If you were in Toronto this summer, you may have been lucky enough to meet two summer educators of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Brad Staite and Connor Thompson, took to the community each week to engage with youth, schools, workplace teams and many others on the importance of shoreline cleanups. This opportunity was made possible thanks to the support of the United Nations Association in Canada’s Green Spaces program.
Connor and Brad share their summer highlights, use their educator’s knowledge to teach us a thing or two about why cleanups matter, and reminisced on some of the awesome moments of the summer.
1. Tell us about yourself! Why did you want to be a summer educator?
Connor: I have an undergraduate degree in political science, a postgraduate certificate in public administration, and am nearly done a master of sustainability science. This opportunity was a great introduction to the kind of real grassroots conservation work I think we need more of!
Brad: I am currently studying Industrial Design at Humber College with a background in Marketing earned through a bachelor’s degree at McMaster University. I began volunteering with WWF in 2016 and was introduced from there to the Shoreline Cleanup program. Our oceans are crucial to the biological health of the Earth
2. Where did your educator role take you?
Brad: I was able to connect with my local community in ways I had never had an opportunity to before. I attended local volunteer led cleanups, ran workshops at various youth camps and helped organize corporate events with program sponsors.
Connor: We spent our summer travelling to events all over Toronto. I was also lucky enough to be sent with a small group to World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, USA. At Jamboree we ran two days of workshops on ocean health and spoke with over 800 youth from 30+ countries, it was an incredible experience that I am so grateful to have been a part of.
3. Was there something surprising you learned in doing so many cleanups?
Connor: There is so much litter EVERYWHERE. No matter how pristine a park seems from a distance, I guarantee that if you look closely you’ll find a staggering amount of cigarette butts, tiny plastic pieces, bottle caps, food wrappers, and the like. Our parks need more help than I think most of us recognize.
Brad: While I always knew the impact single-use plastics are having throughout our watershed and oceans, often it is an issue not being talked about with urgency. I now know it is a growing problem that cannot be ignored.
4. What are some takeaways from your experience as educators?
Connor: We’re starting to see a real societal change concerning environmental sustainability, it was evident at every public event we attended. People are carrying reusable bags, refusing plastic, bringing their own coffee cups, and asking questions about where their food comes from. They’re worried about climate change and many shared how they’re taking action at home and sharing those ideals with their families.
Brad: The role opened my eyes to how eager people are to take action in their community. Meeting people from such diverse backgrounds, all with their own unique perspective on the issues we face has given me more insight than I could have imagined. Climate change is a critical issue irrespective of one’s geographical location, highlighting the importance that we, as a global society, must share a similar and constructive mindset to create solutions for its increasing impact worldwide.
Inspired by Connor and Brad to take action on your shoreline? Lead or join a shoreline cleanup near you to help keep your waterways healthy. Register at: ShorelineCleanup.ca.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited and Coca-Cola Canada, is one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada. A conservation partnership of Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada, the Shoreline Cleanup aims to promote understanding of shoreline litter issues by engaging Canadians to rehabilitate shoreline areas through cleanups. www.ShorelineCleanup.ca