Changing the Landscape: A Bag at a Time…A Failed Experiment?

With the recent publication of the official trailer for Midway,  I got to feeling angry about the neglect that humanity holds for such a wondrous planet!

I reflected back on my stewardship project of last year…and my hopes that three things would happen, if I chose to pick up a full to over flowing bag of litter every single day.  I thought that if people had a clean space for recreation, it might do three things.

1. It might cause other people, by providing an exemplar, to stoop down and pick up litter.

2. It may cause a shift in thinking, where people wished to maintain a clean environment because it caused some a sort of peacefulness or well being.

3.  It may cause neighbouring businesses to create stewardship opportunities and initiatives, as a way of building up community.

This is the status of Frank’s Flats today.  Soon, the water birds will be returning to nest and this is what they will find.



Ongoing Monologue…Litter

It’s difficult to look at what we throw onto the ground as public art, but sometimes I think that’s all I can do.  I feel helpless against corporations…Home Depot, Tim Hortons, CPR, South Fish Creek Recreational Center…well, let’s face it, sometimes even the City of Calgary.

There are countless tracts of land that no one wants to OWN.  The notion of this continues to amaze me, given that over the centuries, we have fought nation against nation over land.  Isn’t it ironic that even in countries in the world where nations are disputing over WHO OWNS THE LAND, they are destroying holy places, museums, libraries, schools, hospitals and the beauty of THE LAND all at the same time.  What is with us?

This is the piece of land that I keep wondering about.  If I have even a single reader who knows WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for this land…please contact me.

I have not picked up a bag of litter a day since May of 2012.  Video to follow.


Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

April 11, 2012 12:00 p.m. Weather: 13 degrees, windy, intermittent cloud/sunshine  Findings: I focused on cleaning up the flats of plastics again, then, up against the fence and a walk around the perimeter of the pond.  It takes much patience to pick up the straws and bottle caps.  I notice that the plastics around the water actually break down into smaller and smaller bits.  These make the picking difficult.  Time to bring in a rake.

April 11, 2012

I spoke to Eric this afternoon.  He is part of a landscaping company that is sub-contracted to sweep and clean up the litter on Home Depot’s frontage.  It’s interesting that for image-sake, the company pays someone else to make them ‘look good’.  Where the garbage is heaped up out of view of the customers, nothing is done.  “Oh”, Eric said, “that is city property, we’re told.”  I am looking forward to working with Home Depot’s team, taking on the stewardship of this grand MESS!

Eric cleaning up the Blvd. When I spoke to him, he said…”This is no easy job.”

The Home Depot Value System as Presented on the Company Website

1. Taking care of our people:

The key to our success is treating people well. We do this by encouraging associates to speak up and take risks, by recognizing and rewarding good performance and by leading and developing people so they may grow.

2. Giving back to our communities:

An important part of the fabric of The Home Depot is giving our time, talents, energy and resources to worthwhile causes in our communities and society.

3. Doing the right thing:

We exercise good judgment by “doing the right thing” instead of just “doing things right”. We strive to understand the impact of our decisions, and we accept responsibility for our actions.

4. Excellent customer service:

Along with our quality products, service, price and selection, we must go the extra mile to give customers knowledgeable advice about merchandise and to help them use those products to their maximum benefit.

5. Creating shareholder value:

The investors who provide the capital necessary to allow our company to grow need and expect a return on their investment. We are committed to providing it.

6. Building strong relationships:

Strong relationships are built on trust, honesty and integrity. We listen and respond to the needs of customers, associates, communities and vendors, treating them as partners.

7. Entrepreneurial spirit:

The Home Depot associates are encouraged to initiate creative and innovative ways of serving our customers and improving the business and to spread best practices throughout the company.

8. Respect for all people:

In order to remain successful, our associates must work in an environment of mutual respect, free of discrimination and harassment where each associate is regarded as part of The Home Depot team.

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

April 10, 2012 10:30 a.m.  Weather: 12 degrees, Sunshine and Blue Skies  Findings: I picked from the south shore of the pond and picked up many plastic straws and packaging for snacks, a beer bottle thrown into the water and then resumed plucking plastic bags out of the water.  Personal items from the highschool slope were also picked up.  It’s interesting that the culture of garbage on that slope tells so much about the folk who are hanging out in that particular area.  I wish they would take some responsibility for cleaning it up.  I got such bad red ant bites on that slope last time I picked there, so I hesitate to work very far into that space anymore.

My One Bag of Pond Debris and a Few Responsible Coffee Drinkers' Discards

The geese stalked Max and I, the entire extent of our clean-up.  They didn’t appear to be bothered by us, but I sense that perhaps their nesting materials/area was nearby.

I Am Steward to This Place of Peace

The number of Tim Hortons coffee cups that I picked up this morning did not beat out the number that I found tossed into the bin…so, that was a first! 

I decided to hike over to the neighbouring Tim Hortons anyway.  I wanted to check in with the owner and see how his managerial meeting went, one where he was going to discuss my issues of litter with other franchise owners.  Gene wasn’t there, so I spoke to Kay Kuldeep (manager) who told me that she has sent clean-up teams to the parking lot across the road to pick up Tim Hortons waste…at least a couple times a week since I had visited.  I told her that I would recommend that they continue to do that.  As I left, I noticed the recycle/garbage bins are in obvious places, but I also noticed a large number of Tim coffee cups all over the median between traffic lanes. 

Three Sets of these, located on the Shawnessy Tim Hortons/Wendys Commercial Property

More work has to be done!  I left Gene my contact information and asked Kay to pass on my request for a follow-up communication.  I have to wonder what is in the psyche of human beings anymore, that we believe that it is ok to toss our garbage onto the earth, instead of depositing it, at the very least, into a waste bin?

Next, I went into the Shawnessy Home Depot.  I’ve looked over the Home Depot Sustainability report and community initiatives. 

Shawnessy Home Depot and Macleod Trail

I met with Gary, a new location manager, after perusing the surrounding space, some that edges on the lunch area for staff.  I’m including some of my archives here.  I spoke to Gary about the culture of the litter I am picking up daily at Frank’s Flats.  I told him the approximate percentage of materials that bear the Home Depot trademark.  I then asked him who has jurisdiction over the space that I had just photographed.  A very likeable guy, Gary responded that the City of Calgary is responsible for that space.  He also said that he was very happy that a week ago some city workers were out picking in the ditches, edging Macleod Trail.

Looking Toward the Store

I asked him, “Do you think that we should all be waiting for the City of Calgary to clean up our messes?”  Without hesitation, he responded, “I know what you mean.”

Must WE throw this onto the ground??

Then, he told me that this litter issue had come up at their last Managers’ meeting and that they intended to put together a team.  I said, “That’s a really good idea because all of that litter, once blown, will end up in the park where I am stubbornly picking, One Bag At a Time.”  He assured me that Home Depot is a big supporter of Habitat for Humanity and various other community initiatives. 

Or This?

I told him that I knew that.  BUT…you know what?  Tim Hortons sponsors the Calgary Pathway and River Clean-up.  Bishop O’Byrne highschool sponsors Feed the Hungry and Home Depot supports Habitat for Humanity!!  Does that absolve them from cleaning up their own mess?  Keeping their own lots clean?  Volunteering to be stewards of their own environment.  Again, Gary said, “I know what you mean.” 

Is this the City of Calgary's problem OR is it OUR PROBLEM?

I’ve asked to be invited to archive their first clean-up team and have been assured that I will receive a communication about when it’s going to happen in about a week’s time.  I’m looking forward to hearing from Gary.  I regret that I am posting these horrendous shots…one Home Depot location in our city…and I know that I will capture other locations in similar dire straits in my series called, Drive By (Photo) Shootings.  Stay tuned and ask yourselves, “How am I contributing to this problem?”