Last week, in Social and Developmental Psychology class, my lecturer tried to illustrate social pressures and desirability effects by using the example of littering. He asked the class whether we would say it was socially acceptable to litter, in general.
Looking around our campus, I’d have to say, reluctantly, that the answer is yes. Take a stroll around campus just after lunchtime, and you’ll find an abundance of dirty plates on tables at the SA juice-packs and disposable cups scattered haphazardly, empty packets of potato chips and candy bar wrappers drifting in the wind. If the trash is at least in the vicinity of the bin, it’s hardly ever properly disposed of. Instead you often find empty containers being piled on top of the bin or around the foot of it, as though they are capable of magically inserting themselves into the slot. And let us not forget the ubiquitous cigarette butts and empty packets found in the unofficial ‘smoking areas’.
I, personally, do not understand why this happens. Every walkway on campus has at least one trash-bin along its length. There are recycle bins positioned outside or inside every campus building for paper, plastic and glass waste products. Most trash bins also have ashtrays built in for cigarette butt disposal. And we have also, as of last semester, been provided with conveniently placed disposal bins with separate slots for waste food, disposable cutlery and washable plates. Therefore, since it’s not a matter of lacking facilities, I am forced to come to the conclusion that the problem is the students, i.e. us.
Why are we not taking the responsibility of cleaning up after ourselves, UNMC? We have a beautiful campus – why aren’t we taking the responsibility of ensuring it remains so? Is it really that difficult to pick up your plate and walk a few steps over to the disposal bin? Is it really that tiring to carry a cigarette butt just a bit further down the walkway until you reach one of the bins with an ashtray on top? If we can bother with putting an empty cup on top of or at the base of a bin, why not expend the tiny amount of energy necessary to take the next step of dropping it inside?
Yes, we have a fairly efficient team of janitorial staff who do eventually clear up the mess: eventually being the key word here, because by the time they find the free time to clean up our left-behind plates, the waste food has already attracted birds, dogs, cats, and all manner of insect life. We ought to keep in mind that it isn’t the janitorial staff’s job to pick up after us – they are tasked with keeping the campus presentable, and we’re only adding to their workload. Why not make things as easy as possible for everyone?
Please do understand that I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious or holier-than-thou. I don’t exactly have a perfect record myself – my crimes are generally of the ‘eh, on top is close enough’ variety – but I do believe we can do better than this. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being more responsible and tidying up when and where we can. So why not turn over a new leaf soon as we can?