While Three Dog Night sang about “one” being the “loneliest number that you’ll ever do,” I respectfully disagree. I found “one” quite satisfying, myself, thank you very much as I walked around the neighborhood—often with my dog Oreo—or in other communities looking for one piece of litter to remove from the streets, sidewalks, grass, bushes, ledges, hedges, etc.
As I previously wrote, the Sphera Litter Challenge began after our third Sustainability Day in 2019. Shortly thereafter, I decided to challenge myself to pick up one piece of litter per day and recycle it if possible. As I learned along the way, thanks to social media, I’m not alone. There are many people who are just as annoyed by litter as I am and want to keep Earth clean and tidy.
Over the past year, I’ve picked up most of the litter in the Chicagoland area, but I’ve also removed rubbish from Cleveland, Los Angeles and a small city near Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When creating the Litter Challenge, I wanted to make it easy for anyone to do it. Most people aren’t going to carry around a garbage bag wherever they go and just start picking up everything they see, and most people aren’t gonna grab a hunk of gunk. Picking up one item a day for a month that isn’t yucky is easy.
I debated at the time whether to make it a one-year challenge, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to do it. What if I forgot one day? What if there were no litter on the ground one day? A guy can dream, can’t he?
More likely, what if the Chicago-area winter weather made it impossible to pick up litter? I remember in 2011 when more than 20 inches of snow fell. What if that occurred again? Good luck finding litter in that scenario; I couldn’t even find my way out of my driveway that day!
For year two, I am challenging my Spherion colleagues, Sphera customers, partners and my dear blog readers to take the challenge with me by posting pictures of their litter pickups on social media and using the hashtag #SpheraLitterChallenge.
The following is a recap of how the Sphera Litter Challenge evolved, and thanks for supporting the challenge, and creating a safer, more sustainable and productive world. Scroll to the bottom to see the full list of items I picked up over the past year (almost 400 things). Imagine what we could do together.
The Litter Challenge started out pretty simple. I saw a can, I picked up the can, I recycled the can, I posted about the can.
On to Ohio
The next day I was off to Cleveland to attend the Content Marketing World conference. Note: As you can see by my fingers clutching this bag, I used to pick up items with my hands. Oh, James …
It would be months before I started using a bag or paper towel to pick up the litter. More on that in a bit.
Who Can Resist a Dog Photo?
My dog, Oreo, joined the team on Sept. 7, 2019.
Completing the Mission
A couple of days later, I decided to show not only how I pick up the litter but also how I dispose of the litter (recycling is always preferred but not always possible).
I also decided I’d try to add some wit to my posts.
The next week I completed my first request when, after donating blood, I asked my friend Zak what I should pick up. He pointed to a lighter and a bottle—grungy-looking ones, I might add.
Making a List
Then came my first recap done in a jiff with a GIF.
One-Month Challenge Complete
Completing my first 30-day #litterchallenge was fun, but my work wasn’t done. By the way, I still love saying, “#BoomChikaPop this littering has got to stop” Try it; it’ll make you smile!
New Year, Same Litter Problem
For New Year’s Eve, the family and I went to California for a vacation. The last litter pick up of 2019 occurred at the beautiful Santa Monica Pier. The next day, we were off to Universal Studios, and this flyer was the first pickup of 2020. Little did we know at that time that we were about to face a global pandemic! In case you were wondering, the “x4” means I completed four 30-day litter challenges at that point.
A Big Litter Challenge
Things were going great with the Litter Challenge until Jan. 18, 2020, when a relatively warm January day (with a high of 37 degrees Fahrenheit and some rain during the day turned into a snowy evening with a low of 7 degrees Fahrenheit.) With everything on the ground covered by ice and snow, finding litter was a huge challenge. I looked multiple times that day but came up empty. I thought the chain had been broken, but finally, after leaving a restaurant, I saw this frozen sauce cup sitting on a ledge. The #SpheraLitterChallenge was still alive.
In early April 2020, I found a single box in the middle of a large field. I thought it would make for the perfect litter pickup, so I ambled over and grabbed it. I turned it over and it turned out to be a box of nose spray. It dawned on me that I wasn’t wearing a glove and I wasn’t being safe in the COVID-19 era, so I quickly went to a trash receptacle and threw the box away. I quickly walked home and washed my hands profusely. I didn’t document the pickup, and I found something else later that day. Ever since, I’ve always used a glove, bag or paper towel to pick up items so I don’t touch it with my hands. I still wash my hands after every pickup.
The family and I were excited to rent a house in rural Michigan for a getaway in July—but then I worried that it might be the end of the Litter Challenge. I had no idea how easy or difficult it would be to find litter in a rural area. I needn’t have worried. There was litter there, too.
For the one-year anniversary of the Sphera Litter Challenge, I found part of a cardboard box. It’s been a fun, rewarding experience, and I want to continue doing this as long as I can.
So what can one person accomplish over the course of a year picking up one piece of litter (OK, sometimes two or three) at a time? Plenty!
Below you’ll find the list of items I picked up over the course of a year. I’m just one person doing his part. Imagine what we could accomplish if we all picked up just one item of litter a day. The world would be a cleaner, more sustainable place for all.
If the day comes where I can’t find any litter to pick up—and I’m not stuck in a blizzard or some other major weather event—I’ll smile and say we accomplished something. Together. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started.
Year two of the #SpheraLitterChallenge starts tomorrow. As I like to say, “One a day and be on your way.” Join me, will you?
The Litter List
- 80 cans (intact, smashed or partial)
- 44 plastic water bottles
- 28 plastic beverage bottles
- 24 pieces of plastic, random
- 24 candy/breakfast bar wrappers
- 14 paper cups
- 13 pieces of cardboard/cardboard boxes/food containers
- 13 bags/containers of chips
- 11 plastic cups
- 10 paper bags
- 9 plastic food/beverage container/lid
- 7 glass bottles
- 7 Styrofoam cups/containers
- 7 coffee containers/plastic lids
- 6 cardboard containers/pieces
- 6 ice cream/yogurt containers
- 6 paper pieces, random
- 5 e-cigarette/vape packages
- 4 cigarette packages
- 4 food wrappers
- 4 fry containers
- 3 food bags with unknown contents inside
- 3 fruit juice containers
- 3 plastic utensils
- 2 bottle caps
- 2 cigar packages
- 2 coffee cup holder
- 2 craisin/raisin containers
- 2 egg cartons, empty
- 2 felt hearts
- 2 gloves, disposable
- 2 packages, flavored ice/frozen martini
- 2 plastic straws
- 2 Slurpee containers
- 1 balloon, popped
- 1 bike grip
- 1 birthday cake topper
- 1 Boom Chicka Pop popcorn bag, which made for a fun hashtag, too
- 1 box, pasta
- 1 broken electronic (three pieces)
- 1 cable plug
- 1 container, apple pie
- 1 container, protein shake
- 1 crayon pack
- 1 flower planting directions
- 1 freshener, air
- 1 fuel cleaner bottle
- 1 gallon milk jug
- 1 glass shard, dangerous
- 1 hanger, baby clothes
- 1 kids’ milk jug shaped like a monkey
- 1 lighter
- 1 matchbook
- 1 metal piece, random
- 1 motherlode box with about 15 cans, plastic cups and water bottles
- 1 pail, plastic
- 1 package, olives
- 1 piece of junk mail (which I delivered; really)
- 1 pen
- 1 pill bottle
- 1 planter bottom
- 1 plastic bubble wand shaped like a seahorse, broken
- 1 plug cover
- 1 sauce cup to save the Litter Challenge
- 1 shoe, kid’s
- 1 tape package, packing
- 1 tinfoil package with unknown contents inside
- 1 TP roll container
- 1 12-pack box, root beer
- 1 wrapper, burger
- 1 wrapper, fortune cookie
- 1 wrapper, gum
- 1 zip tie