GUEST COLUMN: Community making a difference against litter

   There are those in our communities that try to make a difference by picking up highway litter but we must realize that those that intentionally or accidentally litter our highways have a direct impact on the economy and the quality of life in Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties.
    Until and unless we as multiple communities realize the impact that litter has on our economies in terms of property values, tourism, business development, sustainability of existing businesses, jobs-employment, etc., we will continue to have an unhealthy economies.
    Who wants to live or bring a new business to communities that are littered? What people see when they drive through our communities speaks to our community pride or lack of pride. If residents allow the litter to remain on their highways, what does this say about those residents?
    The N.C. Litter-free Coalition has made it their 2017 goal to empower our youth by encouraging them to get involved in Community Pride projects. We thank Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeana Conley and the Cherokee County educators and students that are taking the lead in this effort by conducting multiple campus cleanup efforts each year and conducting a school-wide Earth Day anti-litter poster contest.
    The N.C. Litter-free Coalition has reached out to the superintendent of schools in Clay and Graham counties and hope that they, their teachers and students will participate in this effort. Our youth are the future messengers of the anti-litter efforts that will impact our local economies.
    For anyone that has helped pick up litter, it is quite clear that no one group is responsible for the litter that continues to plague our area. It is only because of the N.C. DOT Adopt-A-Highway groups, Road Warriors, Big Sweep participants, etc., that we are just now making a slight dent in the litter that has accumulated on our roadways, in our waterways and our communities.
    When a father-in-law tells his son-in-law that he throws trash out of his truck because he doesn’t want to get his truck dirty, then we have major economic and social issues facing our communities.
    When we retrieve thousands of pounds of trash, boats, tires, beer bottles, etc., from the Hiawassee River, then we have major economic and social issues facing our
communities.
    When people leave their trash in the parking lots of Lowe’s Home Improvement, Ingles, Walmart and other businesses that contribute generously to our communities, then we have major economic and social issues facing our communities.
    When we have celebrations in our parks and they are drastically littered, then we have major economic and social issues facing our communities.
    “Monkey see, monkey do” – these were these words used by one of the cleanup crew members after the 2016 Fourth of July celebration in Murphy, and he went on to say, when our youth see their parents tossing litter on the ground, it gives them permission to do so as well. This man went on to say, if I had tossed litter as a young man, my parents would have beat my rear end. We need more parents like this.
    If we as a nation continue to count on someone else solve our problems, we will never find the proper solution to the economic and social issues facing our individual communities. Where are our tough-love role models and leaders we so desperately need?
    There is something for everyone to do, so are you going to be part of the problem or the solution? The time for action is now.
    The writer is a resident of Murphy and organizer of the N.C. Litter-free Coalition.