Pick­ing up on the keep it green mes­sage

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

It was one of those silken spring­time days. The sun was gen­tle and the breeze was warm. Glo­ri­ous mag­no­lia trees were flaunt­ing their pre­his­toric blooms up and down Poole Street. We had no place we needed to be, and the air was light with op­ti­mism.

We were am­bling to­wards home af­ter kindy when my fouryear-old took us on a de­tour to the Michael My­ers walk­way. Then, be­ing four, he took a de­tour off the walk­way and into the jumble of vines in the glade.

‘‘Mum,’’ he called out, af­ter a cou­ple of min­utes. ‘‘Glass!’’

He waved an empty wine bot­tle at me, which I stowed grimly un­der the push chair. Soon enough, he found an­other, and an­other. We dis­cov­ered nine aban­doned wine bot­tles in that serene lit­tle clear­ing, as well as a cou­ple of beer bot­tles and an en­ergy drink can that was thrown in there for bad mea­sure.

I bal­anced that pre­car­i­ous load all the way home to our re­cy­cling bin, my mood of op­ti­mism some­what de­flated.

En­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness is a pow­er­ful and con­fronting thing – you only have to stum­ble over one YouTube clip of a drink­ing straw be­ing ex­cru­ci­at­ingly ex­tracted from a sea tur­tle’s nos­tril be­fore you find your­self un­able to walk past storm drains with­out check­ing for tee­ter­ing fast-food pack­ag­ing.

Our fam­ily does its fair share of lit­ter col­lec­tion. More than its fair share, ac­tu­ally, be­cause I don’t think I could drop a piece of rub­bish in the street if I tried. The very act would feel as un­nat­u­ral to me as, say, driv­ing with­out a seat­belt, or rub­bing wasabi in my eye. I was ob­vi­ously a re­cep­tive and obe­di­ent stu­dent when the Tidy Kiwi mes­sage was be­ing touted in my youth. I’m duly pass­ing on this small de­vo­tion – one of my two-year-old’s first full sen­tences was, ‘‘Get the rub­bish!’’, is­sued as a di­rec­tive to me from his pushchair.

En­ergy drink cans are the most per­plex­ing piece of lit­ter that I col­lect. As a prod­uct, th­ese elixirs clearly do not work, be­cause con­versely the con­sumer so of­ten seems to be drained of all en­ergy, just man­ag­ing their fi­nal sip be­fore the strength in their hand fails them and the can tum­bles help­lessly from their grasp.

I can only as­sume that’s how it goes, any­way.

The first time I heard a foreigner scoff at New Zealand’s clean, green im­age, I was out­raged con­tains such phe­nom­e­nal nat­u­ral beauty, but it’ll take ac­tual hu­man ef­fort to pre­serve it. I’m no en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­pert, but I do think that we’ve all got to try, and then try a lit­tle harder still. I’m there­fore gen­uinely proud that The Leader is putting the en­vi­ron­ment front and cen­tre next week, ded­i­cat­ing its en­tire is­sue to sus­tain­abil­ity. I feel my op­ti­mism re­turn­ing. Power to the Lit­ter-ati.


Sadly lit­ter is still a blot on the New Zealand land­scape.

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