Sweetwillow Woods Litter Free Community Project

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Sweetwillow Woods is a 90 day community project to clean up Sweetwillow Woods in Ashford Kent, UK. It draws on the Broken Window Theory that says if you maintain an environment in an orderly state for …

Sweetwillow Woods is a 90 day community project to clean up Sweetwillow Woods in Ashford Kent, UK. It draws on the Broken Window Theory that says if you maintain an environment in an orderly state for at least 3 months it becomes the norm. So if you drop litter you get more litter. If you clean it up, you get more clean.

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  • 1. “Litter-free by 1pm, July 27, 2014” Our Little Woods Sweetwillow Wood Litter-Free in 90 Days Sweetwillow Wood is just off the M20 at Junction 10 and at the back of the William Harvey Hospital. It has several wonderful nature trails and is a firm favourite with local families - many dog owners - who will walk in the woods up to two to three times a day. And ... ... the thing you notice most is the litter. Our Little Woods is a 90-day community project to transform Sweetwillow from always messy to always rubbish free. Here’s how easy it is for you to help Sweetwillow Woods become litter-free in the next 90 days.
  • 2. Start here, start now Our Little Woods is a three-month community project to clean up the litter in Sweetwillow Wood ... and then keep it that way. We CAN do it. Here’s the PROOF Numerous studies over many years show that communities can make lasting positive enhancements to any urban environment if a minimum of 20 people decide to take small but consistent action over a 3-month period. Starting now (April, 2014) Currently, if you walk on the tracks through Sweetwillow Wood you’d say it is a nice wooded area spoiled by litter. By Sunday July 27 we want Sweetwillow Wood to be litter-free. This project aims to: 1. Select and assess a typical high-litter route through the wood and assess current levels of litter on that track. 2. Invite at least 20 people to pick up a small amount of litter when they go for a walk in the woods. 3. Monitor the selected track every four weeks for progress. 4. In three months time (the weekend July 26 and 27) inspect the same route to see if the track is significantly if not totallly litter-free. Welcome to our Community Project Hi my name is Andrew and I live in Longbridge. Most days, my wife, Diane and I walk our cocker spaniel, Honey, up Sandy Lane onto a privately owned Sweetwillow Wood. We walk: a) up the track alongside the William Harvey Hospital carpark and either walk down through Fostal Wood down to Hinxhill Road and back; or b) we loop along the track bounding the farmer’s field and back past the property inside the wood; or c) down Kennington Road into Blackwalls Road South and walk back through the woods to Sandy Lane. Like so many others, I love the fact that we have a wood this big and so close to home. We can walk in some of the most beautiful woodlands around. New to the area, Diane and I lived in London and you have to travel a long way to find anything as lovely and quiet as this! Here’s the spoiler There is just so much litter in the woodlands. Where does the rubbish come from? A lot of rubbish blows from the William Harvey Hospital carpark where currently there are no rubbish bins. And I have seen people throw their rubbish out and drive off. But a lot of litter doesn’t come from the carpark. For example, areas no where near the hospital are just as littered. The truth is I’m part of the problem I pretend to love nature and be a good citizen, but the reality is: a) I think its someone else’s responsibility to pick up the rubbish i.e., the landowner, the hospital, the Council, the person who dropped it - anyone but me! b) I love to blame kids, teenagers, old people, hospital staff and visitors ... anyone; and c) I’ve spent six months complaining and bellyaching about the problem ... but I’ve done nothing.
  • 3. Dog fouling I also get very annoyed by people who let their dogs foul the pathways but the reality is I sometimes don’t pick up after my own dog. I pretend her fouling will somehow decompose or be carried off by dung beetles blown here from the Sahara winds or be collected by the poop fairy. So I realised I am part of the problem. Community Project I spoke with people already active in this area and we decided to create a project called Our Little Woods where the people who use the woods keep it clean. I KNOW we CAN make it work When I was doing my psych degree I read about the Broken Windows Theory by social scientists James Q Wilson and George L Kelling, (1982). This is a criminology theory of norm-setting as it relates to urban disorder, vandalism and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition can stop further anti-social behavior i.e., littering. Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the norm is for vandals to break a few more windows. Or if people drop litter that is not removed soon, the norm becomes one of more littering. Miraculous, inspiring But numerous studies show the reverse is also true. If enough people pick up litter, the norm simply becomes one of ‘our neighbourhood is clean so we keep it clean’. This social experiment has been successfully repeated countless times. As an example one filthy street in Harlem, New York was transformed permanently within three 3 months. And in most studies that seems to be about the amount of time it takes to become the norm. The studies also show that you need to hit a critical mass of about 20 people. In our case, we need 20 people to pick up rubbish daily .. for at least 3 months ... for it to last And then something miraculous occurs. The area that was once was described as normally filthy is now described as normally clean. Right now what’s normal is the amount of litter in the wood. People walk right on by rubbish thinking someone else should pick it up. I know because I am guilty too.
  • 4. So what do we know right now? • Several local residents already pick up rubbish – even though it’s not their job and they don’t have to. • It seems teenagers go there to make fires and drink. They leave empty bottles and aerosol cans. • A lot of litter comes from the hospital carparks. One local resident has contacted the William Harvey Hospital and received NO response. • Currently there is a dog fouling bin in Sandy Lane and Council have now agreed to install a litter bin, too. What is being thrown away? The bulk of the rubbish appears to be confectionary and fast food wrappers; glass, plastic drink containers; some abandoned items such as bikes; and some fly tipping. Here’s how you can help. 1. Please register your interest We would like at least 20 or more people to register their interest in a ridiculously easy social experiment. You can register your interest at: coachbiz@hotmail.com Practically, this is something one or two people cannot do successfully. We need more people. 2. Pick up ten pieces of litter each time If you walk in Sweetwillow Wood we’d like you to take a rubbish bag and pick up 10 pieces of litter as often as you can – for a minimum of three months. PLEASE NOTE: Stay on the tracks This is private land so for safety’s sake and as a courtesy to the landowner, please stick to the tracks. And only pick up what is safe to pick up. Please don’t handle broken glass, rusty metal or medical waste i.e., needles. Stay safe. 3. Tell others. One or two people cannot keep Sweetwillow Wood clean, so invite others to keep the tracks litter-free. YES, this is a big ask Understand, we are asking you to pick up litter you didn’t drop. And even though it certainly is someone else’s job if you walk the tracks, do your bit. What do you do - exactly? All you need is a bag, some gardening gloves and the willingness to make a small difference. Pick up ten pieces of litter whenever you can - over the next three months - even though you don’t have to. Take the rubbish home for normal collection or pop it in the new bin in Sandly Lane, once its installed. See what difference we can all make by the July 27. What if we don’t? What if nothing changes? Then Sweetwillow Woods remains grotty. If we do nothing now this will get worse not better. The studies tell us that neglect breeds more neglect. What’s in it for you? Firstly, Sweetwillow is clean. Plus we intend to hold a couple of informal get-togethers in the small park in Longbridge Street just off Kennington Road over the next three months to acknowledge our community’s effort. How will we know it worked? There will be a community walk- through and inspection on Sunday 27 July at 3pm followed by a BYO celebration at 4.30pm. Please participate. Andrew Priestley Contact me on 07879 330060. This is really all you need. Gloves, bag and wellies.