“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”
Last year, my family walked along some heavily visited trails which were, unsurprisingly, littered with rubbish. The call to action to do something more came loud and clear when we visited the Waterfall Track in Carlingford, where instead of finding a waterfall, we were treated to the sight of a shopping trolley at the bottom of the falls and glints of plastic along the track. Spurred from this experience, we started picking up rubbish on subsequent walks and this year, we also decided to join our local Clean Up Australia Day group.
We walked on the footpath for just over a kilometre at a busy suburban road. It wasn’t a bush walk, but the kids were still able to find walking sticks that turned into poking sticks so these were promptly discarded. There were plenty of dandelions to explode as well as spiderwebs and lines of ants for the children to inspect.
People going on their Sunday morning walks cheered on as the children picked up big pieces of rubbish like brochures, newspapers, plastic bags, and takeaway containers. The walkers were quick to point out that they lived on other streets. Andrew and I concentrated on micro-rubbish: cigarette butts, bits of plastic and Styrofoam near the gutters, tissues, and dental floss!
800 metres in, Andrew and the kids stopped by a playground for a break while I dashed back to the car to drop off some keys at a friend’s place. When I returned 20 minutes later, the children were still playing and Andrew had nearly filled his rubbish sack.
The children lost interest in rubbish picking so Andrew and I continued the job while we sent them on a letterbox drive to drop off some home-made bookmarks promoting our street library.
Bag nearly full and certainly heavy, we refused pleas for a piggyback from our son, explaining “We can’t hold you and the sack at once.” Ice cream reward was agreed to as compensation, but everyone agreed to ice cold drinks instead. In recyclable containers of course.
Shouldn’t it be Clean Up Australia Day everyday? The rubbish goes in dumps and ultimately the ocean anyway? What difference can one day make?
No, our efforts won’t solve the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, nor will it guarantee that the area we cleaned would stay clean. Despite this, we as a family will make Clean Up Australia Day an annual tradition. Our experience brought our family outdoors and allowed us to meet inspiring locals like Kathie (our local councillor) and Pat who have been involved with Clean Up Australia Day since 1992, as well as others who share the same habit of picking up rubbish when they go for walks on the beach, in the bush, anywhere. The experience not only increased our family’s awareness of the complex problem of waste but it has already provided a great springboard for discussions with my children about owning less, composting, and reducing the rubbish that goes to the landfill – practical ways we can make a small difference in our everyday lives. Now what if everybody made a small difference in their consumption habits and waste handling…
Would you and your family like to get involved? Click here to find a group near you for next year’s Clean Up Australia Day or for the more frequent Clean Up Australia Everyday initiatives. You may also want to start a practice of picking up rubbish when you go on your walks.