A clean and well-maintained installation is something we should all strive for. While there’s only so much we can do, you would be surprised how much impact you can actually have by doing so little sometimes; and, the impact can be good or bad. Good if you’re the type of person who takes ownership even when someone else is responsible for littering.
Most people take care of the things that matter to them. When something is broken or unkempt in our homes, we fix it. If our cars need a little work or a good clean up, we take care of it. The same is true for the places we work. Studies have shown that a well-maintained workspace is more productive. We respect our homes and workspaces and we value the functionality of our automobiles. It takes a little effort on our part to maintain, but the reciprocal pride is worth the work and responsibility.
That being said, NAS Lemoore is the home and work place for more than 13,000 civilian employees, service members and their families. Based on the amount of litter seen around the installation, it seems like there is some room for improvement. One of the roughest areas is the Commissary and Exchange parking lot and the area just along the fence-line, across from the parking lot. This is a pretty high-visibility spot, and it certainly isn’t giving visitors or passers-by a good impression of our installation.
Litter control is everybody’s responsibility. Each of us has an impact, good or bad, on how our installation’s appearance reflects our personal and professional pride. While our Public Works Department, to include our Recycling Center, empties trash bins and dumpsters onboard the installation, the installation has zero personnel – that is right, zero – that are hired to perform janitorial services on our grounds, roadways, gutters, parking lots, etc. No one is paid to pick up the stray McDonald’s or Starbucks cup, plastic bottle, cigarette butt or food wrapper.
What does that mean? It means, if you litter, it will stay there until someone else will hopefully come and pick it up. There are no guarantees. Don’t litter. Use a trash can. There are plenty of them. If something blows out of your hands or shopping cart, take the moment to chase it down and throw it away. If you are throwing stuff on the ground on purpose then shame on you – you know better.
Here are some real examples seen every day here on base. There is nothing more frustrating than watching someone walk out of the NEX / Commissary complex with a drink in hand, finish the drink before they get to their car, and then set that drink down on the ground because they do not want the trash in their car. That’s not right. Take a second near the trashcan to finish the drink, or take it home with you and properly dispose of it.
That parking lot trash is primarily food. Food attracts birds. For the most part, birds are not a good combination with aircraft. Bird strikes are a very real threat here at NAS Lemoore. Please do not contribute to this problem. If for no other reason, please do not litter because it negatively contributes to an operational safety hazard.
It is not uncommon to find a rolled up dirty diaper in the parking lot after a diaper change. While putting it in the car is not ideal, leaving it in the parking lot is not an appropriate option. The rest of us do not want to experience that. Take the time to walk back to the trashcan to dispose of the diaper or take it home and dispose of it there. The same thing can be said about abandoned cardboard boxes. There are many “cardboard only” dumpsters all over the installation. Please take the time to dispose of your trash.
Another significant, albeit small, item is cigarette butts. They remain the most littered item in the United States. Dropping cigarette butts to the ground, putting them in planters and disposing of them in waterways is littering. Tobacco products comprise 38% of U.S. roadway litter. Cigarette butt littering is also attributable to individual motivations. For example, 77% of individuals surveyed stated they did not consider cigarette butts as litter.
Though cigarette butts may be small, when they are carelessly dropped to the ground instead of properly disposed of, their litter has a large effect. It is very dry here and it only takes a small spark to start a fire. We already had one grass fire near the barracks this year. Properly dispose of your cigarette butts. It is sad to find cigarette butts tossed in the wood chips / mulch that surround our buildings, in bushes surrounding smoke break pits and even pushed into crevices of wooden park benches.
If you do not dispose of your trash, either the installation’s quality of life suffers, or someone who did not litter, and is not paid to pick up your litter, takes care of the problem. For those of you who pick up everybody else’s trash you and properly dispose of it, I extend a sincere thank you for having the personal initiative to address this issue.
Making a cleaner base begins with you. If you ever feel compelled to litter, question if you would litter your own home or office. This is home and work for many of us. Respect that. Lead by example. The number one thing any of us can do to keep the base clean is to do our part and set a litter-free model. We can all do our part. Picking up trash on the ground is not beneath any of us. We can all contribute to keeping Naval Air Station Lemoore clean.
This is a theme that will not vanish as long as there is room for improvement on the installation. There is always room for improvement – this is a large installation – it takes an All Hands effort to keep it clean and litter free. Two large coordinated clean-up efforts will only temporarily make a difference – this is a daily commitment.
The next time you see litter on the ground and you wonder whose job it is to pick that up, remember no one is paid to pick it up. Set the example and show some pride in your base, even though you are making up for the shortfalls of others. Thanks for your assistance with keeping Naval Air Station Lemoore clean and free from litter.
All my best,
Captain David James
Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore