Guest column: Lake Tahoe litter bugs need to be held accountable (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: Lake Tahoe litter bugs need to be held accountable (opinion)

Litter bugs need to be held accountable, writes South Lake Tahoe resident Jaime White.

Like many people living and working in South Lake Tahoe, I rely on tourism for my income in the restaurant industry, and that is why the topic I am writing to you about is a very touchy subject for many residents here.

On one hand, we warmly welcome visitors to enjoy this beautiful area with us, to breathe in the fresh mountain air and take in all the beauty that nature provides. There is truly something special about the Tahoe Basin that one must experience firsthand to understand.

On the other hand, it hurts me greatly to see so much disrespect for this area in the form of litter and trash left behind on our beaches, trails and sled areas. It has become a major environmental concern, and we have to start talking about it.

You see, I may have a bit of an odd hobby. … I like to pick up trash in my spare time. I don't know why it is such an obsession, but I look forward to making these amazing areas around me better and cleaner than I found them. I don't have any children myself, but I think our future generations deserve to enjoy this pristine beauty in all its glory.

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that not everyone in this world feels the same way as I do because our trash problem is getting worse and worse every year. My goal with this letter is to ask for help from the media with raising awareness to our visitors that we will not tolerate people continuing to trash the Tahoe Basin.

I have always seen the expected types of litter scattered about… cigarette butts, beer cans, water bottles. But there is a new trend forming, and it is much more disgusting than just recyclables. The discarded diapers and feminine products have become far too common on our beaches and throughout our recreation areas.

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Is our decency as a society declining so much that people don't even think twice before throwing a diaper out the window of their car at the trailhead? Have we become that lazy as a species that we expect someone else to clean up after us in the wilderness? And what do people think happens to their coffee cups and cans after they set them down and walk away from them, never to return?

This mindset is incomprehensible. Every year after major summer holidays and big snowstorm cycles, the beaches and sledding hills are left completely trashed. It is true that our government agencies do not do enough to be proactive with adequate receptacles and "pack it in, pack it out" signage, but that is not the root of the problem. Our culture needs a change.

People must start being held accountable for their impact on these public spaces. I beg you to address this problem with our connecting communities, not just once but on a consistent basis. Any exposure you can provide to these detrimental habits and encourage people to make better choices would be greatly impactful.

Jaime White is a third-generation Tahoe resident who lives in South Lake Tahoe.