Like many people, Donna Swarr used to complain about the litter in Hartford. Now, unlike many people, she’s doing something about it.
Swarr, a Hartford native who currently resides on Shultas Place in the South Green neighborhood, started the “Respect Yourself, Hartford” campaign a few months ago.
She said she had been searching for a way to reduce litter in Hartford for quite some time when, this past winter, her husband, Tom, suggested she check out the website, SeeClickFix.com. The website enables a person to upload a picture of a problem, such as litter, and the picture is sent automatically to an agency that can fix the problem, in this case the City of Hartford’s 311 system. If the litter is on public property, the City of Hartford Public Works Department is notified. If it is on private property, the property owner is notified.
The SeeClickFix.com website is a key element in Swarr’s strategy for reducing litter. “Clean-ups certainly serve a purpose,” she said, “but this campaign is aimed primarily at stopping people from littering. It’s about changing attitudes.”
In researching the problem, Swarr found that most littering is done by persons between 14 and 30 years of age. It is vital, therefore, to get children involved in an anti-litter campaign before they picked up the habit of simply throwing trash on the ground.
Unfortunately, children cannot be asked to pick up litter because it can be hazardous and the liability issues are enormous. So, Swarr reasoned, why not enlist Hartford kids to photograph litter in their neighborhoods and send the pictures into SeeClickFix.com. “It’s safe and the youngsters could see that they are part of the solution.”
So far, all children at all branches of the Hartford Public Library are participating in the program as well as youngsters at the Pope Park Recreation Center. Walgreens Pharmacy has donated digital cameras for the kids to use.
The Urban League of Greater Hartford (ULGH) has also joined in the Respect Yourself, Hartford campaign. ULGH youths are conducting a Litter Attitude and Behavior Survey this summer. Data from the survey will be analyzed and the results will be shared with various groups around the city.
“If every child in Hartford could participate in one of these programs, I am sure we would start to see a significant reduction in the amount of litter in the next few years,” said Swarr.
Swarr is currently looking for more organizations that work with city youths to join in the Respect Yourself, Hartford campaign. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the campaign can be found at http://respect_yourself_hartford.airset.com/# or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=418044433008&v=wall.
Swarr said it is the responsibility of all Hartford residents to eradicate the city’s litter problem. “It’s a reflection on those of us who live here, whether we like it or not,” she said. “People drive through here and see all the trash lying about and they think to themselves, ‘The people here have no respect for themselves, why should I respect them?’”
In addition to making the city look bad, litter is also a health hazard. Decaying food attracts disease-carrying micro-organisms. These micro-organisms are then spread far and wide by flies and other insects feeding off the trash. Carelessly discarded cigarettes can start fires. Piles of trash can also clog sewer opening, leading to flash floods.
As a motto for the Respect Yourself, Hartford campaign, Swarr has borrowed a quotation from President John F. Kennedy, “One person can make a difference and every person should try.”