Calgary group freshens up downtown with weekend litter pick up

Angelina Hajji poses for a photo on the University of Calgary campus Tuesday, March 22, 2022. Hajji started Keep the Earth Fresh, a citizen group that cleans up the streets of Calgary on the weekends. Hajji started this in 2021 in response to the increase in land pollution throughout the city. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/LiveWire)

There’s been a pandemic increase in trash around the city, but one Calgary post-secondary student wants to put a lid on it.

The City of Calgary Utilities and Environmental Protection department saw 509 complaints of littering and garbage throughout the city from January to March 2021, with 39 in the downtown core. It has increased from 308 in 2020 in those same months.

There have been 419 complaints made for garbage and litter throughout the city this year, with 51 in the downtown core alone.

University of Calgary zoology student, Angelina Hajji, launched Keep the Earth Fresh in March 2021. Hajji wanted to help rid the City of Calgary, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, of what she described as “mask pollution, glove pollution, sanitization-like pollution.”

“Every time I would go out, there would be more [pollution], and some in my favourite spots. I would start seeing that and I started going out and picking them up,” said Hajji.

Hajji started by herself on weekends in March 2021. Over time, it grew to include her friends through interest and invitation. Currently, there are 39 members in Keep the Earth Fresh, and it has grown to become a community activity.

“It’s our way to enjoy the weekend, it’s our way to give back to the community, and it’s our way to give back to the environment,” said Hajji.

Citizen awareness, citizen education

Elementary schools and high schools have contacted Hajji and now want to do the same with their own students. Hajji wants to partner with the City of Calgary for future events to encourage awareness and education around protecting the earth.

“The best thing is citizen awareness and citizen education,” Hajji said.

“I really think just continuing to foster this positive community sense, this positive atmosphere will really encourage people to get involved in these forms of giving back to the community.”

The City of Calgary said to let them know if there’s a litter problem in the area.

“The density and usage of our urban centre means we get more litter– and calls related to that litter,” they said in a written statement.

“We encourage people to call 311 if they see an area that needs attention, and of course, not to litter themselves.”

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