Let’s Join Forces to Kick Litter to the Curb

Litter is illegal, trashy and selfish. It’s also expensive.

Last year, U.S. taxpayers spent nearly $11 billion cleaning up litter across the country. That’s more than 10 times the cost of trash disposal. The most frequent type of litter includes cigarette butts, bottles, cans, fast food packaging and plastic shopping bags.

Litter also has serious environmental consequences. Rain and wind can sweep debris into storm drains connected to local waterways, potentially causing serious environmental contamination. Approximately 80 percent of U.S. waterways include trash that was originally dropped on land.

I’m proud to be part of the first comprehensive, city-wide collaboration to fight litter in our community. Last month, a broad cross-section of community leaders and organizations came together to announce the Keep Savannah Clean Anti-Litter Campaign. This innovative initiative has united local businesses, non-profit organizations, media organizations and the City of Savannah to effect long-lasting change in the Coastal Empire.

Our goal is to reduce litter in Savannah by 50 percent within one year. We believe this campaign can be a national model and another great success for our community. The city of Savannah simply doesn’t have the resources to do everything on their own. It takes all of us to make a difference.

We want to change behavior through education, awareness and enforcement. It’s all based on the “broken windows” theory, which says that if a window is broken and left unrepaired, people passing by will assume no one cares and no one is in charge. It sends a message that “anything goes,” which can lead to a downward spiral.

Maintaining and monitoring our urban environments helps prevent smaller crimes such as vandalism and graffiti and helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening. It’s a ripple effect that translates into positive social change.

The bottom line is that reducing litter helps reduce crime in our community. Well-kept neighborhoods and clean streets send a signal that people care about where they live and work. They indicate that residents don’t tolerate disobedience or criminal activity. It’s time to for all of us to stand up for a cleaner Savannah.

How can you help? Become part of Savannah’s growing anti-litter brigade. This grassroots effort uses social media strategically to shine a spotlight on negative behavior and to reward positive choices in our own community.

If you see someone littering, post it. Simply snap a photo or video of someone being a litterbug or a good Samaritan. Upload this photo to your personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Tag your photo with the hashtag #LitterCrew and be featured on the Keep Savannah Clean website and social media pages. Or submit a photo or video to KeepSavannahClean.com.

We also want to reward people who are already picking up trash and doing their part to keep Savannah beautiful. Use the hashtag #littercrew and you could win gift cards, parking passes and more.

If you see litter on the ground, pick it up and deposit it in the nearest trash can. It only takes a few seconds to make a difference. Please be a force for positive change in Savannah by supporting the anti-litter campaign.

Like you, I’m proud to live in the most beautiful city in America. Let’s keep it clean!

Thank you to all the local businesses that have stepped forward with donations to help make the public aware of this problem.

Thank you to the city of Savannah for adopting this important new initiative. Thank you to everyone who will help us reach our goal of reducing litter in Savannah by 50 percent by this time next year.

Above all, thank you for putting litter in its place and for being part of the solution.

Greg Parker is the president and CEO of Parker’s, a convenience store company headquartered in Savannah, and a leader in the Keep Savannah Clean Anti-Litter Campaign.