can make the community a better place to live and work.

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