By Zach Huntington, Clean Streams Program Manager, Clean Fairfax

For this year’s Plastic Free Challenge, we’re making an effort to elevate the work of our Plastic Free partners around the DMV. Today we hear from Clean Fairfax, lead organizer behind the #LitterFreeVA campaign, a coordinated effort to tackle plastic pollution across the state through legislative action. Wondering how you can build on the momentum of your personal Plastic Free efforts this October? Check out this campaign!

The #LitterFreeVA campaign is a coordinated effort to reach local legislators who can help solve the structural challenges that perpetuate the litter problems in the Commonwealth. This year, the #LitterFreeVA campaign is encouraging Virginia legislators to adopt a local-option bag fee. In plain language, a local-option bag fee means that the state will allow local governments to independently decide whether imposing a fee on single-use bags is the best approach for their own communities.

Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means localities must ask the state legislature for permission to govern themselves on most issues. This rule has historically limited any individual community from pursuing their own initiatives and priorities.

As a coalition, we’ve spoken to legislators, and they believe that photographic evidence of litter in the communities they serve will be compelling as they pursue change in Richmond. Consequently, our call to action will focus on a visual initiative to document Virginia’s litter problems using the hashtag #LitterFreeVA.

Any time you walk by litter, take a photo, upload it to Twitter or Instagram, and tag us using #LitterFreeVA. Bonus points if you add location (including zip code if possible) as well as a bit of colorful (but positive) commentary. As a reminder, your profile must be public in order for us to collect your photos.

Your local state senators and representatives have a lot to do, and they can’t keep track of every issue, so it’s on all of us to highlight the issues we believe need their attention! Please note that representatives will only listen to their own constituents, which makes targeted outreach of paramount importance. Do not waste time contacting a representative who’s not your own. If you really want to put pressure on a representative outside your locality, convince citizens within that locality to make contact and empower them with the tools and resources available to make their outreach meaningful and productive.

#LitterFreeVA is a positive, civil, and constructive campaign driven by our shared interests in protecting the communities in which we live. While we advocate passion and urgency, we ask that participants in this effort are honest and encouraging when sharing information and when speaking to local representatives or community groups. Studies show that positive messaging is by far the most effective way to foster change in others. Negativity can inhibit empathy, or even worse, it can create apathy. While it can often be frustrating to try to convince community and political leaders to take the necessary steps to keep our communities clean, especially for those on the front lines of environmental degradation, we’re here to help you stay positive and support your critical work along the way.

Follow along and get involved at the Litter Free VA website!