Sally Dawly is well-known in her hometown of Auburn, California, under the unfortunate moniker of Butt Lady. She seems to be both self-aware and comfortable with this title, because it backs up her cause: getting cigarette butts off the street.
Dawly has been picking up cigarette butts for years, with nothing but her trusty broom and tray. She keeps track of what she picks up with a little clicker, as a way to document exactly how much waste is being spread by smokers.
“I’ve had days where I’ve picked up 3,000 butts, in one day, and it’s like, come on people,” she told CBS Local.
On Valentine's Day, Dawly hit a huge milestone. She says she picked up her millionth butt. It has taken her three and a half years, and she knew she was 26 butts away as the holiday dawned. The community has rallied around Dawly's project, and celebrated her as she crossed the finish line in the parking lot of a local restaurant, Mel's Diner.
The city itself has responded to Dawly's quest. Since 2014, Auburn has installed receptacles for trashing cigarette butts around bars and restaurants. Despite her enormous accomplishment, Dawly didn't have a big Eureka moment about cigarette butts. She was just sick of seeing them everywhere and worried about animals ingesting them.
“I got tired of going on my walks and seeing cigarette butts everywhere,” Sally Dawly told KTXL-TV. “I’m just overwhelmed and shocked that I had to pick up this many. I keep track on a daily basis of how many I pick up and I just keep going.”
One person can't pick up all the cigarette butts in a city on their own, but the Butt lady's commitment is bringing attention to the problem. We still treat throwing cigarette butts as socially acceptable littering.
Dawly hopes to keep bringing more attention to the issue and also teach other cities how they can provide waste containers that encourage smokers to throw away their butts instead of leaving them for Dawly to pick up.
“I’m proud to be the Butt Lady of Auburn; I just didn’t realize I’d get all the fame,” she said. The fame of being the Butt Lady is only a bonus after the real joy of keeping the streets of Auburn clean.