Since she was a child, Litter Critters ™ founder Diane Smith has seen opportunity where others see trash. Growing up in Washington, D.C., at the end of a dirt road seemed a world away from the city. Her mother grew up during that Great Depression and as a result making more out of less was a way of life. Nothing ever went to waste and almost anything that needed to be fixed was rigged perfectly by finding just the right thing somewhere in the house or outside.
Playing outdoors with her brother and cousins and always “pretending” meant needing to find objects that intuitively led her to search the trash pile where the family dumped to burn later. Diane never failed to find something useful to serve the purpose.
When she became a mother she kept a big box to accumulate many of the same things (and more) including some masking tape and markers to inspire her son for his own creations and innovations. He loved the box that lasted for many years, and he made her very proud with of all the fun and interesting things he made. He would use every piece in the box.
Her entrepreneurial spirit led her from making “lady di’s pies” in D.C. for a restaurant where she worked as a server to years later in 1986, a courier company that has now grown into a warehousing trucking and logistics company. The company run by Diane and her husband, Thor Smith, now serves the eastern region and is still growing.
Today, Diane is also the proprietor of a restaurant, antique store, and a radio station in Hancock, Maryland. A visit to Buddy Lou’s is an experience, and it’s the centerpiece of this small rural community where locals and travelers gather, and friendships are made. You can get a sense of Diane’s creativity that started in her childhood backyard from the repurposed décor, including curtains and chair covers made from upcycled plaid shirts.
Her latest venture, Litter Critters ™, is inspired by the natural beauty in the state of West Virginia that has always reminded her of where she grew up. In fact, Diane affectionally refers to West Virginia when describing her D.C. childhood home.
While building a log home in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, she sadly discovered and loaded literally a truck full of debris from the river. She saw that the railroad tracks were littered for miles.
Diane feels very lucky to experience the effects and lessons learned during the Great Depression, but wonders how can we teach privileged children now how to be resourceful without suffering? She’s not sure it’s possible. We live and learn, and our core strength comes from experiences good and bad. Diane believes that we need to give our children less, step aside and let them struggle sometimes to find their own way. As they say necessity is the mother of invention…
Litter: Global & Local Challenge
Litter is a problem that spans the globe, but we know that we can do something about it in our own communities. Whether litter is caused by human carelessness or laziness or lack of access to proper disposal methods, we can and should do better. While getting to know my new community of Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, I was both saddened and angered by the amount of trash I saw just discarded on the roadside and along our streambanks. But I decided to do something about it, and that’s why I’ve founded Litter Critters™.
In addition to careless dumping, there are many factors that contribute to the litter I see throughout West Virginia. The National Park Service mentions it can even accumulate through the waterways and pass in bulk through our state’s dams, such as the Bluestone Dam.
There are people in our community making a difference. I applaud these volunteers who call themselves the “Litter Getters,” cleaning up trash in West Virginia. Watch Ch. 13’s piece on the fabulous Litter Getters.
According to the EPA, of all trash, plastic trash has the greatest potential to harm the environment, wildlife and humans. Let’s get that plastic out of the environment, sanitize it and turn it into something new that can serve a greater purpose, educating people along the way! Please consider partnering with Litter Critters™. Together, we can make a real difference.
From Litter to Critter
Diane’s vision is not only to clean up this trash and restore beauty but to instill the desire to think “inside” the box. The critters are filled with litter, such as straws, plastic bags, and bottles that have been sanitized and shredded. Each critter is unique and made entirely from rescued and recycled materials then each prettily embellished with random finds.
All are made by hand, providing jobs and something special to remind us that everything with an intended purpose never ends there.
Come and see for yourself! Litter Critters are now available for purchase at BuddyLou’s in Hancock, Maryland. Email Diane at [email protected] to learn more.
All are made by hand, providing jobs, making more than a toy.
Interested in Partnering?
Litter Critters ™ is currently seeking partners and welcomes your
inquiries. Learn more about our unique business model!
Diane Smith, Founder
Gauley Bridge, West Virginia