U of T’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Approximately 30 UTM students headed to Sawmill Creek as a part of the cleanup initiative

When confronted with the word “environment”, concepts of global warming, climate change, and pollution immediately come into play—depicting only the negative connotations of the word. Sadly, these terms reflect the reality of the Earth today.

With such concerns in mind, on September 24, U of T conducted a tri-campus event to clean up major shorelines near each campus.

Opportunities like these are rare—so I signed up without hesitation.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup initially started in 1994, with a small group of employees of the Vancouver Aquarium. Today, it is a national program, providing citizens with a chance to make changes within their communities.

According to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s website, the top offenders on “Canada’s Dirty Dozen List” for 2015 include cigarette butts, food wrappers, beverage cans, straws, and stirrers. Additionally, the group’s website states, “Nearly 60,000 registrants cleaned 2,000+ shorelines across Canada in 2015, removing almost 180,000 kg of litter from more than 3,000 km of shoreline.”

This year, UTM students headed to Sawmill Creek, while students at the Scarborough and St. George campus went to Bluffers Park and Woodbine Beach respectively.

At first, I thought that not many people would have signed up for the event, but I was surprised to find a good turnout. Dorcas Ajari, a staff member at the Centre of Student Engagement, said, “The turnout for this year [at UTM] was better than last year. Last year, only 15 people came to the event, but this year about 30 people attended.” Ajari was my team leader—and like the other members, she was also passionate about protecting the environment.

Once I arrived at Sawmill Creek, I was surprised to find that on the surface of the trail, there seemed to be no litter. Additionally, the forest seemed to lack the many signs of litter and waste that I had expected. It seemed almost too perfect.

However, when my team and I ventured off trail and went deeper into the forest, we found massive amounts of garbage that were probably years old.

In the beginning of the cleanup, our team started off with three empty garbage bags. By the end of it, our garbage bags were filled to the top, and were so heavy that lifting them was a difficult task. It goes to show that from the outside, the forest may be beautiful, but look a little deeper, and you’ll find the traces of human influence on nature.

Following the event, I often ask myself: What if I hadn’t picked up that beer bottle or that plastic wrapper? I believe that even a small plastic wrapper can impact that overall ecological system of the forest. In fact, as I observed the forest’s inhabitants, I found a chipmunk scavenging through a potato chip bag.

The well-being of our environment is so heavily dependent on the decisions we make. So the next time you see a piece of litter or decide to litter, I encourage you to think twice about your decision, as even a small piece of litter can have a drastic impact on our environment.

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