- Eating nettles and gazing at clouds: a LEAF reflection
- #TakeItBack to the start
- Dalry Primary School's LEAF journey
- Pedalling towards a sustainable future
- Chirnside Primary School's LEAF journey
- Flowerbank Early Childhood Centre's Pocket Garden Experience
- To keep Scotland beautiful we all need to take action
- Applegarth and Hutton’s LEAF journey
- Our hope for a nature positive Scotland
- Becoming a Platinum Carbon Literate Organisation
- Volunteering with KSB and loving every minute
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- Making it easy to choose a reusable cup for takeaway drinks
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- How Eco-Schools benefits pupils, teachers and communities
- Community gardening for climate, nature and heritage in Cumbernauld
- Tackling the litter emergency to protect our wild isles
- Scotland isn't looking so beautiful. We can change that.
- Get to know... Green Flag Award Judges
- Collaboration and innovation to tackle marine litter
- An introduction to Kinnesswood in Bloom...
- The litter emergency
- Our charity faces the environmental challenges ahead with optimism
- Wrapping up 2022
- Biodiversity - Reflections on COP15
- Small steps to protect biodiversity
- Why Mountains Matter
- It’s not just bees and butterflies on your flowers
- Wet Wipes - What's the Issue?
- Young Reporters on the Route: The Launch of Running Out of Time
- Getting to know... Tom Brock OBE
- Getting to know...Kyle Usher
- A busy day for Upstream Battle education
- Planning a Wedding with the Planet in Mind
- 'Disposable' vapes and the damage they cause
- Climate Emergency Training provides positive opportunities for young people
- Making climate action possible for everyone
- Reasons to be positive
- Shotts is ACTing NOW on climate change
- Hope is a Garden
- Do we need the word 'pests' anymore?
- Beautiful Scotland judging - the truth
- Supporting Scotland to be the very greenest destination it can be
- Arbroath - working together, inspiring local climate action and improving lives
- Reflections of a beach manager
- I do like to be beside the seaside
- Climate Action Schools - helping young people take action
- Inspiring and empowering young people
- Climate Ready Classrooms at George Heriot's
- Data drives decisions
- Litter, fines and doing time
- Why our Web Developer Cameron loves being part of Team KSB
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- YoungScot Legacy Event
- Why it is the sea and SDG 14 for me
- Litter picking - a surprisingly fun group activity
- Climate Action Skills and positive action for all
- Seeing community groups thrive with Beautiful Scotland and It's Your Neighbourhood
- (What to do on) a dreich morning on the Firth of Clyde
- West Lothian Litter Pickers – How I got involved
- Scotland’s Climate Festival – Seed funding for community action
- Climate Ready Classrooms at St. Paul’s RC High School
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- Everyone has something to say about litter – time to make it count
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- Why I pick up other people's garbage.
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- Creative Careers: Spotlight on Heritage #NoWrongPath
- Celebrating Scotland’s best managed green and blue spaces
- Taking small steps towards a more sustainable future
- Caring for our planet
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- Our work on the COP26 Youth Climate Programme
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- Scotland’s Climate Festival kicks off in Falkirk
- Responsible Tourism – an opportunity not to be missed
- Climate Change Vlog by Dalry Primary School
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- Our Week of Climate Action
- #ScotClimateWeek - our impacts and actions
- Protecting the sand and sea
- Another fine mess – part one
- Designing a lower carbon Scotland
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- Combating climate change with information, education and training
- Litter picking 500 miles was always Gonna Be easy
- 7K for 7 Flags Challenge
- Littering less at St Joseph's Primary School in Glasgow
- Smashing litter picking targets during an unexpected stay in Scotland
- Keeping our communities beautiful
- Celebrating our brilliant volunteers
- Designing a pocket garden
- Getting to know... Nicola Smith
- East Haven Together
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- Working in partnership to give communities a helping hand to clean up Scotland
- Why Beautiful Scotland is important to Lauder in Bloom
- We can all be climate ready
- Climate Ready Classrooms at Speyside High School
- Taking part in It's Your Neighbourhood
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- Getting to know... Eve Keepax
- Lucky to live here
- A year of opportunity ahead
'There’s a responsibility in being a person. It’s more than just taking up space where air would be.’’
- John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Recently I read an article in which the writer, a litter picker, stated that those who litter should not be blamed for their actions and encouraged others to think the same way. The article highlighted a study which found that ‘on an individual level, littering is a kind of revenge on society’. It compares littering to a ‘litmus test’ of how people are feeling.
Now, I have always believed that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I believe in freedom of speech. But I also believe that we need to consider the power of our words and, more specifically, the effect they have both on individuals and communities.
As someone who campaigns for a better environment, litter picks and supports individuals and communities to do the same, the article felt like a physical slap in the face to me and the 30,000+ people who volunteered their time to pick up litter as part of our recent Spring Clean Scotland campaign.
If I step back, I believe the article was supposed to highlight that our economic model plays a larger part in the failings of our ability to cope with the waste we produce than people do. While it is a valid point that we certainly do produce far too much single-use rubbish and that for decades manufacturers have been allowed to add ‘fuel to the fire’ with little to no incentivisation to produce less. None of this takes away from one simple fact: when push comes to shove, we all make choices that impact ourselves, the people around us and the environment we live in, and we are all accountable for those choices and outcomes.
To be clear, producers can and should do more to help address how their marketing drives our insatiable appetite for stuff and the resultant impact their products have on communities when they are littered. But, that doesn’t absolve us all of our personal responsibilities, in the same way we call out big business we need to call out our family, friends and neighbours.
If we were to blink and suddenly the planned Deposit Return System was in place, single-use plastics were replaced with more environmentally friendly options or banned outright, and reduce, reuse, recycle was embedded in the policy of every local authority and business, do you think we would still have a litter problem? Okay… yes, all of this would help, and we want these things because they are part of the solution. However, we still have one problem. The human problem. We can put policy in place, have deposit return schemes and extended producer responsibility requirements and remove our dependency on plastic but I guarantee we would still have litter. Maybe different types and levels, but I assure you, it would still be there.
The article stimulated a response in some of its readers as it failed to recognise one simple truth and in fact disputes it. People who litter are responsible for their actions. No one else. The decision to drop litter, whatever one’s circumstances, is a personal choice; littering is not confined to those who are hard-up or are in an area with a lack of waste infrastructure. The common characteristic of wilful litterers is selfishness. Roadside litter is not a result of no bins on laybys. Roadside litter is the result of people choosing to prioritise the cleanliness of their own vehicle over the space shared by others. Dog fouling is the result of people valuing the greenspaces and streets they share less than their own garden or home. Littering is the selfish beliefs that ‘I pay taxes’, ‘I am keeping someone in a job’ and ‘it’s already littered so adding is no big thing’ are all acceptable reasons that excuse those that litter from being accountable for their actions. Well in the words used by a colleague – poppycock!
To excuse a behaviour, no matter the behaviour as being the result of someone taking their pain or suffering out on someone or something else, is both dangerous and, in the case of this article, offensive to litter pickers. No one needs to provide another reason to either make the behaviour acceptable or to provide another excuse for the state of our country. We get enough finger pointing and excuses regarding litter from all sides without providing more. Ultimately, no one should be providing a stage for litterers to stand on so people can feel sorry for them. They made a choice and when you consider that choice and the outcomes from it – can anyone raise their hand and say they feel sorry for those that litter because the person felt “alienated, disconnected and excluded”? Well, if you think yes, then perhaps you are a better person than me.
We all have a choice: #BinYourLitter or #TakeItHome.
“There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem”.
- Elridge Cleaver