Keep Sedona Beautiful



November 20, 2020

page-headerJason Danoff was stunned to find 16 diapers along a 100-yard stretch of Oak Creek Canyon during a litter cleanup earlier this year. He was even more surprised when the picture he posted went viral – with more than 2 million views and 30,000 shares from indignant social media users.

People hate litter.

Litter is studied as a form of pollution, and research shows its harm goes beyond visual blight, which is bad enough. Litter damages community self-image and causes stress. It can befoul the environment – discarded diapers are Exhibit A.  When workers have to hunt down trash rather than simply empty waste receptacles, costs go up.  A littered area tends to attract more debris. Worst of all, wildlife suffers. Animals die each year from eating toxic or indigestible objects, becoming entangled in junk, or from injury caused by broken glass and other sharp objects.

No one supports littering.  So why do people do it?  “They know it’s wrong, but people litter because it’s easier than not littering,” says Joshua Rottman, an assistant psychology professor at Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College. “It’s moral hypocrisy.”

He identifies several littering types. “Wedgers” try to hide their trash in crevices. “Undertakers” cover litter with gravel or leaves. “90-percenters” properly dispose of large objects but leave smaller items behind. “Foul shooters” get litter close to trash containers, but not in them.  But “flagrant flingers” hurl litter from moving car windows, not even pretending to try. Keep Sedona Beautiful (KSB), which spotted an increase in litter this year, cites this type of waste as the most common along our roadways.

Danoff is a guide at Trail Lovers Excursions and started Stewards of Sedona (SOS) after noticing more trash on the ground. He was shocked when his first event drew 25 volunteers. “I was expecting five,” he said. Jason organized 36 trash pickups between May and October that averaged 20-25 participants.

They collected 10,000 pounds of trash.

SOS and KSB document the trash to identify product trends, record locations and even jot down the language on discarded items. “If we know who, what, where, and why, anti-littering programs will have real data to make their messages more successful,” Danoff says.

Stewards of Sedona is a volunteer group; Jason doesn’t even accept expense money. Instead, he encourages volunteers to donate to local environmental nonprofits.

The Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau applauds these anti-litter groups for giving Sedonans opportunity to build a sustainability ethic through action.  The Chamber includes anti-litter education in all our visitor outreach, promoting programs such as the Sedona Cares Pledge and Leave No Trace principles, which include proper waste disposal and respect for wildlife.

But we can all do more. Professor Rottman says litterbugs often cease when they understand the consequences. “People only think it’s okay because they’re not connecting their actions with the harm they cause to others,” he says.  Education and example are essential. “I think we can stop littering instead of always picking it up,” says Keep Sedona Beautiful President Bill Pumphrey. “That should be the goal.”

We encourage Sedonans to keep engaging with amazing people like Jason Danoff and his SOS volunteers. Check the Stewards of Sedona Facebook page for upcoming events in December. We also support Keep Sedona Beautiful, whose “Litter Lifters” program is making a dent in the problem. “We’re motivated by a desire to see less litter on the roads and leave the next generation a cleaner world” says Litter Lifter Chair Carla Williams. Join their volunteers at

Ultimately, education, awareness and community action will stop litter at the source. Josh sums up the outcome Sedona aims for this way: “It’s not about seeing fewer people out here,” he says. “It’s about seeing more people who care.”

–Michelle Conway
Interim President/CEO and Director of Marketing