Five anti-litter campaigns that help to keep San Juan island clean.

The following interview with Lori Stokes from San Juan Island was transcribed from an audio interview occurring in December 2008.

Wes: Okay everyone this is Wes Edholm, and today we are speaking with Lori Stokes of the San Juan Island Anti-Litter Initiative and Lori is going to tell us about her organization.

Lori Stokes: OK, thank you very much, The Anti-Litter Initiative on San Juan Island was started probably two or three years ago now by a gentleman whose name is David Dehlendorf.

He lives out on the island and was driving in and out of town quite regularly and noticed that there appeared to be a fair amount of litter on the side of the road which distressed him because we typically describe this island as pristine. He was kind of looking out of his car window and thinking that this is not as pristine as it ought to be.

So he called a bunch of his friends and formed a group of litter picker uppers that he called the Trash Masters. It was about 20 people. I somehow got incorporated into that group. So we started to clean the entire length of Roche Harbor Road once a month. The public Works Department says it is the dirtiest road on the island because the dump and transfer station are located on this road.

So we started cleaning this road and every month we would pick up about 200 to 300 pounds up off of this road. One day after several months of this David and I were talking and we decided all we are doing here is picking up after ourselves and maybe we could have a bigger impact if we were doing education and prevention around the issue of litter rather than just picking it up day after day after day.

So we formed a committee of interested people and called ourselves the San Juan Island Anti-Litter Initiative. And we adopted as our mascot a little pink pig and we call him "Captain pick it up" and for those of you who do not know anything about Friday Harbor history there is a historical figure whose name is Captain George Pickett who was part of the islands history back in the civil war days.

So we call our little icon "Captain pick it up" and he is a little barnyard pig with a Civil War hat on. Captain pick it up has championed a variety of educational programs that are geared at substantially reducing the amount of litter on San Juan Island. We have had several very successful campaigns.

The first campaign was called "secure your load" and it was an effort to get people on the island to do what they should have been doing all along which was when they were driving a pickup truck full of trash to the dump they would cover it with a piece of tarp rather than leaving it uncovered and as they drove to the dump having pieces of whatever it was they were transporting being left behind on the side of the road in a cloud of dust.

This campaign was very successful. We mailed stuff out to each household and received good press coverage and as a result have had a serious positive impact on the amount of stuff that blows out of people's trucks when they are driving to and from the dump. This was a major source of litter on the island.

Another campaign that we had was to put pressure on both the town of Friday Harbor and on the Washington State ferry system to try to reduce the amount of litter that was in the town area of the island. Along the sidewalks and gutters there was just tons of stuff such as fast food containers and napkins and cigarette butts. And the town after quite a bit of time of negotiation ended up hiring a part-time guy who became the energy behind the effort of the town to regularly clean the streets.

Washington State ferry system was a source of the huge amount of litter on the islands because they would put these little tags for counting the cars before boarding the ferry in Anacortes. They were just little pieces of cardboard sticking to everyone's windshield and when people got to Friday Harbor these pieces of cardboard would end up becoming roadside litter.

When we would do our monthly cleanups we would pick up hundreds of these little cardboard pieces of paper. So we put a lot of pressure on the ferry system and ultimately they changed their whole system and now no longer use those cardboard pieces to track the automobiles.

We also got the ferry system to put trash receptacles in their three overload parking lots here on the island. Before we did that there were no trash cans there at all so the people that were waiting in the ferry lines would leave a lot of litter behind because there was no place to put it. So now there are three huge trash cans on each of those parking lots and that helps enormously.

We also had a campaign of publishing awareness articles. The Journal was very very helpful... they publish a column for us regularly called "Trash Talk" and members of our steering committee can write articles that address things having to do with litter. The Journal prints these for free and they have done a huge amount for raising awareness about litter and what it can do to our environment.

Another campaign that we have had is "Imagine No Litter." This is essentially a roadside adoption program with the theory that if you see less litter you are less likely to throw out litter your self. We all agree that it was still important to have litter pick up even though that is not our primary focus everybody says that if you don't see any litter you are less likely to throw out litter yourself.

So we decided it was very important to keep the island clean and we have over 100 volunteers who regularly clean a variety of roadsides. Most of the roads on the island have been adopted. So once a month everyone cleans the roads and brings the litter to the dump. So the roads are kept relatively clean on a continuing basis. That campaign has been very successful.

Another thing we have done is to have developed a relationship with some of the main vendors primarily Valmark which owns the two big grocery stores here and they have had a huge push with our board to have people use canvas bags for their shopping instead of using paper or plastic. They have traded out all of their old plastic bags and use biodegradable bags instead. This has also had a large impact.

We are now involved in working with a group of people to look into the possibility of banning Styrofoam here on the island which is a huge source of litter on the island and is very unhealthy for the environment. So those are some of the things we have done...this group continues to meet and continues to brainstorm about things we can and should be doing to raise consciousness about keeping our environment clean and how important that is.

Lori Stokes can be reached at: 378-4643 or e-mail at lori [ at ]

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