NORTH LAWNDALE — West Siders fed up with filthy sidewalks and trash strewn throughout the streets are teaming up to clean up North Lawndale.
The campaign for a litter-free Lawndale is being planned by the GROWSS committee, a group dedicated to greening, beautification and food justice that is part of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council.
Residents who want to join the effort to prevent littering and keep the neighborhood clean can sign up to be updated on planning meetings and beautification projects.
At the first planning meeting for the campaign to stop littering, committee members and Lawndale residents brainstormed ways to tackle trash problem in the neighborhood. Ideas from residents will help guide the campaign once it is officially launched.
“Our primary goal should be tying to get people not to litter, period. … I don’t want to keep picking up litter. I want there to be no litter,” said Mamie Gray, a resident and member of the group. “I want to see this litter campaign change people’s behavior.”
Gray wants people to change the way they think about litter and their responsibility to keep the neighborhood clean. She is an avid cyclist, and when she sees somebody littering while she is biking around Lawndale, she asks them questions to encourage them to think critically about what it is they are doing, she said.
“When I see them littering, I’ll ask them what it’s made of. How did it become produced? What materials went into it? Especially with glass, that’s always a good one,” Gray said.
Barbara Stewart worked for years trying to stop people from littering by putting up signs in the area encouraging people to take personal responsibility for the cleanliness of their neighborhood.
“It has to become a habit. Because the habit is throwing it down. My pet peeve is cars that drive by and throw down their McDonald’s bags,” Stewart said. “It’s a personal responsibility. … If you live there, you’re responsible for keeping it clean.”
For the campaign to be successful, there needs to be someplace besides the sidewalks for people to throw their trash, some said. Residents have pushed the city to install more trash cans in the area for years. More than 70 trash cans were added throughout the neighborhood in 2021, but there still aren’t enough, resident Dianna Long said.
And when public trash cans, dumpsters and alley trash cans aren’t collected by the city regularly, they overflow and fill the streets with garbage, Long said.
“The wind blows, and that’s where some of the litter comes from. From the trash cans. It blows onto vacant lots,” she said.
All members of the community will have to be engaged to change people’s mindsets around littering. Local block club leader Tracy Daniel hopes people in Lawndale will get their neighbors and block clubs to participate to make cleaning up the community the norm, she said.
“We all play a role,” Daniel said. “I want to see this area come together and maybe organize something where we all participate.”
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