Monday mornings usually hit quicker than many of us would like. I often spend my commute thinking about what the day will bring, trying to remember what I left on my desk Friday afternoon as I dashed out the door to enjoy the weekend. This morning, however, my thoughts were interrupted by the driver in front of me. The motorist, in a new powder blue Jeep Cherokee, was using the highways as a trash bin. At first, there was a cigarette butt, sparks flying as it bounced across the pavement. A mile down the road, came the left overs and containers of McDonald’s breakfast items. Paper, cardboard and yellow arches flying into the grill of my car.
As I inched up to get a look, I saw the culprit. The driver was a woman in her late 40’s with pulled back hair and modest makeup. As I steadied my car, even with hers, she looked at me with a shocked look. She probably had no idea why I was shaking my head at her and giving her that same look of disapproval that I give to my little pug dog when he’s been naughty.
As she exited the highway, I continued on and gathered my composure. This had made me angry and we all know getting angry while driving is dangerous. No need for road rage. Still, wasn’t protecting our environment all of our jobs? What was going on with this woman that made her comfortable with throwing her trash out of her car window, on the highway and the top of my car? (By the way, throwing any object on a highway is punishable by law and usually involves a large fine and possible jail time.)
In my office at the Jefferson County Public Health Department, we try very hard to get information and resources to the public that will help keep them safe and healthy. However, keeping the public healthy is not something any agency or single organization can do on its own. This collaborative effort involves every individual in our community. The littering driver this morning wasn’t single handedly putting the health of the public at risk. However, her single action when multiplied by potentially thousands of others who decided not to be conscious of the environment and their community are.
Public health has its roots in sanitation and cleaner environments. Hundreds of years ago, people recognized that polluted water and improper disposal of waste were causing disease and death and came together to do something about it. Obviously we still have lots of work to do, but let’s begin by going back to some basics. Trash belongs in trash cans and not on the highways, cigarette butts go in an ashtray and should be completely extinguished, and common courtesy, even on a Monday morning, goes a long way.
For more information on Public Health and how you can make a difference in creating a healthier Jefferson County visit www.jeffco.us/health.
by Tina Thorpe
Jefferson County Public Health