St. James Town tenants pitch in for Earth Day spring cleanup

Tenants in TCHC communities, along with staff and the Conservation team, volunteered to pick up litter as part of a spring cleanup.

We had a spring in our step when we visited 200 Wellesley Street East in the heart of St. James Town to check out the community cleanup that was taking place. When we arrived, we saw a few tenants walking around the building carrying clear garbage bags and pickers, stooping to clamp down on pieces of litter. Their efforts, alongside Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) staff and the TCHC Conservation team, were in support of Earth Day and the City of Toronto’s Clean Toronto Together campaign, the largest municipal cleanup of its kind in Canada.

Earth Day falls on April 22 of every year and calls global attention to the state of our planet and what we can do to protect it for future generations. Cleanups also took place at these TCHC communities: 1400 Bathurst Street, 400 McCowan Road, 2739 and 2743 Victoria Park Avenue, and 3171 and 3181 Eglinton Avenue East.

Picking up litter outside 200 Wellesley, TCHC tenant Alfred Kubesch felt that cleanup efforts were important. “We’re not just cleaning up; we’re beautifying our home with flowers,” he said. “It’s pointless if we let garbage ruin the beauty of our community.”

As Chair of the building’s Gardening Committee, Alfred said they have made it their mission to keep the grounds looking attractive by planting flowers every year and watering them every day. He said that the building is fortunate to have several flower beds and likes the look of periwinkles during the spring.

When asked about gardening efforts in the building, he said “You’ve got to start somewhere. Ten years ago, it was hard to keep the garden growing as people would simply trample over it. People are discouraged at the beginning, but there’s hope that you can change that.”

Two tenants are standing - one is holding a clear garbage bag and the other a garbage picker

TCHC tenants Alfred Kubesch (pictured left) and Mobina Azimi (pictured right) participated in Earth Day cleanup.

Behind the building, a tenant who goes by Ms. Perry was also picking up litter. When asked why she came to the cleanup, her response was that it was good exercise. She said that being out here was important because she cared about Earth Day and the environment and felt that the community cleanup was a great way to generate interest in the building. Organizing a cleanup often would encourage tenants to take pride in where they live, she said.     

Keir Brownstone, TCHC’s Manager of Energy Management and head of the Conservation team, who was overseeing the cleanup, explained that community cleanups not only improve the area but help to foster a sense of unity and engagement among tenants. He said it was important to their mental well-being. “We collect bags of garbage not because it’s going to keep the community clean for years on end but to give people a sense of involvement,” he said.

“There’s a lot of community spirit at TCHC amongst our tenants. Participating in events, particularly those that spruce up the community, gives it a better look and is important to people.”

For tenants wanting to organize a cleanup for their community, Keir said that the Conservation team would be happy to put more events together in spring, summer, or fall.

Four individuals are posing behind a table with a green tablecloth on it

The TCHC Conservation team at 200 Wellesley Street East.

Through a collective effort, the Earth Day cleanup not only helped to beautify their surroundings but also strengthened the social bonds between tenants. When a community unites, positive changes are within reach.  

For more information on how to organize a cleanup for your community, visit TCHC Conservation or Clean Toronto Together.