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One day last week, a man with a mission came to the museum to talk to me. It wasn’t clear at first that he was calling on me personally and not the museum, but after talking ’round-about his mission for a few minutes, it turns out he was told to speak to me because I’m known for community involvement. (Guilty as charged, but not too guilty.)

The man’s mission was litter, specifically preventing people from littering. He spends hours every year picking up trash along his acreage and thinks it would be good to start a public campaign on the local level to teach people not to litter. It was the public campaign aspect of his project that had me thinking he wanted help from the museum, not little ol’ me.

He would love to do a campaign playing off the old Burma Shave signs, placing anti-pollution slogans in rhyming form on signs along ditches, with the sponsor for the signs being whatever company had the most litter found alongside roads. (For example, if a lot of Budweiser cans were found, Budweiser could sponsor a series of signs. I’m not sure how one would determine the appropriate sponsor company if a plethora of used condoms showed up. Would you want to look that closely?)

The man had a number of ditties already prepared, but I hadn’t the heart to tell him that some people refer to billboards as “litter on a stick.” (Incidentally, Lakemaid Beer has a Burma Shave-esque series of billboard along Highway 10, just north of St. Cloud. Every time I see the word “Lakemaid,” I automatically turn it into “Lakemade” and imagine it was made using lake water. Did anyone market test this name?)

I don’t have enough time in my day now to do everything I need to do, much less take on another project, but the guy’s mission is a good one and I didn’t want to send him away without any assistance. I told him that I grew up watching anti-pollution public service announcements and they stuck with me. Woodsy Owl’sGive a hoot — don’t pollute!” motto and the crying Indian of the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign were effective for a generation.  (Yes, he’s actually called the “crying Indian” if you look online. After watching the video, I now see the Euro-American stereotype of Indians as romantic people of the land.) I also vividly remember “reduce, reuse, recycle” and do all of those to the best of my ability.

These were national campaigns and I felt the man needed to think bigger than the local level. I suggested he contact the Minnesota Office of Tourism, the Region 5 Development Commission and the Minnesota Idea Open. These organizations might be able to help the man find funding or take his campaign to a state level.

I also mentioned that I had heard a report on Minnesota Public Radio recently about an anti-litter campaign in Texas that was very effective. It’s the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign and has been around since 1986. It has supposedly reduced litter a whopping 72 percent. Surely Minnesota ought to be able to come up with a similarly successful campaign. Maybe the man who visited me at the museum is just the person to do it.

(If he wants to reach the kids, he’s got to add Facebook and YouTube to his sign campaign. They are not the captive audience we Gen Xers were when Woodsy Owl flapped about on our television screens.)