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This Ain’t a Trash Story

with Mia Lauzon

This ain’t a trash story instead it is a story of artistic expression and creating positive change. While the story begins on a beach littered with plastic and other garbage; the ending is up to you.

This week, Zero Waste Canada talks with Mia Lauzon, a artist, photographer, environmentalist about her project “This Ain’t a Trash Story”. Mia recently was part of Creatively United for the Planet’s inspirational Earth day event in Victoria B.C.

In 2010, Mia Lauzon while volunteering in Ecuador came upon the trashed-filled beach of Bunche on the Pacific Ocean and this is where Jenny, Leopol, Isaac, Oscar and Rebecca came to life.

Jenny, Isaac, Leopol, Oscar and Rebecca

Your art has a purpose, could you explain what you want to achieve?

I believe that like the characters I created, life is made up of multiple pieces, interacting and connecting in unsuspected ways, creating a whole. As one part of this whole, humans have to understand how their actions and choices impact the rest of it. I hope to bring awareness to the true cost of our lifestyle. Above all, I want people to know that it doesn’t have to be a trash story and like I did on that beach, they can change the narrative into one of creation, connectedness and beauty. I want for everyone to feel the uplifting energy of being part of the solution, working together with Mother Nature and all our brothers and sisters.

How did your volunteer experience in Ecuador impact what you are doing today with This Ain’t a Trash Story?

Is litter a problem in Ecuador?

The volunteering I’ve done out there had nothing to do with the trash-filled beach, even though, the organization would put up some beach clean-ups from time to time. Unfortunately it would take a very short time before it would be filled with  plastic again as it kept being pushed along the shores of this little bay, carried by the ocean currents. Which amount was coming from Ecuadorian communities versus what was carried by the ocean from miles away, I do not know. One thing I know is that recycling infrastructures were almost nonexistent out there. It was one thing to clean the beach but there was nowhere for this plastic to go and be properly recycled. It would simply go from the beach to the landfill, spoiling another landscape.

People learn in many ways, do you feel that by creating art from the found litter on beaches people can learn about plastic pollution and change behaviours?

I consider that more you engage with something, less foreign it becomes to you and more you connect with it. So yes, my hope is that by creating an experience, I also help creating emotional connections, leading towards awareness and behavior changes​.

The characters Jenny, Isaac, Leopol, Oscar and Rebecca you have created from waste found on the beach, look like friendly cartoonish illustrations from children books, yet that tooth paste tube or sandal on the beach is not a thing of beauty and is disruptive to nature, do you feel that is part of the power of the message in the art?

— Humans are fundamentally creative yet we seem to forget the true sense of it. Engaging in a creative process is reconnecting with the essence of being human. And we surely need to get back to our essence in order to create the change that will help us find balance and harmony with the Earth. Now, storytelling has been a component of human identity since the beginning of time, really. It helps us relate to the world, understand it and understand ourselves. So there is a huge emotional charge coming with storytelling and I truly believe that sharing our own stories is a great way to empower ourselves. Once empowered, we can choose a better story for the world.

Do you feel that by engaging people in a creative process with the storytelling component that people can be reached emotionally?

I’d say so, yes. The sources of information are multiple and the attention spend is to a minimal, suffering from this state of overstimulation. I am learning to accept that I can’t get everyone’s attention, I can’t touch everyone.  That’s why it so important to have different voices out there, bringing their own color to the sustainability topic, resonating in different ways with different type of people.  I can only hope that my approach might be the one that will make the difference for some.

History can offer examples of artist contributing to social awareness of environmental issues. In the nineteenth century landscape artists like Thomas Moran by showing the beauty of places like the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone helped to cause policy-makers to create conservations efforts like legal status for a park or reserve. Do you think artists can influence policy makers today to take action to reduce plastic pollution and reduce waste?

I think that artists and anyone can do it. We all have an impact. We are like raindrops, creating ripples, influencing everyone and everything on our way. Personally, I choose to use my voice and skills as a positive influence and agent for change. I encourage everyone else to do so. Now, the gift of artists might be in their ability to touch others, therefore yes I believe they can help rally people, gain momentum and influence policy makers and consumers alike.

You recently participated in The Creatively United for the Planet Earth Day event in Victoria BC, part of your interactive display was to ask “How do you choose to create a better world”, what kind of responses did you get from the participants?

It was interesting to me to see how people seemed to have a hard time figuring out what they did to create a better world. I don’t think it is because they do nothing, I think it is more because a lot of the little things that make a difference towards making a better world get overlooked. Another thing that came out is how people would give suggestions on how to create a better world instead of embodying their own actions. They would write Use less plastic instead of I use less plastic, Stop shopping and Start growing instead of I have stopped shopping and replaced it by growing my own food, Don’t litter and pick up others instead of Even though I don’t litter, I make a point of picking up others’ litter wherever I find it.  Is it because we still think that as an individual, we don’t make the difference and that’s the others that have to change to make a real difference? Food for thought! Here are some of my favorite answers: cherishing the old instead of buying into the pressure of getting new stuff all the time, making a driftwood Christmas tree with the kids and returning it to the beach at the end of the festivities and a teenager wrote : Remember that stuff does not equal happiness! Loved it!

What are your plans for This Ain’t a Trash Story?

That’s a good question!  Creatively United was marking the official public beginning of it. I learned a lot from the way people were interacting or not with the display and content. I wish I can keep inspiring more people and growing a bigger community through my facebook page. I also want to get a blog started and share stories of people making the world a better place in their own way. I would love to lead workshops at some points, helping people to be empowered when comes time to BE the change.Through creativity, beauty and playfulness, I want to keep sharing my vision of the world and what is worth protected out there. In true honesty, I am giving myself the next 6 months to explore and gain more clarity on what is my own unique gift and how I can best spread the love I have for the beauty of this world and how it all connects and come back to us and our choices and actions.

How do you choose to create a better world?

I have chosen to live a simple life with a minimal imprint, always keeping in mind the bigger picture of my consumption choices and acting accordingly. I almost exclusively shop in second hand stores, bring my reusable bags and containers to the grocery stores and refuse single use items as much as I can. I try to ride my bike more than my car, I go to the local Repair Café and get my stuff fixed instead of getting anything new, I borrow what I occasionally need instead of buying it. I show kindness and compassion to others, in an effort to keep positive energy flowing. I do my best to empower others and show support to people in my life so they can be their best possible self, to the benefit of all. I share my vision of all the beauty I see and feel, hoping it can inspire and uplift others.

This is not a story about trash instead it is a story about creating a better story for the world. We all have the power to create a meaningful story, one of unity, care and respect for all there is!

To join in for an uplifting story or to book workshops:

Easter’s Hidden Treasures

What's Next?

Rodolphe and I found them all. On a beautiful, sunny Easter morning, my boyfriend Rodolphe and I were going on an Easter hunt. But we weren’t hunting hidden eggs. We were hunting hidden trash. And the Easter Bunny must have had a lot of help, because he cannot possibly throw that much garbage into the bushes by itself!

Easter bunny aside, it was a very revealing Easter egg hunt and a very satisfying at that. Besides dozens of plastic Starbucks cups (no surprise here — demand a #bettercup), chips bags, and candy wrappers, we rid the environment of an LA cap, 2 frisbees, a soccer ball, a football, and pieces of a basket ball. Only a puck was missing to cover equipment of all popular sports in North America.

The highlight, however, was when some neighbours called the police on us, because what we did looked suspicious to them. I couldn’t help but wonder if they ever call the police on those who throw the trash into the bushes in the first place, because that is actually illegal. We just laughed it off and continued on our goal to fill all garbage bags that we had brought and found along the way. After three hours, we had collected one little bag of reusables, six bags of recycling and two bags of garbage. I don’t think anyone who went hunting for Easter eggs that day could compete with our output. What about you? Are you ready to compete for that title?

The time for change is now. If you snooze, we all lose.

If you’re now all fired up and eager to get involved in big-scale clean-up actions, get in touch with Let’s Do It! and find out more about how you can help.

And if you want to take this even further (and who wouldn’t?), get your company involved as well. Show Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Lays, and other polluters how it’s done and lead the way to a Zero Waste world! Reach out to Zero Waste Canada to learn more about how you can minimize your environmental footprint and if you meet the criteria, you might even get certified to show off your Zero Waste commitment for the world, your customers, and your competitors to see.

Guest blog post : this week Zero Waste Canada member Connie Reichelsdorfer owner of Sunny Start-up Marketing shares her special Easter story showing you can have fun and do good things. Zero Waste Canada welcomes guest blog posts about Zero Waste experiences…and we always welcome new Zero Waste Canada members.

Crowdsource clean up: Mapping illegal dumpsites

Mapping illegal dumpsites, litter and plastic pollution is a method that allows individuals to be environmental activists.

Mapping sites where illegal dumping, litter or plastic pollution is a problem brings a dirty secret into the public forum. It not only documents location, type and amount of materials but it helps to organize logistics for clean up. Mapping helps track reoccurring issues, and also it helps us to analyse the causes of waste not being disposed or recycled properly. Mapping also shows the real extent of the problem.

TrashOut is a smartphone app that enables users to actively take part in documenting the illegal dumps by uploading pictures and GPS data, which can then be verified and reported to the appropriate local authorities. It is an app used by Let’sDo It Movement and it is a tool to create a global map of illegal dumpsites.

Comox -Strathcona Waste Management Service (Comox Valley Regional District) as a means of engaging citizens to combat illegal dumping have created a facebook page “Keep Our Region Beautiful” and encourage citizens to download the TrashOut app to their phones.

To use the TrashOut app first the app can be downloaded to a cell phone and then report or confirm illegal dumpsite in your region. While mapping you don’t even need reception. Once the location of the garbage is mapped, it will be possible for us to see the locations, type, and size of the most troubling dumping areas around the world. Illegal dumpsite pictures that contain people, personal information or car registration may be rejected or blurred. TrashOut, also recommends that you share our pictures on facebook and twitter.

Litterati is mapping litter around the world and the types of litter. Geotags pinpoint the pieces of litter worldwide. An app can be downloaded through itunes. They call this crowdsource cleaning of the planet.

The Global Microplastics Initiative  enlist citizen volunteers  to take water samples while having outdoor adventures including hiking, snowboarding and canoeing. Adventure Scientists is the nonprofit organization collecting data for The Global Microplastics Initiative. Their mission is includes recruiting and training individuals with strong outdoor skills so that they can bring back hard to obtain data from far corners of the globe. The “adventurers” then become informed ambassadors as they retell the stories of their experiences.

The purpose of The Global Microplastics Initiative is to build one of the largest, most geographically diverse data sets on microplastic pollution to date.  In addition to publication in a scientific journal, this work will be used to inform decision makers about the realities of microplastic pollution globally, offer insights which may guide and inspire innovative solutions from individuals and corporations, and can be built upon by future research.

Taking part in global environmental actions is getting easier.

Global Clean Up – Let’s Do It

Canadians would you like to be part of a global clean up day? On September 15, 2018 a massive civic movement to clean up litter and garbage around the globe is planned by Let’s Do It.

The Let’s Do It movement started in 2007, when a group of individuals in Estonia noticing the problem of garbage was being dumped in their beautiful forests decided to make a difference. They organized a countrywide clean up event for one day. They were able by partnering with 500 Estonian organizations to create a very well developed plan to not only clean up the entire country but to map out illegal dump sites.  With massive community support the first clean up in Estonia saw over 50,000 citizens (over 4% of Estonia’s population) participate in cleaning up 10 tonnes of garbage in 5 hours.

Since that first clean up, other counties have used the model to have one day countrywide clean ups. Each Let’s Do It Clean Up has galvanized thousands of people in each country having clean ups. Volunteer citizens picking up garbage has been high: Latvia (210,000 participants), Lithuania (250,000), Portugal (100,000), Slovenia (270,000), Romania (250,000), Albania (147,000), Hungary (200,000), Bulgaria (375,000), Ukraine (500,000), India (54,000), and Philippines (28,000). To date over 113 countries and 16 million volunteers have joined the Let’s Do It movement.

On September 15, 2018, a massive global clean up is planned, uniting countries around the world to create a global effort to clean up the garbage littering the planet. The goal is to bring together people from 150 counties to join together to participate in this one day event. The rationale for 150 countries is that it would be approximately 1/5 of the world’s population. This number represents the estimated amount of people necessary to create lasting change and go beyond just one day of incredible activism.

Trash is a world problem. One need only read the dozens of headlines daily to realize that we have a global problem.

Long Island , Johannesburg , Region of Waterloo ,West Wimmera , Merthyr , Kochuveli are just some of the millions of communities that have problems with illegal dumping.

Could uniting as a global movement help us to increase awareness, change behaviours and create solutions for our trash problems?

September 15th 2018 Let’s Do It!

Let’s Do It is an accredited partner of UNEP and the campaign World Cleanup Day is directly addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Tackling waste pollution, adopting sustainable waste management systems, redesigning and innovating for maximum material recovery will play a significant role in reaching the goals for sustainable development.