Nunavut community clean-ups aim to foster community pride
Environment department helps pick up the junk that missed the garbage can
As long as there is snow to hide a more than half a year’s worth of trash, Nunavut’s Department of Environment promises to continue its annual territory-wide community cleanup program, mid-June through July, to remind Nunavummiut to put garbage where it belongs.
“It’s part of our anti-littering program, and an attempt to give people a little bit more pride about where they live,” said Jamessee Moulton, pollution prevention program specialist with the department.
“If you’ve got a nice clean community, you’re more likely to hold onto that chip bag and bring it to a garbage can.”
This year’s edition of the territorial community cleanup has so far, as of the start of July, helped tidy up two-thirds of Nunavut’s 25 communities.
Timing for the clean-up depends on when the snow melts.
Plans to start in Iqaluit on June 14 were put off when snow fell June 3, Moulton said. Pangnirtung was the first to start, on June 20. A few communities are scheduled to do theirs by July 20.
“It’s not until the melt season when you realize, ‘holy crap, look at all the garbage that that drift has been stockpiling,’” said Moulton.
“And I really do mean stockpiling, because you can find piles of litter in some of the drifts when they melt. A lot of people don’t realize it because it’s hidden for six, seven months of the year.”
Each community basically runs by the same plan, according to community cleanup organizers at the Department of Environment.
The department leaves it up to each municipal government to appoint a specific day – or days – for the clean-up.
Once decided, the department works with the local community government, Nunavut Tourism and sponsors, including Northern and Co-op stores, to set up a clean-up event.
Local Government of Nunavut employees get to use two hours of their workday to pick up and bag garbage at various locations around the community. All other residents are invited to take part.
The department provides promotional T-shirts to the employees and all other volunteers, while Northern and Co-op stores provide garbage bags and gloves for the clean-up.
For an added incentive, once the trash pick-up is complete, participants are offered barbecued burgers and hotdogs provided by Northern and Co-op stores, and a chance to win airplane tickets from First Air, to be drawn August 1.
The department’s formula has worked well in recent years, Moulton said.
“Although we organize some of it, ultimately the details are left up to the planning committees within each community,” he said. “What the community clean-up relies on are champions who show what can be done in just a little bit of time.”
Results in Iqaluit, where some 400 volunteers fanned out to pick up trash throughout the city on June 28, showed some immediate results.
Participants reported picking up everything from broken strollers, toys and hockey sticks to more common items like plastic bags and coffee cups. Most of the volunteers, up to 300 of them according to local organizer Jean Picotte, were Government of Nunavut employees.
The one-time clean-up shows good immediate results, but will they last?
“Having a clean residential area or public area will foster a sense of pride that we’re hoping to promote through this,” Moulton said.
“The hope is, people say, ‘you know, I really do like it when the town looks like this, as opposed to full of litter. So I’m actually going to put this piece of chocolate bar wrapper in my pocket, and when I get home, I’ll put it in the garbage because I’ve got one there.’”