When Michael was a young boy, his grandfather, a former police officer in the Mission District of San Francisco, would take him to play in Dolores Park where he would summersault down its pristine green banks. Last year almost 15,000 cubic yards of garbage were removed from this historic gem by a so-called progressive city. Times have changed and so has the impact of population, park usage and the proliferation of single use containers.
Today, the weekly trashing of Dolores Park is an unfortunate example of misplaced user entitlement caused in part by the Park Department itself. Every day, park users bring in food and beverages and discard the containers as if it is the park’s responsibility to provide comprehensive garbage service. And why? Because the park provides garbage receptacles. But there are never enough and it overflows throughout the park. When parks provide garbage collection services it gives users permission to leave their waste behind. Trash pick-up was manageable in the past when there was a much smaller attendance, but usage, especially in urban parks like Dolores Park, has skyrocketed over the years.
So what to do? Add more garbage bins? Maybe teach people to use special recycle bins? Both of these solutions avoid the real issue. Park users have been programmed over the years to walk in with their single use containers and walk out without them. The thinking goes something like this, “Someone else will pick it up. It provides jobs. I pay my taxes and I deserve to have my parks serviced no matter how impractical or how expensive that may be. They put a receptacle there, and they’ve always picked up the garbage in the past.”
Regional, State and Federal parks with no back country trash receptacles have a simple message at the trailheads, “Pack out what you pack in!” This policy has been whole heartedly accepted by most hikers, and many feel it’s their duty to pick up and pack out any discarded trash they see on the trail. Why should this be different in urban parks that are coming under increased population and budgetary pressure?
Instead of increasing the number of trash receptacles, why not reduce them and put up a sign on the ones that are left that says, “Please take out what you brought in! Do your part to save your park budget for maintenance, repairs and beautification.”
This approach has been used successfully in several parks across the country. It does not just help keep the parks clean, but it focuses public attention on disposable food and beverage containers by asking park users be responsible for taking them out as well as bringing them in.
We can no longer afford to say, “Bring in your garbage and leave it here.” We have already been successful in training people to take their own bags to the grocery store. So training them to take their own garbage home is not out of the question. But it’s got to be started by the parks themselves with good signage that appeals to people’s sense of community.
If park advocates and volunteers were to start an education process to make users aware of this accelerating situation, would the park users change their ways and take “ownership” of these precious lands made available to them? If children were taught to be responsible for the land around them that they use, how long might it take to reverse this alarming trend?
Let’s apply the decades old “Pack it in. Pack it out!” backpacker’s creed to all park users.
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
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