Trash Walking

disposables, keepers, treasures

From Trash Walker to Rock Seller-Helping Our Northern Neighbours

I really must figure out a way to squeeze out a little more time for this blog of mine, because it is near and dear to my heart.  I like writing it, I really do.  But I stretch myself pretty thin sometimes, and this blog always seems to be the first victim of my self created busy-ness.
It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter here, so there have been no dedicated trash walks in what feels like ages. I miss doing them, but I am a wimp, and there’s still about a foot of snow on the ground. Oh, I’ve still picked up at least 3 pieces of trash a day. Even with the snow cover, I don’t have to search for it. It’s always there. Always. Bits and pieces, wrappers, bottles, bags, coffee cups. Trash on the street that I come across during the regular course of the day. For the most part, I haven’t taken pictures, because it’s just too damn cold to be fiddling with a camera! I’m still posting on my Facebook page, commenting and sharing information among fellow trash walkers, garbage haulers, beach cleaners, and plastic pickers from around the world. I’ll never stop!

I seem to always need a project of some sort and I always seem to find them, so I’ve been doing a few other things over the last couple of months.
For one, I have become involved with a Facebook group called Helping Our Northern Neighbours, and I am really quite thrilled to be a part of it. Here’s the story.

Helping Our Northern Neighbours
is a Canadian movement started by a woman named Jennifer Gwilliam, from British Columbia. After learning about the exorbitant food prices in Canada’s high north, Jennifer was determined to help, and she began collecting and shipping food to families in Nunavut. Part of the reason for the high cost of the food is the high cost of shipping anything to the Arctic, with many small communities having only fly in access. A 15-20 kg. package could cost somewhere between $85.00 to $150.00 to send. There is a food subsidy program through the federal government, but it is clearly a system in need of fixing. Rather than wait for action from the government, rather than wait for someone to do something, Jennifer did something herself and created the Helping Our Northern Neighbours group on Facebook.
An article about Jennifer’s efforts ran on January 23rd, on The Huffington Post, and as Canadians learned about the high cost of food in the north, and about the efforts to help, we joined the group in droves. It’s a pretty straight forward system, involving Jennifer matching people who want to help with families who could use a hand putting food on the table. (Poor Jennifer is right now putting in a minimum of 12 hours a day, I hear.)
Let me be clear. This is recognized as a band aid solution, but, for the present, it is getting food where it is needed, today. And that’s what matters.
There are countless numbers of people proposing and working on many other initiatives to create a more sustainable, affordable method for northern people to be able to access food and there have been local chapters of this organization spring up across the country. The whole group involves a lot of trust, and good intent, and faith in the goodness of people. Seeing the number of people stepping up, and the respectful manner in which they post questions or comments on the group page is truly heart warming, and has restored my faith in humanity. In a too jaded world, it is pretty cool to be able to trust that a person you have only met online is really going to follow through with this commitment to send food. That the person you sent an e-transfer to is going to use that money in the way it was intended. When I partnered with a stranger from the GTA to support a northern family, there was never any doubt in my mind that she would use the money I transferred for any other purpose. Beyond sending food, some people are now sending donated clothing, others are sending money to schools for snack programs, and others have started pen-pal exchanges among school children. Food banks are being created and stocked and lasting bonds are being formed. We are encouraging one another, we are learning about a culture different from our own, and we are sharing in the happiness of a mother being able to put a good meal on the table. It feels good.
Right from the start, I knew that I would not be financially able to support a family on my own. So I teamed up with some other women, and we agreed to share the costs of supporting a small family in Whale Cove, Nunavut.
After making an initial contribution of one hundred dollars, I had to find a way to continue to support the commitment that I had made. So I got creative. I have a pretty broad base of friends, but I didn’t want to just ask them for cash. I wanted to tell the story of food prices in the North, and I wanted to offer a small token in exchange for a small donation. So, I painted and sold rocks like these. paintedrocks I priced the rocks at $2.00 each, so that anyone could make a minimal donation. Most of my friends have given me more (in a couple of cases, much more) than the two bucks. Some have not even wanted a rock. When people hear the story of why I’m doing this they want to help, and are very generous. I’ve not been shy. I took my rocks with me to the pub when I was having a drinks night with my school mom friends. I took them with me to a “girl’s night in” at a friend’s house. I told the story several times on those evenings, earned some money and, maybe more importantly, shared information that needs to be shared everywhere in Canada.
I’ve managed so far to raise a little over three hundred dollars through my rock sales, and am just thrilled with this result. This week, a second shipment of food has been ordered and sent to our sponsored family, and there will be another one sent in two months time.
Until then, if the snow ever melts and if I can ever get at the rocks on the beach again, I’ll continue to paint and offer these things for sale, to help a family in the Arctic. Aside from the money I’ve earned and will earn, actually creating the rock painting is fun to do, so a bit of a win win, I think. My only problem now is that I have pretty much exhausted the supply of friends that I can offer rocks to. Most of them have purchased at least one, and the people who haven’t yet, well, I don’t want to bug them. They know I’m here, they know what I’m doing. I think I’ll have to convince a couple of my friends to take a few rocks home with them, so that they can offer them to their circles of friends, wherever they happen to be. Wish me luck.
If you are interested in learning more about Helping Our Northern Neighbours, here is their Facebook page.
They do not yet have a web site, or charitable status, but, from what I understand, all that is in the works. This is truly a grassroots movement. Something as near and dear to my heart as my trash walking, and something that I am so happy to help with.
Thank you, Jennifer Gwilliam for creating this way for Canadians to help Canadians. For being a “doer”, and for allowing all of us to be “doers” as well. You and your determined spirit are just what Canada needs, now more than ever.

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Onward with Trash Walking: Ideas, Makers, Art

Well, here we are, almost half way through the first month of the year, and I haven’t posted a single thing since New Year’s Eve. Of course, I have picked up trash every day. Doing so is just an ingrained habit now, almost to the point of obsession. I can no longer take a leisurely neighbourhood walk, just for the sake of walking, because I am compelled to pick up trash as I go. Sometimes, I wish I could put on some rose coloured glasses, and just see beauty when I walk. But I can’t. I see trash spoiling the beauty, and I just have to pick it up. And so it goes. This slightly obsessed Port Credit Trash Walker is going to keep going, keep picking up, keep writing about it.

I mentioned in my last post that I am going to make 2015 a year to kick things up a notch. Specifically, I want to get others involved. To engage business owners, the local Business Improvement Association, schools. I have some ideas, and I’m excited to be meeting with a friend tomorrow to hear about some ideas she has, and to share mine with her. Once we’ve met, I’ll hopefully have some plans to share with you.

I had to re-name my Facebook page recently, by adding the word Moms to Trash Walking. This is because I discovered quite by accident that a fellow trash walker in New York State already had a page called Trash Walking. To avoid confusion among our zillions of followers, I added a word to my page name. I introduced myself to New York Trash Walker, and since then follow her page, as she does mine. She’s dedicated to her mission to clean up her neighbourhood, is very funny, and an excellent researcher. She gets in to the details of trash, in terms of it’s origins, waste disposal programs et cetera.
When changing the name of my page, I deliberately chose Moms, not Mom, because I want other Moms to join me. I also want Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Kids, Brothers and Sisters, but adding all of those to the title seemed a tad long.

My obsession with picking up trash is accompanied by a touch of hoarding tendency too, and I am really, really trying to manage that. I tend to keep waste items because I might be able to make something out of them. In my possession right now are about a thousand or so plastic bottle caps (left overs from a bottle cap art project we did with Eco Club last year) along with assorted plastic gift cards, coffee bags, old CDs and floppy discs, as well as a bucket full of plastic toys and dooh dads that my son has received in gift bags etc. and that he definitely does not miss. If you Google “what to make from used coffee bags” (or gift cards, or CDs or floppy discs ) you’ll find all kinds of tutorials for making wallets, jewelry, mobiles, frames, wreaths and so on. My son and I made some fun mobiles with CDs in 2013, and even sold a few as a fund raiser for Syrian refugees, and I think Eco Club might have a go at coffee bag wallets and CD spinners sometime this year. I really wish I had the time and the space to work on projects more. I’ll figure it out. Until then, I quietly tuck things away, here and there, and work on not letting it get out of hand.
Here are just a couple of pictures of my “collection” of stuff



In my Facebook life, I have found several artists and crafters who use an assortment of trash or beach finds to create some stunning art. I am in awe of their creativity, and love that they are re-purposing something that has been discarded.
One of my favourites is Flotsam Weaving, from England. The name says it all. She creates inspired tapestries using beach finds. She’s even done a TED talk on her work! You ought to check out her page!

Until I write again, I’ll keep on trash walking, and I hope you will too.



2014/2015…looking back, looking ahead

Happy New Year!
Although I had always tried to pick up litter here and there prior to 2014, this is the year that I took it up a notch. 2014 is the year that I made a conscious decision to do dedicated trash walks, and to document my efforts via this blog and my Facebook page.
I’m happy with that decision, and look forward to continuing with my efforts in 2015. I always finish a walk with a feeling that I’ve done my best, and I try show through my actions that bending over and picking up a piece of litter is something good. It doesn’t mean that you’re weird, it means that you care. In 2015, I want to make it cool to pick up litter. I want to make what I am doing a community thing, something that we all do, something that we take pride in. I want Port Credit to become known as the cleanest neighbourhood in Mississauga. I plan to work with local businesses to get this litter problem under control. I plan to hound our local politicians, if need be, get more garbage bins placed in key locations.
This past year, I dedicated myself to cleaning up a local lakeside park/beach area, and, during the good weather, was out there picking up once a week. When not lakeside, I picked up around some of the streets in my Port Credit neighbourhood, and at a vacant lot which I have unofficially adopted as my own. I’ve written about my walks, I’ve taken photos of a ton of garbage. I’ve found some cool stuff, but, sadly, I have mainly picked up crap. On Facebook, I’ve shared information from other trash walkers around the world. I have discovered that there are a lot of us out there, and that we’re all essentially working toward the same end, wherever we are. We’re tired of seeing garbage strewn in our public places, spoiling the natural beauty of our planet and we recognize that there is no “away” when it comes to this garbage. We all want to find solutions to this mess we humans have created, and I think we all recognize that it won’t be an easy fix.
It is not easy to live a plastic free life, and there are not many who can do it. I am far from plastic free, but I am consciously taking simple actions to at least reduce my family’s plastic consumption.
The simplest steps, which I have written about before, but that bear repeating, are within everyone’s capabilities.
In 2015, I am asking everyone to join me in really thinking about society’s relatively new addiction to disposability. This addiction to a throw away culture has been created by industry for profit, and has been sold to us in the name of convenience. I want you to help me stand up to litter by inconveniencing yourself just a teeny, tiny bit. Wash out a reusable coffee cup, wash out a steel water bottle, pack your lunch or snack in a reusable container, and remember to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store. Taking these actions will become habit soon enough, but a habit far less damaging to our planet than the plastic habit.
We can begin to turn the tide in this war on litter, just by taking these simple steps. I know that I will definitely see a difference in my own trash walks, because, on the streets, I can tell you that the two items that I pick up more of than anything else are disposable cups and disposable bottles.
I think that I might be preaching to the choir here, and I’m sorry if I come across as preachy. I don’t mean to, I really don’t. But I’m passionate about this, and the more I talk about it, the more change created, I hope. If you already do what I have suggested above, will you please help spread the word?
Thank you to all the trash walkers, beach cleaners, litter pickers and friends who have picked up this year. I hope your year is filled with purpose and joy. I hope that one day, you will go out to pick up litter and NOT FIND ANYTHING! Wouldn’t that be something?

I’d like to share just a couple of pictures to close out this post. First, a piece of art created by Christine Fry, who is concerned about plastic pollution in our oceans, and in particular, the scourge of the plastic bottle. Christine designed and created these labels, and distributed some of them at a recent art show in Toronto. The intent is to raise awareness via social media. Someone picks up a littered plastic bottle, puts one of these labels on it, photographs it, and posts the photo to their social media and to my Facebook page, Trash Walking Moms. Then, of course, they dispose of the bottle appropriately, thus saving it from ending up in the gyre. So far, I have forgotten to bring a label with me when I trash walk, but I will πŸ™‚ Thank you, Christine.

And then there is this photo! Twenty bucks found amongst the fallen leaves on my trash walk this morning. Pretty low pay for a year’s worth of trash walking, but I’ll take it. I’m not in it for the money, that’s for sure! Anyway, the local pub is sponsoring a Polar Bear Dip tomorrow, to raise funds for a couple of great charities. I dropped the money off at The Brogue today. Found money should always be shared. πŸ™‚

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Memories of a November day in 1963 (Daily Prompt: Cause, meet Effect)


(I wrote this before I saw the Cause, meet Effect prompt in the Daily Post. I am editing this post now to include a reference to the prompt. Cause: picking up litter in Ontario,2014. Effect: Memories of a day in America, 1963)

I was so surprised to find the cover of the Life magazine that was published following President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It’s in perfect condition, which tells me that it (along with the rest of the issue) must have been stored for years, as a keepsake. Maybe whoever stored it passed on, and the person left to dispose of their possessions put it out to the trash, not understanding or caring about it’s significance. And then the wind blew it to the vacant lot in Port Credit, Ontario that I have adopted as my own. Waiting to be picked up, along with the usual assortment of trash.

I was a six year old Canadian school girl when this terrible thing happened, but my memories of that day, and the days after are so very vivid. I recall being sent home early by our teachers as tears streamed down their faces, of my mom and the neighbour lady crying in front of the black and white T.V. where Walter Cronkite was breaking down as he announced that President Kennedy was dead.

When I finish a trash walk, I dispose of what I have picked up in the appropriate spots, either a recycling bin or a public garbage can. Not this. It came home with me, and it is stored away safely now. The sixties were tumultuous times. These are tumultuous times. What do we do to ease the tumult, to make this world a better place? We do what we can. We all have it in us.


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“Slacktivism”, Activism, being the hummingbird. A rebuttal.

A little off the course from my usual Trash Walking posts, but this opinion piece by Scott Gilmore, and published in Macleans magazine on so called “Slacktivism” really got me riled up, so please bear with me, readers.Β  Have a look at the piece here, then please read my response.

I think that what the author fails to understand is that those of us who click, share, and sign online petitions DO care about the particular cause we are promoting on our social media pages and may, in fact, care about several causes simultaneously. But we can’t give our time or our money to every cause that we care about. So people and organizations use social media to, at the very least, raise awareness, and maybe that awareness raising does lead others, who are able to, to donate money or time. No, I did not donate any money to the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, but I do share information about it, because I believe that the situation is an atrocity that needs to be addressed, and I hope with all my heart that The Chibok girls are finally returned to their families. Mr. Gilmore, ask the families of those girls if they are happy that the situation has gained worldwide attention.Β  Ask the good people at ALS Canada and USA if they are happy that “slacktivists” helped to promote their cause.Β  I think the fact that one hundred million dollars was raised will answer that question.

Personally, I have donated to a couple of causes this year, and I plan on continuing to do so. (Plan Canada and ALS.Β  I dumped the ice water, challenged my friends and made a small donation).Β  I am quietly active in several other areas locally.Β  I pick up garbage in my neighbourhood, I gave socks to a little girl named Hannah who is collecting new pairs socks for local people who could use them.Β  I painted rocks for a charity garage sale last year, put on by friends to support the Strickland children of London, Ontario, who lost both parents within a year. I’ve done other things, and so have my friends.

My point is, you know nothing about me or about others like me, Scott Gilmore, and your assertion that tweeting, or not shaving, or pouring ice over your head, or wearing a wristband and otherwise sharing information is “proof that you care more about yourself than the cause” is pretty damned arrogant.Β  On behalf of those who tweet, don’t shave, pour ice water over their heads, share Facebook posts, I’d like to ask you not to belittle us.Β  Like the hummingbird in Wangari Maathai’s retelling of the story and posted on The Kid Should See This, we are doing what we can.Β  Yes, Scott Gilmore, I Googled your name, and I see that you are quite a noted philanthropist, with impeccable credentials.Β  So maybe you made larger donations than we did, or maybe you spent more time working for a cause than us.Β  Good for you.Β  But please, don’t tell those of us who are trying to help in our own small way not to do what we can. If all someone does is click, tweet, or share, maybe it is all they can do right now.Β  If all someone does is drop a toonie in a donation bin, or a can of soup in a food bank collection station, that is what they can do.Β  Maybe they wish they could do more, and maybe, down the road, when they have more time or money, they will.

(Here is the link to the Story of the Hummingbird, as told by Wangari Maathai in Dirt! The Movie)

I’d really like to know what my readers think of this piece by Scott Gilmore, and about my response, so please chime in.Β  I apologize if this is a bit of a rant, but I felt it needed saying.

As always, happy trash walking, happy peace making.



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