Our Cal Heights Clean Streets volunteer litter abatement program enters its sixth calendar year for 2015. In 2014, our volunteers met every week, including our tradition of cleaning on Thanksgiving Day, and since both Christmas and New Year’s day landed on Thursdays this holiday season, we just cleaned on different days! We couldn’t be more proud of the dedication our volunteers continue to demonstrate each and every Thursday morning. We’re pretty sure that our New Year’s Eve cleaning was our coldest ever, as the 34 degree overnight low had warmed to a toasty 38 degrees by start time!

Not including our alley cleanups or Clean Streets assistance with other local community cleanup efforts, we removed 3,448 pounds of trash and debris in 2014. The good news is that our total is actually down from 4,125 pounds in 2013, continuing a downward trend from the previous year, hopefully proving the theory that people litter more often where litter is already present. Case studies on the Broken Window Theory over the years repeatedly back up the notion that a clean community may well translate into a safer community, including one from the Science Magazine which found:

“People stole an envelope of cash placed near a mailbox significantly more often when it was surrounded by litter and graffiti than when it wasn’t.”

While we understand that our contributions are a drop in the local and global litter bucket, we believe action starts at home. We’re proud that the 16 tons of garbage that we’ve removed from our commercial corridors, parking lots and freeway ramps over the past five years and four months have not ended up in our storm drains, fouling our river, beaches and seas.

Especially lethal, plastics make up an increasing portion of our litter stream. While paper, metals and glass eventually break down or decompose into natural elements, plastics really never go away, only breaking into ever smaller pieces of plastics, infiltrating every nook and cranny of our ecosystem, including the food chain we humans depend upon. Larger pieces maim, choke, entrap and kill an alarming number of sea and land creatures. Every piece of plastic that enters our environment will remain and accumulate unless we remove it. An impossible task, our recent generations have left and continue to leave our indelible and enduring mark on the earth, the Plastic Age.

We thank each and every one of our contributing volunteers, whether you show up once a year or every Thursday. Our volunteers range from retired to the self and fully employed, students to stay at home moms and everything in between. One not only works full time, she’s been busy pursuing another post graduate degree, yet she and her husband attended nearly every Thursday morning pickup in 2014! Special thanks to our most regular contributors of 2014, who’ve dedicated hundreds of hours and demonstrates our Cal Heights contribution to a cleaner, safer, more attractive Bixby Knolls.

Alfredo Valenzuela, Christopher Ward, Christa Steltzmuller, DJ Stansfield, George Janquert, Grace L., John Royce, Stacey Morrison, Tom Underhill