Lisa Ladouceur worries the environment became less of a priority during the pandemic.
“We’ve all been focusing on our safety and I think the environment has taken a back seat,” she says. “I hope that as we return to normal, people recognize that climate change has never gone away.
“It needs to be our biggest concern.”
Taking better care of the planet is why Ladouceur and her sister Melissa Matthews are hosting a beach cleanup in Canatara Park for Earth Day, which is on Friday, April 22.
The sisters, who own the zero-waste grocery store Great Lakes Refill Co., are relaunching an event they started in 2019 before COVID-19 suspended it for two years.
That first year, 125 local residents collected a surprising volume of garbage that included barbed wire, dirty diapers, and lots of cigarette butts and plastic bottle caps, said Ladouceur.
“Some people don’t believe that what they do will make a difference, but our 2019 cleanup proved that small, individual actions add up to big changes.”
While plastic pellets known as nurdles and other microplastics continue to wash ashore, Ladouceur is disturbed by the additional waste produced in the pandemic. Disposable masks are everywhere, as are takeout food containers and plastic bags, which underwent a resurgence after grocery stores discouraged reusable shopping bags.
The pandemic also delayed a federal government ban on single-use plastics, like straws, stir sticks and bags, noted Ladouceur.
“It was supposed to take effect by the end of 2021 and now it’s been pushed off to 2024. We hope our beach cleanup reminds people that we have to tackle the problem of single-use plastics every day.
“By the amount of trash I see blowing in the wind out there, it’s like people have just lost the energy to think about it.”
The Great Lakes Refill Earth Day Beach Clean-Up is cohosted by Kombucha Hound and takes place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Participants can sign up on the Great Lakes Refill Facebook page, or simply show up at the Canatara Park band shell where they will be assigned an area. Be sure to bring your own gloves and garbage bags or containers.
The City of Sarnia, in partnership with NOVA Chemicals, is holding a separate Earth Day cleanup on Saturday, April 23.
That annual event started in 2015 and was cancelled the past two years, says the city’s Rachel Veilleux.
From 10 a.m. to 12 noon, volunteers are encouraged to clean up any park, trail, boulevard or other public space, then head to Canatara Park for a barbecue compliments of the Rotary Club of Sarnia-Lambton After Hours.
Participants must pre-register on the city’s website if they want to pick up free supplies such as gloves, rakes, bags and First Aid kits from the Strangway Centre the week prior to the event.
More than 200 people generally came out before the pandemic and Veilleux said early registration suggests at least that many again this year.
“We have scouts, the Friends of Kenwick on the Lake, the Mitton Village Citizens Collective and many other groups and individuals planning to help,” she said. “It’s a great way to celebrate spring and our beautiful public spaces.”
To register for the city cleanup, go to https://www.sarnia.ca/play/city-signature-events/community-parks-clean-up-day/.