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Column 23

February 27, 2013

Another Side
By Jon Berman

I had an idea to start the New England Cleanup Crew. Someone should make NECC t-shirts, or get some Carhartt sweatshirts printed up. We’re going to take over our communities. Here’s how it started.

Just once I’d like to walk up my road and pick up less than three dirty cans carelessly discarded. I presume they are being tossed from moving vehicles. Because we don’t live on a main street, I would venture to guess that the cans are deposited from people that actually live near me. And since I seldom see anyone else walking, it is inevitable that I’m the one it falls on to keep the area free of debris.

I’m okay with this, but would rather not have the job. Most people are sane and do not choose to walk up the hill our road travels up; instead they take the modern mode of transportation known as a car. This certainly is easier on the legs, lungs and one’s time, however, it doesn’t have the benefits of exercise without a gym, some time to reflect on the day, or in my case, a chance to return phone calls for work. I don’t believe in desks. Or sitting, really.

There’s another issue. Traveling at 35 miles per hour may give one time and for whatever reason, opportunity, to toss trash out of a window, but not give enough time to see when it begins to accumulate. This is our neighborhood and a beautiful place in the woods.

First it was a beer can clearly placed upside down on a tree branch. Then it was a soda can added. An empty pack of cigarettes. A couple more cans. A half-drank bottle of some energy drink. By the time I get back to my house and get all the stuff into our recycling containers I’m disgusted. Why don’t people recycle this stuff?

My wife made a system where most of our trash is separated  and recycled. Unless it has touched food, it’s pretty much shredded and recycled. Everything. We try to minimize what’s actually going in the trash, and usually it’s one bag a week, mostly food. We should probably compost and garden but that’s another column.

With landfills marring our planet, burning trash damaging our atmosphere, and climate change upon us, one would think that at least an effort would be made to minimize one’s own environmental impact. Even if one thinks it’s a liberal agenda, an evil Al Gore initiative, or special interest propaganda, doesn’t common sense just say “don’t throw it away” because there’s really no where for “it” to go?

I try to use a stainless steel mug for coffee and a Nalgene bottle for water. If I can’t, the plastic water bottles get recycled and cardboard sleeve and plastic top of the “disposable” coffee cup get recycled. But it’s still not really disposable, the cup is still technically somewhere (see the law of matter). It may be in a trash bag, it may be in a dumpster, it may be on a barge in the middle of the ocean, or apparently, it may be on the ground next to my road. And that’s where I come in. Or you.

This is important if you want to be in my NECC club. First, don’t throw “away” something that can be recycled. Just don’t do it. In this day and age, care. It’s easy and it will eventually make an impact. And realize there’s no “away”. Second, let’s all be a part of the New England Cleanup Crew. Take a walk down your road. Park further away from your destination. You may want to bring a bag. Don’t throw the bag in a dumpster; recycle all that you can. Third, educate those that are coming up. If your children see your recycling and caring habits, they will pick them up. We live in a beautiful part of New England. Let’s keep it that way.

Jon Berman is a musician who lives in Blandford. Previous columns and contact information are available at


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