In the past, I have rarely written about anything else than embroidery. And I don't intend to write more often about non-embroidery topics. However, tomorrow is an important day for me and my husband. The village council will meet and debate the litter data my husband and I have collected for the past three months or so. What did we do? Each year, we commit to a certain challenge for Lent. It is usually the "no cookies" or "no chocolate" 40-day challenge. But with the unpleasant pandemic restrictions, I did not want to restrict myself any further this year. Instead, we were looking for something to make a positive impact on our community. At the same time, as the weather improved, more and more people visited our beautiful lake. Not being able to leave the country means that many Germans now recreate in the Alps. This has a negative impact on this sensitive ecosystem. Especially littering has become a huge problem. So we decided to dedicate several hours each week to clean-up using the Litterati app. As archaeologists, we are perfectly skilled to analyse the litter data collected and advise our village council. Tomorrow, they will debate several data-based solutions we have come up with. For those of you who read German easily, you can find our analysis on this website.
Those of you who have visited my studio here in Bad Bayersoien, know what a beautiful place this is. Our village is actually located in Nature Park "Ammergauer Alpen". Protected wildflowers and certain rare animal species are living here. The lake is part of a bog landscape. And along one side of its shore, is one of Europe's largest habitats for European vipers. Especially at this time of year, these beautiful black snakes sunbathe right next to the walking trail. Unfortunately for them, women who need to pee, tend to go into the shrubs and woods of viper territory. It is a wonder that so far no one got bitten! How do we know it is women who like to pee here? They leave hundreds of tissues ... You might think that a paper tissue dissolves easily and does not harm nature too much. However, these tissues are no longer made of paper, but of bleached cellulose. And they don't easily decompose. And it doesn't stop at the tissues. Some even leave sanitary towels, tampons and adult diapers there!
You are forgiven for thinking, since we live so rural, that we don't have clean free public toilets here and that these women need to pee somewhere. Thankfully, we have a spacious toilet block right opposite the kiosk (from the trail, you are never more than 500m away from them!). The toilets are clean and free to use. Why are the woods then so popular? Probably because people park after a long drive and don't have time to search for the toilets. Not everyone knows that there are clever apps for your phone that tell you where (free) toilets are located. A good solution for our lake would be to place signs that point people in the right direction. Using a bit of humour could persuade people to walk that 500m (picture a woman squatting being bitten by a viper :)).
Another huge problem is the many cigarette butts being thrown away carelessly. Again, many people assume that they decompose. Wrong. They are made of cellulose acetate. Filled with the toxins of smoking, this substance falls apart in smaller and smaller bits. Just like micro-plastic, it lands in our drinking water and cannot be removed in water treatment plants. We all drink cigarettes each day when we make ourselves a cup of tea or coffee. Getting these cigarette butts removed from our environment is absolutely paramount. We are slowly but surely poisoning ourselves.
How can we persuade people to dispose of their cigarette butt correctly? Again: we hope to use humour! There is a German company that makes Kippsters. These are ashtrays with two see-through compartments. Above the two compartments is a yes/no question. People can "vote" using their cigarette butt. If our village decides to invest in a few of these kippsters, I am going to sponsor one. And I already know which question I want to get answered: Was King Ludwig II queer?
Maybe, I have inspired you to start cleaning up in your own community using the Litterati app (or maybe you are already doing something similar!). The app was originally invented in the US, but it has had the biggest following and impact in the Netherlands. Watch the inspiring TED-talk with Jeff Kirschner, the founder of Litterati. Due to the pandemic, they regularly organise webinars on the topic of littering and data-based solutions. Archaeology with modern litter :).
What were the strangest finds in the past couple of months? Well, you would be amazed at how many fake nails are lost. Or how about a small device to re-set your pacemaker? And this morning we found a urinary catheter in its original packaging! When we tagged our pictures in the Litterati app, it turned out that we were not the first in the world who had found one ....
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