Diet and Litter Pickup Plan, by the numbers
Results of Alan Welles’ clean up project:
Plastic grocery bags filled with trash daily
Angry driver remarks since June 4
Miles walked each day
Pounds lost since starting June
Dollars and cents collected
Average bends performed
Calories burned each morning
Alan Welles is making Lawrence a better place every day.
For the past three months, Welles has taken it upon himself to rid his neighborhood street of trash.
But it didn’t start off as a community service for the 68-year-old Lawrence man — it started off as a way to lose weight.
Not wanting to give up his normal diet, Welles asked his doctor what he could do to start getting back in shape before his 50-year class reunion.
“He told me to walk,” Welles said.
So he started walking up and down his street, Princeton Boulevard in northwest Lawrence, every day. He became bored with the process almost immediately.
“Just walking seemed kind of boring,” Welles said. “It didn’t have a purpose.”
So Welles gave it a purpose. Every day now, rain or shine, Welles spends about two and a half hours cleaning the boulevard from Iowa Street to Lawrence Avenue.
On the first day of what he now refers to as the “Princeton Boulevard Diet and Litter Pickup Plan,” Welles filled an entire 13-gallon bag with trash.
Dale and Darlene Miller, both 78, live across the street from Welles and said they remembered what the neighborhood looked like before he moved in.
“It was trashy looking,” Darlene said. “You can sure tell a difference now because there’s not a speck of trash on our street.”
Welles can tell the difference, too. His morning cleaning, which involves bending, grabbing, reaching and dumping, now yields an average of three plastic grocery bags of trash each day.
And it’s been a learning experience. Welles has counted and averaged the litter he picks up to add understanding to his purpose. The highest volume trash days are Thursday and Friday. The easiest days are early in the week. Welles also noticed a sharp increase in the number of cigarette butts near Deerfield School on the first day of school, which he attributed to nervous parents.
“My daughter tells me I’m an urban scout because I notice these kinds of silly things,” Welles said.
So how is the plan working out for his health? Welles said his cholesterol is down, he feels better and has a lot more energy now than he used to. In three months, he’s lost six pounds.
“At this rate it’ll only take me another 25 years and I’ll be down at my high school or college weight,” he joked.
For Welles, it’s no longer just about losing weight. It’s also about the sense of pride he gets from keeping his street clean. The retiree considers his morning routine his job now, and smiles when he says Princeton Boulevard is the cleanest boulevard in Lawrence. Welles plans to keep things that way for a while.
“I’ll do this until I’m not capable of doing it anymore,” he said.
The Millers said they appreciated what he’d done for their street and would like to see good neighbors hang around.
“I hope he stays,” Darlene said. “I hope he lives over here for a long, long time.”