Friday, May 29, 2009

Water Poo-Bits...with a Spark of Hope

The other day, as we were walking downtown a gaggle of tween/teens were walking towards us, just coming out of the Freak's Lunchbox (AWESOME candy store! we were on our way to visit-YES). In stereotypical character, one tween casually dropped his (large) empty box of jelly bellies onto the sidewalk. I was just about to comment, when a man walking behind them picked it up, jogged up to them, tapped the kid on the shoulder and passed him the box saying: "You dropped this". (Freak Lunchbox entrance)

I don't remember where I was reading this, but the example of a cultural mores towards shared responsibility of our cities, towns and the world is where change will happen. In our cities and work we pay people to clean after us, to clean the streets, to pick up the trash on the side of the road, or in the parks, to take out the recycling. Outside our homes there is little sense of personal responsibility. Yet, when something looks unpleasant or when the result of our trash piles up, we become indignant and demand that "the city" take care of things. We have grown in environments where "others" cleaned after us; home (some of us), school (janitors) and work (cleaning staff). 

Although I've bragged up Halifax's awesome, provincially mandated recycling and composting program, it really has felt like the majority of the population feel that recycling and composting has been imposed (which it has) and that given the choice many would just toss their trash "away". Certainly, this is the overall opinion in the smaller, rural areas. Many people continue to burn their trash instead of having it sorted and ready for the bi-weekly pick up (for BOTH compost and recycling). (Old triple recycling, now they have flat, clean tops that easily flip up for the city to empty them! Picture from: Intelligent Travel)

When that man ran up and passed along his trash, I felt such a surge of "YES!". Hope that we are moving towards a time where just throwing your garbage on the ground or out the window is NOT socially acceptable. Especially as the city has triple bins placed every so many feet for garbage, recycling and compost.

So on the same thread, Halifax Harbour has been undergoing some "changes" recently. After millions of taxpayers dollars going to clean up the harbour from years of raw sewage dumping (that's right- raw sewage), for one beautiful year it has been free by means of a new treatment plant. In January this year, this plant mysteriously flooded... and the poo has been free-flowing straight into the harbour ever since. (Actual "floatables" visible in Halifax's Harbour-cbc).

Seriously, we live in Canada, the fact that a Canadian city continues to dump raw sewage directly into our precious ocean is ridiculous. About 80 million litres of waste water flows into the harbour each day. Tourists are already noticing sewage smells, with reports of needing to cover their faces while on a tour in the Harbour Hopper! This morning the Harbour Solutions manager announced that the seven screens that had been keeping the "floatables" from entering our beautiful harbour have been removed. He reports: "It just became impractical to try and continuously clean them and have them running continuously." WTF? So even though Halifax had the money and manpower to build and operate a 54 million treatment plant, cleaning seven screens is "impractical"? So now 80 million litres of water-poo-bits are gracing our delicate ocean each day.

It would seem that many people have just shrugged their shoulders with a: "well that's how it was for centuries before the new plant... I guess we can wait until it's fixed NEXT SPRING". No real public outcry has occured. Actually, other than the cbc news, no huge protests or petitions that I am aware of have been initiated since the plant flooded in January. (Halifax Harbour- ns govern. site).

So, my witness last weekend of the tiny spark of hope has caused the decision to do more than simply rant on this blog... but to write a nice, polite and very Canadian letter to Mr. Kelly- Mayor of Halifax. Mayor Kelly likes to frequently comment on how committed he is to having Halifax be a "sustainable" and environmentally friendly city.... If you'd like to take a step towards helping the change you'd like to see (Ghandi was so smart!), please feel free to join my voice with a letter to Mr. Kelly addressed here, or to his email at 

On a more positive note on "being the change", for months I had been considering how to "eco" up my work place. Unfortunately, larger organizations are exempt from strict provincial recycling-composting rules and my workplace only accepts paper recycling. After a quick check with coworkers I decided to bring in a recycling bag and bring plastics and dry compostables home to add to our recycling. I consulted with the cleaning staff to assure they wouldn't inadvertently remove and dump the new "recycling", created a little sign with pictures on what "lives here" and sent out a few emails to inform my colleagues. I have to admit, it was more challenging than expected... It would seem that many Nova Scotians had no idea that only #1 and #2 plastics were accepted, or that box board was compost... In any case, each week I have saved about a bag full of trash from being thrown in the landfill- WOOT! (My "saved" trash! pre-sorting)

Here are some other easy ways to "green" up your office:
- use staple free staplers, they're cute and simply fold the paper through a tiny hole!
- take phone notes on scraps of paper... do you really need a post-it?
- recycle your HP printer ink jets. HP is phasing out their pre-paid paper mailing packages, but you can order a large pre-paid box for free from their website. Mine was delivered within a few days. When it's full of ink cartridges just stick to the postage on the top and send off with other purolator mail! So easy. Hp offers recycling in over 50 countries, so check it out :)
- Turn off your computer AND printer at the end of the day.
- Consider setting up a dry recycling... take the work recycling PLUNGE!

Together we CAN be the change :)
Blessings and Happy Friday!!


  1. Utterly gross and totally fantabulous!

    I can't believe that its still considered even remotely acceptable to dump raw sewage into indeed!! Ick! Shall I write and say I was going to visit Halifax but had heard about the stink and the poopy water so will be taking my tourist dollars elsewhere? *grin*

    My co-worker and I have been kicking up the recyling at's been like pulling teeth, but we're boasting two full recyling bins and only two garbage bags to the curb...down from about 5 or 6.

    Feelin' smug...

  2. I am getting so tired of people using our little country road as a dumping station. It's because we are so private that people feel they can get away with dumping their old tires,TV's, carpets and yes we even have a discarded truck bumper. We plan to do a clean up as soon as the ditches dry up some, but it really irks me that we have to do it at our time and cost. I called Valley waste to find out what to do with the trash and here's what I was told:

    tires-we will have to take them to several tire retailers for disposal as each retailer has a limit of four.

    Tv's- we have to take them to a drop off site in New Minas

    All other garbage has to be taken to Valley Waste which has a $4.00 drop off fee.

    I think in some ways maybe things were better when everyone could take their garbage to the dump with no drop off fees and anyone was welcome to pick up anything they thought they could use.

    We are considering posting "no dumping" signs but that is probably a waste of time.

  3. Mel: hahah that would be fantastic- poopy water is very much a tourist deterrent!

    Marjean: yup, your experience sounds familiar. It would completely anger myself as well. I can also see that putting up a sign might not prove very successful, the type of person who dumps trash on a private road doesn't really abide signs.... sigh. Perhaps an outside surveillance camera? One of the bonuses of living in a small community is that everyone knows everyone- and finding out who is doing the dumping is actually possible!
    Very very frustrating. :S

  4. Great post!

    Duluth has been trying to prevent raw sewage overflows into Lake Superior by upgrading its sewer systems. Problem is a)no money and b) a 100+ year old sewer system. Fortunately overflows happen infreqently - mostly durning large rain events.

    But the antiquated and outdated sewer problems are going to become a HUGE epidemic across the nation. There was a great PBS show on how bad the crisis is...bummer I can't remember the name of the show. :(

    I've come to realize how progressive Minnesota and Wisconsin have been in regards to recycling. I honestly can't remember a time when we weren't recycling *something*. Still, living and working in a rural area like I do, I still see the garbage dumping on the forest management roads, and it costs the state and county money to have to clean it up becaust the putz couldn't be bothered to take it to the local facilities and pay $20USD. I smell the neighbors burning garbage and that's illegal.


    Some places have come a long way, unfortunately, we all have a long way to go.

  5. Hey, there! I'm back!

    I'm really impressed with your efforts to green your work place. That is very cool.

    And the city/trash info was great and so important for us all to realize. You would not BELIEVE the trash I saw just piled up along the Champs Elysees in Paris! Didn't expect that...

  6. Where I live, the dump is a high-tech waste managment facility with Phd's working there and everything. So I'm lucky in that respect.

    About the Halifax habour. Since we are in Provincial election, now would be a good time to bring up this issue with your candidates and make it big issue, and see what they have to say about it and want they would do if elected. I would think that the Green Party candidate in Halifax, Ryan Watson, would been interested in this.

  7. The best thing I did at my old job was implement a green office. I requested that we make the change to my bosses, stating that if we went 100% green then that's something we can bring to potential clients. When I left we had a paper recycling system, also plastic/glass, i found a local printer cartridge recycle centre and switched our power to 100% solar based. It only ended up costing probably about $50 more per month all totaled up.

    Good on you for taking the recycling home! Melbourne actually has seperate bins too and my friends thought I was crazy when one day I kinda yelled at a man in the city- he threw his water bottle into the rubbish bin when the recycling was literally right next to it! What's up with that?!

    Melbourne doesn't have the best record environmentally, but I think we're definitely improving with time...

    here's hoping you get a response from the people in charge and maybe influence some poo change!

  8. Kristin: ohhh, I never thought about the old sewage systems... That's a little concerning- especially since they can't even seem to keep a brand new plant working!

    Yoga Witch: really??? trash at the Champs d'Elysees? That's sad :(

    Grace: What a fantastic point- lol it's funny I didn't think of that, especially since i AM voting :)

    Ms. Moniker: wow what an awesome job you did! there's no way I'd get the company to switch to solar/wind/water based- it's an entire provincially based company... but it gives hope :)


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