A few years ago, my Aunt and Uncle visited from the USA and took a boat cruise down the Rhein.  The port of disembarkation for this particular cruise was Basel.  A walking tour of the city was the last event of their cruise package and we had arranged to meet for lunch after this tour.  They finished the tour and after our greetings and hugs, their first comment was, “You know, we had always heard how clean and pristine Switzerland is.  But as far as we can see, Switzerland is a trash bin!  All the other places we visited on the cruise, I mean, ALL of them were so clean, you could eat off the floors and sidewalks.  Basel is a mess!”

I took a quick look around and had to agree.  They were right.  Basel was a mess.  And furthermore, upon finishing a quick self brain-scan, I had to admit to myself that I had not really observed the actual state of messiness or cleanliness of Switzerland.  I also just repeated the mantra that Switzerland is clean and pristine.  However, I did not want my dear Aunt and Uncle to be crestfallen, so I reassured them, “Oh, this is just Basel and Basel is a big industrial city.  The rest of Switzerland is now like this.”

They seemed relieved to hear this and we went off to enjoy a wonderful lunch.

Later that day, I looked around in my hometown and this time I did not just look, I opened my eyes and SAW.  Later that week, I did the same in Bern and in the town where I worked at the time.  It was not just Basel.  My Aunt and Uncle were right.

Switzerland HAS become a mess.

PET bottles.  Newspapers.  Red Bull cans.  McDonalds wrappers. Cigarrette cartons. More Cigarrette cartons.  The streets have become the public trash bin.

I also witnessed the brazen trash-producing behavior.  Just follow some school-kids for 5 minutes and you’ll see at least one Red-Bull can thrown into the bushes or crushed on the sidewalk and left there.  Follow a smoker for a while, you’ll see butts flying and eventually a carton find its way to the ground.

This really bugged the crap out of me.  I do not like living in a pig sty.  My first reaction was, “SOMEBODY OUGHT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!”  I quickly realized how naïve that really was.  Nobody was going to do anything about it.

Q: So whose job IS it to do something about this?

A: It is OUR job.  It is MY job.

I wanted something done about it.  So now I am doing it.  The plan is very simple.  It has only 2 steps.

  1. Every day when you go out, pick up ONE piece of trash from the ground and throw it away.
  2. Whenever you see somebody throw trash on the ground, pick up the piece of trash, bring it back to the litter-bug (the person who threw the trash), and say, “Excuse me.  You dropped something.  I think this is yours.”

STEP 1 cleans up the current mess.

STEP 2 changes behavior and prevents the future mess.

If this group acquires 500,000 members, that will mean 1 MILLION pieces of trash disappearing from Switzerland’s lovely streets and landscapes EVERY 2 DAYS!

If this happens, Switzerland will be spotless within one year!

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