Week 7: Litter Blitz

Sunday, April 27, 2003

We spent 2 1/2 hours yesterday picking up trash as part of Oklahoma City’s Litter Blitz program. We chose about a half-mile fenceline that runs along I-40, an area we pass every day on our way to work. Being between a busy interstate and a grocery store, the fence tends to get littered from both sides. The plastic bags and grocery coupon newsletters that were stuck in the barbed wire fence, constantly waving in the wind, bothered me every time we passed the area. Fourteen huge trash bags and two painful sunburns later, we’re proud to say that it looks great. I even found $11 in amongst the trash!

On a side note (one I had 2 1/2 hours to think about), why shouldn’t this grocery store be responsible for cleaning up the trash (plastic bags, coupon inserts) that is at least partially their fault? Corporations should give their employees the option of participating in a program like Litter Blitz, perhaps as a paid alternative to working their shift one day. I think all corporations should have that built in as policy: if you want to participate in a volunteer community program (of your choosing), we’ll give you up to 2 days off per year to do that. They could require documentation of the work, and surely they could receive a tax deduction for the salary they basically donated to the charity. The worker is happy because they get to choose their charity and feel fulfilled in improving the community. And it beats participating in a company-wide charity like our company just did. They chose a particular group and asked everybody to go along. They received criticism from a good few folks who disagree with the group’s policy on animal testing. They had a lot of people frustrated that co-workers were spending more time drumming up donations than working. And they probably lost just as much worker time. One might argue that the “teamwork” aspect is lost if employees are given the choice of doing something on their own, but given the amount of disagreement choosing one charity raises, I’m not sure anything is lost. And if you still wanted to keep some level of teamwork, you could sponsor several team events through the year — “if you want to spend one of your volunteer days on Habitat for Humanity, join us this Friday,” for example.

Of course, any time the world is depending on corporations to do “the right thing,” we’re asking for trouble. We’ve all seen about all we can stand of corporate “ethics” lately…