Arboretum cleanup gets just one volunteer – plus reporters

Arboretum Staff, Alumni and journalism students help clean up the environment around Arboretum shoreline. (Matthew Owczarz)

Matthew Owczarz

General News Reporter

A low volunteer turnout didn’t stop Humber Arboretum’s shoreline cleanup after Journalism students covering the event pitched in to help save the day, and the environment.

Journalism students from Humber News and Humber Et Cetera joined Arboretum staff and a single volunteer to raise the number of participants to 10 on Wednesday.

“Ironically, because so many student journalists showed up, the event turned into a success,” said Diana Wilson, community engagement coordinator for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

For 45 minutes the crew wandered through the wooded area to collect typical college campus garbage: cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, and the occasional makeshift bong made from a peanut butter jar.

“I did see this Facebook group floating around and I just wanted to give back to the community so I thought this was a great opportunity to come out,” said Sarah Tricarico, a Humber Police Foundations alumnus and the only volunteer.

“I think we did a lot of great work down there. We worked as a team and got a lot cleaned up,” she said.

The crew used gloves, bags and trash sticks to sift through the fallen autumn leafs for any hidden trash underneath the ground cover by the Humber River. They were also told to keep a sharp eye out for any small plastic trash because bigger size doesn’t mean more impact.

“All plastic will eventually become micro plastic as it decomposes, especially in water, it gets to microscopic levels that don’t break down,” Wilson said. “Those small pieces of plastic get eaten by marine life at the lowest part of the food chain, and those fish get eaten and the plastic goes up and up the food chain and will accumulate in our food systems.”

Humber Arboretum planned the shoreline cleanup a month ago in collaboration with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to alert students about environmental cleanliness, said Jimmy Vincent, coordinator of the Centre for Urban Ecology.

“It was a great opportunity to have some outreach to the staff and students within Humber, and to alert them to the litter issue that we have been battling for a couple years on site,” he said.

A short turnaround time for the shoreline cleanup and lack of promotion around campus for the occasion are thought to be behind the event’s lack of volunteers.

“We were hoping for more of a turnout but the journalism students and our Humber alumni really pulled through,” said communications assistant Marilyn Campbell.

The Arboretum is hosting numerous upcoming events like a preview of Humber’s new bird garden on Saturday, a tour through Humber’s rain garden on Oct. 29, and a pruning workshop on Nov. 5.

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