Prayer, Spirituality

The spiritual practice of picking up litter

Recently I have developed an alter ego. This alter ego is a litter fairy. She is fast becoming just a little bit obsessive about keeping her locality free from litter.

Now, I have always hated litter. My family will tell you that my usual liberal tendencies fly out the window in the face of people who just can’t be bothered to put their crisp packet in a bin and leave it for others. I thought prison was probably too good for such people. And I got cross about it – I even ranted about it. And yet I still DID nothing about it. It was ‘the council’s’ job – an SEP – somebody else’s problem.

But whether it has been the increased focus on climate change and our environment in the news or the drip, drip, drip of reading Richard Rohr’s Franciscan Daily Meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation I am not sure but I now see things a little differently. I have decided that this is MY planet, MY town, MY street and I can and want to do something, just a little thing, to care for it. And that little thing is, most days and most walks, picking up the crisp packet, the chocolate wrapper and the beer can or McDonald’s cup and putting them in the nearest bin.

You could say that, from being an SEP, somebody else’s problem, I have made it MY problem. But, here’s the interesting thing, it no longer feels like a problem. Seeing picking up a crisp packet as a way of caring for our Mother Earth somehow changes the feel of it. I don’t feel angry anymore – I feel it’s an opportunity to do something, something admittedly very small – for my neighbours, for my street, for my town. And now, rather than getting angry with the folk who drop litter, it occurs to me that people who are careless probably don’t feel very cared for. People who drop litter can’t see the beauty of their environment – don’t know that it is a gift to them to be enjoyed and appreciated – and that is very, very sad. So now, when I pick up the crisp packet I also pray for my Sister or Brother Litter Dropper – that they might see a little more of God’s beautiful world and feel just a tiny bit more cared for.

So, a spiritual practice for Lent? If we all picked up three pieces of litter on every walk we took in Lent our town, our country, our city would look – and feel – more cared for. Which I would call Good News.


2 thoughts on “The spiritual practice of picking up litter”

  1. Hi Jennifer, apart from sharing your interest in AT I also share your interest regarding litter, I pick up litter most of all when on vacation at a beach, several reasons for this including the feeling that at a beautiful natural location litter is relatively more unsightly and then more importantly because at least plastic in the city probably does not make its way to the ocean.

    We taught our son when he was around 7 years old that every walk along the beach involves picking up a few bits of litter, we have no shame in indoctrination when it comes to issues like this.

    Councils could help more by putting up signs which said something like

    “If everyone who came to walk along this beach picked up one piece of plastic and placed it in the bins we have provided then the beach would be free of plastic”

    I say this because I feel it is a matter of social ‘permission’ – people do not like to look and behave differently, you can that you look a bit strange dragging larger bits of plastic to the bin that clearly is not your own rubbish – people need reassurance that it is normal and socially acceptable to do this activity.

    Councils also need to supply rock sold beach bins that will not empty their contents in stormy weather and cannot be over filled.


Leave a comment or post a review here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.