Get Your Mind IN the Gutter

Happy Earth Day! (Unless you’re reading from somewhere else, in which case, Happy Monday!)

earth day 2013 image hands holding earth

art credit: v-collins

I’m almost too tired to do much celebrating today. The combination of our semi-annual neighborhood clean-up on Saturday and over three hours of lawn maintenance on Sunday have me feeling a bit pooped.

I live in a nice, middle-class suburb, where most people take care of their lawns. Unfortunately we have a “cut-through” street that connects two busier thoroughfares, and some of those people see no problem in tossing trash out their car windows. Most residents pick up the transient trash that lands in their yards or gutters, and other folks (that’d be me) pick up for those who can’t or just plain don’t pick up quickly. (We have a lot of senior-types who aren’t able. The others are just slobs.)

Besides being ugly, the problem with trash in the gutters is that the first gully-washer rain we get sends the trash straight to a storm drain, where it will either block the drain so that rain water backs up and causes flooding, or it will empty into the system and wind up in the Mississippi River. Here’s a little look at what happens when a metropolitan area of over a million people doesn’t keep its storm drains clear of trash (video only lasts a minute or so):

Pitiful. That’s the only word for it: pitiful.

I’m marginally pleased to report that on this past Saturday, we found only a few bottles and cans in the neighborhood proper–the adjacent wooded lane we’ve adopted was another story entirely–but we did have a pretty big problem plaguing our streets: oak catkins, or as I call it, oak poop. Catkins are the male oak flower, and once they’ve done their pollen-y thing, they drop from the tree where the spring winds toss them about to collect in huge piles in the street. And where does this go? Straight to the storm drain.

catkins piled in street and on storm drain

On the left you see the oak poop. On the right, you see one of the drains I cleared on Saturday. This one was especially tough, because small branches had washed onto the top of the drain openings and then silt had come in on top of it to create a complete blockage. Think: suburban beaver dam. After I’d cleared the loose layer on top, I ran (literally!) back home for my small shovel and cleared the muck and yuck from the drain so that it will, you know, drain. We’re supposed to have thunderstorms tomorrow. I may go out to watch “my” drain do it’s thing.

I really don’t understand why so many people don’t seem to care. Still, I’m committed to “enlightening” my neighbors and have assembled some tips for ensuring our community’s trash doesn’t make it to the local river:

Tips for Being Good Storm Drain Guards

  • When you see trash, pick it up.
  • Secure the lids on trash cans and recycle bins, especially during windy times.
  • Don’t blow lawn clippings or leaves into the street.
  • Take your pet droppings to your trash can. Dropping them down the storm drain is NOT the solution. (I don’t like carrying around dog poo either, especially in the summer, but I’ll do it joyfully in the quest for a healthier planet.)
  • Don’t use a storm drain for a dumping station for waste products. You might as well go ahead and drink it straight, because it’s going to end up in your water supply anyway.
  • Since I’ve actually seen someone dumping used motor oil into a drain, another good tip is to keep the phone number of the appropriate reporting agency handy. (In Memphis, you can even report it online!)

Feel free to “enlighten” your community as well! And until they see the light, why not check out your nearest storm drain to make sure it’s clear?!

Today, I’m focusing on a different set of gutters: the ones on my house. With three poop-dropping oak trees in my yard, my gutters runneth over. Oh well, lots more functional exercise today! This might be my third 1000+ calories-burned day in a row!

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day?


12 thoughts on “Get Your Mind IN the Gutter

  1. We have moved to a nice neighborhood where things are clean for the most part. I was warned that the HOA does not like weeds and to be diligent about controlling them. While walking around Saturday to check out the community garage sales, we noticed that many are negligent about picking up their doggie waste. I picked up doggie poo for almost 13 years. It is not hard. Here, they even provide bags and trash cans for this. I don’t understand why people are so lazy.

    • I’m glad my HOA is somewhat weed tolerant, or I’d be in trouble! :) They’re actually pretty good about understanding that weather and work schedules sometimes don’t work well together. But if there are too many nice weekends in a row and the yard work is still behind, they’ll send a polite, um, inquiry.

  2. Thankfully, we have a very alive and active neighborhood association all voluntary. Since my next door neighbor is President this year, guess we’ll keep everything nice and tidy!! Actually, my yard is probably the one of the most well-kept and beautifully tended in the whole neighborhood and I can take ZERO credit for that. But I have a really wonderful “yard boy” who gets out there and when he starts digging in the dirt, I can stand in a window and literally watch the stress roll off his back. He’d probably be happy cleaning out your gutters if we were a few hours closer!!

    • I actually don’t mind cleaning most of the gutters. It’s just that there are so many of them! If I wasn’t such a big chicken, I’d get up on the roof with the blower and get them out that way, but I don’t really think I’m a good candidate for walking a sloped roof with a 30-pound blower in my hand. :)

  3. Okay, am I the only one who thinks “suburban beaver dam” sounds like a great name for a rock group? Cleaning the neighbor and a workout all in one, good for you!

  4. Awesome community service work Cammy! We keep the area around the pond next to our house mowed and clear of trash with the help of a neighbor on the other side. Well I should say hubby does the mowing I’m one of the trash collectors! Yard work is a wonderful work out – Happy Earth Day!

  5. Wow. This kinda makes me glad I don’t live in a city neighborhood. I guess we’ve got the same kind of junk going on in the country. I actually saw a refrigerator and a mattress dumped over the side of our road. Really? You couldn’t drive another mile and PAY to dump it in the proper place?

    Plus, I’m super impressed with you cleaning your own gutters. Mine need it desperately. But the roof also needs to be cleaned, and there’s no way I can do that. I guess I’m going to have to find a “roof boy!”

  6. I am all about the earth day every day – Yay Prius!!! 😀

    My neighbors are really annoying with junk and trash that blows around. On each side, no less. Then the one house is vacant most of the time and we end up mowing their lawn so it doesn’t look vacant and invite squatters. Ugh.

    I do like to pick up trash when I go on walks. Well, I don’t like to do it, but it just feels like the right thing to do.

  7. When I was a kid, my dad would dump his motor oil directly down the storm drain. I knew that was wrong even when I was 8-years-old! Wonderful earth-day tips. Nature is a great source of happiness for me, and I’m so glad when people try to be good caretakers!

  8. Great post Cammy & I love your earth day graphic at the top AND the new blog which I keep forgetting to tell you!! That cool little arrow off to the side to see other posts! :)

    So cool that you all chip in!!!!

  9. you are just amazing. I love the way you always get in there and get it done. whatever *it* is.
    I’ll be on a mission on our next walk to find the storm drains.

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