Last Thursday, perhaps unnoticed by many in Innisfail, there was a diminutive but formidable green army out on the streets to make our good Earth a better place.
They came from St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School - students and staff waging a committed battle to clean up the town.
It was the school’s annual Earth Day Clean Up, which was actually on Good Friday the previous week but postponed locally to allow for the holiday.
For this day kids and staff wore green, participated in a litterless lunch and went out into the community to pick up and then properly dispose of garbage. The children went about their mission in 13 “school families”, comprised of about 18 students from kindergarten to Grade 9. It is a formula that teaches older students responsibility, particularly for the safety and mentoring of younger kids, who in turn come to appreciate and demonstrate respect for older role models and good community values.
The St. Marguerite initiative, which has been running for five consecutive years, underscores the growing call to action by the community to make Innisfail greener, cleaner and safer. For many, it’s simply high time to rid the community of what many view as excessive, unsightly garbage that is an unwanted blight on the landscape.
Beginning on May 14 Envision Innisfail Green and Clean (EIGC) will launch a seven-week community-wide project to make Innisfail “green and environmentally responsible.” The initiative is being kicked off with a barbecue at Centennial Park.
For the clean up, citizens are asked to pre-register a favourite area in town to adopt. Friendly competitions between friends and businesses are encouraged.
It is all about engaging the community, with town administration and a volunteer committee promoting the values of being healthy and safe, and making Innisfail a more welcoming town that can rightfully show off its beauty and pride.
And there are admirable and achievable goals, including achieving visible environmental benefits, encouraging citizens to participate in environmentally responsible behaviours, safely caring for and cleaning the shores of the community’s waterways, and creating community pride among all generations of citizens.
That may seem like a tall order, but not so much when you consider the past five years of commitment from students and staff at St. Marguerite, which has quietly and humbly established an enviable template for the community.
And while the town and its committed volunteers do deserve a pat on the back in launching the community clean-up, it would also do well to seriously consider what other communities in Alberta and across Canada having been doing for years, even decades.
Since 1978 Green Calgary, a non-profit urban environmental organization with a mission to empower Calgarians to create healthy communities through environmental education, has sought to address a range of important urban environmental issues, including pollution, waste management and resource conservation.
Committed volunteers from the organization are everywhere in the community – speaking at public events, conducting environmental education presentations, researching and writing for Green Calgary’s different programs, and helping out with annual celebrations and fundraisers.
At the national level there is Green Communities Canada, a network of community-based non-profit organizations that deliver innovative environmental programs and services, with a focus on household and community action. It supports member organizations in working together to achieve environmental sustainability.
What this shows is that community-based initiatives to take charge of their local environments require commitment, constant mobilization and action. It is a mission that should never be allowed to end.
And while the launch of EIGC is a welcome healthy start, its greatest success this year could come with the declaration it has been embraced across the community as a celebrated annual event for next year, and for future generations to come.