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Words by Deborah O'Ferry


Clean Up Australia Day has been around since 1989. Back then schools and families participated and it was kinda the thing to do. Maybe I just didn't question it because I was a kid, and I was already dirty, but it's not so embraced these days. It's not a huge surprise that picking up manky rubbish isn't all over people's Facebook posts. But Clean Up Australia Day isn't about being cool or Liked -- it began while Mark Zuckerburg was still sucking his thumb – it is about owning the problem and making room for it along with all of our other problems.


I think that  Australian's can become pretty blasé when it comes to the environment. We recycle if it's convenient. But throwing a milk carton in with the general waste doesn't induce heart palpitations. Ok, well, may give ME heart palpitations, but generally, it doesn't keep people up at night.  We look around this beautiful country and it looks pretty darn good. So it's easy for one to think that this whole enviro business is a bit OTT.


When you visit another country, however, that's when the magnitude hits. I remember being on a boat to a postcard destination, and not being able to see through the brown water. Walking through ancient cities that were blanketed in rubbish, and taking photos of dreamed of  locations , only for the smog to ruin the view. That's when the magnitude of the problem hit me.


This enviro thing, is our thing.


A cigarette butt on the ground is 4,000 chemicals leeching into the dirt or down the drain.


An apple out the window is going to sit there, ugly and rotting, for  a couple of months, temping wildlife closer to roads.


A muesli bar wrapper that blows away mid-tantrum, takes about 5 to 10 years to break down.


And just another water bottle, because we didn't bring our own, is a serious choke hazard on our eco system.


Clean Up Australia Day is more than donning the gloves for a couple of hours once a year and then showering in our beautiful and synthetically scented  body wash. Clean Up Australia Day is about taking responsibility every day so that Clean Up Australia Day doesn't need to have a place on the calendar.


As parents, we see the words 'Clean up', and our eyes roll back in our heads. Don't we do enough of that? Every day? But it simply starts with our kids seeing us put rubbish in the bin, recycling what we can, and vocalising our choices that are based on sustainability.


If we want to step things up, the next level isn't too hard core either: Use re-usable bags, stop buying water, consider taking reusable cups to cafes that support the idea (Sydney Cafes are great for this!), use lunch boxes instead of Cling Wrap, cook less if your kids aren't eating it (learn to cook if you are truly bad!); and (one of our biggest parental sins) think before buying the kids yet another super cute outfit, EVEN if it's on sale!


But most of all, don't hear about Clean Up Australia Day and think it's for the do-gooders out there. It's for all of us. We all play a part and we can all show our kids how to be the Hero for our environment. And who doesn't love a hero?




Deborah O'Ferry


Deborah O'Ferry is a mother of two. She attempts community work by day and staying calm by night, as she trips about in the crazy and beautiful world of parenting. Writing is her way of staying sane and she hopes to reach other tired parents by being honest about her own not-always-successful experiences and try to level out the ideas of perfect parenting to just trying to be good people. You can follow Deborah at Deborah O'Ferry on Facebook.

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