The town of Paradise has been inundated with grasshoppers and there’s talk that it could spread to the nearby city of Mount Pearl and beyond.
Rather than leaping through grass, however, these two-legged grasshoppers put on green cotton T-shirts and green velvet hats, complete with antennae and googly eyes, and head out into the community to pick up trash.
Eight-year-old Emma Turner came up with the idea about six months ago.
She and her father, Derrick Turner, were out for a drive when she spotted lots of litter, particularly in and near Paradise’s Cedar Plaza on Topsail Road — an area that’s home to numerous businesses, including a supermarket, a coffee shop, fast-food outlets and restaurants.
“I told my dad that I wanted to clean it all up. He said I could ask some of my friends to help me,” Emma recalled.
Since July, Emma, her four-year-old sister Lily and about a dozen other children have been picking a spot to clean every week. Most of the children are Emma’s Grade 3 classmates at Elizabeth Park Elementary.
They call themselves the Paradise Grasshoppers.
Parents support and supervise the outings. They place pylons around the area to be cleaned, start each outing with a safety talk and ensure the children are wearing gloves and other safety gear.
Emma said they’ve been picking up lots of garbage including yucky cigarette butts, paper cups and crushed cans.
Less than a week after a clean-up, she said, the area is covered with litter again.
Eight-year-old Breanna Bouzane said she looks forward to the outings.
“I feel happy that I’m helping the Earth by picking up garbage … and I’d like people to pick up garbage so they can help the Earth instead of littering.”
Katie Conohan said she’s picked up lots of garbage. Keeping the environment clean will help people stay healthy, the eight-year-old said.
Kailey Loveless, who is also eight, said she likes the cleanups because it’s a chance to spend time with her friends.
She said she never throws garbage on the ground.
“If I’m out for a walk and I have something that I need to throw away, I put it in the garbage. If there’s no garbage I’ll put it in my mom’s pocket.”
The Town of Paradise and several local businesses support the Grasshoppers.
Paradise Mayor Ralph Wiseman said council advises businesses to keep their trash containers empty and their properties litter-free. It’s difficult, he said, to make sure they do that, particularly in windy conditions.
Wiseman said it’s great the Paradise Grasshoppers are doing something about the litter issue in their community.
“We encourage all our residents to maintain their properties and try to keep the town as clean as possible. The results of the initiative of these young people will be seen throughout the town.”
Turner said his daughters and their friends are learning about recycling, responsibility, leadership and teamwork. These are things that will help the children well into the future, he said.
The Grasshoppers’ presence in the community is also a reminder to other people to put their trash in the garbage, he said.
They’re not working outside in the winter, but they’ll gear up again once spring arrives.
Numerous community groups have asked about joining forces with the Grasshoppers, Turner said. That’s something they’ll be exploring over the winter.
He’d like to see neighbourhood groups sprout up in various areas of Paradise as well as new Grasshopper groups in Mount Pearl, St. John’s and other parts of the province.
The tag line on the Grasshoppers’ T-shirts — “Kids Making a Difference” — sums up their philosophy.
“They have all the energy. We just put them in a spot where they can be successful and make sure they stay safe,” Turner said.