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Start local, go global

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Committed to spreading awareness on the litter that has become a part of our lives, Carolyn Vincent urges you to take charge of your neighbourhood. Joanne Pinto Pereira speaks to her about how she plans to nurture our planet

Carolyn Vincent, of Mumbai origin, has started a mini revolution in Brisbane with her #missionlitterpickup.While Plogging is the norm in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, as she walked her dog daily, she noticed a lot of litter on the streets. “I used to pick up one or two pieces each day and put it into the closest bin. Then I had a thought that maybe if I brought a bag and glove along, I’d be able to collect a lot more. For about six months or so I kept forgetting. I would be halfway on my walk, I  would see the litter and would remember my resolve to get the bag.  One day I just sat at the bus stop and set a phone reminder for the next day.”

Mission litter pick up

The next morning, armed with a bag and a glove, says Carolyn, “I picked up so much litter that my bag was filled in no time. When I got home, I thought I should sort  the stuff that  could be  recycled and dispose of the rest. When I tipped the litter out on the grass, I was shocked to see how much there was. I decided to take a photo and post it on our community facebook page. We have over 4000 residents on that page and within minutes there was so much interaction around it.”

“I started posting my photos daily with the aim of spreading awareness of how much litter there was on our streets as well as hoping to inspire others to do the same.

“The local newspapers saw my post and rang me to do a story. It made the front page of the local papers and then ABC radio station called me to do an interview. That’s how it all started.”

The vision

Carolyn explains what she hopes to achieve with what began as a one-person army. 

“I hope to inspire and evoke personal and collective responsibility for our mess.  At the grassroot level to get everyone who go on a walk  to add a bag and glove and pick up litter at least once a week. The litter/plastic problem seems unsurmountable.

“However I am a big believer in the power of people to shift things in the world. It is our responsibility and let’s take it on.  It’s our mess and so all of us need to do our part, in whatever way we can. By enlisting the power of numbers, we can clean up our planet.

“I want this to be a global movement. We have set a date December 22, 2018,  for it to go global. Everywhere in the world people are picking up litter as part of their daily walks. It’s the norm!”

What does it entail?

Carolyn shares, “Boldness, passion, diligence, caring enough for our environment and future generations, lots of sharing, telling people about the project. Diligence in posting on social media.That is the key. Having many conversations with people and genuinely reaching out to others to help.

“I do believe when given a chance everyone one of us want to help out. People don’t always know how to contribute. I have not had anyone say ‘No’ so far.”

Supportive community

How has this micro movement been received?  Carolyn is ecstatic, “Lots of locals have started picking up litter. The feedback to all posts on litter have been encouraging. The Brisbane City Council contacted me and gave me 200 cloth reusable bags and gloves to distribute to other residents. I am currently working with our local council to have a community clean-up every month starting in September. Our local Councillor has done a short video too with me and will be sending it out to all residents in his electorate. A marketing company jumped on board and created a website, www.missionlitterpickup.com, and a facebook and Instagram presence for us as well as managing them over the last three months, for free.  A printing company offered to print bags for us at no cost. A videographer did us a video to share the idea again at his own cost. People and businesses are doing it as their contribution to the project. After all it is everyone’s responsibility.”

Community connect

And while she is at it the emotional connect, the human bonding is the plus.  “Yes, I often get a thank you from people as I walk past them, or a wave.  People stop to chat and I tell them what I am doing and invite them to take it over. I never stop talking to people. I am meeting new people in my neighbourhood. Our new clean- up group will be starting in September. Soon after I started Mission Litter Pickup, another lady contacted me and started a monthly clean-up group. She invited me to join and now we go to different parks.  I keep meeting like-minded people, share ideas; it is mutually inspiring. I feel more connected to Mother Earth too and sometimes when I bend down to pick up litter I say a quiet sorry to her on behalf of us humans. It brings a tear to my eye when I see large amounts of litter just thrown around and vividly picture how our birds and animals and life in the sea have been impacted because of our irresponsibility. It makes me more determined to continue and take this globally.”

Challenges

Finally on the concerns that we need to address, she says, “The biggest one is creating awareness on the amount of litter out there and the impact on our future. Our kids and grandkids and the life they might have if we don’t wake up and clean up fast. Action follows awareness. I also believe we need to spend more time connecting with Nature. Because if we do we will fall in love with her and when we do, we will naturally do anything to save her. We need to take our kids out more into nature. Plenty more, like corporate responsibility, reduce plastic packaging, there is so much we can do.”

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