Slim Jim wrappers and beer bottles in my bag

I came home the other day smelling like booze. No, I hadn't been drinking, but I was picking up after someone who had been drinking and driving. Does that little bit of evidence worry you as much as it does me?

I have read about people being fined or going to jail for DUI and other offenses but never for littering. Maybe we ought to get tough on litterbugs and send them to jail, too.

The mindless, selfish act of littering really boggles my mind. I'm trying to do my part by picking up after others. I also keep a plastic bag in my car to dispose of tissues, wrappers and whatnot. This doesn't make me a better person; it just means I care a lot about the environment.

I received my lessons in childhood from an environmentally-minded neighbor. Her name was Phyllis Arrison. We called her Mrs. Arrison, but she didn't mind it if we slipped and called her Phyllis. Mrs. Arrison had all of the kids on the block picking up garbage long before we knew what a "litterbug" was. She was a good woman and taught us well.

When you think of it, we really do learn just about everything we need to know from our parents, neighbors and the other grownups. Lessons on caring for the environment are no exception. From the looks of it, few are rising to the call. If that's the case, maybe our schools should add to core curricula lessons on how to leave a place cleaner than you found it.

As happy as we all are to get rid of that white stuff, the melting snow is uncovering a mess of empty fountain containers, frozen vegetable bags, Mountain Dew bottles, candy boxes, Slim Jim wrappers, shattered CDs, Wal-Mart bags, chewing tobacco tins, packaging foam and even dirty diapers. And that's the short list. Is there anything people won't toss on the ground?

Do you find it as difficult as I do to understand how anyone could denigrate the environment by littering? People must be all mixed up about where to throw their trash. Just look at all the garbage littering our super highways, city streets, parking lots and public sidewalks.

What makes more sense: holding onto fast food wrappers, cigarette cartons and the like and throwing them away in a waste receptacle or tossing them out the car window? Maybe that's the problem: people who litter have no sense at all.

I can't think of a single reason why people litter, save stupidity. Who are these people anyway? Don't they know Earth has been put in our care and if we don't treat it right, who will? Why don't litterbugs realize that every piece of garbage pollutes our earth, chokes our streams and rivers and eventually poisons our oceans.

Littering is a shameful act against nature and subsequently humankind. If everyone would just stop littering, the world would be a much better place.
Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.
2010© Paula Damon

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