Trash Walking

disposables, keepers, treasures

An April Trashwalker: Looking back, looking forward

I’ve had some highs and lows this past month, and the above article (flip through to pages 6 and 7 of the link) that I was asked to write for a local magazine was definitely a high!

I’ve carried on with trash walking throughout the winter, but, I have to admit, I was feeling a tad defeated.  Maybe it had something to do with it being a particularly long and cold winter, and with knowing that there was a mountain of litter lurking underneath the snowbanks.  I still picked up trash, and never had a thought of quitting, but I was missing something.  I was missing local involvement, I was missing company. This article and positive responses to it have re-invigorated me, and I’m ready to hit the streets, “guns- a- blazin”, hopefully with some new trash walking friends.

I have new ideas brewing, and have made some neighbourhood connections which I am hoping will have some positive results.  People are asking me about trash walking, and are wanting to help.  People are picking up litter and posting photos to my Facebook page.  I love this! I welcome the help, and I need it.  I can’t do it alone.  There is just too much to do. I finally feel like maybe this is the start of a movement, like maybe people are waking up to a very real problem, and that maybe, together we can make some small changes.

I have a plan in the works to get local businesses on board with a mission to make Port Credit the cleanest neighbourhood in the city of Mississauga, Ontario.  Lofty goal?  Maybe?  Do-able?  Yes, I think so.  I’m taking a chance, a leap of faith, that they will understand my intent. I am armed with letters to go out to local businesses this week, and when I drop them off, I hope to have many fulfilling conversations with business owners. I need to convince them that there is a litter problem here, and that it is within our grasp to turn this around. Wish me luck as I head out to talk to these folks!

On my Facebook page, I continue to share photos of neighbourhood litter as I pick it up, and I share insights and information from other trash walkers in other corners of the world.  Around the world and around the corner, on line and in person, conversations are occurring.
I sometimes feel that in this world, we have lost what it means to have civic pride, to do one’s civic duty.  I see the litter here, and I see photos of litter in England, Thailand, Australia and the USA. The people who are fighting litter in other countries face the same battle we do here. The battle against garbage on the streets, in the rivers, on the shores is only going to be won if we can somehow get to the understanding that we are all accountable. We need to reclaim our civic pride and uphold our civic duty. We need to pick up other people’s litter, and we need to teach them that littering is just not right. We need to hold corporations accountable for the litter that their product generates.  We each need to take action to reduce our reliance on disposability. Whether it is a small step, like refusing single use bags and cups, or a large step, like going completely plastic free, all the steps will add up to a better world. It really is as simple as that.
“Every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty”- John D.Rockefeller Jr

April is Earth Month, of course, so it’s only fitting to close this post with the most famous quote from what I consider to be the quintessential book on our duty to the environment. Thank you to Dr. Seuss and The Lorax for these words.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”




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 🙂 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. 🙂

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A busy week. Educating, crafting, organizing, trash walking

The past week has been busy and I have a lot to say about it. It’s been both rewarding and frustrating, and has involved maybe more time that it should have. The messy state of my own house, the emptiness of my fridge and the fullness of my laundry basket attest to how busy I have been. But it’s been a good busy, and I want to share it.
In no particular order, here’s what I’ve been up to.

I cut the sleeves and necklines off a whole lot of donated t-shirts, and then spent several hours cutting fringes at the bottom of said shirts. I tied the fringes together on a couple, added some splashes of paint, and voila! T-shirt carry bags.

I took the sample bags and the pile of pre-cut t-shirts to Eco Club on Wednesday, and got grade 4,5,6, students busy tying the fringes. Next week, we can get in to the fun part of using paint to add a touch of uniqueness to each bag. Each student will be able to take one bag as their own, and will make at least 2 more, to be sold as a charitable fundraising effort in December. I brought all tied bags home, and realized that I would have to inspect each one for holes along the knotted “seam”, where the knots were not executed quite right. There are quite a few that need re-knotting. Bless these kids, I thought this was going to be a fun and relatively easy craft. It’s turning in to a little more work than I anticipated, but the bags are going to be unique and useful, and will hopefully be consciousness raising among the kids and others in the school community and beyond. Hopefully they will inspire conversation about plastic bags. They will be Eco Club’s humble effort at reducing our plastic bag use in good old Port Credit, Ontario.

The last minute cancellation of planned guest speaker at Eco Club had an unexpected result. Upon learning that our guest was unable to attend the meeting, I had to quickly come up something else to do with the students. Since I have been regularly grabbing trash in the school yard, photographing it, and posting it to my trash walking FB page, and since I expected that the amount of candy and snack wrappers would dramatically increase after Halloween, it was a no-brainer to focus on school yard litter for this week’s meeting. With the approval of the principal, we held a trash pick up which included data collection of types of litter found. As well, students wrote and read anti-litter announcements to the student body and created and displayed anti-litter posters throughout the school. Here’s what was picked up on that first day. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but there were well over 200 pieces of trash.
This impromptu activity has happily evolved into the launch of an ongoing, voluntary “Litter Brigade” at the school, and I worked with the principal throughout this past week on figuring out the logistical details of it. It took a fair bit of effort and time, but I think it is going to be a wonderful permanent component of Eco Club. The two litter pick ups completed so far have definitely been eye opening for the students and staff. We may have to iron out a few wrinkles, and make a couple of tweaks to the process, but I’m really pleased so far. We’ll continue to touch on the subject of litter throughout the school year and will be able to relate it to other segments of Eco Club as we proceed.

I did also find some time to do my own trash walking. I won’t go in to great detail about that, because it was really just the usual stuff, sadly. Taken from an empty lot in my neighbourhood that no one seems to take responsibility for. There was a lot there. I took photos and posted pictures to FB, in an album simply titled Lots of Crap.
A mom friend told me a couple of weeks how great I was for doing trash walks, and then went on to explain that she doesn’t have it in her to pick up other people’s trash. She’s a good person, and she loves our neighbourhood. So, I’m working on her. I intend to show her that she does have it in her. We all do. Do you have a friend who you really appreciate, who shares your views on so many things, but who you feel you need to enlighten or wake up in some way?


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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?



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






Heroic garbage pickers

It seems I have not been able to find much time for blogging lately, and I feel terrible about that.  I have been trash walking, of course, I do it all the time, whether a dedicated beach walk, a walk around my beautiful Port Credit neighbourhood or just picking up a piece or three while ferrying my son to school, karate or play dates. There is always something to pick up, and every little bit counts, in my book.  I don’t take pictures of everything, because how many pictures of garbage can one possibly post?

I mentioned a while back that I’d like to acknowledge a few organizations and individuals who are doing the same thing as I am.  I’ve come to discover that there are a lot of us out there!  In no particular order, here are five of my favourite garbage pickers and organizations.  I’ve focused on the smaller ones for this list, because the grassroots is always a good place to start.  Much respect to them all.  Check them out, if you’re so inclined, and see what they are doing to make a difference.  If you know of others doing some garbage picking, please send them some love, and send me a link to their page or website.  As you go out and about in your part of the world today, be a heroic garbage picker too.  resolve to pick up one piece of trash, or two or three.  Resolve to refuse a plastic shopping bag.  Join the fight against plastic pollution.

1. Balloons Blow.

Two sisters who grew up on the beaches of Florida, they’ve been cleaning the beach all their lives and continue to do so and to document it.  They are particularly involved in educating people about the dangers to wildlife of balloons released.  I have so much respect for this organization and what they do.  When they learn about an imminent release, they alert their 27,000 FB followers, and an e-mail and FB campaign is quickly underway.  Countless dangerous, airborn littering events have been averted thanks to their tireless work. I am in awe of Chelsea and Danielle, and I’m proud to sport one of their stickers on my car.



2. Plasticpicker.

Plasticpicker is somewhere in California, I think.  It doesn’t really matter where he is though, because we all share the oceans.  He seems to pick up daily, and posts quite a lot of pictures,  many of them accompanied by some very wise or humourous captions.  He loves his coast, wherever he is, and I always enjoy his posts in my FB feed.  Always interesting to see where the floating garbage originated, and believe me, some of it has travelled a great distance.

3.  Take3.

I’ve mentioned them before, but they are worth linking to again, because their idea is brilliant in it’s simplicity, and can absolutely be incorporated by everyone, everywhere.  Take three pieces of litter, everywhere, everyday, and dispose of them properly.  So easy to do, doesn’t take any time out of your day, and if you start doing it, it very quickly becomes a habit.  Trust me, I know this for a fact, and so do the people I hang out with. 🙂

4.  Good Beach Bad Trash:

To quote the ABOUT section of his Facebook Page, he is “Just one guy trying to spread awareness about our disposable lifestyle and its effects on oceans and rivers. And not shaving till 1ton has been picked up.”  Nothing fancy, just a straight up caring surfing dude.  I love his posts.  Short and to the point.

5.  The Flotsam Diaries:

Cleans a beach area somewhere in Maine, documents his finds and blogs about it, and shares stories and information from other individuals and organizations.  In particular, I like his 3 part series entitled “Plastic Recycling: The Triangle is a Lie”  Take a look to understand recycling, and to learn why it really is not the solution to plastic pollution.

This list is only a small sampling of the organizations and individuals who inspire me to do more. There are so many more organizations worth mention, and worthy of our support, that I could go on and on forever with a list.  I will create a links page one of these days, I promise.  But this is a start for today, and I’ve got to get outside!!!


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