Outdoor Adventures

Posted 3/17/21

Pick it Up By Brian G. Schommer As I walked the short distance from where I parked my car to the “Big Box Retail” store I was at, a few things caught my attention and, not in a good way. It was a …

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Outdoor Adventures


Pick it Up

By Brian G. Schommer

As I walked the short distance from where I parked my car to the “Big Box Retail” store I was at, a few things caught my attention and, not in a good way. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining and so far, the day had been quite productive so, to have my mood flipped in an instant was to say the least, disappointing. I am the type of person who tries not to let other’s decisions influence my overall demeanor but at that moment, I went from being the usual happy-go-lucky “me” to a bit of a crotchety old curmudgeon. Now at 54, I am considered old to a good portion of our society, but I would venture guess that even the majority of 20-30 somethings who know me would not think of me as crotchety or curmudgeon- like… well, except my kids but that is to be expected. What tripped my happy switch to the off position you may be wondering? Buttheads and Litterbugs… and YES, I have been labeled with these tags at different times in my life.

While it has been over 26 years since I have smoked a cigarette, there was a time that I was a smoker. I was not a two or three pack a day type smoker, which probably made it easier for me to quit cold turkey. I also did not start until I was around 22 or 23, and I was more the out at the bar with friends, having a few drinks, listening to music, and having a few smokes on a weekend type. Occasionally, I might have had a few during the week as well but, it was rare that I would burn through more than two packs in a week. My mom was against smoking, not just because of the potential health issues connected to it. She found smoking a totally disgusting habit and never turned away from sharing her feelings (if you were wondering where I got that trait from). I did all I could, even in my mid-20’s, to hide it from her that I actually smoked. I NEVER used the ash tray in my car and, IF I did smoke in my car, which was about as big of an “IF” as there could be, all the windows were down. Where did my butts go when I was done with a cigarette; out the window.

Yes, I was a butthead and, some would argue that I still am. I suppose an argument may be fair, but not when it is about me smoking. I stopped cold turkey when I met my wife Mary. I had already cut back from a few to a couple a weekend when we met. She shared my mom and many other’s opinions about the habit. I had a strong feeling that she was the one (we got engaged after dating for six weeks). She was more important to me than the Marlboro Man and I certainly knew of the potential health problems that were connected to smoking so, I quit. The intent is not to debate the habit, the level of disgustingness of the habit, the health issues that are attributed to the habit or anything else like that. What brought me “down” from having a good day was the amount of cigarette butts laying all over the ground. Butts discarded in parking lots are not appealing to the eye. No more than when someone tosses various beverage containers, bags and wrappers from fast food places, baby diapers (yes, I saw one of those laying in the parking lot as well) are. Garbage is garbage. Litter is litter. As litter degrades, chemicals and microparticles are released. These chemicals are NOT natural to the environment and can, therefore cause a lot of problems. Garbage… litter… is the cause of over 60% of water pollution. In addition to polluting water, litter can also pollute the soil and the air.

The downward spiral continued as my attention moved away from the cigarette butts to the amount of garbage just laying around the parking lot. As noted, a soiled diaper (no I didn’t go in for a closer look; it was obvious), a coffee cup, a burger wrapper, an empty pop (soda for you ‘Sconnies) bottle, three masks (two disposable and one cloth), and a few other things that all should have been in a trash receptacle, all on the ground in what was less than 150-yard voyage from my vehicle to the door of the business. Just like the follies of my youth, I am far from innocent of tossing trash in places that I now deem quite inappropriate. Maybe it is called growing up, although I often say that I tried that once and it was extremely boring. With time and experience comes knowledge and understanding; another “momism.” I get it… sometimes a piece of garbage escapes your car or trash can that you did not realize got away but not something as big as an entire fast food meals worth of trash. Might I reiterate that as litter degrades, chemicals and microparticles are released. These chemicals are NOT natural to the environment and can… no wait… DO cause a lot of problems. My “conservationist, environmentalist and basic caring about our future generations” hats completely replaced my “happy, happy, joy, joy it is almost baseball season” hat, and I did not like how I was feeling.

Water pollution should be of concern to all of us in Hastings, Cottage Grove, Pierce County, Minnesconsin. If you are asking “why,” let me shed some light on it. The Mississippi, Saint Croix and Vermillion Rivers, Lake Isabel, Lake Rebecca, Cottage Grove Ravine Park, Spring Lake, the Kinnickinnic and even Bullfrog Pond, North Lake and a few other sloughs and swamps that we tend to call lakes. Many people from our area who enjoy various outdoor activities utilize these areas AND, maybe even more important, if not in connection with our local economy, many people that are NOT from the area visit these area’s and spend some dollars at our local restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. We are surrounded by water and it is a very important resource for so many reasons. Litter is the cause of over 60% of water pollution. Now I know there are people saying, “yeah but…” and having an argument with me that the refineries and other big businesses; automobiles and other emission type vehicles, cause way more damage to the environment and, you have a valid argument. As Joe or Jane Doe sitting in your recliner reading this column, you probably, like me have no ability to change the practices and mindsets of those businesses. You probably cannot do anything about regulating the emissions of various vehicles nor do many of you want to. However, we all have control over things that CAN help the environment.

We all can make the conscientious decision to NOT throw our garbage in places it should not be. Like out the window as you drive down the road (I challenge you, when riding in a car – not driving – to watch the ditches as you pass by… so much garbage). If you smoke, make a conscientious decision NOT to toss your cigarette butts AND put them where they do not become litter. If your kid has a poopy diaper, bring it home and dispose of it there. If you drop your mask, pick it up and dispose of it in a garbage can. Should you choose to “pick up” after others, go for it. My jury is still out on this one. Half of them feel that we should not have to pick up after others as it is their responsibility. The other half of my jury says, “if we don’t, who will? Who will? Many communities and civic organizations do clean-ups of parks, ditches, and other public areas. These groups are always looking for help. If you are the volunteer type and side with the “who will” half of the jury, you can contact the various City and/or County Parks Departments and I guarantee they will be able to direct you down a path that fits you best. If we all do what we can, when we Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors… it will be more enjoyable AND, we will be able to be more, happy go lucky instead of curmudgeon like.