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.
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“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.”

Peace,

Cindy

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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
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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!
https://www.facebook.com/weavingwithflotsam/timeline

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

Peace.

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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.
https://www.facebook.com/cindytrashwalking?ref=hl
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.
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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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Memories of a November day in 1963 (Daily Prompt: Cause, meet Effect)

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(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)
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/cause-meet-effect/

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.

Peace.

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Thinking, questioning, wondering. A Friday Trash Walk.

I tried to write a post yesterday and just couldn’t seem to get going.  I sat in this very same chair for quite some time, writing an opening line or two, scrapping them, posting a picture, scrapping that.  Sometimes that happens.
So, I hit the streets in my neighbourhood for about 30 minutes, and trash walked.  And I thought while I walked.  I thought about how, on my personal Facebook page, I get more comments and action on a “fun” picture, than I do a post about something important like climate change, or social justice.  I wondered why a beautiful post that I shared called Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye was barely noticed.  Why is that?  Are people burned out or apathetic? Am I using Facebook too seriously.  Should it just be for fun?  No, I don’t think so.

I thought about Activist Abby.  Abby is a teenager in the US who is working hard to ban plastic bags.  There have been some successes on that front recently (California banned them), but there is a lot of big money pouring in to campaigns to repeal California’s law and to ensure that other states don’t follow suite.  Abby’s FB post yesterday sounded like she was tired, frustrated, feeling alone in the fight against plastic bags.  She isn’t alone, and her over six thousand followers can attest to that.  But sometimes, it can feel that way.  I know.

I also thought about the Eco Club that I help out with.  How pleased I am with the t-shirt bags we have been making, about selling them at the school’s Christmas concert.  About the money we will raise to donate to the WWF’s elephant conservation program.  About how I hope people who buy them actually use them, rather than plastic bags.  I use mine all the time!  I hope our bags will spark conversation about plastic.  I wonder if we should tuck an information sheet about plastic bags in to all our bags as we sell them.  I also thought about the new Litter Brigade program that we’ve initiated with Eco Club.  The kids are doing a great job picking up school yard litter, and I’m really proud of them.  I hope the message is getting through.  Here’s what Litter Brigade managed to capture during Wednesday’s lunchtime pick up.

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I trash walked for about 30 minutes, and I asked myself many questions.How many people walked by that coffee cup before I grabbed it? Who dropped it in the first place?  What kind of person does that?  Should I try again to get the city to put in some more public garbage cans?  Should I try again to get the Port Credit BIA to help me with this?  How can I increase my reach with this blog?  Who wants to read it?  How do I become more of an activist?  How do I limit the amount of stuff coming in to my house over Christmas?  Why don’t I use this handy “grabber stick” more often?  It’s great!  And so on and so on and so on.  Endless questions, endless thoughts, endless litter.

I didn’t come up with answers, but I did make a small difference yesterday, so I guess that’s a good thing.  I got outside on a quite cold Canadian afternoon.  I’m not a big fan of the cold (especially now, so early in to the season), so I like to think that getting out there at all was a big deal 🙂

Here’s my full bucket, and a partial list of what I filled it with.

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7 plastic bottles

5 aluminum cans

5 coffee cups (Tim’s….Canada….sigh….)

1 extra large drink cup, including plastic lid, plastic straw (McD’s)

2 diapers (these had been in an improperly placed garbage bag from someone in my apartment building, bag got ripped, diapers practically on the sidewalk.  Not a good image for our condo.  Might send a note to our management company about proper disposal procedures….)

1 fabric rag

5 bags of dog poo (particularly disgusting, no?)

When I was putting the recyclable materials in to the proper bins, I found this still inflated balloon stuck in behind them, so I was able to snag it as well.

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All in all, a good day, folks.  Keep on picking up, won’t you?  And as always, feel free to share photos on my Trash Walking Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/cindytrashwalking?ref=hl

Here’s a link to the blog post where I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s piece:

http://davidkanigan.com/2014/11/16/gate-a-4/

and here’s a link to Activist Abby’s FB page: 

https://www.facebook.com/ActivistAbby/timeline

Peace!

 

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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.
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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.
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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. https://www.facebook.com/cindytrashwalking
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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Peace.

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Losing myself. My beach, my country, my responsibility.

It was a perfect morning for trash walking today at “my” park/beach today. Sun shining, autumn colours a bit past peak, but the trees are still stunning in their beauty. I was quite worried about what I would find at the beach, because it’s been over a month since I dedicated some time to it.There was not very much litter at all today, and I was really very pleasantly surprised. Maybe someone else has been picking up there. That would be good! Maybe people have been staying away from the park, but I sort of doubt that, because we have had some lovely weather lately. The kind of weather where we Ontarians head outdoors to “enjoy it while we can”, because we know that snow and cold are just around the corner. Maybe there was more than I could see, and the usual nasty bits of styrofoam, broken plastic and cigarette butts were just hidden under the beautiful covering of fallen leaves. Anyway, I got what I could see. Not even enough to fill my trusty bucket and bag today. Only took one trash photo, then took more of the beauty around me. Not that I’m complaining about not finding garbage. That is a good thing. It was a gorgeous morning. I enjoyed being out, listening to the waves, and loosing myself at the beach for a while. When I was finished picking up, I found a bench and did a little work on a zen doodle that I started earlier this week. IMG01562-20141028-1428
I thought about a terribly sad week in my country. Two soldiers killed, and I don’t understand why. I hope their families and loved ones find peace some day, and I hope that they rest in peace. Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincente, thank you for your service to Canada. This post is dedicated to you.
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Follow up, links, and a call to action.

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First, a follow up to my last post.  Not exactly about litter, but something to think about.  After a week of saving wasted food, here’s what is in the bin in my fridge.  I changed the rules a bit, because I realized that it wasn’t fair to my son to single out his waste.  That the experiment would mean more to all of us if we kept all of our wasted food, to see how we fared as a family.  Not great, but not bad for a week.  He definitely doesn’t like this experiment, and  is doing a much better job of eating his lunches, which is how this experiment came about in the first place.  The two chicken nuggets weren’t Noel’s waste, my wife just cooked a few too many.  We saved them to eat the next day, but they ended up being knocked on the floor by accident, so went in to the bin.  In our house, we do usually follow the “ten second rule”, but these were covered in cat hair, so the rule went out the door.  The raisin bread was totally my doing.  I toasted them, then got doing something else, and they were stale in the toaster by the time I remembered them.  I’m going to continue to keep a wasted food bin in my fridge, and see if we can go an entire week, without any deposits to the bin.  Quite eye opening, really.  Probably another follow up coming.

On another note, back to trash walking.  I continue to pick up litter daily, some days as a dedicated trash walking exercise, and other days while I am out and about, I pick up at least three pieces.  There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t retrieve something.  I am becoming more aware of others doing the same thing, and am “liking” Facebook pages dedicated to the same idea as my humble attempt at cleaning up and educating.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is currently running a series on illegal dumping across our country.  Mind blowing and disgusting.  Here’s a link to the original story.  Follow their links to see a follow up story, as well as pictures sent from across Canada in response to it.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/illegal-dumping-why-do-so-many-canadians-trash-canada-1.2795046

Canada is breathtaking in it’s beauty, I think we can all agree on that.  Trashing it is not only illegal, but unconscionable.  Thankfully there are many, many individuals and organizations out there who are tackling the problem of litter.  I have mentioned some of them in previous posts, and will do another post soon listing more.  In the meantime, here’s a Canadian group dedicated to cleaning the areas along the escarpment in Hamilton, Ontario.  Just down the highway from me, it is full of beautiful natural areas that are constantly being trashed.

http://escarpmentproject.ca/

Find other groups on social media, google “anti litter organizations” and you’ll come up with all kinds of information.  More importantly though, get out there and tackle the problem head on.  Pick litter up in your neighbourhood, get your family and friends involved too.  Talk about the problem and learn about initiatives where you live.  I’d love it if you’d post your litter pictures to my trash walking Facebook page.  Join me. Let’s do something together.  All it takes is to get started.

https://www.facebook.com/cindytrashwalking?ref=hl

I’ll leave you with a few photos of what I’ve picked up recently, all from around the perimeter of my son’s school.

Happy Trash Walking all!

Peace.

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Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup…Gratitude.

With gratitude to all participants at Sunday’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Richard’s Memorial Park, here is the letter I sent to the 125th Mississauga Guides, who joined the cleanup this year.

Dear Guides and Guiders
Thank you again for all of your efforts to clean Richard’s Memorial Park this past weekend.  The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is about individuals like you and I, taking action to care for our planet.  It is families, neighbours and communities coming together to make a difference.  As a former Guide myself, I know that these are some of the principles upon which the movement was founded, and I am proud of you.
I know it seemed like this particular park was quite clean, and compared to some clean up areas, I suppose it was.  But even in a seemingly clean park, we picked up a lot of litter!  Here are just a few of the totals:
Cigarette butts 103
Bottle Caps (plastic) 42
Cups and Plates (paper) 25
Straws 13
Food Wrappers 13
So you see, your time was well spent!
Please think about this litter as you go about your busy day to day lives at school, at guides and with your friends. Encourage others to do the same.  Talk about it, and “walk the talk”
There are two daily habits everyone can cultivate for the sake of our earth.  The first is to refuse single use plastics like water bottles, take out coffee cups, straws and grocery bags.  I know that you already have the bottle part down pat 🙂  The second habit is to “Take 3”, which means just what it says.  Wherever you happen to be, you are going to see litter.  That is a sad fact.  But, if we all resolve to pick up three pieces of litter a day, every day, what a huge impact that small act would make!  This is an idea which started with a group of people in Australia.  I read about it on line, and it seemed so simple to me!  I now practice this every day, and am doing my best to encourage Canadians to adopt the habit too.  You can find this group as well as many others on line, if you wish, and if you follow The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup you’ll see some amazing photos and hear stories of Canadians coast to coast coming together to clean up.  Or, finally, if you want to take a look at my blog which is mainly devoted to litter, it’s called Trash Walking.  I’m overdue to make a post, so probably will this week, and it is no doubt going to focus on Sunday’s cleanup.
Here are a couple of pictures from our clean up day.  I hope that you like them, and I hope that you all had a good time at the park on Sunday.

PS.  Please let me know where and when to pick up my cookies when they are in! 🙂

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