Thanks to the natural health experts at Bastyr University who have generously sponsored this series the third challenge of our Working on Wellness series had us out in the community considering the wellness of our environment. We committed to becoming litter warriors for two weeks and here are the big takeaways.

Maria: Since starting our wellness challenges earlier this year, it’s been my personal goal to carry something (insight, inspiration, or intention) away from each of them. With this challenge, I’ve been carrying away repurposed single-use plastic bags filled with trash after my daily walks.

I’ve yet to put an end to our talking trash challenge, and now that I have the tools, this is something I plan to continue doing for a long time. I’ve been tying bags over the end of the Unger Grabber Plus that I purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Mira Mesa and keeping it by my door so it’s ready to go when I am. It’s not fun to pick up other people’s trash but charging myself with the task makes me feel empowered. How’d the challenge go for you, O?  

Olivia: Your comment about feeling empowered perfectly summarizes my take away from this challenge too. There is something about cleaning up after others that has helped me be more conscious of cleaning up after myself. The challenge has made me more aware of my surroundings and the impact of choices on them. I found this outside of my home while walking in my neighborhood as well as inside of my home. Simply ordering food delivery left heaps of packaging that highlighted the wastefulness of conveniences readily available in our quick-paced society. It all boils down to the conscious choices we make in our day to day lives and considering the impact on today and our future.

Here are a few suggestions, tools, and resources to help keep San Diego clean:

Reduce use of single-use items when going out to eat or drink—A lot of the trash we found was food related: beverage cups, food containers, food packaging, plastic film from food packaging, and ripped-off corners of packaged snacks. The first step to curbing this waste is to be more conscious about your consumption of it. Bring travel mugs to coffee shops and food storage containers to restaurants when you anticipate leftovers. There are travel-ready reusable dining items to accommodate all of our modern comforts—from straws to napkins to eating utensils—that pack away nicely in small corners of a handbag. The trick is remembering that you have these items, so forgive yourself if and when you forget.

Join local organizations or Meetup groups focused on beach and public space cleanups. I Love a Clean San Diego has regular volunteer opportunities across the county from community clean ups to sustainability workshops. Surfrider Foundation organizes weekly beach clean ups up and down our coastline.

Have litter clean-up supplies on hand—If you have a stash of them, this might be a decent way to repurpose single-use plastic bags. Bags that house grocery items like bread also work great. Otherwise, there are numerous options for eco-friendly garbage bags online and even big-box brands like GLAD are offering compostable garbage bags. Wear gloves if you are scared of dirt or germs and use a litter stick to avoid physical contact.

If there’s something too big to clean up, report it to the city of San Diego’s Get it Done app available on Apple and Android. They’ll clean up graffiti, illegal dumping, trees, and even patch potholes, and report back to you with the status of resolution. Talk about civic and community engagement.

Spread the word, engage your family and friends, and brag about how much litter you’re picking up, because (in the words of the Lorax by the great Dr. Seuss) “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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About the Contributor
Maria Hesse
Edible San Diego's executive editor is a personal chef and lifestyle designer, podcaster on Modern Casserole, amateur pug photographer, grant writer for Media Arts Center San Diego, and co-author of The Intentionalist Cooks. Find her on Instagram @mariafromediblesd.