Trash Walks

For the past two Earth Months – April 2022 and 2023 – I have organised weekly trash walks as part of my community building activities. I wanted to put my thoughts together in the form of a blog, because I have lots of thoughts, both in regards to how I am hosting these and trash in our environment.


It is a difficult thing, describing my experience with trash walks. I find them to be so meditative, peaceful, and soothing. Not only do I get to tidy up a park or green space, I get to do it side by side with other like minded folks while not talking to them. Wandering slowly through a park, scanning the ground for pieces of litter, using my grabber to pick them up then ensuring they get into my garbage bag. This is high focus work, but it also gives my mind a chance to wander and process all the stuff I’ve been dealing with lately, and practice cutting off my ruminating thoughts. All while in the grand comfort of the outdoors. The triumph at the end is seeing how much garbage was collected, or chatting about the weird stuff I found. It’s easy enough to pick up litter by myself, but doing it in community feels more meaningful, and allows for fun debriefing afterward!


I’ve seen the stats hitting the news over the past year. Depending on the poll you reference, 75% to 85% of Canadians report being worried about climate change and want our governments to take action. (Over 50% don’t think the Canadian government is doing enough, but that’s a different post). This shows me that folks do care about the environment. Not to mention all the complaining that I hear about how dirty and trash-filled some of our community spaces are. Unfortunately, there is usually some sort of blame happening along with the complaining. We are quick to point fingers, and more reluctant to redirect that finger pointing back to us.

Trash exists for a multitude of reasons: the wind blows garbage out of receptacles, public garbage cans don’t have lids and people overfill them. Trash also exists because we as a society make too much of it. The amount of disposable coffee cups and snack wrappers I have picked up at these walks and over time is ridiculously overwhelming. A lot of the garbage I encounter is part of a single use item that could have been replaced with a reusable item.

Y’all, there is no magic fairy coming around to clean up the garbage. And in Edmonton, there are very few people that are paid to pick up public garbage. The folks driving the garbage trucks are not doing it. The teachers are absolutely not doing it in the school fields. That leaves you and me. And to be honest, I am sick of cleaning up your garbage by myself.


I personally love going for trash walks, but the low attendance at my group walks is telling me that maybe I am in the minority. On the other hand, I did get a positive response from folks who were unable to attend. People who told me that they wished they could attend if they were in the city, or available on those nights (or if it wasn’t raining, or too cold, etc.).

Part of my problem is that I haven’t targeted these events tightly enough to the correct people. Does everyone on my social media want to do trash walks in Edmonton? Heck no? Do I want to start “advertising” my events farther afield? No, but I really should.


More work advertising these events just means more work. And four trash walks in one month – alongside all of the behind the scenes work – was a lot. Too much, in fact, and by number three I was already feeling burnt out and resentful.

A big part of any community work is to do it as a group, and always be recruiting and training new folks. That way, when the first people start getting tired, there is a fresh set of hands to take over while they step back and rest up. To be perfectly honest, I am currently terrible at all of this, and my improvement is very slow.


I met 8 new people, folks who have never been out to a Not Ladylike event. And some who didn’t even know what NLL was! Thanks to Ritchie Community League for boosting my posts advertising that trash walk. My parents continue to support all my cockamamie schemes, especially my Mom who came out to all four trash walks. I picked up so many bandaids at McKernan it made me laugh. Janet found a weird scooter with a skull mask at Ritchie. She was also given $20 by a stranger as a thank you, so we were able to buy the crew ice cream. I got outside and walked every week for four weeks, and I helped other folks do the same. Those achievements are small, but they are not meaningless. They are exactly the reason I host these types of events. I want to get people thinking about trash specifically, and climate activism and community building more broadly. What’s that terribly correct saying by Zero Waste Chef? “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” How about we start with 10 and work our way up from there.

I don’t have a tidy conclusion, or forward-thinking ideas to make next year’s Earth Month better. But maybe this gets the conversation started at least. And we can go from there.


Earth Warrior – We can make a positive change together! (You Tube)

An Interview with Zero Waste Chef, Anne-Marie Bonneau (Cri de Coeur)

Unite for Change poll results here. Canada: What is Trudeau doing to fight climate change? Half of Canadians say not enough’ (Politico)

Canadians Are Concerned About Climate Change, Yet Demonstrate Low Awareness and Low Hope For Action (Ipsos)

Waste expert answers garbage questions from Twitter (You Tube)

Trash picking tips from TikTok’s Anna Sacks (You Tube)

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