Litter or Pollution? What's in a Name?

Posted on August 26, 2017

This week our Executive Director, Conor Tapp, dives into a problem you can help with right here in Calgary and one of his own passions. Picking up litter.


I think this summer has been my most active since being a teenager. My daughter and I have been hiking, and I’ve been on my bikes. I even went to the Inconvenient Sequel film. There is so much to see, experience and learn in and around Calgary.

I find it truly humbling to drive on Highway 40 into Kananaskis with my daughter as the mountains grow around us, swallowing our vehicle and leading us to incredible places where we can connect with nature. The scale of everything – the trees, the wildlife, the mountains themselves – everything is so large and so numerous. It takes my breath away every single time, and leaves me grateful that I get to live in this wonderful city.

My daughter learned a lot about water, waste, and biodiversity while hiking. She started identifying the insects and other wildlife that we were encountering. She took a few minutes to talk with a young female researcher from the University of Saskatchewan who was working with the Columbian Ground Squirrels at Ptarmigan Cirque. She observed deer, marmots, and other animals in their natural spaces. We sat together and discussed the importance of the water that was flowing near our feet – not for us in the city, but for every creature and plant that is relying on that stream as a water source. We talked about the ways that we can control our impact on the environment.

And we removed a lot of waste. Each time we go hiking, I leave a bit of space at the top of my pack because I know that we will be packing out waste. My daughter is 5, and this is an issue that she is very passionate about. Coffee and slurpee cups, straws, and so many water bottles have been transported in my pockets and pack this summer. While our hikes are about father-daughter time, they do take on an activist/cleanup tone as we weave our way through naturally beautiful places. It’s now just a regular thing that we do – see something and remove it.

When you spend your commutes and your time off outside in nature, your mind has time to ponder questions both big and small. This summer while climbing Tunnel Mountain for Ellie’s first summit I started to wonder if we should just call litter what it is – pollution.

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of pollute

polluted; polluting


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to make ceremonially or morally impure :  defile
    b :  debase 1using language to deceive or mislead pollutes language — Linda C. Lederman
  3. 2a :  to make physically impure or unclean :  befouldirty
    b :  to contaminate (an environment) especially with man-made waste




play\-ˈlü-tiv\ adjective

By that definition, I think litter is simply pollution – and I want to know more about it. I think that we – Green Calgary – should lead a waste exploration through some of our natural areas. Think of a community cleanup, with a waste audit and report added in. Let’s explore not just how much pollution is being left in our parks and natural spaces – let’s also investigate the types of waste and report back to the community about the harm that each pollutant can cause. Let’s build a long-term education strategy from what we learn – how can we increase literacy to inspire our neighbours to stop polluting our spaces.

So keep your eyes here for our full calendar release later this fall. I’m sure that you’ll see a lot that interests you, and I welcome your feedback.

And if you are interested in supporting one of our programs with a donation or sponsorship, or as a presenter or facilitator, please reach out to me. We are looking for partners to join us for an exciting year – inspiring, empowering, and celebrating greening together for 40 years.


Conor Tapp

Executive Director

Contact Conor or Other GCA Staff Here