No, the cigarette butts and coffee cups don’t melt and go away on their own. I wasn’t sure so I had to do some fact checking and that is the answer I received. I’ve decided to pen this weeks column on the reasons we as a city and community should be pitching in to clean up our roads, sidewalks, parks, and open spaces. It sounds like common sense, but if you’ve looked around lately, you’ll see litter everywhere. I guess people figure it’s ok to be litterbugs during the winter because the snow will cover it up but……NewsFlash.!…..the snow melts every spring and now we have a mess to clean. For the rest of us, we need to take back our city and show some pride.
I believe the businesses have a responsibility to keep their entrances and parking lots clean and the city has a responsibility for providing enough trash cans and butt receptacles on public area such as side walks. On Queen street for instance, there isn’t enough trash receptacles and butt containers. They should placed every 125 feet or so and have attractive signage to encourage people to respect their city and it’s reputation. Paint a happy face on the garbage can and have something like “hey, bring that over here please” or “you’re not going to drop that on the ground are you ?” brightly stenciled on it. I see this kind of forward thinking and motivational signage all over the world when I travel. It brings a sense of personality to the equation.
Business owners, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, and homeowners all have obvious reasons to maintain the appearance of their property, but when they don’t (for whatever reason) , they are not just hurting their bottom line, they are hurting their neighbors and our city’s reputation. When tourists walk our streets and see storefront litter , it sends a conscious and subconscious message. Things like cobwebs blanketing the lights on the boardwalk, or cigarette butts by the dozens one foot from the store entrance suggest that we don’t take pride in our community. These little things go a long way in how people perceive us. All you have to do is think of a place you have been that you always talk positive about, and nine times out of ten, the reasons behind those positive thoughts were things like cleanliness and attention to detail. Just think of Charlevoix, Mackinac Island, or Petoskey, and the first thing that comes to your mind is how neat and tidy they are.
I remember when I was a young gaffer (yes I was called this as a kid even though it makes no sense…. I googled it), and I attended Corpus Christi primary school. On a few occasions, my teacher Miss Fitzgerald, my fellow classmates, and I, would take an afternoon and we would go into the surrounding neighborhood and clean up the litter. Aside from the garbage bags and gloves, we brought with us a sense of pride. This was instilled in us at a young age and I would like to think that that is where my pride and respect for my city started. I don’t know if this is done anymore; I am going to say it’s probably not . I’ll bet some kid bruised a hair follicle on his or her hand, and after the lawsuit, the unions instructed the teachers to cease and desist this kind of activity. As we know, insurance and liability have taken over common sense. There is probably some legal precedent to this somewhere.
Anyway, for some reason when I think of cleanup crews, I think of people cleaning the sides of highways. Maybe “Adopt a Highway” is responsible for me thinking like this, but we really should be focusing on doing our part in the city more. The city in my opinion has an obligation to take a lead role in this area and have a decent public maintenance budget, especially in the downtown core. They should also provide shovels, gloves and garbage bags for any local group that wants to take on this initiative.
I encourage any local group or organization, whether it’s a running/bicycling club or a knitters club, to set aside an afternoon a few times each year and fill up some garbage bags. The sense of pride will be felt immediately.
I’m not letting myself off the hook either, I plan on doing this with my own club. (Good Morning Coffee and Tea Club) on Facebook. Since this article is going live, I have no choice but to follow through, so if you like coffee/tea, join the club and we’ll do this together.
Until then, I will be doing my part one burger wrapper at a time. I learned this sense of pride from my Mother who takes a lot of pride in our city. Speaking to her about this topic earlier this week, she told me she quite often will pick up a piece of litter or empty bottle she finds in the middle of the road, and will bring it home to put it into the recycling bin. It just takes a little effort from each of us to make a difference.
Having said that, if you happen to see my Mother pushing a grocery cart full of garbage down the street………….don’t worry she’s not down on her luck and homeless, ..she’s just doing her part. ?
Ernest Skinner Jr.
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