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Treat the Earth kindly every day of the year

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I burned a few hundred calories every morning the last four weeks pulling nasty weeds in my backyard.

Pulling weeds was tiring and hard on my allergies.

But I felt great when I started to see the dirt unearthed after removing the unwanted robust additions to my garden.

While I would rather have spent my mornings planting pretty African daisies and ice plants, I still felt like I was getting ready in my own small way for the annual Earth Day, which is this Monday.

And yet I'm really no more ready than the many residents in my neighborhood. Every day for the last two months, we have walked, biked or driven by a broken whiskey bottle discarded at a corner street curb.

Nobody, including me, has picked up the shattered bottle. Bottle pieces are still on the street, two months after someone irresponsibly left an empty bottle there.

Forty-three years has passed since Earth Day was established by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson as a way to protect our environment’s air, land and water sources through legal and regulatory mechanisms, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at epa.gov/earthday/history.htm.

And the message still isn’t grasped, judging by the litter I see daily as I walk in Lincoln neighborhoods.

For example, besides the shattered bottle on the corner, the First Street and Glen Edwards Middle school area is infused with candy wrappers, cupcake wrappers, used Q-tips, Roundup packaging, empty McDonald’s bags and Burger King cups.

And more broken bottles.

What aren’t we teaching youth? It sure doesn’t look like we’re teaching them to respect the Earth.

Cross the street near the Lincoln Senior Apartments on O Street and the street doesn’t look any better. There are empty bottles and cans, food remnants, cigarette butts and tissues scattered on the sidewalk.

Walk in Lincoln Crossing’s bike/pedestrian trail bordering the pond in back of Home Depot and it's the same. On Sunday, I saw ICEE cups, plastic water bottles, plastic baggies, foil, bread and cigarette butts.

Even Twelve Bridges Library, which is considered a sanctuary by many and is spotless inside, has litter outside. On the sidewalk Saturday was a natural almonds bag, grocery store receipts, cork scraps and squished plastic water bottles.

Feeling discouraged with the mindset here, I checked out Sun City Lincoln Hills on Tuesday. The Del Webb Field parking lot and tennis area was spotless.

It was too good to be true so I checked out the Kilaga Springs sidewalk/parking lot area. There was no trash there either.  At least one Lincoln community has it right in my very unscientific study.

John Williams, a restoration ecologist and Lincoln Open Spaces Committee co-chairman, said that trash is strewn throughout Lincoln

"It’s getting worse. Litter is definitely a problem in Lincoln's parks, open space, the sides of the road and near fast-foot restaurants," Williams said.

His nonprofit group holds spring and fall cleanup days at the Auburn Ravine Park off of Moore Road and Green Ravine Drive. The spring cleanup will be from  9  to  11 a.m. Saturday.

"In the spring, we uncover a lot of trash after the sheep and goat graze there," Williams said. "There’s some homeless type of encampment, homeless people partying, cans, wrappers float upstream from the creek."

I asked Williams why we're seeing more litter.

"I think it’s just education," Williams answered. "They don’t know any better or their families don’t put a value on it. For sure, people are dumping their household waste at vacant lots. Litter is definitely an issue. We won’t mind partnering with other groups to pick up litter."

How much does it cost the city in terms of staff time and money to pick up litter in Lincoln? And is litter a problem in Lincoln?

The city of Lincoln’s public- services director Mark Miller responded.

“Our parks and open space are generally very clean. We do occasionally get debris, dumped by thoughtless people, in the city right of way, usually along the sides of roads on the outskirts of town,” Miller said. “We do budget one full-time employee running our street- sweeping machine year round but that is more for gravel and vehicle debris cleanup, storm drain protection, etc., than for litter.”

On the first Saturday of spring (March 23), gardening stores were packed with customers excited to buy the first bright flowers of the season. I was among them.

But being stewards of the land requires more than just taking care of our own personal property.

It’s making sure we’re as respectful of everywhere in our city.

Even if it’s a broken bottle on a nearby corner or garbage thrown on an abandoned lot.