Clean streets, changing attitudes, goals of Clean & Green volunteers

Cleanup volunteers crop pic
Long-time Community Cleanup Day participant and former London Clean & Green committee member Nicole St. John will once again be joining thousands of Londoners picking up trash across the city on Saturday, April 21.

Nicole St. John has taken part in London Clean & Green for nearly a decade now, not only because she wants to pick up litter in her Riverforks neighbourhood, but because she wants to help set an example.

St. John, a former London Clean & Green committee member, is looking forward to taking part in her ninth community cleanup day on Saturday, April 21.

She’s also hoping the organization’s overall message will become further entrenched because of her frustration around some people’s idea that it’s OK to litter because someone else will be along to pick up after them.

“I’d like to hope that’s not who we are; I have hope that attitude can change. If you have enough people . . . taking measures to clean up and not throw their litter down on the ground, I do think things can change,” she said. “We need more role models and examples. Truth be told, I’ve been that person who if you’re walking ahead of me and drop that candy wrapper, I will say, ‘Excuse me, you dropped something.’ That’s not backfired on me yet.”

This year marks the 23rd London Clean & Green Community Cleanup Day, which is designed to get Londoners out into their neighbourhoods between 9 a.m. and noon, picking up litter, removing graffiti and planting trees.

Pastor Graham Buchanan from West London Alliance Church is another longtime community cleanup day participant.

The church congregation has been taking part in the cleanup for the past six years because the Beaverbrook and Wonderland area where they are what he calls a high-traffic area when it comes to litter.

The first few years, Buchanan recalls — somewhat jokingly — participants were “pulling chunks of cars out of the bushes,” trash that seemingly hadn’t been touched in decades.

That said, litter in its many forms remains a problem Buchanan said the community has to take a stand against.

And that goes not just for people’s individual properties.

“It isn’t just our own property, and we have eight acres, so you can imagine how much garbage we can get around our trees and such, but also the buildings around us, the businesses,” he said. “We want to be better neighbours so if we can initiate that kind of cleanup with them, to us it makes a lot of sense.”

It also makes sense, Buchanan adds, for him to get young people involved in the cleanup.

For example, he’s bringing his 10-year-old son out to the community cleanup because he sees it as important to model good behavior to today’s younger generation — an age group he believes is eager to get involved in creating change.

“People are always looking for a practical way to get involved and you can’t get much more practical than this,” he said. “The younger people are looking to be invited into the solution. You see all the activism groups they have out there, young people want to be involved, they just don’t know how to do that. The more we can be intentional about it, the better.”

For St. John, the environment is “extremely important on so many levels,” and London Clean & Green is an easy way to spend a couple hours, connect with neighbours, and take pride in cleaning up the community.

It’s also a good way, she adds, to deal with that “lazy trash attitude,” that someone else will fix the problem.

“I’m always shocked at the amount of litter we do clean up. We see it on the sidewalks every day, but when you actually put it in a big pile it’s a little shocking,” she said. “Every year after the cleanup, because I am an avid walker, I will walk up my street and take pride in knowing we did this as a community and I was part of it.”

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