by Marsha Rakestraw

The last couple of years, I’ve made a point of picking up at least one piece of trash a day from a street or parking lot. Since trash abounds, I readily exceed my goal.

And whenever we take our dog to the park for some swimming and ball-chasing, I spend a few minutes picking up trash around the park. Bits of plastic. Food wrappers. Cigarette butts. And sometimes even other dogs’ poop. (Dog poop bags make handy mini-trash bags and help protect my hands.)

Yes, ideally, there shouldn’t be trash to pick up in a humane world. In such a world, folks would pick up after themselves.

But, to help nudge us along that path, I recommend taking a few minutes to pick up others’ trash (using proper equipment).

Back when I was in college, before recycling was a household word, every few weeks my husband and I would grab some trash bags and walk three miles along a busy street in Wichita, Kansas, picking up trash and recyclables.

Our treat at the end for our work was a sugary, fluorescent-colored iced-drink at a fast food restaurant — and the knowledge that we were doing a good thing.

Even though it was a busy street crowded with asphalt, sidewalks, and buildings, it looked better without the paper wrappers, pop cans, and miscellaneous cast-offs.

I have a friend who takes a trash bag with her whenever she goes hiking, so that she can pick up the trash strewn along the trails.

I’ve seen people walking toward a department store see a piece of trash fluttering along the parking lot and stop to pick it up and put it in the trash can.

It may seem like it’s not our responsibility to pick up others’ trash, especially when it’s something that can be “gross.”

But, someone has to do it.

And, if the people who “should” aren’t, then it’s up to those of us who have an awareness and desire to create a just, compassionate, beautiful trash-free world to do so.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s great role-modeling for those who are watching.

They may be giving you the “Are you kidding?!” eye now, but you’ve planted a seed about a different way of living.