Dear PoP – Happy Earth Day

“Dear PoP,

My partner and I live in Columbia Heights. We live on 13th St NW near the Giant grocery store. Last year we noticed that the landscaped area on the Holmead St side of Giant had turned into one large trash area. This spring, Giant had a crew come out, clean up the trash, trim the rose bushes and put down new mulch. It looked nice again. Then we noticed that people started to throw trash in this area again. So we decided one day that every time we walked by this area we would pick up at least one piece of trash. Mind you, we walk by this small landscaped area on the way to work, home from work, on the way to the gym, walking home from shopping, etc. etc. We soon found ourselves picking up a lot of trash.

It really opened our eyes to how much people use the street/sidewalk for a trash bin. Each time we would only pick up one or two items, but slowly the place was cleaned up again. In honor of Earth Day I wondered what would happen to our city if everyone of us just picked up 1 piece of trash on the street in which we lived on our way to work, or coming home from work, or on our way to the shopping store, etc. Maybe in some small way all of our “little corners” of our great city would become cleaner. We found it quite easy to simply stop, pick up an old beer can, banana peal, empty potato chip bag, discarded lottery ticket, etc. Why not give it a try in your neighborhood? It might just change how you view the place you call home.

Happy Earth Day!”

I think it’s a great idea. If we all pledge to pick up just one piece of garbage a day I think our combined efforts can make a bit of a dent. It’ll be a Sisyphean task but as long as we do it everyday I hope we can make a small difference like you and your partner have done in the photo above.

Who else is in?

62 Comment

  • I’m all in. I try to do this as well, but I’ll freely admit to more often walking past litter because of the sheer volume of it – or my at times less-than-generous mood.

    I’ve also taken to saying “I think you dropped something.” to people who I witness littering. Sometimes it works, sometimes I get a glare, or just get ignored.

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if people just wouldn’t litter at all? Ah, to dream!

    • I tried that once and got in reply, “shut the f*** up cracker!”

      • yeah, I’ve heard similar responses.

      • Ditto here, but found it oddly satisfying to have the young gentleman (ha) watch me throw out his trash with a quizzical look on his face. It’s like they think their garbage just magically goes somewhere and don’t know that many people do actually clean up after themselves and care about keeping the neighborhood looking nice.

    • I have a friend who’s a DC cop. He told me he once saw a guy throwing trash on the street. He asked the guy to pick it up and the guy replied, “When I throw trash on the street I’m giving someone a job!”

    • some woman threw a paper cup from the window of her (illegally parked) car infront of where I work. I walked outside and threw it back in her car.

      • I tried to do this to a Metro bus driver who dropped a still full cup of coffee out her window, but I couldn’t quite reach the window and thought lobbing hot liquid above my head would be a bad idea.

  • +1000!!!

    i’m in! but i draw the line at chicken bones (unless there’s rubber gloves involved).

    i also was thinking the other day while filling up my to-go coffee cup from home at the gas station, what if everyone for one day pledged to bring a cup from home to all the coffee shops rather than add more trash to the landfills…? it would be GLORIOUS 😀

    (sidenote: in honor of earth day, starFucks is giving away free coffee and tea to anyone who brings in their own cup. hate on corporate coffee all you want, but every now and then they do good!)

    • I hate Starbucks, so I’m happy to share that Caribou Coffee is doing the same! OK, maybe they’re also a big corporate coffee chain, but slightly less worse than Starbucks?

      • You may not believe this, but there are actually machines that let you make coffee yourself, at home! And there are lots of places to buy them!

        • Yes, yes. I have one of those gadgets.
          It’s not always convenient when trying to rush out of the house every morning to get to work. I like to enjoy my coffee at a leisurely pace, not sip it in hot gulps at random red lights.

        • You don’t even need a machine. French press it!

      • how are they less worse than starbucks? starbucks gives their part-time employees full-time health insurance benefits.
        I don’t know that caribou does the same

        • Their coffee is better.

        • First of all, I suppose we could cherry pick benefits of one over the other all day long. Secondly, as you say, you don’t know that Caribou does or does not do this. (I don’t either, and that really wasn’t my point).

          My reasons are essentially that
          1) Starbucks coffee sucks (over-roasted. burned, IMHO) and

          2) I don’t like their practice of opening up directly across the street from a locally-owned, small neighborhood coffee shop, then using their 800-pound-gorilla status to wait them out and drive them out of business until all we have left are Starbucks. I haven’t seen Caribou do this, but I could be wrong.

          You don’t have to agree with me. That’s just my take on it.

          • +1000.

            I used to live in Seattle, and the rumor there was always that Starbucks local policy was to open a Starbucks within line of sight of any competitor, regardless of profitability, just to undercut their prices.

            Don’t know if it was true, but I definitely saw some thriving shops in adorable neighborhoods completely buckle when the green and white onslaught arrived.

            And their coffee sucks.

          • wow wow wow!
            i sooo didn’t mean to start a which-corporate-sludge-coffee-is-better thread. i used to work at a little coffee shop in the late ’90s, and a starbucks put it out of business.
            i prefer my homemade coffee, but when that runs out (i like more than one cup, don’t judge), $0.99 gas station coffee is pretty delicious most of the time. starFucks crosses my consumer path every now and then simply based on convenience.

            if at gunpoint i were forced to choose a corporate overlord’s coffee to drink, i’ll take dunkin’ donuts.

          • @That’s what she said:
            It’s no big deal. We’re just trading opinions.
            Dunkin’s coffee is OK too. mmmmmmmmmmmmm, donuts.

    • There is a special place in hell for those that drop chicken bones on the sidewalk, as anyone else with a strong-willed dog can attest. You think they’re nasty to pick up? Try pulling someone’s 1/2 eaten chicken bone out of a slobbery dog mouth.

      Sorry, I just retched a little.

    • Don’t worry about the chicken bones. In spite of my best efforts, my puppy is constantly picking them up for you! What I really want to know is, what is with all the chicken bones? Seriously? I’ve never in my life been eating chicken without also having a handy receptacle for disposing of the bones (e.g. a box, a bag, etc.). Is someone handing out random pieces of chicken somewhere?

  • It’s amazing to me how little people think about throwing their trash on the ground. I see adults do it and their school-aged children do it in front of them. I have no problem calling kids out on it when it happens when their alone, but i won’t say anything in front of their parents because i’m scared of angry black women. My two year old twins know better! They grab trash out of my hands and reach high above their heads to throw trash away in the public cans.

  • I have been picking up trash in front of my place off of Holmead for over a year. It is AMAZING how much garbage is just thrown all over the street…or then again, seeing the hood rats who meander about with no job or purpose, not so amazed.

    • the volume of garbage can be overwhelming. can (and do) easily fill a garbage bag on my block every now and then.

  • When they’re alone*.

  • I walk to work every day and constantly see recyclable trash everywhere. i.e cans and plastic bottles ect. I always thought someone should pick them up and recycle them. Then I realized that is probably not going to happen. So then one day I decided to start picking up the bottles ect. on my way home. I have been doing it for two years and have probably collected over 15,000 cans. That is an indication of just how bad things have gotten. I figure if people see a cleaner street they might not dump their litter there.

  • My Capitol Hill neighbors and I are really good about that, and our neighborhood does look much nicer than those with a lot of litter. When you see others picking up trash I think you’re more likely to do it yourself. Although it does suck that we even have to do it in the first place.

  • Yea, I will participate.

    We need a good litter slogan that everyone can buy into. Something that inspires the guy who just called petvet a cracker. I wonder if anyone has a good idea. Do you know if we have one?

    Look DC doesn’t have one listed here (nor everyone)

  • On a related note– we just moved to DC and got our first water bill and it was $150. More disturbing than the price ($50 of which is a start service fee) is that we apparently used 9,000 gallons of water in the past 36 days. Any ideas as to how that could have happened? I pulled the historic usage data for the property and it shows the water consumption being much lower. There are only two of us, we don’t have sprinkler system, we don’t do a ton of laundry, and there are no leaks in the house that I’m aware of. I don’t even take showers every day!

    • Double check the period of service they’re charging for. When we first moved into our house, we were getting charged for the last 2 or 3 months of the previous occupants’ water or electric usage (can’t remember which). And it was a group house, so it was pretty significant $$

      It took several phone calls, emails and much persistence, but we got it straightened out, based on proof of our move in date.

      Good luck.

    • Impossible. Either you do have a leak or it’s a billing error. Might want to check the toilets. Still though, 125 gallons per person per day with no outdoor watering makes it sound like an error to me.

      • Not impossible. Double check for running toilets. Replace the flapper if it doesn’t reseal on the drain because a running toilet can waste up to 2 gallons per minute.

        To check for leaks, find your street side main water shut off valve (normally a small gray manhole cover near your sidewalk). It has a low flow indicator on it that flucuates when water is being used in your house. Ensure no water is running in the house and look at the flow indicator, if it is flucuating, you have a leak.

        You can also request DC water to come out and re-calibrate the automatic reporting gauge. It is also located with the street side shutoff.

        Finally, like Taylor said, check the period of the bill.

    • Your toilets might be running, or otherwise, there might be a leak that is prior to your property — you should get them to come out and check. They’ll do it – it’s in DC Water’s interest too.

      The good news is that that’s too high, so there’ll be some resolution.

      • I called DC Water and they said there’s nothing they can do about my high bill because we just moved in and they don’t have any history to compare it to. Which makes sense, I guess, but it would be nice if they could get someone to come out and make sure there’s not a leak we can’t see. I have no idea what else could be causing this. Would a plumber be the appropriate person to hire to do this?

    • greenroofgoddess

      Check whether they did an actual reading for the beginning of the time period. If the home water account was shut down by the previous occupant, but someone still used water (landlord for cleaning, etc.) you will get charged based on the lag–even if the tiem period they are showing is correct. Basically, check to be sure there was a bill and actual reading for the months before you moved in.

      You can also check whether your toilet is runnung by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank (not the bowl) and see if the bowl water becomes colored even when you haven’t flushed for 12 hours.

  • I’ve been picking up trash for years, too. the secret to doing it successfully is to always carry around a fw extra tissues or napkins in your pocket. Then while on the way to the Metro, gym, etc, if you see something icky or gross, you can pick it up using the tissue, then drop it in the nearest garbage can.

    • “I’ve been picking up trash for years”
      single’s bars don’t count! 🙂

    • +1
      Touching other people’s junk with my fingers is my biggest hang-up.

    • While I appreciate you doing that, I kind of wonder if creating more trash (tissues) to pick up a small amount of litter in the end is really worth it. I mean, I know it makes the area around you cleaner, but at the same time, it kind of makes sense to just do a whole bunch at once rather than wasting thousands of tissues just to casually pick up one litter piece at a time. Not trying to start an argument, but there has got to be a better way.

  • I’ve always thought that they should require school kids to do a trash cleanup at least once a year as a community service project – I suspect we’d suddenly you have a bunch of kids trying to discourage their friends/family/etc not to litter because they know they might have to pick it up later.

    Bravo to the OP, do they think that a public trash can in the location they mention would help matters? How does one request that a city or BID install one in a given location?

    • I passed this information along to a friend who lives in a residential area, but on a fairly major street and right next to a bus stop. She was able to get a street litter can placed next to the bus stop.


      From :

      To help maintain the beauty of our commercial corridors with high-volume pedestrian traffic, DPW installs litter cans for pedestrians and motorists to use rather than leaving their trash on the streets. Litter cans are emptied at night anywhere from daily to three times per week, based on how much trash they receive. The partnership between DPW and the business improvement districts (BIDs) creates a cleaner DC. When the litter cans in the BID areas are full, the BID personnel empty the cans and DPW collects the bags. Residents may request installation of a new litter can by calling the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at 311. Bus stops and locations in commercial areas on major streets are the best locations for new cans. Because of the nighttime collection schedule (between 10 pm and 4 am), cans usually are not placed in residential neighborhoods so residents are not awakened.


      [The text below is a bit misleading; it implies that street litter cans are _never_ placed in residential neighborhoods.)

      From,+Alley+Cleaning+and+Litter+Can+Collection :

      DPW installed more than 4,000 street litter cans along commercial corridors for pedestrians to deposit their trash. Litter cans are emptied at night anywhere from daily to three times per week, based on how much trash they receive. Collections are noisy, which is why litter cans are not placed in residential neighborhoods.


  • I’ll put a plug in here for the next NCHCA neighborhood clean-up, Saturday, May 7th at 9:30. It’s only once a month, but it is my hope that folks seeing tons of people cleaning up trash around the ‘hood will take notice.

    We’ve been giving a lot of thought to ways to expand this effort without, frankly, a ton of great ideas. One idea is to get businesses who ultimately generate a lot of the street trash to get more invested somehow, either via signage at the business, discounts for folks who bring back a certain amount of their trash (fro yo and chicken places come to min), something?

    But I think this is a great idea. Maybe we all could organize one month this summer, spread across all blogs, news orgs, neighborhood orgs, and make it the month of picking up trash (which would include a collective effort to comment ANYTIME we see someone dropping trash), signage up everywhere, try to get a lot of publicity and lots of neighborhood folks on board, to build awareness and maybe, incrementally, change folks’ mentality. I don’t really know, it is very, very, very hard to change people’s habits. But when I see massive rats every day, and wade through chicken bones on the way home, I am willing to join in and try anything …

  • Would it be helpful to get a trashcan along that walkway? I don’t see one in the picture. How could you ask the city to place a trashcan in a heavily polluted area?

    I’m all for picking up trash, but it would be great if there was a place to put it in the first place!

  • I love Dale’s Pale. Is this your business partner you live with, Ha that is weird way to do business.

  • I used to have a hedge that people loved to stuff their singles into instead of just throwing it on the ground. That hedge is gone but surprisingly no singles on the ground.

  • I believe that if you don’t pick up trash on your block it only attracts more so every chance I get I pick up trash not only from front of my house, but from the whole block. I hate when a car, often with MD license plate park on my street, then before they leave they empty the content of their car… they would open their passenger side door and empty a full case of empty bottles, leftover take away, etc.

  • Bravo to the OP. I pick up trash each evening while walking the pooch in my hood (10th & M) and can easily fill a plastic grocery bag full each time. What I have noticed is that once a little trash collects somewhere, people will dump even more there so keeping up with it makes a difference. The trash that dumps trash in our hood also seem to toss it on abandonded lots and public spaces more than private property so keep up on your city council reps and neighborhood activists to get these abandonded lots and properties sold and developed!!

  • I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s about time that D.C. get on the bottle bill bandwagon.

    It’d at least help get rid of the cans and bottles everywhere.

  • The only trash I throw on the street/yards/bushes are plastic bags. The five cent tax will take care of cleaning them up.

  • I’ve heard the chicken bones are from wild animals picking them out of the garbage. I just don’t think there are that many people on the street eating gobs of chicken and chucking the bones, allllllllll over the place, all year round.

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