Playing the Long Game With I Love a Clean San Diego

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Times may have changed in the last 70 years, but as long as San Diego has trash, ILACSD will teach us better habits.

There’s a famous scene in the TV show Mad Men where the picture-perfect Draper family is enjoying a picnic in a lovely park. As they get ready to depart, Don tosses a beer can aside and Betty just shakes out the blanket, showering trash on the grass. The Drapers hop in the car and drive off as the camera lingers on the refuse. This is where we were with litter in the middle of the last century: Even the “respectable” thought it was okay.

Some of the earliest environmental organizations were formed to combat this insanity, such as the Keep America Beautiful campaign (1953). Locally, the San Diego War Against Litter Committee formed in 1954, becoming I Love a Clean San Diego (ILACSD) in 1980.

While social views of littering have changed, the litter problem lingers. And I Love a Clean San Diego is still battling litter and solid waste issues. Steve Morris, executive director of ILACSD, says, “I think our founders would be stunned at the evolution of litter. In 1954, litter emerged as our country’s domestic manufacturing industry began to bounce back after World War II. The mass production of disposable goods also produced a growing mountain of waste. However, I don’t think our founders would have foreseen the incredible increases in consumption, generating more waste (particularly single-use plastic) thus continually growing the scale of the challenge.”

I don’t think our founders would have foreseen the incredible increases in consumption, generating more waste (particularly single-use plastic) thus continually growing the scale of the challenge.

– Steve Morris, executive director of ILACSD

Litter education and cleanup events remain a core part of ILACSD’s mission, but the group has expanded into educational programs for kids and adults (and corporations) that promote waste-free living. Steve notes, “I believe education and volunteerism are very complementary. Knowledge leads to appreciation, which leads to action. If we can build a connection between nature and our youth, they almost certainly will want to protect it and share it with others. ILACSD devotes more resources to education than any other program.”

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In addition to the 600 community cleanups that remove about half a million pounds of trash from the environment each year, ILACSD holds 900 educational events in classrooms, at community workshops, and for businesses. These include special events like Kids’ Ocean Day San Diego each May and the Creek to Bay Cleanup on Earth Day.

Check out the ILACSD website for up-to-date info, including:


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Jim Miller
Jim Miller
Jim Miller, co-editor of Bluedot San Diego and Bluedot Santa Barbara, has been an environmental economist for over 25 years, in the private sector, academia, and the public service. He enjoys sharing his knowledge through freelance writing, and has been published in The Washington Post and Martha’s Vineyard magazine. He’s always loved nature and the outdoors, especially while on a bicycle.
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