Every year since 2000, Todd Sleeper has gathered a group of Earth-friendly individuals to take part in the annual Thames River Clean Up.
As the late April cleanup nears its 20th anniversary, and to commemorate World Water Day, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority is recognizing Sleeper for his river cleaning efforts.
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Sleeper will receive the Community Conservation Award for his tireless efforts cleaning up the Thames.
Sleeper told 980 CFPL he felt honoured to be recognized for something he’s passionate about.
“When you get a pat on the back for something you love to do, that’s just icing on the cake.”
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The annual cleanup first began when the Thames was designated a Canadian Heritage River, but Sleeper said he was inspired to do something environmentally-focused much earlier.
He recalled a swimming hole near Prospect Hill that had been a mainstay throughout his childhood. When Sleeper grew older, he learned the familiar body of water had become too polluted to allow for any swimming or fishing.
“That’s when I decided, ‘Hey, we need to start cleaning this up,'” Sleeper said.
Since the first cleanup, Sleeper has watched his annual event grow to include thousands of people.
While there is still work to be done for the Thames, Sleeper adds that Londoners need to commit to limiting their plastic waste.
“We’re finding plastic wrapped around trees and blowing into the river… We’re finding a lot of recyclables that aren’t making it into the blue bin,” said Sleeper, adding that he’d like to see Ontario implement a return-for-refund program with its plastics.
The next Thames River Clean Up takes place on Apr. 27. Details on how to sign up can be found here.