April 22 is Clean Up, Evanston Day. It is a worthy and necessary admonition because litter is, unfortunately, everywhere: on the streets, in the parks, under trees, across fields, against fences, below viaducts, along parkways, all over town. Trash is the detritus of modern living, of excessive consumption and casual thoughtlessness.

Let us count the ways: food wrappers, plastic bags, store coupons, newspaper pages, beer cans, wine bottles, cigarette butts, scraps of paper, clamshell containers, broken glass, discarded mattresses, pizza boxes, even articles of clothing.

Litter is the modern blight: it reflects a society too engorged on junk and too inured to care.

But litter is more than just an aesthetic offense. Litter is dangerous to animals, when they choke on it; and people, when cars swerve to avoid it. Even plants are threatened by ground despoliation.

There is an answer, but it requires a change in thinking. There was a time when dog poop, underfoot and under shoe, commonly befouled our sidewalks and parkways, until people got disgusted enough to do something about it. Social mores changed and laws were passed. Signs got posted and stiff penalties were threatened and occasionally meted out. The new mantra became: bring a bag and clean up after your dog.

A similar solution awaits the litter problem. First, never do it yourself. Second, help clean up after those who do.

That is all it takes: awareness, vigilance, and action. It is not hard to stuff a couple of plastic bags in a coat, purse, or pockets. Take a minute, when venturing out, to fill up those bags. Or if that’s too much, simply grab the first few pieces of trash you see lying around. Deposit said trash in the nearest trash receptacle.

Likewise, merchants: clean up on the sidewalks and curbs in front of your stores.

This falls under the category of taking responsibility and making the effort, rather than expecting someone else to do the job. Sure, the City has a littering ordinance, violations of which bring fines ranging from $10 to $750 as well as community service. Let’s enforce it. And the City also has street sweepers that operate most of the year.  But much of Evanston’s litter is on sidewalks, parkways, and parkland, beyond the reach of the sweepers.

So let us take it upon ourselves. Evanston has 60,000 adults. If everyone collected just one item a month, our litter problem would disappear.

April 22 is also Earth Day. But keeping the Earth and our City clean is not just one day, it is every day. Let us keep Evanston beautifully trash-free – all the time.