Don’t Be An Angry Hypocrite: Clean Up Litter

“Things do not change; we change” – Henry David Thoreau

Much of what we are attempting to achieve at Angry Hypocrites is making a positive impact in our communities, in the environment, and within ourselves through the adoption of simple, incremental habits in our daily lives.

The first habit we cultivated in order to make a difference in the world around us was to begin carrying a trash bag and trash grabber with us when we walk our dog. Walking the dog everyday is something we were already doing, so the addition of the trash bag was a fairly minimal addition to our routine.

Most people would agree that you shouldn’t litter, yet our communities remain filled with the remnants of our collective carelessness. Should we do something to offer even the slightest remedy to this issue? We think so. Why? Litter is, first and foremost, a form of pollution. The microplastics from various forms of trash, for example, have already entered the ocean’s food chains, including organisms that comprise a portion of the human diet.

Beyond seafood, litter can cause human health and safety hazards. Needles, diapers, broken glass, and nails can all lead to a litany of health concerns if directly encountered. Litter is also undeniably harmful to wildlife across all ecosystems. If the risk litter poses to your health, the health of your community, and the health of wildlife does not interest you, perhaps the financial impact of litter will serve as motivation. In the United States alone, litter costs taxpayers an estimated $11.5 billion dollars in cleanup, according to Keep America Beautiful.

The modest tweak we made to our daily ritual has produced outstanding results. We live near a bus stop that picks up students at the local college. Unfortunately, the bus stop and the path leading to it in both directions are regularly cluttered with trash. During our short 45-minute walk we almost always fill the entire trash bag with everything from plastic bags to cigarette butts. The path follows a small stream, lined with bushes and trees that flows behind the neighborhood. The stream is replete with local waterfowl, ground squirrels, hawks, rabbits, and other small critters. Our goal is to pick up as much litter along the path as we can to ensure that it does not enter the waterway or harm animals that utilize this habitat. Keep America Beautiful indicates that approximately 18% of all litter ends up in streams and waterways as pollution.

We believe that if we all take even the slightest amount of pride in our communities and the environment, and treat our communities as we treat our own property, things will get better for all of us. That is why, at the very least, we hope that when you see litter, you won’t just feel anger or disgust towards it and keep walking, you will stop to pick it up as you would if that same piece of litter was left on your front lawn.

We don’t believe for a second that someone who is careless enough to litter on a regular basis will read this post and suddenly lift their eyes from the screen, and say “I’m going to stop being a careless jerk today.” No, that is not likely to be the case. We hope that this article demonstrates to those who do care, but have not figured out how to act, that grabbing a trash bag next time you take a walk can make a significant difference in your community.  It is so easy and simple to do and the cost to you is minimal, we purchased our trash grabbers for $5 on Amazon.

If nothing else, when you see your trash collection at the end of the walk, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, as if your walk served a greater purpose. Which of course, it did. If you don’t have time for a walk, make a conscious effort to pick up trash wherever you are during your day. Pick up that soda can that has been rolling around the sidewalk in front of your work for the past two days. Recycle the abandoned water bottles the next time you take a hike. Ensure snack bags left on the playground when you take your children to the park find a recycle bin. Those pieces of litter seem negligible on their own, but over time the accumulation of litter creates environmental pollution on a global scale. If you can incorporate even some of these minor efforts, you will know the joy of making a minute, but tangible improvement in the world. You will have begun transitioning from sideline complainer to your community’s star player. In time, your cumulative efforts will lead to something better within you and it may even inspire others to do the same.    

We implore you to stop waiting for things to change around you. How many times have you witnessed something that caused you to say, “Wow, someone really needs to do something about that.” That someone is you.  If you hate the thought of litter in your community, in the ocean, harming wildlife, pick up the trash and encourage the people in your life to do the same.  No one is going to change things for you. Not in your neighborhood, not at your job, not at home, not in life. Don’t wait. Act!

We have articles in the works about the amazing benefits of adopting an animal companion, donating to a cause you are passionate about, biking instead of driving, and citizen science.  Check back soon to hear more about how we are trying to stop being angry hypocrites and start acting.  Follow us on Instagram (@angryhypocrites) to stay updated.


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