Guest Blog Post: Clean Streets NZ with Alison Pharaoh
Alison Pharaoh, one of the founders of CleanStreetsNZ has penned an awesome article on how she was inspired to step up and make a change in her neck of the woods – and the awesome things she’s learnt, and people she’s met along the way!
Alison’s article begins below:
Hi, I’m Alison Pharaoh, one of the founders of CleanStreetsNZ. My forebears on my mother’s side came to Aotearoa/NZ in the 1860’s (although my Dad came from the UK after World War II) and I’ve based myself in Wellington most of my life, apart from short stints overseas, and a longer haul in the last few years helping out in the Christchurch earthquake recovery.
Freyberg Beach at Oriental Bay is somewhere many Wellingtonians love to head to after work on a hot summer’s day. But imagine swimming at this golden sand beach in amongst slimy plastic. That’s what can happen when a nor-wester blows it all in. It’s also what happens when it’s been raining and the stormwater drains empty the runoff from the gutters into the harbour. It was simple to look up the hill and see where it came from – and as a keen water baby, I started cleaning up the source – all those gutters from our streets.
I was fascinated by people’s reaction. Most of the neighbours joined in to help, but some passers-by just stepped around or even over me, as if they didn’t want to see what the problem was.
I realised that the rubbish issue was not going to be solved by a few people cleaning up, even if they spent heaps of time doing it – and everyone’s busy with very little spare time. So I reframed it into lots of people doing a very little – we could just take responsibility for keeping the footpath and gutter outside our place clean and free of rubbish. This meant where we live, or for a business, where we work. This, in theory, would also raise people’s awareness and hopefully make them think twice about dropping their cigarette butt or rubbish in the gutter or on the footpath!
This is similar to what Kate says, start by doing one thing, because if everyone did one thing, in New Zealand alone, that’s over 4 million “things”!
So, from this, CleanStreetsNZ was born, starting with groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Not having been on Facebook prior, it was a pretty steep learning curve, but it certainly created a community! In just under 3 months, it’s grown to over 550 people throughout Aotearoa supporting it on social media – at an average of 10 metres each, that’s 5.5km of streets being cleaned – See, it all adds up!
From there, I started accosting people in the street and asking them to join in. I contacted businesses and was pleasantly surprised by the eagerness of some organisations to support it, but was disappointed by some of those who sadly had every excuse under the sun for why they couldn’t!
My work colleagues at PropertyPathways and NicheFM didn’t have any choice but to join if they wanted any peace! One of the first businesses to jump on board was JT Property Wash – they had their own environmental initiatives as well. The others were around Mt Victoria – the Copthorne Oriental Bay and Bay Plaza Hotels were eager to embrace it. I work out at Petone, so continually harassed businesses out there as well! Recently Resene Paints and Wellington Water have joined in – the latter, of course, has plenty of interest in making sure our stormwater’s kept clear of plastic and rubbish!
And there’s been an awesome response from the other local litter crews. Mt Vic Community Hub has litter clean up days. Michelle at Plogging in Petone collects endless amounts of litter on her plogs (Picking up litter while you jog/walk) each day. We’re working with the Victoria University Plastic Diet group as well.
Recently, Michelle also introduced me to a litter geotagging app – Litterati. You can tag the type of rubbish you collect and it maps it. This is hugely powerful when looking to the source of the worst offenders! We have a CleanStreetsNZ Club on Litterati and to date have tagged and collected over 12,000 pieces of litter. We have some serious competition though, Thomas John Carr in Palmerston North has a litter count that exceeds 30,000!
To quote our colleagues at Down to Earth Kiwis (DTEK NZ), the world is changed by your example, not your opinion!
And, a big thank you to Kate for giving us the opportunity to post on her blog! – Alison Pharaoh @CleanStreetsNZ