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.


My Thoughts on Tim Hortons…AGAIN

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Recently, the media shared with us that according to the Zagat Survey of Fast Food Favourites, Tim Hortons ranked within the top five.  I have to say that while the public may find their menu popular…and their coffee too, according to this one artist-chick, their stance on stewardship and the environment is in serious need of revision!  I cleaned up some days, between 30 and 50 Tim Horton’s on each walk while exploring whether I might change the landscape, one bag at a time.  In fact, one day I walked over to the Tim Hortons located on the edge of Frank’s Flats and approached the manager with 71 cups collected in a single day and asked if he might offer me a rebate or even turn those cups in for recycling.

The manager explained that, as yet, Alberta does not have the capability of washing the lining product from the cups and so the cups, primarily made of paper, can not be recycled.  There are no incentives offered for returning the cups either and so a large number of people out for their evening/morning/Sunday strolls just pitch their cups and plastic lids into the pond or along its edge.  Like many other Albertans, they surely believe that over time these products will break down in the weather and such, but nah…unfortunately, they just become smaller and smaller pieces of those things that they are.

I revisited this location to see how it has been doing…from a view of the big picture, it continues to be a pristine and beautiful place…hmmm…but, look up close and you will see a different sort of picture.

When I contacted Tim Hortons about their stewardship efforts, I was directed to their link on their website.  It explains goals of diminishing waste and environmental impact by 5%...again and again…if you look into it, over the last several years.  However, there is no acknowledgment of having reached any of those targets.  Tim Hortons sponsors various clean-up efforts in the city, but rarely do you hear of larger efforts to change the type of products they use or to design a new and cost efficient technology to deal with the recyle of their cups.

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?”


Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

March 24, 2012 1:30 p.m. 4 degrees intermittent cloud

I didn’t even want to go out today to pick up other people’s garbage.  What do people care anyway?  Out of some sort of self-discipline, I went ahead.  I didn’t feel enthusiasm, but did it out of care for the birds who will be soon nesting in the area and other wildlife.  Driving through the construction zone for the new Deerfooot expansion, I kept in mind how wildlife is already being crowded out by our consumerism and our development.  This is the least I can do.

March 24, 2012 Any given day, I pick up at least 20 Tim Hortons cups, with plastic lids.

After picking, I took my stacks of over 23 Tim Hortons cups to the store, neighbouring the park.  I left my stack in the van, but went in to explore this franchise’s alignment with their own sustainability report.  I found one small sign that encourages people to bring in their travel mugs and save ten cents on their cup of coffee.  I was lucky to find both the manager and the owner, willing to speak with me.  It was a sensible conversation.  The owner listened to what I had to say about the sustainability report and the goal to reduce packaging by 5% every year for the past three years.  He heard what I had to say about implementing a deposit program for returned cups. (I could get rich on a program like this.)  He heard what I had to say about the need for a recycling program that guarantees the scrubbing out of the poly lining and that these cups should NOT be landing in our landfills.  He told me that there would be some follow-up in terms of his input at a future meeting with his fellow business people.  I’m going to hold him to this.

Lattes! The Highschool Market!

Off of the Tim Hortons website….

At Tim Hortons, we are aware of the environmental impacts of our packaging and waste materials. We are attempting to deal with the litter issue in a variety of ways:

  • We have anti-litter messages on all of our packaging items, including a “Do Not Litter” message on all of our take-out cups. Sadly, many people do not pay attention to these messages but we continue to work with other members of our industry to tackle the litter problem in a meaningful and effective way.
  • To ensure a clean community many Tim Hortons restaurants sponsor local clean up events and activities in their communities.
  • We have waste reduction strategies to try and combat litter from its source. Tim Hortons is one of the few quick service restaurants to offer china mugs, plates and bowls to guests eating in our restaurants. This helps to reduce paper waste being created in the first place.
  • All Tim Hortons restaurants sell reusable Tim Mugs. And while a Tim Mug may not be a practical solution for all guests it does provide a good alternative. The incentive for purchasing a Tim Mug is that the first coffee is free (coupon included inside the Tim Travel Mug) and each refill gets a 10 cent discount (hot beverage discount applies to any travel mug fill).

I’m also really wondering about the burned pages of this particular book…every day for more than a month I have trashed these. 

As I pick up other people’s garbage (for example, I found Coach Harvie’s notebook, ripped and soaked on the edge of the park today…) I think about the garbage collectors written into several of my favourite novels.  I’m going to write a separate post about that some time in the future.

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

March 15, 2012 3:30 p.m. Weather 15 degrees and very windy!  Reports are that wind gusts on the highway from Okotoks all the way south were as much as 100 kms. an hour.  Findings: Max and I headed up to the fence and cleared another two sections, as well as picking up a huge variety of plastics and containers on the way.  I was buoyed by the prospect of enjoying a meal at the Dragon Pearl with my children afterwards…celebrating my son’s 22nd birthday!

Windblown…Parking Lot Photo taken by a hockey Mom.

The City of Calgary has come through for me!  Under some stones, at the base of my bins was a note from Calgary Parks!  I was elated that the city or some representative of the city, made the decision to help me Change the Landscape: One Bag At a Time.  Thank you for responding to my request, left only Monday.

I was discouraged this morning, with the response from Tim Hortons.  I know!  I know!  This looks like they have taken huge corporate measures to address some of the environmental messes their product is creating!  And, yes, once that product walks out that front door, cupped in the customers’ satisfied hands, it is up to those customers to take responsibility for what they do with the packaging.  But…this park space is absolutely FULL of Tim Hortons cups and plastic lids!

Thank you for your recent communication regarding your concern about the litter caused by Tim Hortons packaging within your community.  At Tim Hortons, we always appreciate hearing from our loyal guests.

As published in our 2010 Sustainability and Responsibility Report, we have committed to packaging reduction goals as well as waste diversion goals in our restaurants; however, we acknowledge that there remains a lot of work to be done.  We have a team of packaging experts and environmental professionals at Tim Hortons working to ensure that our business is environmentally sustainable.  

When our environmental and packaging groups meet, we share comments and ideas that we have received from our stakeholders. 

In addition to the information that you can find in our 2010 Sustainability and Responsibility Report, some more specific programs we have run to help reduce the amount of litter caused by our packaging include:

• Anti-litter messages on all of our packaging items, including a “Do Not Litter” message on all of our take-out cups and on our drive thru exit signs at the majority of our restaurants.
• Sponsorship of annual Community Clean-up events by our Restaurant Owners – last year we sponsored over 135 of these events across Canada and this number continues to grow each year.
• Recycling and composting – currently over 650 of our restaurants have either recycling or composting programs for our hot drink paper cups, and this number is continuing to grow
• Reusable mug – we offer a 10 cent discount on all hot drink purchases made by guests who bring their own reusable mug
• Other sponsorship activities – We sponsor many other educational and awareness programs about litter such as our Earn a Bike Program.  This program encourages youth to volunteer to clean up their neighborhoods through community service in order to earn a bicycle. 

For more information on our packaging reduction and waste diversion initiatives, please visit  Our full 2010 Sustainability and Responsibility Report can be found at

Thank you again for contacting us and we hope to have the opportunity to serve you again soon.

The TDL Group Corp.

Guest Services Representative

I will become familiar with the sustainability plans and reports that Caroline has pointed out to me.  And for today, I simply want to express my gratitude for the support from the City of Calgary Parks.  I’m publishing a wee clip here that reflects how my morning began…up north at the irrigation canal.  The sky was a perfect blue.  The geese were calling with a wild energy, more and more, splitting off in twos.  My heart was bursting with gratitude and love for my home.  Here it was though, a completely different part of the city and I discovered….yes!  You guessed it!  Scads of litter dangling from the bushes and rustling in the dry grass.  I guess you notice what you know and since taking on this project, I notice.


Experiencing My Landscape: One Bag at a Time

March 1, 2012 4:30-5:30 p.m. Weather -3 degrees, completely white sky, although for a short while the sun was visible, soft and white behind thick cloud, eventually, it had no chance.  It disappeared.  The coolest thing was the silhouette of a grey blue aircraft flying past its brightness.  We met no one on our walk today.  In the end, I collected from one section of the hill, placed the bag in the bin and then went exploring, empty-handed.

Findings: MUCH insulation, plastic, two Tim Horton's cups with lids, plastic sandwich bags, 2 cardboard boxes


Nothing Much Has Changed at the Bin

Max Waits Patiently as I Pick Garbage

Something is Wrong With This Picture!


Something is Wrong With This Picture!


...and this one.


...and this.


It is Your Landscape



The Second Time I Cried: A Tim Horton’s Parking Lot

I didn’t take any photographs that first day of driving.  What was to archive?  I wasn’t a tourist. I didn’t feel the way I felt driving east.  Max needed to pee and I needed to sort out why I had taken the exit on Thickson Road instead of going south to the next one.  I figured quickly that it didn’t really matter.  Pulling off of the 401 and anticipating going north, somehow brought emotions up for me.  This cry was a weepy private shedding of a few tears…it was nothing dramatic, just enough that I had to remove my glasses because my eye lashes had mucked my lenses up.  The 401 and the Tim Horton’s parking lots of Canada hold no real intimacy.  I hoped that the secondary road would be kinder.

A rough-looking guy, once asked, pointed north and told me just to drive through Whitby, I’d get onto the right highway.  I felt his directions a tad sketchy, but followed them anyway.

Thickson to Hwy 7