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Pick Me Up at the Beach

By Larraine Roulston:

In 2013, just after a celebrated long weekend, renown artist Elizabeth Berry took her regular morning walk along a Toronto waterfront boardwalk. Upon seeing the beach, she was astounded. “Usually there is some litter,” she said. “It’s nothing new, but it’s getting worse. This morning there were little piles of it — everywhere.” Enraged, she marched home to return with her watercolors. “I was so upset … I thought, maybe a painting can reach people.’’

The discarded cups, cans, chip bags, cigarette butts and pizza boxes were already assembled, as if groups of people simply dropped all their food containers and left. Within 5 hours, Berry painted her  15” x 22” watercolor on site. What’s more, she titled her masterpiece “Pick Me Up at the Beach” and laminated posters in an attempt to attract awareness.

Since that time, increased mainstream media attention has been focusing on ocean pollution. We all have become very aware of single-use plastics, which often include disposable diapers that are left near waterways. Due to the huge volume of various plastics presently being produced, even recycling has had little or no effect. In Canada, less than 10% of plastics actually get recycled. When discarded, they have become a pollution challenge that we must solve globally.

Municipalities are looking to ban disposable plastics while entrepreneurs are inventing biodegradable or edible items as replacements. The question remains: do we really need single-use plastics at all?

The focus on eliminating straws has made many people realize that it’s possible to drink straight from a glass.To expand areas of awareness, here are a few suggestions:

  • Take your own reusable containers to bakeries and deli counters;
  • Encourage hotels to replace single-use shampoo/lotion bottles and soaps with large pump containers;
  • When grocery shopping, take your own reusable tote bags and small bags for loose produce; and
  • Bring your own mug or thermos when visiting coffee shops or attending events. Plates and cutlery also can be taken to community potlucks, events and meetings where food is served.

Does anyone remember when people set out these items?

  • Pats of butter in a bowl
  • A single spoon to be used as a stirrer
  • A tray of jams and jellies in ceramic bowls for customers to help themselves
  • A small pitcher of milk/cream for coffee/tea rather than a handful of plastic creamers
  • Coleslaws and tartar sauces placed on plates rather than in separate small disposable side containers

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, stated, “We’ve all seen the disturbing images of fish, sea turtles, whales and other wildlife being injured or dying because of plastic garbage in our oceans. Canadians expect us to act. That’s why our government intends to ban harmful single-use plastic products where science warrants it, and why we’re working with partners across Canada and around the world to reduce plastic pollution. Taking these steps will help create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and make our economy even stronger—while protecting fish, whales and other wildlife, and preserving the places we love.”

As well as governments, people have to change habits and expectations! Our economic and social cultures depend on the health of our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers. Berry used her art talent to immortalize what she saw and to create change. Cartoonists, sculptors, photographers, actors and writers can do the same.

Related Links:



Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment – Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste

Investing in our oceans


Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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