Thursday, 23 August 2007

Please don't litter... and go rechargeable

Littering is probably my Number 1 environmental irritation. I've been a loyal supporter of Zibi the Ostrich (of Zap-it-in-a-Zibi-Can fame) since I was a young child; in the mid-80's Zibi visited my primary school promoting the government's anti-litter campaign (they really should bring it back). I loathe litter. My activism actions include throwing a can back into a woman's car, lecturing a dude at a robot (this unfortunate litterbug was driving in the same direction as me) and, recently, rolling down my window to comment to a vile passenger who'd nonchalantly dropped his chip packet, "Excuse me, you dropped your packet"... I mumbled a few choice expletives under my breath to round off the sentence.

Why, why, why do people find it necessary to throw their rubbish on the ground? Cans, bottles, food wrappers, packets - it is unsightly filth; and that's to say nothing of the environmental impact.

On Wednesday I visited three primary schools in Thembisa to observe the Mr Price Heros activity programme that has been implemented in these (and other) schools. The activities and games are fantastic; but the litter on the playgrounds and around the school buildings is terrible. Even worse... the children are oblivious.

I made a suggestion to the Sportstec people (Sportstec trains coaches for placement in the schools; and they have written the activity programme for Mr Price): their coaches should make the children pick up the litter before they start the fun games and activities. The children's positive behaviour (picking up litter) is rewarded with a fun session. The coach can point out to the children how much better their grounds look (instill a sense of pride in their immediate environment) and the improved playground surface due to the absence of bare-foot wrecking obstacles (we even picked up a large glass shard!).

I can bet that within two weeks the litter on the playgrounds will be drastically reduced:
  • if they have to pick it up, they'll throw less down (= more time to play)
  • the children will encourage their friends not to litter; if they're in the next class they'll have to pick up what their friends have discarded.

Will this work? I don't know. But, an attempt must be made to change this filthy habit; not only in these schools but also around the country. I hope to get another invitation in the coming weeks to head out there again.

As for YOU... road running... water sachets... Arrggghhhh....

Have you ever been a marshal at a road race? Have you ever spent 2-hours walking up and down the road picking up water sachets? Have you had to retrieve water sachets from bushes and road-side drains? If you can carry a full (or half-full) sachet 2km from a water table you can carry the empty sachet for another kilometer to discard in the bins at the next water tables. And, if you see anyone throwing sachets way into the bushes, tell them off. This is far worse than just dropping the sachet on the road, where the people cleaning up can easily retrieve it. Running a road race is no excuse to turn into a litter-bug. This is unacceptable behaviour. I tuck my empty sachets into my running shorts. Easy. This goes for gel sachets too.

I have spoken to Runner's World Magazine and they're looking into a campaign. We'd like to encourage runners to use the bins provided around water tables and eventually aim to stop road runners from throwing sachets on the road between tables. The road will be long and hilly... many bad habits to modify.

You may have noticed the banner (it needs a redesign) I put up on in July? It says, "Littering is naughty. Be good. Be clean. Be green." <-- my own little slogan. I urge you to be good and to postively influence those around you.

Would you believe that I found a little mpeg online with the Zibi song? The video footage isn't part of the original '80's campaign, but it is neat anyway.

The Zibi Song

When you've chomped your chips and your drink is done,
you've smoked your smoke and chewed your gum,
"Don't be the creep who mocks the streets!"
Zap it in a Zibi... Zap it in a Zibi... Zap it in a Zibi can.

When the game is through, when your team has won,
you've crushed your can, you've had your fun,
"What a disgrace to mess this place!"
Zap it in a Zibi...Zap it in a Zibi...Zap it in a Zibi can.

When you're on the road and you want a snack,
a drink, a pie or a sandwich pack,
"Don't be the punk who spreads the junk!"
Zap it in a Zibi...Zap it in a Zibi...Zap it in a Zibi can.

Hey, what happened?.

My second area of comment for this posting; batteries.

With AR we race through batteries for headlamps and bike lights. I not only resent dishing out dosh for something that I'll have to throw away; I have a fixed image in my mind of these things sitting in landfill for millenia, leaking acids and failing to degrade. Just awful.

Earlier this year I started using my wireless mouse for my laptop. It takes 2 x AAA batteries. And this mouse gobbles batteries. I did two battery changes and then went out looking for rechargeables. I bought 2 x Duracell rechargeable AAA's + charger (in a pack; charger also works for AA batteries and other brands) from Incredible Connection for R99.95.

The good news is that rechargeables are a much friendler price now than they used be; such that you've made up your money (and more) after two re-charges. And, the batteries can be recharged hundreds of times.

My next move is to buy more rechargeable batteries for my headlamps and bike lights. I'd like two sets of rechargeable batteries for my leadlamps, which I'll recharge before the races. I'll use them during the races with regular, unrechargeables on standby, incase they are needed. So, instead of going through 2-3 sets of throw-away batteries on a two day race, I may not go through any; recharging when I get back home.

This will not only save money (I feel that buying batteries over and over is equivalent to flushing cash down the drain) but will support my environmentally friendly inclinations. Try it too.

That's it for tonight. Nighty-night.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Mindworx and cunning running

Last week, I presented the sport of orienteering ( to 270 children, in 12 classes, aged 8-12 at a local school. This is a sport that I have participated in for many years and the presentation was part of a 4-day programme (called Mindworx), which the school hosts every 2-years. The children do all kinds of activities like t-shirt painting, candle making, obstacle courses, owl watching - a good combination of crafts, activities and animal awareness. I first got involved with this programme in 2005 when I was recruited via my mom's friend's daughter, whose children attend the school.

There were two elements from the week that stood out for me:
  1. An overweight boy, in one of my first classes on Day 1, completed the course in second place... the teacher commented to me that he doesn't get involved in any sports.
  2. Another teacher, who is involved with athletics coaching, was astounded to see the children running all over the school grounds, map in hand, looking for the controls. She mentioned that she can't get these children to run on the athletics track.
Why was I so successful in getting these energetic children to run? Orienteering is FUN and looking for controls distracts from the actual activity of running. It's a winner.

My attraction to presenting this activity at this primary school is not just the satisfaction of seeing these children enjoying a sport that I so enjoy; I love the letters. At the end of each day the children have to write letters to their favourie presenter from that day. Their letters and orienteering illustrations are fabulous and they'll keep me coming back every two years.

I did encourage the children to make contact if they want to continue with the sport and attend our regular events. Many were keen to have orienteering as their birthday party activity (I had no idea these birthday parties were so intensive! Parents evidently spend a bucket on all kinds of entertainment). The good news is that a mother phoned last week and last night, the dad of one of the boys called.

The father and son duo will be coming to the next O event. I have my eye on this young chap, Dylan. He is focused, competitive and he can run and map read; you can't ask for a better candidate. At the school the children have the advantage of knowing the grounds, so I expect that Dylan will find the event next weekend a little more challenging. I'm looking forward to meeting up with them and observing as they both discover this sport.

I am also quite envious of Dylan... I only got involved with orienteering 8-years ago at the age of 23. Dylan is 11 or 12. If only I'd discovered it then.... better late than never eh?
So, all in all this year's Mindworx programme was a rewarding experience and I hope to cultivate a new orienteerer or three.