Trash Walking

disposables, keepers, treasures

Too Much Stuff…Lootbags and Keychains

We are programmed to believe it is proper social etiquette to provide a thank you gift in certain situations, and maybe sometimes it is appropriate.  Someone puts you up for a couple of nights in their home, maybe a bottle of wine or a house plant is in order.  Or maybe not.  Maybe a heartfelt, hand written thank you note really would be enough.

Pretty much any parent that I speak to bemoans the fact that their child has too many toys, too much stuff, and doesn’t appreciate what they have.  But the giving of loot bags at kids’ birthday parties is such a habit that we can hardly imagine not handing one out.  Bear with me folks, for loot bags are a bit of a pet peeve of mine at the moment.  The loot provided is definitely not needed, is often some sort of cheap toy from the dollar store.  It gets played with once or twice and then broken or forgotten.

I struggled with the issue of loot bags in August when we celebrated my son’s 9th birthday.  What to get that was relatively inexpensive, but not plastic?  I finally settled on t-shirts and fabric paint, and the kids painted them at the party.  I felt quite pleased with myself at the time, but really, looking back, the kids would have been fine without this craft/loot.  Truth be told, I doubt that even one of those kids has worn the t-shirt they made more than once, if at all.  Dollar stores, toys stores and big box family shopping type stores have whole sections devoted to the loot bag.  The aisles are full of cheap, cheerful, colourful toys and gizmos guaranteed to delight small kids.  The guest gifts are often accompanied by some sort of candy (that’s a whole other issue, isn’t it?) and, more often than not, the bag that holds all the loot is plastic.  I wish we parents could all get together and decide that loot bags are not obligatory!   Kids who have been doing the birthday party circuit for a few years now might feel ripped off at first, but they’ll get over it, right?   And if we start with the toddler crowd, and NEVER INTRODUCE THEM TO THIS LOOT BAG HABIT, we can wipe out loot bags within five to eight years, I figure.  What do you say, folks?  Are you ready to revolt against the loot bag?  Are you with me?

Even an organization dedicated to environmental stewardship, The Canadian Wildlife Federation, cannot resist the urge to give a thank you gift to it’s supporters. My father makes a yearly donation to them, and in return he receives a magazine (not sure how many issues, but it’s probably quarterly). The magazine would be enough (or too much!), but they also send a little key chain as a thank you.  My dad doesn’t need a key chain, and I’m sure that no one is making a donation in order to get a key chain.  Even if someone were to actually need a key chain and were to use it, I doubt that it’s use would in any way increase public awareness of a particular endangered species. My dad and I had quite a chat about this the other day when I was visiting. He had the trinket waiting for me on the kitchen table, and wanted to know if I needed a key chain.  I didn’t.  Had I not taken it with me, this little piece of plastic with a photo of two of  Canada’s most precious animals, would probably be sitting in his kitchen “junk drawer” by now.  Instead,  it is going to adorn my son’s backpack, where I guess it will stay until it breaks and falls off.  I can only hope that by the time someone finds it on the ground and puts it in their junk drawer, we will have collectively wised up and done something to break this addiction to things.


Does your home have a junk drawer?  Have a look in it right now and count the empty key chains in there.  How many?  Or look in your kid’s room and count the plastic do-dads that have come from birthday parties.  How many?  How many are still played with?

Something to think about, something to talk about, something to change?



Local Hero (Heroic Garbage Pickers part 2)

Those of you who know me personally know that I’ve been trash walking for a while now, and following the pages of some really great organizations that are focusing on the problem of (mainly) plastic trash.  These individuals and organizations are both large and small, with a few followers, or many.  They try to create a strong on-line presence in order to raise public awareness of the harmful environmental impact of our addiction to disposables.  A previous post entitled “Heroic Garbage Pickers”, lists five of the pages I follow.  I comment on their posts, share some of them on my own Trash Walking Facebook page, and answer their calls to write letters when needed.  Someday soon, I’ll highlight a few more of these great organizations.

Today, though, I want to salute a local woman who is probably a familiar figure to those of you who live in my beautiful neighbourhood of Port Credit.  She walks along Lakeshore Road, near the Credit Landing Plaza, or near Maple, Pine, John, and Peter Streets.  She is what we would describe as elderly, I guess.  But she is certainly energetic!

I’m sure you’ve seen her, strolling along, stooping over to pick up bits and pieces of garbage, and putting them in public trash bins, where they belong.  She’s always on her own, always out there.  I don’t know if she is on dedicated garbage walks, or if she is picking up in the spirit of Take 3, as she goes about her daily business.  I doubt if she has an online presence.  From her appearance, she doesn’t strike me as someone who would be particularly involved in that form of communication.  She probably doesn’t talk about what she does, probably doesn’t take pictures of what she picks up, or keep a count of the garbage she has pulled from the streets.  She probably doesn’t rail against plastics or disposables or balloons.  She may or may not have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  But she is out there, and she is doing something.  She is an example for us all.  Her actions tell us to do something, however small, because it really does make a difference.

I stopped to thank her one day, when I saw her out picking up trash.  Introduced myself and told her that I also do what she was doing.  I asked her name, and she told me it was Grace.  Then she smiled and said that a friend calls her Amazing Grace.

Thank you, Grace.  You are amazing!

Local friends, make sure to say hi and thanks to Grace if you have the chance.  She deserves it.

There are most likely thousands of Graces out there, doing this very same thing.  Say thank you to them, and honour them by picking up three pieces of garbage every day, as you go about your daily business.  Then you too are heroic, and you too deserve thanks.


(the above photo is by way of The Pieces Fit)




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Grand Total


675 of these suckers collected!

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Seeing Red…I Thought I Was Finished

With the busy first few weeks of school behind us, I took some time to myself yesterday to head over to “my” beach and get some cleaning done.

I have not been there since August, so I was expecting it to be really, really bad.  Not quite as much debris as I expected, but I still ended up filling my bucket.  Mostly the usual small bits of styrofoam and plastic, straws, utensils, a comb, various drinking bottles and coffee cups (Timmies, of course.  We’re in Canada, eh).  Also two needles, a weird filter looking thing, a length of four dog poop bags that had been accidentally dropped by one of the dog loving locals, a paratrooper who was missing his legs and his chute, one red balloon, one child’s beach shovel, also red.  Red flower petal.

My haul looked like this when I was finished.  IMG01324-20140912-1145

When I trash walk, it is usually the colour of something that I first notice.  The blue piece of candy wrapper in contrast to the brownish shades that make up the sand.  The white of a styrofoam cup against the green of the shoreline vegetation.  Purple lighter, orange bottle cap, yellow bag, blue paratrooper. I figured the colour of the day was red yesterday, since I found the balloon, shovel and flower petal all in the same area, at the same time.  I had no idea how right I was!

When I finished my day’s walk, and disposed of the trash properly, I decided to grab a bench for a few minutes, to sit and enjoy the silence of the park.  I thought I was finished, I really did!

But this is what the area in front of the bench looked like IMG01326-20140912-1153IMG01334-20140912-1225 And this is what the field behind the bench looked like.

Pretty right?  At first glance I thought they were red leaves.  We are expected to have an early autumn here in Ontario, after all.  Except the trees in this area are willows.  Their leaves don’t look like this!  Okay, red flower petals.  There was some sort of a celebration here recently, and these flower petals were scattered.  How lovely.  No.  Not lovely at all!  These petals are some sort of cheap synthetic material (nylon?)  they were everywhere, and there were a lot of them!  The colour of the day was most definitely red!

I bent over, I don’t know how many times, and picked up each and every one of these damn things.  I wanted to stop at one point, because I was feeling a tad overwhelmed by how many were still on the grass after 15 minutes of picking.  I was getting really hungry too, and just wanted to go home for lunch.  But, I like to finish what I’ve started, so I kept going.

I was thrilled when a city maintenance truck pulled into the lot and proceeded to unload their grass cutting machinery.    They would have a rake that I could borrow, and would be happy to lend it for such a good purpose.  Hell, they might even come help me.  No such luck, I’m afraid.  What kind of a park maintenance truck doesn’t have a rake on it for goodness sake?  Curses!   On I went.  Bend, pick, pick, pick, curse.  Bend, pick, pick, pick, curse.  Bend, pick, pick, pick curse. I was silently cursing the makers of these things, the throwers of these things,  and the maintenance guys for not having a rake!

As with most litterers, whoever threw these petals didn’t give a thought to nature or our earth, or the impact of their actions.  By the way the petals were scattered, I’m quite certain that the act was a way of marking an occasion or honouring something or someone.  A beautiful act.  But there is no beauty in fake red flower petals.  Throwing them is no way to honour anyone or anything.  The fake-ness cheapens and degrades the point of the act, I think, and ultimately just leaves a mess for someone else to clean up.

Throwing real flower petals?   Absolutely.  That is a beautiful act.  Do that instead.  Please.

I brought the whole bag of petals home with me, so I can count them.  Crazy?  Maybe.  But I just have to know.  I’ll share the number when I have it






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