Wednesday October 24, 2012

After a summer away from the green Berkshire hills, I felt fortunate to come "back to school," along with my own family, my fellow teachers, and the ranks of students at my school and many others. As I took to the roads of South County, however, I was dismayed to confront the roadside rubbish that bracketed many of my runs and rides. To put it simply: we just don’t pick up after ourselves well around here.

I’ve actually started to carry with me a plastic bag during my early-morning runs, filling the bag with cans and bottles and hitting a campus recycling station upon my return. My jogging and gathering has taught me things about what my fellow Berkshire County residents, or those who pass through this region, consume. Tied for most prominent are canned beverages from Anheuser-Busch and Coca Cola, with the occasional off brand thrown in for variety’s sake. Of course I also find the ubiquitous water bottles, in a region that features Berkshire mountain spring water (literally) free from any tap.

Also prevalent along the South County roadside shoulders: assorted bagged items (I tend not to look too closely into the contents) from Mc Don ald’s and Dunkin Donuts. America might, as the ubiquitous advertisements claim, run "on Dunkin." Americans, at least those of us who live around here, also display a propensity to drive through, drink up, and throw out Dunk in. The paper Dunkin Donuts coffee cups from Great Bar ring ton, which has banned Styrofoam containers, will eventually biodegrade where they lie, while those polymers and plastics from other venues will remain in our environment long after they pass from visible sight. Ten or 12 recyclable items extracted from the countryside and transferred into designated bins: This seems a modest enough accomplishment before breakfast.

Let’s all do a better job of protecting the amazing place we inhabit. If we can do so through legal means, by banning Styrofoam or bottled water or levying taxes on beverages great and small, let us work with our town councils and legislatures to make that happen. If organized litter patrols can turn back the tide of trash, let us organize and patrol as zealously as if our very rights are in danger. Most of all, since all of our roadside refuse comes at the hands of a human agent, let us quit throwing garbage out the windows of our moving cars.

My plea: make wise choices with your purchases. Put garbage and recycling where they belong, even when you find it inconvenient. And leave Berkshire County beautiful for the next generation and many more to come.

A.J. KOHLHEPP

Sheffield