Puhdas Päijät-Häme is a modern environmental protection community that aims to join forces for keeping nature clean and free of rubbish.
Littering is a huge burden on nature, people, animals, and the public economy. In the future, the effect will be even greater. Hazardous compounds dissolve from ordinary waste in nature over time and can end up in humans. There is too little talk about the littering of ordinary citizens and its adverse effects.
Puhdas Päijät-Häme is an environmental conservation community that aims to join forces for the cleaner environment. The community wants to focus on picking up litter because it is an easy, quick, and concrete environmental act. Making littering visible is an effective way to alter attitudes.
The community led by a private individual has existed since September 2019. It organizes litter picking events and excursions for citizens and companies in the Päijät-Häme region. Anyone can participate and volunteer just by going to events announced in social media. To this day, the community has been cleaning the environment in various locations throughout Päijät-Häme. It has also supported science by delivering collected plastic caps to the Lahti University Campus for ecotoxicological research. The community has cooperated with the city of Lahti from the beginning. Recently the community collaborated with the city and a waste management company in creating educational materials for schools.
The whole area, including citizens, animals, and nature gain from the practice. Working together for the good of nature strengthens the community and people’s bond with environment.
The community has not received any funding or even applied for it. Litter picking is volunteer work. The community has received help from local entrepreneurs, e.g., to set up a website. Local companies, such as supermarkets, have donated equipment, like trash bags.
Evidence of success
The community picked more than 2000 litres of rubbish from nature during its first fall in 2019. Most of it was plastic. In March 2020, 1000 litres of trash was picked by about ten volunteers in less than two hours. The total estimate of the volunteers varies from 100 to 150 people. The number of active participants has been about a dozen people so far. The volunteers have had many good encounters with passers-by during work and they have had a chance to talk about the effects of littering.
The challenge has been the lack of time, which might be a major problem in all volunteering carried out alongside the rest of life. However, there has been enough time for concrete actions for the environment but less time to make the work visible by updating social media and websites, etc.
Potential for learning or transfer
Even seemingly small acts can have a great positive impact on the well-being of the citizens and nature. Joining forces with other people would create even a greater impact. Networking and creating a community may help to get donations from local companies. Collaborating with a city, schools, and other organizations can increase the effectiveness of this kind of practice, create visibility, and give new opportunities to contribute, such as providing educational materials.
Organizing events around this topic can encourage people to volunteer and educate citizens about the adverse effects of littering. In the future, people might become more conscious and stop littering altogether.
Littering is already prohibited in Finnish waste law, but there are no real sanctions. This practice could inspire public policies to set more strict regulations for littering and pay more attention to the natural environment in decision-making.
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