The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

June 10, 2009

I would walk 500 miles: A guest post by Sunny Yukon

The following is a guest post from Fake Plastic Fish reader Sunny Yukon. All I can say is that I wish I were this funny!

Coincidentally I was listening to this song by The Proclaimers yesterday.

By the end of the day I fell down at my door. I was exhausted!

I helped my son with a fundraising activity his scout troup was doing yesterday evening. Roadside clean-up. We were assigned a 3+ kilometre stretch of highway, given orange vests and garbage bags, and told it should be about three hours of work for our group to earn $500. And off we went!

Three hours later, we were a little over 1/2 done. The full-sized pickup we had was filled with bags of trash. The leader said it was the most trash he’d ever seen doing this fundraiser.

There was
a bike with a trashed seat.
fast food wrappers
paper cups
blown tires
gas caps
gas cans
plastic wrapping
bungee cords
plastic lids from paper cups
pop cans
beer bottles
plastic bags
Broken windshield glass from at least two different accidents, amongst several other plastic car parts

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I do want to say though:

Mr. X: I found page two of your tax assessment form. I know your full name, address, birth date, and SIN (SSN). It wouldn’t take much effort for me to assume your identity and wreak havoc to your credit report. Lucky for you, I’m not like that. But we never found page one…

XYZ Auto Parts: I haven’t seen your delivery truck with the lit-up plastic yellow ball cap decorating the roof of the cab roaring past my workplace lately. Now I know why – apparently your driver rolled it sometime this winter. I picked up the pieces of that plastic ball cap. And your product catalog. And some bumper, and headlights, and windshield glass. I guess being an auto parts store you knew you could get it all replaced and had no need to clean up after yourself.

And finally, to the guy walking around without your ginch… seriously, you had to remove your undies and toss them in the tree? Oh, wait, you were the driver of the auto parts delivery truck? Wet your pants and didn’t want to be embarrassed when you were picked up huh. Oh, well, that’s sooo okay then.

Pardon me, I didn’t mean to drool my sarcasm on your monitor.

The clean up is done, and a little stretch of the highway that I go by daily is a little greener. More importantly, my resolve to continue reducing and eliminating my plastic is stronger. In my little corner of the world I am finding it to be a huge challenge, but everyday I’m doing something different.

Even more importantly, there is a group of 11-14 year olds who also got quite an impression of the waste in our area. There were several comments of disgust coming from all of them. Who knew an 11 year old boy could get disgusted? I didn’t; I still live with a daily barrage of burps and farts!

So, I didn’t walk 500 miles yesterday, but I got a start. This weekend I’m joining the same scout troop for an overnight hike. We practice “Leave-no-trace” camping. At my side will be another garbage bag. You never know where you’ll find more trash, even if it feels like you’re out in the middle of the nowhere.

What about you? Why not grab a small bag and just make a five minute stop on the roadside. Every little bit helps! Teach your kids that just like at home, we can all pitch in to help tidy. Many hands make light work!

I think if we all took a few extra steps, it wouldn’t be long for that 500 miles to add up.

Sunny lives in Northern Canada where she and her husband raise two boys and try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. She runs a retail lumber yard where you can find her doing everything from the bookkeeping, forklift operating, equipment maintenance, to scrubbing the toilet. You name it; it’s probably on her to do list. Trying to lead by example, at home she has greatly reduced her plastic and cleaning chemical consumption and is enjoying the benefits of less recycling and trash to have to haul away. At work she has reduced and reused many items while still maintaining a professional polish that many customers have shown appreciation for. With so many items being shipped north from other climates, plastic is very prevalent because it reduces the packaging weight. Costs for recycling any materials are also much greater. She has found plastic reduction to be very daunting but is babystepping her way through the challenge.

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14 years ago

Olivia, thanks for that account of picking up (or not) bottles in Canada. I cut and pasted it into an email I just sent to my rep in the Illinois House to continue to encourage her to get us a bottle deposit bill

Eco Yogini
14 years ago

haha, awesome post. I can think of a few Canadians that would throw their undies out the window… LOL

I also grew up in rural Canada, rural being population: 500. And there are some beer bottles around there… As there aren`t any refund places near by… and i have to say drinking and driving is still the norm. But then, drinking and driving is most likely the norm in any place where the nearest pub-establishment is a half hour drive on the highway.
now drive into a Town or a city, and you see less beer bottles… mostly cuz people take cabs, and there are refund places close by :)

14 years ago

Michelle: re the beer bottles. I too am a rural Canadian and remember, years ago, walking along the ditches with my husband and some friends, picking up beer bottles and thinking we would cash them in for lots of money. Not so – back then no one was giving back deposits so all our efforts (for cash) were in vain. Nowadays, of course, deposits are refunded and we rarely see a beer bottle or any other sort of bottle in the ditch. Our local Women's Institute does a periodic sweep of the ditches for other garbage but amazingly, there is surprisingly little, thank goodness.

14 years ago

Good post sunny
There is a guy who lives here that walks everyday with a grocry bag stopping to pick up discarded pop cans and bottles along the road. He has OCD. But hey he ain't hurting anyone and as far as I am concerned doing a public service. I have never asked him if he found any underwear though.

Crafty Green Poet
14 years ago

Excellent post, I recently started a voluntary post looking after a length of a local river, including picking up litter, i find a lot of socks…

14 years ago

We do this a lot – my 3 year old chooses it as our fun evening activity about once a week. Go out with our little wooden wagon and pick up trash & recyclables. We often fill the wagon within half a mile of home.

It does make it easier to say to him "No, we don't buy things that come in plastic wrappers, because they get on the ground and don't turn back into dirt." He sees all the time how much plastic litter accumulates and can't be recycled.

And I wonder sometimes if the recycling pickup people think we really drink that many 40s of Michelob – we find probably a dozen every two weeks. That's a LOT of cheap beer.

Pure Mothers
14 years ago

What a great activity to do with your son. This made me laugh: "Who knew an 11 year old boy could get disgusted?" That ought to tell us something, eh?

14 years ago

Pats on the back, Sunny.

I remember newspaper drives when I was a Cub Scout, but that was before there was litter. :)

Michelle, it depresses me to hear there is litter in Canada as on the trips I've made there it seems so clean and tidy compared to the States…but that may be 'cause I come over from Detroit, the filthiest city I have ever seen if junk along the road is an indication.

I frequently see tire carcasses along the interstates thrown from trucks using re-treads. I imagine that would be a challenge for the Scouts!

I've been thinking of doing a movie about litter. I would put out a bit of it on the sidewalk…not too much, just a torn up newspaper or two right near a trash barrel and then put my videocam on it and let it roll for the whole day to see if anyone would pick it up (this in a place where there are many many pedestrians). My bet is that it would remain in place, but I could be wrong! I'll bet $20 on it. If anyone picks it up, I'll rush over and give them the $20 and hope a rumor starts that someone is handing out money for litter.

Rejin L.
14 years ago

A clean-up activity like this sounds like a great exercise for raising awareness – especially for kids. But unless we want to be cleaning up others' messes every day/week/month, it seems like another important activity would be to work on getting legislation passed that bans single-use disposable containers.
Not sure what to do about smokers, that seems like it would be a tougher battle :p

14 years ago

Great post. I pick up trash on my way to and from work most days. It's a three block walk but the stuff I find along residential streets is amazing — you've got to wonder about some folks' satorial and eating habits.

Over Coffee - the green edition
14 years ago

Thank you for your clean-up efforts! I appreciate you making our world a little cleaner.
Recently I spent a Sat morning doing roadside clean-up and the item that I found most disgusting Cigarette Butts. Over 1000 of them. Yucky!

14 years ago

I live in a rural area (in Canada) and make a point of cleaning up trash along the side of our road. I am APPALLED by the number of beer bottles… empty of course… that have been tossed out of their windows by drivers. It REALLY makes me extra cautious as I drive when I realize how many of my fellow drivers are drinking while driving!
Also… because I clean up the same stretch (closest to my home) day after day, it is amazing to see the same items tossed at roughly the same place day after day. Obviously the offenders make a habit of having the same cup of coffee (or box of fries or whatever) on their way home from work every day, and end up tossing the empty packaging at about the same place on their drive… unbelievable!!!

14 years ago

That's crazy, all the stuff you found! Seriously? Underwear. Who throws underwear out their window?

It sounds like it left an impression on the kids, too, which is really great to hear. :)

14 years ago

When President Obama declared the day of service a few months back I decided we would clean up our neighborhood. My husband, 5 year old daughter and I walked the few blocks that make up our suburban neighborhood and picked up all trash we could find. Surprisingly we ended up with several full bags. My daughter was shocked and now has a greater appreciation for littering. She makes a commment anytime she sees litter and or sees someone littering. I think it is important to for the kids of today to see what impact litter and trash have on our environment and this is such a simple way to impact them. Great post.

14 years ago

My kids (4-y-o twins and 8-y-o) pick up trash wherever we go, and I'm sorry to say my usual response is "Yuck! Put that down! Don't pick up trash!)…now I will try to remember to take a trash bag on our hikes and other outings to encourage their clean-up tendency rather than supress it (although they are actually not interested in cleaning up, but either playing with gross rotten plastic things or freaking out their mom).

14 years ago

Great Post, I worked one summer as a groundskeeper for a community college. Part of my illustrious job was to clean up trash from the parking lots. It was pretty upsetting for me to see how many people out there have such little respect for nature. This community college was in a nice neighborhood with park-like grounds. I even picked up several full McDonalds and Burger King meals (eaten of course) but they finished, neatly put everything back in the bag and then just set it in the parking lot. Uhg…
I also found that cigarette smokers are some of the worst offenders – cigs, packages, lighters, match packages, gum, gum wrappers ect… you get the idea. No guys… cigs don't biodegrade that quickly in a parking lot!
Anyways, good for you and your boys!

14 years ago

Sunny, I enjoyed your guest post. The best thing you did – the thing that will have a lasting effect on the future – was to do this green activity with your son and other 11 year old boys. You are a good mother.

Linda A