When I took on the personal mission of becoming the litter police in Leaside, I did so for many reasons.
I like a clean park for my son, grandchildren and all children to play in, so I pick up random litter at the Trace Manes children’s parkette. I like a clean vista to gaze upon over morning coffee, so I worked with the Leaside Library to put a litter abatement program in place. I like to play tennis, so I worked with the Leaside Tennis Club to keep the courts and grounds clean. I want the Trace Manes sports fields, dugouts and bleachers to be clean for all users and neighbours, so I advise the City and the permit holders when things get a little too messy. I worked with the Boy Scouts to clean up strings and branches after their annual Christmas tree sale. And I continue to clean up on those days I walk around the park. I also like a clean neighbourhood, so I worked with the BIA, Leaside Gardens, Leaside United Church and Gyro Mazda to keep their areas clean. And I hoped other Leasiders would join in to keep their sidewalk and street areas clean or adopt a favourite green space. I hoped I could inspire Leasiders to show they care.
Never did I realize I would meet so many like-minded people or have such great conversations on my litter walks. Yes, I’ve had the odd person, who when called on their littering, would say things to me like “you’ve got crazy hair” or “litter creates jobs for City workers.” And I have exasperated my husband and son. When my son was younger, he used to ask, “Why do you have to stop and pick up every piece of garbage?” My husband continues to ask, “Are we going for a real walk or are you going to pick up litter?” He likes a fitness walk so my stops and starts annoy him as they slow him down.
My solo litter walks are always filled with numerous questions and comments from friendly and curious Leasiders. Here are just a few:
Why don’t you wear protective gloves?
Me: I’m too lazy to go to the back shed to get a pair; I don’t want to create more litter by wearing disposable gloves; I’ve changed poopy diapers so what’s a little litter; not to worry; I don’t pick up dog poop with my bare hands; and yes, I do wash my hands when I get home.
Them: Do you find a lot of money?
Me: A few nickels, dimes, quarters and loonies. I once found a $20 bill. I asked around to see if someone had dropped it and everyone said no, so I kept it. As my husband said, “I would have said it was mine and you never would have known if it was or wasn’t.” My friend George found a $50 bill when cleaning up after the Boy Scouts Christmas tree sale. Big score! I do find a lot of children’s clothing, which I launder and put in the Oasis box; I have accumulated a nice collection of water bottles and food containers; and I have cashed in a number of beer and liquor bottles.
Them: You’re doing a great job keeping the park clean. If you see any litter on my front lawn don’t worry about trespassing to pick it up. I can’t bend down any more…bad knees.
Me: Happy to help!
Them: I often see you out picking up litter.
Me: It’s become a bit of an obsession. Once I became committed to the cause, I can’t walk by a discarded something-something without picking it up.
Why are you picking up garbage?
Me: Because the park looks nicer when it’s clean. Wouldn’t you rather play in a clean park?
Them: Are you the garbage lady?
Me: I guess I am.