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Litter-picking, a surprising activity

Date:04 February 2022
Author:Green Office
Author — Lisa de Jong
Author — Lisa de Jong

Lisa's encounter with a stranger at the park led to learning more about a sustainable habit: litter-picking. Shifting our perspective on how we see the public spaces we use may help us feel more connected to them and, therefore, take care of them. 

In this blog, Lisa tells us about this inspiring encounter and the reasons why you should start litter-picking!

Inspirational encounter 

A couple of weeks ago I went on a long evening walk with my boyfriend. When we were crossing the Noorderplantsoen our eyes fell on an elderly man who had quite the walking pace. We greeted the man as we passed him and noticed that he was picking up the litter he came across during this little speed walk. When my boyfriend gave him a compliment about his valuable work, the man responded by telling us that he regarded the Noorderplantsoen as his own backyard and that by this daily cleaning spree he was not only maintaining his yard but also meeting his daily exercise goals. This man’s mindset of looking at the Noorderplantsoen as a place that he is allowed to enjoy and hence also a place for which he is partly responsible definitely inspired me. But, even though this man’s mindset was highly motivational, something still kept me from following his lead. Was it laziness? Or maybe the stigma that is attached to picking up other people’s trash? 

Thinking in solutions

On a different day, weeks from this first encounter, I noticed a young man in his running gear picking up litter from the area near the outer canal of the city. During his very early morning walk, he was cleaning up the litter he encountered on his route, carrying a garbage bag that was almost completely filled. These early hours allowed him to clean up the polluting litter in his neighborhood without the possibility of being judged by bypassers. Seeing this committed man in action, I immediately felt some kind of guilt for thinking solely of obstacles when considering a litter-picking walk. 

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Litter-picking, a surprising activity

A shift in mindset

Whatever it is that is keeping me from picking up other people’s litter, it can be tackled by committing to a goal and thinking of solutions for the obstacles I envisioned. I need a shift in mindset. Whether it was the laziness that was holding me back or the stigma around litter-picking, combining this activity with a walk or run to save time and meet my daily exercise goals and planning this activity in the morning to avoid crowds can be a solution to these obstacles. My commitment to the environment has to be bigger than these barriers. 

Inspire others

By cleaning up our neighbourhoods, we will not only be reducing the amount of polluting litter in the urban and natural environment but also contribute to keeping the neighbourhoods tidy which will hopefully cause a decrease in further littering of the area. Another possible outcome could be that we inspire others to join us in this goal (just as these encounters did with me) and cause this litter-picking to be regarded as a little bit less peculiar which would help in the process of tackling the stigma that is attached to this activity. If you still need to overcome some more barriers a more accessible option would be to look for and join organised community clean-ups in your area!

Lisa is a 26-year old American Studies student from the Netherlands. Through her studies she continuously is inspired to contribute to the understanding and spread of genuine information. She hopes to accomplish this and simultaneously stimulate humanitarian and environmental improvement by means of her writing