Still no lower class than Tennessee trash

Johnson City Press • Jul 21, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Those of us old enough to have seen the “Tennessee Trash” television campaign will always remember that image of a slovenly guy in a sleeveless undershirt joyfully tossing garbage from his beat-up convertible down the highway.

Theme song’s refrain, “Lord, there ain’t no lower class than Tennessee trash,” was just as memorable.

Hillbilly stereotype aside, the 1976 PSA was a pretty effective anti-littering message, and it’s still relevant 42 years later.

We’ve reported in recent months just how often volunteers have had to clean up Tennessee trash in our area. From the plastic bottles and fast food bags left behind in city parks to the tires and televisions dragged every year out of Boone Lake, we still just don’t care enough about our environment and the appearance of our region to pick up after ourselves.

Staff Writer Zach Vance found the latest example Thursday in Founders Park, where he photographed eight junior-high youths from First United Methodist Church picking up trash around the park, in Brush Creek and at the neighboring pavilion. The kids represented the church’s "RAGS" — Random Acts of Grace and Service — group.

There’s one thing positive about what Vance spotted in Founders: The youths were learning to serve their community while making an impact on the planet. Even if the lesson inspired just one of those eight kids to be a lifelong steward of the environment, the church will have made a huge difference. We could all learn that lesson.

Our staff also has reported on other environmentally friendly initiatives taking place both nationally and here at home, such as the commitment from several restaurants and coffee shops to stop offering plastic straws. Now a plastic straw might not seem like much, but when you consider the fast-food and coffee-drinking habits of the average American, you can bet those non-biodegradable straws quickly build into haystacks and then into mountains.

But the bigger, stranger trend we’ve seen in American habits is the obsessive use of bottled water. Americans spend billions each year on something most could get from their own faucets while sending a gargantuan amount of plastic into landfills. Although some of it gets recycled, not all communities offer such a service, and some residents just can’t bothered with collecting their recyclables each week.

Bottled water becomes a necessity in times of crisis, but why have we made it an everyday staple? Don’t like the taste of tap water? Get a home filter. They’re made for your fridge, your tap and even your whole house.

Plastic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but we certainly can cut down on frivolous consumption and littering — one straw, one bottle, one volunteer, one youth at a time. Don’t be Tennessee trash.

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