For the past six years, Cindy Wilding has walked her neighbourhood and local parks with a plastic bucket she fills with litter. Her personal mission to clean up local streets and parks in Mississauga led to her start the Facebook page, Trash Walking Moms, that acts as a portal for information about how we can all help the environment. It’s also a space where Wilding encourages others to join her mission. We asked her about her efforts, and how to start something similar in our own ’hoods.
Why do you feel like it’s important to do this?
We live in a beautiful place right on Lake Ontario. I first started doing this because I had a sense of neighbourhood pride and wanted others to share it. I wanted to keep our neighbourhood clean and the more I got into it the more I realized it was about more than just litter because so much was plastic. I guess I always knew plastic never went away, but you think, “Oh it’s just a little bit of plastic, it can’t hurt. Then when you see there’s so much of it you’re like, “Oh wait a minute.” I knew we had to shift things, which is why I post a lot on my page about stopping plastic waste at its source.
You have a 12 year old son, is he on board with this?
He doesn’t really come out on my regular trash walks but if I’m organizing a day with others he’ll come to that — he knows some of his friends will be there. I tell him, “Okay you have to do a bit of clean up and then you can go to the park.” I don’t want to force my thing on him but at the same time whenever I empty his pockets they’re full of things he’s picked up, so I guess he’s trash walking in his own way.
How much litter are you picking up on your walks?
I don’t really measure unless I’m doing a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup because for that we collect data. I go walking with 20-gallon plastic pails, and usually fill and empty them at least a couple of times. Sometimes I’ll go to the park and do a big clean, but if I’m pressed for time I just walk around where I live. It’s always really depressing because I can do the same walk the next day and litter is back again. I often think what’s the point and get discouraged, but ultimately but it makes me feel good to know I’m doing something.
Earlier this week a woman I don’t even know posted on one of our neighbourhood Facebook pages a picture of three Garbage bags full of litter that she picked up at a local park. I commented, “Thanks for being a good steward.” She replied that it was me that had inspired her to do that. This is why I do it.
You’re obviously making an impact — more than 800 people like your Facebook page.
Many of the people on my page take action — and care — about the same things, so I feel like I’m often preaching to the choir. However, I often share the environmental messages on my personal page so that people who don’t follow my Trash Walking page will see them, and maybe start thinking about things they hadn’t considered before.
When you put out a volunteer call for a park cleanup, how many people do you get?
Anywhere between 10 and 40 people. I’m always so happy to have others come out. There was one day I booked and it was pouring, I fully expected nobody else to show and I ended up with 10 people. I thought, bless you for coming out in this horrible weather, thank you, thank you, thank you! Some people are willing to go the extra step — they think it’s important.
How can someone else start this in their own neighbourhood?
It’s pretty easy. You don’t need a licence or anything complicated. You just need gloves — and something to carry the garbage in. And I have a grabber I bought at the dollar store. Then just tell your friends, “I’m going for a walk along this street… have you noticed how littered it is? Let’s go clean it up.” It’s that simple. You just do it and talk about it so that other people think it’s a great idea and join in. You just need to spread the word.