The disgusting truth

Last year, when I made the long trek across the Commons after lunch, I vividly remember stepping on half-used ketchup packets and ruining my converse. I looked down and saw other condiments, bread, utensils, wrappers and fruit strewn across the tile floor. 

The Atrium was no better. Its tables partially concealed the litter, but it was nonetheless scattered with trash as well. Do we want to represent ourselves as a school like this? We need to do a better job of cleaning up after ourselves. We do not want to burden our custodial staff with picking up our messes. 

If we want privileges to be considered by the new administration, we need to take responsibility for the state in which we leave our lunchrooms. This includes the Commons, the Atrium, hallways and classrooms where we can eat or drink. Along with the food, styrofoam trays are torn up, thrown around and often left sitting on the cafeteria floor. 

We are taught in elementary school not to litter, yet somehow we forget this lesson as we get older. School is supposed to prepare students for the responsibilities of adulthood. Is appropriately cleaning up after ourselves not a part of this responsibility checklist? As if the moral responsibility was not enough, littering is a crime. In the state of Kansas, littering can result in a fine of up to $2,000. Aside from the fine, food and litter waste can do terrible things to the environment, like allowing animal populations to digest toxic chemicals from the landfills they end up at, or in some cases cause tremendous amounts of suffering or death.

Change can be made when people care about a cause. In 2015, an 8-minute video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose and blood streaming down its face went viral and sparked cries for plastic straw bans. How many more heartbreaking videos of animals—or people—suffering do we need to see before we make active changes? 

We do not need the constant cycle of feeling bad, donating money, changing minimal habits, and then forgetting about the cause after a few months. We need an increased awareness of societal responsibilities. Most of all, we should be decent human beings. Failing to realize the harm of littering allows for trash to end up in inappropriate places, requires our custodial staff to spend extra time cleaning up easily preventable messes, and overall sets a bad example of the “Husky Pride” we display so much. 

This issue runs deep across society, impacting not only the environment, but disrespecting our staff who work hard to make our school safe and clean. It may not seem like a big deal if you are one person leaving behind one apple core. But, it is one of 1600 apple cores that are left behind. Picking up after 1600 students’ trash is not custodial staff’s job. Their job is to keep the building clean and safe for us to attend school. It is time for us all to take responsibility for ourselves and not expect our custodial staff to pick up our half-chewed food and sticky wrappers off the tile floor. Every time we decide to leave our trash where it doesn’t belong, more work is created for the already underappreciated and hardworking staff. 

Any idea can lead to positive change. For example, we not only could reduce waste and trash in our school, but also offer an eco-friendly approach and helpful alternative. We can set up a compost program, allowing for year-round food donations. Or, simply educate more students on the dangers of food litter to reduce it and have better food choices. The more responsive and receptive to change we are, the more improved our school and lifestyles become. The start of a new school year is the start of new change. We have a new opportunity to be different than last year. Let’s set an example for incoming freshmen so the litter cycle does not repeat. Let’s take responsibility for ourselves as adults. Let’s show some Husky Pride. And let’s leave this place a little better than we found it.