BUCHANS, N.L. – The world may celebrate Earth Day on April 22, but for Maddy Penney of Buchans it's “Operation Earth Day, Every Day”.
The eight-year-old, Grade 3 student decided to do his part to make a contribution to cleaning up the world around home a few years ago.
“I actually had this idea about two or three years ago,” Maddy says, “because Mom (Melanie Brown) was on (the internet) and she actually saw this post that was about a little kid who had planted over 2,000 trees.
“So this guy was my age and Mom made a joke and said to M. J. (his older brother), “Why don't you have a project?”and then that's exactly when I thought of every single piece of information (about my project) except for the name.”
It has become Maddy's mission to remove litter and recyclables from the sides of the roads from Buchans to Millertown – a distance of approximately 37 kilometres.
“I began it last year,” he says, “and the reason why I'm doing it is because (the garbage) is all over the forest and hurting the environment and that's obviously bad.”
With lots of support from his family, Maddy also has the community of Buchans on his radar. During the week, when the weather is good, they will concentrate on cleaning up areas of the town that are prone to litter, such as the playground and near the grocery store.
The roadside project is more for weekends.
How long will it take? Maddy doesn't know for sure. All he knows is that he will do it, with his mom by his side as his inspiration and help from his brother.
“Usually, I just think of an area that would be good to do and if it’s a good day, I do it,” Maddy says of the places they target to clean up. “The Buchans to Millertown part is a pretty hard one.
“We usually go one way until we get to a certain sign or a bag full of garbage and then we do the other side of the highway. It's usually painful.”
They have a 'pick-up' stick, but it makes it hard to do, he says.
“It makes it more sanitary, but it’s harder,” Maddy said. “Also, the highway is infested with red ants!
“They are natural decomposers so I guess they are drawn to the garbage because it’s something to decompose.”
When they moved one piece of garbage Monday they also saw black ant pupae. He had learned about them on the “Ants Canada” channel.
“You could see the ants taking their eggs and moving them and we just sat and waited for the ants to move every egg before we put the garbage in the bag,” Brown said.
It’s not just ant sized trash that people throw out. A “big old school television” is something they will have to go back and remove another day.
Cash for trash
On the positive side of the collection effort are the recyclable items – plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers that can be returned for refund. Those funds are good for Maddy's mission.
“I cash in my recyclables so I can get money so I can donate to the SPCA so all the animals and pets there can actually have a better chance of being adopted,” Maddy said.
His mother noted, “Our goal is to encourage people to start caring and also every recyclable we pick up is a little bit closer to another cat getting neutered.”
From the cashed in recyclables last year, they had collected enough money to have two cats neutered and both cats have since been adopted. In addition they have brought supplies such as animal toys, kitty litter, food and bleach for the SPCA.
Maddy explained that there are four stages in his local clean-up effort.
“Stage one is picking up the garbage, stage two is donating to the SPCA, stage three will be planting trees and stage four we thought of rescuing animals – I haven't worked out the kinks yet, that's going to take, like, two years to get to,” he said. “We only have five per cent of stage one and two done.”
Maddy and his family have been making lifestyle changes as well. They are big on “reduce, recycle and reuse” in their own lives. From furniture to clothing to backpacks, they intend to not purchase items that don't need to be replaced. They are also trying to eat healthier and reduce their footprint on earth.
“Creating waste is not a right, it's a luxury,” says Brown, “and we need to treat it as such. We don't have the right to create waste and we're the only species that does.”
The Buchans Lions Club recognizes the importance of encouraging Maddy and his family for their efforts.
Club president Hilda Budden and Lion Judy White met with the family at the town of Buchans entrance sign as they began their highway clean up on May 14. Maddy and his brother M. J. received a cash donation from the service club to do with as they pleased. They decided to put it towards their education funds.
“We are very appreciative of the fact that they took the initiative to do this clean-up,” said White.
Maddy has established an “Operation Earth Day, Every Day” Facebook page that his mother manages for him. It features photos of cleanups, messages about greener lifestyle choices and much more.
Millertown author Blair Osmond dedicated his book “The Adventures of Mose the Moose – The Litter Bugs” to Maddy and M.J. with the following message, “I would like to dedicate this book to two boys who have kind and caring hearts. They spent time cleaning up communities and highways in the area they live. They received money from recyclables they picked up and donated it to our local SPCA. Acts like this make us proud, especially when it is from the young hearts of children. Thank you MJ and Maddy for helping to keep our beautiful province clean and litter free!!”
Thanks to the donation of recyclables to Maddy's cause, during the winter months he is still able to continue his good work. Keep him in mind the next time you want to recycle your beverage containers.