–Written by guest blogger David Zwick, Admin. of PAL – People Against Litter
I’ve camp/traveled full time since retiring, and am just finishing my third winter here in the desert southwest. While I was loving my travels I was troubled by the amount of litter I saw. Last year when I returned to one of my favorite camping spots in the hills above Pahrump, Nevada among the Joshua trees I found that a homeless camp had grown up and been abandoned in the year since my first visit. I said, “That’s it. I’m starting a litter group!”
I’ve camped my whole life and always picked up litter. But I was new to anything that might be called litter activism and was really at the height of my ignorance. I really thought it was going to be the first litter group in the universe! Then I learned about Clean up Pahrump, which meets every Saturday morning. And I learned that two other really troubling places in Arizona had already been cleaned up by a group there. I started searching online and found that there are lots and lots of volunteer groups all over the country. So I decided that PAL would best serve by becoming a sort of “litter central” – a place where people from across the country could meet and discuss all things litter-related. To my surprise I found that people really appreciated having a national forum!
PAL now includes litter veterans and newbies like me from all over. It’s become a great place for folks to encourage and cheer the work of others, as well as a place to learn. My personal goal for the group is to do as much as possible to bring longterm change. And I see a lot of the same ideas, goals and values expressed on the PLIKING site.
While my initial motivation for picking up litter was pretty much just aesthetic, I’ve since been learning about the environmental damage that litter, particularly plastic in its many forms, causes, and that has just added to the desire to do my part. I think coming in completely ignorant has been an advantage. I have no problem asking “dumb” questions (I remember asking a litter veteran in Arizona, “What’s a transfer station?”)
Other having been a volunteer in the past, the only experience that I can specifically see as having been good preparation for PAL was reading. In my younger days I had a few rough edges (still do, but definitely fewer) when it came to dealing with people. I began reading self-improvement books and over the years have read a shelf of them that’s wider than my wingspan. They helped me to become a better husband, father and person to myself and others. Now if I’m at a loss for what to say in a given situation I can ask myself what Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey or Napoleon Hill would say.
The reason PAL has gone from a nice retirement hobby to a real passion for me is the people. As Wayne Hollins, a long time litter picker and founder of Arizona’s Cactus Cleaners pointed out to me, “People who are willing to pick up after strangers are good people.”
I don’t know if a day has gone by since hearing that, that I haven’t thought of it. There is so much truth and wisdom in that statement! Through volunteer work in the past as well as a couple of business ventures, I learned that when you’re dealing with the public there are going to be a few who come across as jerks (what’s that saying about “There’s one in every crowd”?) Except for the very few who are trying to gain financially from the efforts of volunteers, I’ve yet to meet a litter picker who was anything other than a truly good-hearted person.