Carolyn Bogott: Taking care of the Earth

Published 6:26 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Bobbie Mistretta can often be seen on early mornings with her long handled “picker-upper” walking around the area of West Oakland and Shirley Theel Park, picking up trash.  

When she moved back to her childhood hometown about five years ago, she continued her usual routine of morning walks and noticed that there was “way too much garbage” along the streets and in the park.  

Bobbie, being a woman of action, decided to take it on herself to clean up what little she could, as her small contribution to “respecting Mother Earth.” She said that if she was going to be walking, she might as well be picking up trash as well. 

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It seems like a small thing, but it is amazing how much Bobbie cleans up. She, herself, wonders how her neighborhood would look if she didn’t clean up regularly. The most frequent item is cigarette butts, most of them with filters. 

Bobbie explains that the paper and tobacco will biodegrade, but the filters contain toxic chemicals that can be ingested by wildlife or may often end up in the storm sewers and into our water supply. Long term health impacts are unknown for this pollution.  Bobbie points out that cars have not had ash trays for 10 years or more and so butts are thrown out car windows.

Other frequently found items of trash are plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and sometimes glass bottles which Bobbie faithfully sorts out and recycles. Other plentiful items of trash she finds are pizza boxes, ice cream cups, fast food wrappers and cups.  She draws the line at soiled diapers and dog poop. 

Sometimes she picks up debris from car crashes, even down to the little bits of glass.  One crash took her six months to get the last little fragments picked up.

Occasionally Bobbie finds treasures she can use, including a plush towel and a small pillow which she laundered and uses.  She also finds balls for her cat, and she has collected coins totaling $4.10 over  four years. 

During these years, Bobbie has had eight people stop to thank her for doing this chore, and she felt encouraged by a young man she talked to at the Shirley Theel Park shelter, who took her suggestion about calling the Park and Rec office to have a broom and dustpan available there for use by those who want to clean up after themselves. Park and Rec followed up on this request.

Bobbie considers this only a small thing that she does, but “You can only do what you can do.”   We all know small things add up to bigger things.  Bobbie is an inspiration and example of good citizenship. 

Thank you, Roberta Mistretta!  

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove  or Carolyn Bogott The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond.  AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881.  We support equity and education for women.  Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination.  We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.