For many years I have traveled to Greece and witnessed things which have changed during those visits. In years past the joke would be that if one were homesick for Americans all you had to do was to stand by a trash container. Invariably the only persons using them were foreigners. While traveling outside Athens the roads were covered with all sorts of trash. This year I realized that the exact opposite was the case. I would routinely witness Greeks going out of their way to find a receptacle and deposit their trash. This action was multi-generational and how remarkable to watch a parent instruct a child in throwing away whatever. The countryside is far cleaner and you get the impression that someone cares. Obviously some form of education has changed thinking.
Mine is the generation of indoctrination against litter. Among my contemporaries the notion of throwing waste out a car window or dropping on the ground was firmly forbidden. Even now an act of litter pretty much causes me to have a physical reaction. I lurch if seeing trash being chucked without a thought. Many recall the advertisement of a Native American with a tear and the admonishment that litter hurts.
This brings me to my point of the stunning observation of Hartford streets teeming with trash. As a resident of Asylum Hill I witness parents and children who simply drop whatever waste they have in hand without a thought. One day I watched mother and daughter, walking hand in hand, dump candy wrappers simultaneously. At stop lights entire McDonald’s trays are simply shoved out the window of a car. Often we are informed that the Hartford Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) is our ally in cleaning the streets and sidewalks of the Hill. Litter is a line item on its budget. I am especially shocked on a Sunday morning to walk through a sea of trash on my way to church, very hard to ignore the waste and wonder what goes on in one’s mind to spoil Farmington Avenue. One might argue that the City does not empty trash containers frequently enough which might have some merit. The greater question in my mind is what does this say about our city? Obviously this speaks directly to a community which thinks so little of itself that trashing it is done without reflection, thoughtlessly. I see no evidence of making the public aware of how badly litter reflects on Hartford or what it says to our belief in it.
What are we able to accomplish if greater attention was paid to a city which respects itself enough to prevent littering? It is a small observation but I believe that it speaks volumes.