By Guy Dauncey
It seems such a small thing when what you really want to do is save the forest. But picking up trash is a simple place to begin. And it’s easy.
For three years, I had been jogging down Yellow Point Road on my Sunday morning run, without stopping to pick up. I never carried a trash bag. It would interrupt my run. Making excuses is so easy. So the trash just lay there, quietly uglifying the world.
But last August, we formed the Yellow Point Ecological Society (YES) , with grand goals and visions. And soon we had members and supporters.
Who knows where the idea came from? We were deep into understanding the regulations — or rather the lack of regulations — that supposedly protected the endangered Coastal Douglas fir forest. We were meeting with MLAs and planners, hoping to protect a beautiful area of forest which has a future bereft of trees written into its stars unless we do something.
At the same time, we started to think in more simple terms. So now we have a monthly meeting with inspiring speakers, a monthly hike, a planned broom-pull and creek clean-up — and our Roadside Trash Challenge.
Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if the whole of Yellow Point was a trash-free zone? Doesn’t everyone feel quietly irritated every time you see the litter lying along the roadside and in the bushes?
So we put out the call: Would you be willing to adopt a stretch of road and pick up the litter while you are walking or jogging? Plogging, they call it in Sweden — picking up litter while jogging.
Within a month, we had 15 volunteers. We created a map that shows how much of Yellow Point we have covered, hoping to encourage others to adopt a stretch of road so that we can declare the whole of Yellow Point a trash-free zone.
There are still big chunks of road without a volunteer, so if you live in Yellow Point, please look at the map on our website (see below) and see if you feel inspired to step up. It would be great to know that by Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, every road is covered.
So what are we finding? The normal mix of discarded beer cans, pop cans, Tim Horton’s coffee mugs, Styrofoam food containers, cigarette packets and every kind of plastic. We recycle whatever we can, and put the rest in the garbage. There’s no coordinated planning — everyone simply looks after their stretch of road.
But why the white plastic lid from a glass jar with a slot cut in it for fundraising to help some worthwhile cause? How did that get there? Did someone steal the jar and discard the evidence? It’s sad that people do things like that.
“We could do this in our neighbourhood,” some readers are hopefully thinking. It’s being part of a team that makes it work, knowing there are others who are doing the same.
So have heart! If you belong to a club or group, you can do this. And if you don’t, there’s always Facebook. We’ve posted a guide on our website on how to make a map to show which roads have volunteers and which greet the dark each night feeling unloved.
It is by working together that we can make a difference in the world. So don’t let your heart feel heavy. The small community initiative that begins with roadside trash might grow up to achieve miracles as we work together to restore our home, this Earth, to the paradise we all want it to be.
For information about the Yellow Point Trash Challenge or how to start your own challenge, see www.yellowpointecologicalsociety.ca/activities.
Guy Dauncey is one of the founders of YES
Lexi Maartman-Jones cleans up
I first started cleaning up along my walk route two years ago. I got so tired of seeing all the garbage. I wish people would be more aware of their disrespectful actions.
Getting over my fear of germs, I picked up a discarded plastic bag and started to collect things. I didn’t make it very far before the bag was full. My hesitation to disturb someone was overridden by my disgust at the amount of garbage I had collected, so I knocked on a door and asked if they had a garbage bag I could use. I was shocked at my boldness, but I’m glad I reached out, for now I am great friends with the family.
My first walking collection left me with a sense of accomplishment at having relieved the neighborhood of at least some of the detritus. I found myself recalling a phrase from Dr. Seuss: “If people like you don’t care a lot, it’s not going to get better, it’s not.” It’s good to return home and dump my collection in the recycling, knowing that nature is that much cleaner.
— Lexi Maartman-Jones