06/23/2010 03:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pick That Up!

I remember while growing up, like many youth in their teen years, my mother used to have to continuously remind me to pick up after myself. I would sneak a snack to eat in the living room on the sofa and many times would forget to clean up the wrapper that remained after my treat was finished. I knew better, but never really thought about it until my mother came home, saw the remains of my small meal, and let me have it!

My mother was not unlike other parents and homeowners who loved to make sure that her property remained clean and in order. To her, leaving trash lying around in the home represented a sign of irresponsibility, a disregard of the mess and clutter that it causes, and a lack of pride and respect for the home.

One day, I was walking down the street and saw a young man drinking a bottle of soda. After finishing his drink, he immediately threw the soda on the sidewalk and continued walking. I should have said something, but I held my tongue and simply picked up the bottle from the ground. At that moment, I recalled how my mother must have felt to see someone having so much disregard and apathy. I felt the same way about his neglect in caring for our community as my mother when I seemed to place such low regard on the house in which we lived.

Trash on the streets impacts the community in many negative economic ways. Small businesses have to pay thousands of dollars per year in fines to clean up the trash that they didn't create. Individuals looking to purchase property or move into a community, or businesses looking to build in a community, pay close attention to the cleanliness of the streets before they make their decision. Would you want to buy a home on a street filled with trash or start a business on a street that looks filthy? Their decision to not purchase a home or build their business impacts property values in the community.

Of course, we can remind others that we pay taxes to hire workers to keep the streets clean, or we need more trash receptacles in our neighborhoods...both of which are entirely true. However, the root of the problem lies within the people! We wouldn't need to pay such high taxes on street cleanup or wouldn't need as many additional trash receptacles if people would just not litter as much!

So I would like to address the root of the problem. If you have a piece of trash, please throw it away in the proper place! This consists of plates, cans, wrappers, failed lotto tickets (the irony in this is that you pay $1 to lose the lotto just to pay more because you add to the community trash that your taxes have to pay to clean up), gum, boxes, napkins, and even spit (it is disgusting that every two feet I have to watch to not step in a glob of spit because someone decided to continuously spit on the ground). We need to treat our community the same way that most of us treat our living room floor.

This is why on July 10, as small businesses have become increasingly "taxed" by sanitation fines, and property values are hindered because of litter-filled sidewalks, The Optimum Institute of Economic Empowerment, Inc. has decided to take a stand against filthy streets by organizing a full day to pick up trash off of Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York.

Even though my taxes pay for other community organizations to clean up the streets, there is nothing like creating a sense of ownership in the community to get residents out for a day to help clean up their streets. My grandfather could have paid to get someone to cut his grass, but he made me and my brother get out there with him to keep his two acres cut, trimmed, and free of weeds. I would never have thrown any trash on his lawn because I put in too much work keep it clean. The same applies for the residents of any neighborhood who take part in cleaning the streets.

Below is a video that describes the importance of the initiative. You will hear directly from business owners how litter gives them a headache and impacts their bottom line. This initiative cost nothing to organize except time, and should be replicated across the country by those who care about the economic impact of litter in their community.

Watch my interview with small business owners about litter and describing the cleanup drive.

Watch my interview with other community residents who support the cleanup drive.