Cleanups are everyone's responsibility

September 18, 2013 

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District inspectors Larry Leopard and John Carson work Sept. 10 and 11 to remove debris on Stock Island. The large-scale effort tackled several wooded areas to remove debris that potentially provides haven for Asian-Tiger mosquitoes to breed. The garbage was overflowing in the rented dumpster within the first five hours of disposal work.


If I didn't have a high-energy dog, I would not be walking as much as I do.

Fortunately, there are benefits to this other than the obvious regular exercise I get. I have become acquainted with my neighbors out on the road and it's very pleasant being able to exchange news and catch up informally whenever I see them outside.

I also get a kick seeing how many homes place recycling receptacles by the road on pickup days. It's quite a number and the homes are a mixture of owners, renter and vacationers.

In the winter, I get to see the wading birds in the nearby lake during their early morning feeding. Last winter, I saw white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, herons, egrets, ibis and cormorants. They congregate in the lake to take advantage of the shallower water in the winter to catch small fish. It's a wonderful sight.

Year round, I get to test my ID skills on the abundance of native plants growing alongside the road. So far I have found mayten, Jamaica dogwood, seven year apple, joewood, blackbead, ox eye daisy, blacktorch, buttonwood, black and red mangrove, seagrape and mouse's pineapple -- a great name for a plant.

My dog would be happy walking and sniffing the same road every day but whenever I feel the urge to go somewhere different, I take her with me on local errands. On a couple of recent trips to my local Winn-Dixie shopping plaza, we walked around the perimeter of the plaza along the road and behind the stores. I thought it would be nice to see some different scenery. What an eye-opener.

If there was any doubt that there is a proliferation of plastic bags, plastic and glass bottles, cans and takeout boxes, a walk around the plaza will cast that aside. I was saddened to see the amount of trash scattered throughout the parking areas, caught in the shrubs, accumulated behind buildings and tossed beside parked cars.

As some of you may know, I have been involved with the Got Your Bags? Florida Keys group to reduce plastic bag use in the Keys. The group has been together for a year and we have made some inroads with our outreach but there is always more to do.

Aside from the unsightliness, trash can easily become a hazard to our wildlife and marine life in the National Key Deer Refuge and, in a larger sense, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Trash pollutes our surrounding waters once it enters storm drains or gets swept into the nearshore waters through wind and rain.

Recently the Sheriff's Office and others organized community cleanups and the turnout was good. The National Marine Sanctuary Team Ocean group organizes many cleanups along shorelines. But I wonder if other businesses, residents and community groups could get together and organize cleanups around their storefronts, neighborhoods and streets.

The problem could also be tackled at the source by skipping the plastic bag and using reusable bags wherever possible, fewer plastic bottles, having more trash and recycling bins outside businesses, secure lids on residential garbage bins to deter the Key deer and raccoons that tend to knock them down and rummage in them.

It's a collaborative effort from which we would all benefit even though my dog might be disappointed in finding fewer scraps on her walks.

Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education she can be reached at

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