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It’s Environment Week, and it’s time for some trash talk

June 7, 2019

Residents all across Lethbridge are keeping track of their plastic consumption and discussing how we can reduce waste and emissions.

The Clean Shoreline Community award was given to the city of Lethbridge this week. This award shows how residents of our Southern Alberta community are willing to protect the local environment. 8,400 volunteers helped with the coulee cleanup and 4,572 bags of garbage were collected, leaving the coulee hillsides clean of debris and the walking paths clear. However, through their campaign with the shoreline cleanup, they “recognize that cigarette butts represent the largest item by quantity… a terrible reality for the wildlife who live in our river valley.” Not only are the butts harmful to wildlife, but are a leading cause in grass and wildfires.

Plans have come into effect nationally to promote the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. We have seen such developments in the removal of plastic straws from certain food establishments. Most grocery stores charge for plastic baggage. Consumers are encouraged to buy reusable fabric bags. The city has trash bins in its parks, but after the extent of the cleanup, you have to ask if we’re doing enough.

The city of Vancouver launched a pilot program last year to try and reduce the discarding of cigarette butts. The program was small, and this year they are doubling their efforts by handing out 6,000 pocket ashtrays to downtown residents. The hope is that this will encourage smokers to put out their cigarettes with the pocket ashtrays.

This week from June first to ninth, over three hundred residents of Lethbridge have signed up to participate in Environment Lethbridge’s Environment Week. Those who participate agree to keep track of any plastic they use for the week. This initiative is meant to encourage residents to be aware of how many non-compostable items they use in their household. This can include plastic cups, plastic straws, plastic grocery bags, even the plastic containers carrying out fruits and vegetables from the grocery store.

In the wake of the new blue recycling bin curbside pickups, residents are now transitioning from weekly to biweekly garbage pickups. Many Lethbridge residents are more motivated than ever to reduce waste. Less garbage pickup means residents must sift through their throw-away contents more carefully to avoid an overpacked bin.

Local businesses are getting involved too. Some shop windows are now sporting the blue ‘W’ sticker. This indicates businesses that are willing to fill a reusable water bottle without requiring any in-store purchases.

To celebrate the green week, Environment Lethbridge also has a list of events being hosted across Lethbridge, which can be found on their website. This includes a movie screening, yoga in the park, a nature play day at Henderson Lake Park and a clothing swap. They are capping off the week with an Ecological Grief Workshop this coming Sunday. The workshop invites people to discuss their fears about environmental changes and engage in conversations about ecological guilt, and what they can do to help. Tickets for this event can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Even if you haven’t signed up for the initiative, there are still things you can do to help out. If you see a plastic bag blowing in the wind, as they’re bound to do in windy Lethbridge, then pick it up and throw it in the trash. Put your cardboard and paper into recycling. Use compostable bags for yard waste. Consider how much water you use on a daily basis. If you have leaking taps, this can cost you extra money in utilities, plus it’s also considered waste! If you can, bike to work, or carpool with a friend. Make sure you change the oil in your car regularly, and consider driving a fuel-efficient vehicle. Put out your cigarette butts and throw them in a trash bin. There are many ways, big and small, that Lethbridge can reduce waste and help make our coulees, our parks and our river, more clean.

To learn more about best environmental practices, Environment Lethbridge is also hosting an Intensive Green Challenge Information Session on Wednesday, which will lead the discussion on how we can reduce emissions and stop wasting resources.