Of two minds

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindsets lately. Some of this is a result of the reading I’ve been doing and the fact that many of the books highlight the difference between a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset”. Those with the former believe that qualities such as intelligence or talent are fixed traits: you only have so much of each and can’t do anything about it. However, a “growth mindset” is one in which people believe that these abilities can be developed further through dedication and hard work. I think it’s pretty clear which one can limit your options and which one can help you advance!

How does this apply to litter?There are also two distinct mindsets that I’ve regularly encountered while working on Rubbish Walks / Off the Ground. The first is what I call the “not-me mindset”, those who believe that litter is someone else’s responsibility. Usually they point their fingers at the Council. Or maybe the business whose brand is splashed across a piece of rubbish. The actual person who did the littering isn’t considered, nor how they can help themselves.

The flipside of this is what is exhibited by our volunteers and everyone across the country who regularly cleans up their local patch. This is what I’ve given the self-explanatory name of “how-can-I-help mindset”: people want to make a difference and recognise that there is a role they can play in the fight against litter.

After all, there are so many ways we can reduce the amount of litter in our communities:

Don’t litter: It sounds obvious, but don’t add to the amount of rubbish that is already out

  • Smokers, please use a portable ashtray or bin your butt instead of leaving it on the pavement or grass.  And it goes without saying that cigarette cartons, tobacco pouches, and any other paraphernalia go in the bin.
  • Dog owners, please keep an eye on your pooch and bag and bin waste. Don’t do like the person I saw last week who was so engrossed in chatting with a friend that he didn’t notice his dog do its business.
  • Everyone, bin or recycle your rubbish regardless of size or degree of stickiness. Don’t be like an acquaintance of mine who railed angrily against litterers, then mentioned that she at least felt guilty when she would drop sticky sweet wrappers. There is no need to feel guilty if you pick them up!

Set a good example: Make sure you show your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, or whatever young people happen to be in your life how to recycle and dispose of litter properly. Discuss it with them and explain why littering is bad: they may not care that it lowers property values, but most can understand the danger it poses to wildlife, pets, and themselves. And not just children: have the courage to bring up littering to friends, like my work colleague did with his cycle club. Make it clear that littering is unacceptable behaviour, not something that is tolerated or is “someone else’s job”.

Pick up litter: Imagine what would happen if everyone just picked up and binned one piece of rubbish a day … and what a powerful message it would send about how much we cared for communities and our environment.


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