Joe Pisani: Let’s ‘Make America Beautiful Again’ and clean it up

earth, green, earth ecology. recycling; recycle

earth, green, earth ecology. recycling; recycle

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Let me make a confession. I’m a slob. Ask anyone. Well, maybe not anyone. Just my wife.

She’ll point to my nightstand as prima facie evidence that I’m a proponent of slobbishness. I bet you didn’t even know there was such a word. You see, my nightstand bears no resemblance whatsoever to her nightstand, which is as stately and majestic as St. Peter’s Basilica.

Mine, on the other hand, resembles that Burning Man hippie festival, where everyone runs around naked and crazed through the desert because they smoked too much peyote.

I can still remember my mother yelling at me when I was a teenager: “LOOK AT THIS ROOM! IT’S A MESS!” She was big on yelling because she thought we’d listen more if she turned up the volume, but — to quote her — it just went in one ear and out the other.

I told her that she was the problem because she got worked up over nothing. Things would be better if she’d just shut the door and follow the advice of the Serenity Prayer and “accept the things you cannot change.”

But even I have standards, which brings me to the point of this timely column with historic implications for the future of our planet.

Americans are constantly grumbling about climate change, abusing the environment and saving the Earth ... even while we’re burying the landscape in litter.

We throw red plastic cups out car windows, we blow dust and debris into the atmosphere with high-powered leaf blowers, we dispose of grass and shrub clippings in the street, we toss Big Mac wrappers — and sometimes Big Macs — on lawns. I may be a slob, but the mere thought of littering sends guilt pulsing through every neuron in my brain, all 86 billion of them.

American roadsides are an unending terrain of debris. Maybe it’s time for John Kerry, Al Gore, Joe Biden, Hollywood and Greta Thunberg to lead by example. They always talk about saving the planet, so they should take fewer jet flights and get out there to pick up litter with the work crews, who are doing the really heavy lifting.

No wonder we don’t take pride in our country; we’ve made a mess of it. There’s litter everywhere, from sea to shining sea, from the Wilbur Cross to the Merritt, from city streets to country roads — a smorgasbord of litter that includes beer cans (time to decompose 200 years), water bottles and red plastic cups (time to decompose 450 years), plastic grocery bags (time to decompose 1,000 years) and Dunkin’ Donuts cups (a mere 20 years).

Those red plastic cups, which are so popular with college partiers, don’t contribute to a healthy planet. They’re supposed to be disposable, but they’re not supposed to be disposed on the side of the road. I don’t want to be accused of singling out students. Who knows? Maybe the culprits are actually members of the Red Hat Society, who toss plastic drinking cups out the window after a night of heavy lemonade consumption. But I doubt it.

Every year 51 billion pieces of litter end up on our roads, an estimated 6,729 pieces per mile. COVID added to the problem. In 2020, 207 million PPE masks and gloves were found on roads and in the water. Cleaning up litter costs this country $11.5 billion a year, and that money could be used to buy electric cars for the little people, with Pete Buttigieg’s blessing.

We don’t exercise personal responsibility because we believe the government will solve our problems. America is suffering from the notorious national malaise that Jimmy Carter first diagnosed when we were being pummeled by stagflation, which is coming back just like COVID.

Another bad habit of the literati (or should that be the litterati?) is to blow grass clippings into the street. Is that a form of suburban recycling? Actually, it’s better to keep them on the lawn, where they’ll break down and you won’t have to use chemical fertilizer.

I’m convinced that people who blow grass and shrub clippings onto the sidewalk are the same ones who clip their toe nails and leave them on the bathroom floor or brush their hair and let the clumps stay on the carpet. But that’s not as bad as folks who let their dogs poop on the sidewalk without picking it up because they think it’s a personal freedom guaranteed under the Constitution.

For those of you worried about air pollution and global warming, here’s a radical idea: Don’t be afraid to use a rake. The truth is I can’t even get my family to do that because they’re addicted to leaf blowers, which create big problems for us allergy sufferers.

It’s time to “make America beautiful again.” It’s the only country we have, so let’s clean it up ... and I’ll get to work on my nightstand.

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at