I’m old enough to remember the debut of the iconic crying Indian commercial put out during the Keep American Beautiful anti-litter campaign. Keep America Beautiful is the organization credited with coining the term “litterbug.” In the early 1960s, Keep America Beautiful embarked on a nationwide campaign to promote national tidiness. And it worked! Almost.
One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in South Carolina almost 20 years ago was the shocking amount of litter along the highways and in parks, gutters and parking lots. The grassy areas bordering exit ramps were dumping grounds for discarded fast food wrappers, soda cans and bottles, plastic garbage bags, and other trash. I often witnessed these areas being mowed. Everything in the mower’s path, even what wasn’t biodegradable, was shredded and strewn about like confetti.
The University of South Carolina hired longtime Midwesterner Lou Holtz to coach the Gamecock football team in 1999. Like me, he was appalled by the litter in the state and quickly spearheaded a state-wide anti-litter campaign. Palmetto Pride is a non-profit organization established the same year by executive order of Gov. Jim Hodges in an effort to eliminate litter and the behaviors behind it.
And their efforts paid off. Almost. The state is much neater and cleaner today than when I arrived. However, we have a long way to go. See for yourself the trash I see every day as I travel around my South Carolina town.