Londoners embrace a cleaner, greener Forest City

Community cleanup
More than 75 people turned out for the London Hydro community cleanup effort, joining thousands of Londoners who took part in the London Clean & Green Community Cleanup Day on April 21.

Mother Nature decided to cut Londoners a break as the seemingly endless winter broke in time for the London Clean & Green’s annual Community Cleanup Day.

The cleanup, the 23rd edition of which took place April 21, saw Londoners fan out across the Forest City, cleaning up neighbourhoods, local parks and waterways. They also got into the spirit of the day, sharing photos from dozens of community cleanup locations using the #519CleanGreen.

One such cleanup saw more than 75 employees and family members from London Hydro get involved for the fifth year.

The participants broke up into groups to clean up around the utility property, as well as in Thames and Carfrae parks and along the Thames River up to the Horton Street bridge.

After five years of community cleanup efforts, London Hydro environmental supervisor Tom Arnos said he’s thrilled by how the staff has come together to make a difference in the London Clean & Green’s efforts.

That said, he’s still concerned about just how much garbage ends up on the ground every spring.

“It seems like we start at the same point each year, unfortunately. But the best thing to understand is that as a society we’re understanding what we’re doing isn’t right,” he said. “We don’t have to do much, we just put up a poster to let them know what we’re doing and the staff responds.”

London Hydro director of operations Allan Van Damme was quick to add corporations need to be as mindful as their employees.

After all, he adds, employees are always looking for ways the company can be more sustainable.

“I think we’re all getting more aware of the environmental impacts and what impact we have on our environment. People are looking for ways to give back to our environment and this is a way to give back,” Van Damme said. “Hopefully everybody is becoming more aware about the impact of that and that fewer people still throw out things like that. I do think, as a society, people are becoming more aware.”

Katrina Reinhart, a London Hydro corporate communications assistant, said the cleanup day is “a great thing” for not only the wider community, but her fellow employees too.

After all, it’s a positive event that can also be used to bring together staff and their families in support of an important cause.

“I think this turnout shows we care. They care about where they work, they care about London, and a lot of our jobs reflect that as well,” she said. “This area is our whole backyard. We cleanup Carfrae park, Thames Park, along the river. We do make sure children aren’t close to the river. The cleanup is always safety-first.”

If the London Hydro cleanup is closer to a party than a volunteer effort, then it makes sense prizes are awarded as well.

Cleanup participants are given prizes for the most trash collected, the “dirtiest” participant, but also for the strangest items collected.

Arnos said their efforts have often seen everything from bicycles to Hoover vacuums collected.

For Reinhart, the all-time prize for strangest piece of garbage probably goes to an item picked up during London Hydro’s first cleanup, five year ago.

“Usually we get old broken dolls, sometimes lost cat posters, we get a lot of weird things,” she said. “My favourite has to be when someone brought back a ski. They actually brought it back into the building just to prove they found it.”

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