I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I decided to clean up my neighborhood for the first Earth Day. I got bags from Mom and picked up trash along the side of the road. I was told it was useless, you can’t change human nature, people will just throw more trash after it’s clean. My childish self asserted that people would see that life is better without the trash and would keep it clean. Everyone laughed at me. I’m a ferocious trash picker upper. (Outside anyway. Not so much inside.) I left the bags next to the side of the road so everyone could see how much garbage they were throwing away. Guilt started to seep in. Mom was only willing to sacrifice one box of garbage bags to my environmental concerns, so I brazenly knocked on the neighbors’ door and asked for more trash bags. Guilt hit a new level. Neighbors started picking up trash before I got to them. The Glen is trash free.

Years later, I walked in the woods and found the remnants of a beer party. I started collecting bottles for recycling. After I filled a very large bag, I hauled it to a front porch full of guilty beer drinkers and threw the box of trash bags at them. “I picked up one bag of trash, but this is your mess. Clean it up!” About 10 guilty young men looked at each other and trooped down to the woods with the trash bags.

This year, Penny and I have been taking walks in our current neighborhood for exercise. This got pretty dull, so I combined recycling with our walks and started collecting recyclables en route. Penny thought this was an improvement in our walks because she had more time to smell bushes and pee on things. I thought it was an improvement because I did more bending – but now we don’t have any more trash to pick up. The guilt factor seems to have kicked in amongst these neighbors too.

Some things are clearly right or clearly wrong. People know better than to throw trash out of their car windows. They learned this in kindergarten. Everyone feels better when the neighborhood is litter-free. It was true when I was 9 and it’s still true.

I think about people’s comments before I picked up my first trash bag. “You can’t change things… human nature… nobody cares…” I still hear these messages. We’ve let the littering bullies rule the world. Big businesses blow up mountain ranges for coal and pollute streams and drinking water. Fracking for natural gas without regulations destroys more water. The Chinese have turned their air into a toxic solid…

But we can do things. Think about all those plastic bottles I’ve picked up. Each bottle is made from oil in a faraway country which is shipped halfway around the world so you can drink NYC tap water with a fancy label while toxic chemicals may leach into the water you’re drinking. Oil for your bottle contributes to wars in the Middle East and pollution in the oceans. Even if the bottle gets recycled, it’s probably shipped back around the world to India where the reclamation process spews more chemicals in the air. So, if you want to do one decent thing for the world, quit drinking water in plastic bottles. Put your glass under the kitchen faucet and think about saving the world one plastic bottle at a time.

This art was created for my city’s initial recycling program. I have to admit I was kind of dumbfounded when they gave me a plaque, and it’s been sitting on a book shelf for 21 years because I can’t throw it away, but didn’t know what to do with it either. I also got the city and county park system to use recycled paper with soy-based inks. Obviously my ferocity about recycling isn’t a new thing.

Treat the earth well.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,
we borrow it from our children.
-- American Indian proverb

PS – I was asked recently about how artists can get printed samples for their portfolios without working for a pittance. This brochure is a good example. I didn’t get paid for it, but I was happy to do it because it was for a good cause. And I got a plaque :) I had plenty of pieces for my portfolio when I did this, so my main object was making an inexpensive, clearly understood brochure. If you’re doing something for the printed portfolio piece, flex your creative skills through volunteering.


  1. Hey Linda! Thanks for your ferociousness in the environment. See one person can make a difference and I’m so glad you got recognized for your efforts. I keep a garbage bag inside my mailbag, as I’m delivering mail, I pick up trash on peoples lawns. Most people don’t notice or say anything. We can’t clean up the world, but we can pick up trash when we come across it. Excellent advice on volunteering our artistic talents to worthwhile project too. Money is fleeting. Standing for something is foundational.

  2. I love that Jack! Yay for you and everyone on your route!

  3. Fantastic story! .... Such a great cause. You should be proud of that plaque! I would definitely hang it if I were you.

  4. Hi Linda I'm so glad to hear all this. Firstly picking up litter really does help as the cleaner the environment is the less likely are people to throw litter down. Our road is a great example of that. Most people in my road will pick up any litter they find and most of the time it is clear. Secondly though hurrah for your comment on bottled water. I have NEVER understood why so many people in the western world drink bottled water..the stuff out the tap has a lot less nasty chemicals lurking in there, costs far less and as for the bottle, sadly they are seen on beaches everywhere.....
    Keep ferocious! Jane x

  5. I started recycling all paper products a few years ago. And I was shocked at how much I used to throw in a land fill. Cardboard, paper, letters, packaging etc. Boy, it adds up quickly.

  6. I recently heard on the radio that 80% of what goes to landfills is packaging, and that most of it could be recycled. "Reduce, reuse, recycle" Every little bit helps! Yay for you and your neighbors Jane! Some day the world will come around to my way of thinking about a lot of things :) Thanks for the comments!

  7. One thing about living in a large city is that people become very accustomed to seeing garbage - most of which are recyclable - scattered all over the streets. But more people are reusing plastic bags and recycling papers these days, and every small step counts right? More people should be ferocious about environment like you though, we've only got one Earth to call home... And by the way, that's a great quote at the end.

  8. I'm impressed that you guilted all 10 beer drinkers into cleaning up their mess. You must be a force to be reckoned with.
    The indian proverb is excellent; we should all look at the world that way.

    always interesting grist for our mills.

  9. A girl after my own heart! I'm on the recycling committee in our town (yes, artistic ability helps with getting the word out) and gosh, it's an up hill battle, but you know, slow and steady and we're truly seeing results... It's a life way (high school drinkers in the woods are tough) but every now and then you're rewarded with a convert, then they manage to do the same. Good work!

  10. The funny thing is that I never considered that confronting the beer drinkers might end up badly until I was driving away. Then I realized that might've been kind of stupid, but since it worked out properly I feel rather happy about it. Every victory is a victory, no matter how small, and the more converts we get, the more victories! Thanks for the comments!

  11. Wow Linda, I was reading away happily till I get to the part 'Penny thought this was an improvement in our walks because she had more time to smell bushes and pee on things.' Now up until the last phrase I was assuming that Penny was a good human girl friend of yours...

    Ahh you are so good. I am so impressed that you put your time and skills where your mouth is. I am the opposite. I have no children so I feel that it is my job to use up as much of the world's natural resources as I can in my small alloted space... after all, we humans are self limiting - in a bad way....

    But seriously. I admire you greatly. You are the kind of person who sets things on a roll.

  12. Andrew, I don't have kids either, but I like kids in general and a few in particular. Mostly, I think of it all like the old saying about dogs who don't sh*t where they live. I can only think of smart alec responses to your thought of Penny being a human girl friend, none of which probably belong in the blogosphere :)

  13. Heh :) Oh I have jokes with the neighbour's kids that I sneak out at night on recycling week and take the bottles and cans out of people's recycling bins and put them in the normal bins--- all the time laughing evilly and gnashing my teeth with glee.... heheheheh :)

    But think the kids are on to me :)

  14. Don't mess with the recycle fairy Andrew! You're too funny :)

  15. Heisann Linda!

    I am very 'back foot' myself.. I skip this week's IF.You can tell more people about your picking up trash walk on Sunday. It's a great idea doing several positive things when you walk!