Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Green Dog Walkers Off Leash!

Greetings! If this is your first visit to our blog diary, you may wish to scan the intro to the November 2008 entry to see what we are about.

Off Leash!
Much has happened since November. Mainly, the Green Dog Walkers is now OFF LEASH! We continue our basic project in the Denny and Dunipace area and it has expanded throughout Falkirk District...to such a degree that it was officially launched by Falkirk Council's Litter Strategy Team a couple weeks ago with a whole new "more colourful" pledge brochure!l
Now any constituted group in Falkirk District can adopt the project and run it themselves in their own neighbourhood, group, town, etc. The council provides a starter box of pledge brochures, armbands, posters, stickers, doggie bags, "how to" sheets, etc. We also are available to come talk to your group about Green Dog Walkers and help you get going. The council will continue promoting the project, providing bus ads, etc.

Kids Involved...
We have visited schools, parents groups, dog clubs, etc. lately, all with great success. Jennifer Milton of the Litter Team is working with some schools on special projects to tackle the dog fouling problems on paths near the schools - the kids are doing poo counts and pouring coloured sand over the spots, to help dramatize how bad it really is. Hopefully the adults who walk the dogs are taking note!
We recently gave a presentation to an entire primary school (in 3 groups, over 1.5 hrs) about the health risks of dog poo and the Green Dog Walkers project. They were a great audience, asked very good questions (everything from "Why don't people clean up the dog poo?" to "Why do dogs like to stick their heads out car windows?") and we have continued some email dialogue with some of the pupils who want to take on a project.

Further expansions...
We met with representatives from some other council areas in Scotland and formed an agreement to let them pilot Green Dog Walkers in their areas while we finalise our trademark and licensing agreements to allow the project to go national. Some of the areas you will be seeing the pilot projects are Fife, Normand Park/London, Midlothian. We are very curious to see how the project works in the park areas especially. A big launch was held recently at Normand Park and many new pledgers were signed up. Locally we have events on 25th April in Denny (a Keep Scotland Beautiful clean up event) and Zetland Park in Falkirk on the 26th (a big dog day event).
Other discussions are underway for further promotional events with celebrities in the London area. Watch this space!
We are doing mutual informal promotions with a company called Poopod...we like their product, it gives a great alternative if you are hiking where there are no dog bins or if it's a long way to the next dog bin...check it out: http://www.poopod.com/

NEW LEAF NEWS is out now, and includes a page for Green Dog Walkers. Click here to read it online and email us if you wish a free quarterly subscription - see the great article, "Your Dog, Worms & You"! We have also added our campaign at the Greenvoice.com website, and invite you to visit them, they are a great group who are really walking the talk to help green projects!

More news soon, this is just a quick update for now. Generally we plan a lot of "path side booths" in the Dunipace/Denny area over the summer months. We are targetting a couple of really bad spots - the top of old Gala Park and the Rosebank Community Woodland paths.


Michelle McCallum
Dunipace & Denny Project Leader

Saturday, 8 November 2008


Welcome to our Blog/Diary! I'm Michelle, your hostess, part of Community Green Initiative (CGI), a wee volunteer environmental group in the twin villages of Dunipace & Denny (12,000 pop.) Scotland. (That's me on the left with a friend's dog, Venice. Hania of the council litter strategy team is on the right, holding another friend's dog, Paris Hilton. We went on a search for the biggest/smallest dog in Dunipace to show ALL dogs can be part of our campaign.)

A Social Experiment
Since Green Dog Walkers is a social experiment, we thought it might be fun and of interest to chart our process and progress here. We welcome comments and news from your corner, on how your own anti-dog-fouling efforts are going.

To give a little background, our group is working to uplift post-industrial spirits and keep the green bits green in an increasingly over-built semi-rural area of Central Scotland. Litter, fly-tipping, invasive species, anti-social behavior, etc. are our targets.
And dog-fouling, which has been named as a top concern by local citizens. Yes, there are hefty fines for leaving dog poo but they are not as enforced as they might be. The common complaint is that if you say anything to the offenders you are likely to suffer a Glasgow kiss! (Google that if you don't know what it means!)

So we came up with the idea that a non-confrontive, non-verbal message was needed. A SIGN to help change attitudes. What if one wore a recognizable green armband, signifying that they had signed a pledge to always clean up their dog poo, to carry extra bags in case you forgot yours? If backed by a big advertising campaign, how long might it take before armband-wearers were COOL and non-wearers were NOT?

We got funding from Earlsburn Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund to get things going, and the Falkirk Council Litter Strategy Team agreed to work with us on the logo, pledge brochure production, biodegradable doggie bag provision and general support and publicity. Just to get the ball rolling and see how it went, we ordered 500 armbands with the Green Dog Walkers logo and set up our booths to start talking to folks. We figured within a year the council would see it was such a success that they would want to take the project council-wide.

Green Dog Walkers Diary, Phase 1:
Here is a taste of what it's like to sit by the pathways and talk to dog-walkers:

30 August 2008
Christine of CGI and I set up a wee table in Gala Park, Dunipace today. We set it near the footpath and in full view of the playing field and Stirling Street so our banner is highly visible from afar and dog walkers can't pass us without an encounter! We have brochures, armbands, council dog fouling and walkies brochures, a water bowl and basket of dog treats and our table is covered in funny lime green fabric with dog bones and paw prints on it. We have Beau in his crate next to us and he is very well behaved.

We find it best to take a brochure and walk a few feet from the table to approach dog-walkers as they pass, that works better than waiting for them to stop at the table, as they tend to be a bit shy - if curious. And might worry we're selling something. One man comes up to us to ask for green bags, he assumes that is why we are here. Which brings to mind the idea that even to have such booths at dog-walking spots as a regular thing is very good tactic...providing bags, and trying to set up within view of a dog bin so we can point it out. And then talk with them about the GDW project as we dispense the bags. He does end up taking away a brochure.

One of our new recruits is a young teenager who is getting a new puppy tomorrow. She decides to start out right and signs up, takes an armband for her mother and I will mail her a small one for herself. I realise now I should have ordered many more smalls for teens and children, they are definitely a part of this picture. For future note: order more smalls!

A good method is to offer a treat to the dogs (asking owner) and then while we have fun with the doggies, we talk about the armbands.

Christine encounters one "perpetrator" who has arguments like "not enough bins" (although two are in full view of the table)...then says more are needed, that is too far to walk (but she is out walking a dog?) And says the park doesn’t have a dog poo problem. A few minutes prior, one of the children with us slid down a hill and ended up with a whole trouser leg covered in dog poo. We took his picture and he went walking home with his mum to get changed. With a warning not to touch it!

Also the perpetrator says it is "too embarrassing" to carry a dog bag. All the responses we can think of will have generated an argument because we would be embarrassing her so she would need to get more aggressive in her defence. Green Dog Walkers must NOT be confrontational...we have pledged to that. So we smile and say we will advise the council about the bins. But we really want to say, is it not more embarrassing to be seen letting your dog foul, than carrying it away as a good citizen?

That is the attitude we expect to change, by social pressure.
Based on today's experiment, we decide this is a good way to dispense the brochures and we will do many of these. We will revisit Gala Park plus other local areas where people walk dogs regularly. They are also fun, we get to talk with folks and meet lots of doggies!

We hand out about a dozen brochures in 1.5 hours. Of those dozen, 3 sign up on the spot. I will need to get out my saleswoman gloves and try to pressure more for signing up on the spot. I think a better ratio would be 50/50 each time between sign ups and take homes.

We also did a poo count in a large section of Gala Park today. It was newly mowed so much of the poo was gone. From Stirling Street to the back of the playing field I counted 24 poos. I will go back to do the new play park side and the back of Gala Park.

Poo Counts!
Last week Christine and I surveyed Rosebank Woodland Path and parts of her neighbourhood in Dunipace. We counted over 300 poos. We still need to survey my neighbourhood, the paths along the River and some areas in Denny and Head of Muir, etc. We expect to finish the surveys in the next week. Then we will repeat them in six months and then again at project’s end. Or even more often. Meanwhile the Litter Team will monitor the dog bins and give us results on usage at the end of each month.

31 Aug Sunday
Poo count on paths behind Vale Estate in Dunipace and at disassembled bridge area behind Allen Crescent = 24. Will do walks along river banks later this week and at Winchester Industrial Estate and the old Planting Mill Road.

New puppy Rebus is proving helpful in the poo counts, he sniffs them out for me! I know there are more but between the rain and the heavy undergrowth it is hard to see them all this time of year. In the Autumn when the green dies back we will see it all much "better" and do another count then.

Christine looked out her window last week and saw a woman wearing the armband, someone she didn’t recognise. Exciting! The word and the armbands are getting out there. I am also beginning to receive the pledge forms in the mail.

Later: Poo count along Milton Row including the de-shrubbed area, park behind old post office near pub, etc. = 21. Again, recently mowed.

3 Sept Wed'y
Whew! Our feet are tired wee puppies! The youth fayre was non-stop, hoards of teenagers surrounding our booth, asking about the armbands and signing up! We think at least some of them just thought it was cool and pretended to have a dog...but most of them seemed genuinely for it.

10 Sept Wed'y
Did poo count along St. Patrick’s walking path by the river and front of school. There are dog bins at each end of this route which is about est 240-300 yards long. I counted 70 poos, 3 times the "norm"!. Dog’s bog.

20 Sept Sat'y
The highland games are a grand success. Unexpectedly, the 1st Dunipace Brownies take over our CGI booth and the job of handing out armbands and signing up dog walkers! They even rearrange the things at the booth in a very orderly manner, do all the litter-clean-up work (dragging other children along to help) to the degree that, at the end of the day, there is nothing for the council litter truck to do but gather the full bags! They name our green dog mascot ("Green", not "Greenie" they tell me) and hand out green doggie bags.

25 October Sat'y
Today Tracy and I ran the booth at the Falkirk Council Housing Services Fair in Callendar Square, Falkirk. Talked to lots of dog-walkers, even though it was an indoor fair (and no doggies present) and signed up close to twenty! I always enjoy these fairs where we talk to folks from all over Scotland and get an overview of the problem. It's everywhere! Plastic bags in the ocean and doggie poo on the ground, where will it all end?

1 November Sat'y
Wow! Time flies when you are doing Green Dog Walkers stuff! We have been keeping notes but haven't had time to type them up til today!

Today I ran a Green Dog Walkers booth in the parking lot of a local grocery store. I much prefer it when another volunteer can join me but today my puppy Rebus was my partner, as all our volunteers were off attending various environmental events. We spoke to some children, mothers, a couple of men and a farmer who is having trouble with dog poo left on his road. Lots of folks walk their dogs to the store and tie them up outside while they shop, so we had a good assortment to talk with. Oh, and another child with a new puppy on the way, wanting to start out right!

Leaping and Bounding! Wow! (Kinda like watching puppies...)
After only nine weeks we have signed up close to 200 pledges and the council is launching the project throughout the district! We've ordered up more brochures and several small towns and neighbourhoods nearby have become involved. Some school parents' groups and neighbourhood organizations are taking on the project.

One vet's office has volunteered to include our brochures and green bags in their "puppy packs" that they give out to new dog owners and we will be talking to other vets in the area to see if they will also come on board. We have attended several fairs, spoken to hundreds of dog-walkers and even were invited to give a talk at the local Burns Club (a traditional Scottish honour!) We get at least one call a week from some group wanting us to come give them a talk and help them get going. We've had calls from Fife, Aberdeen, Edinburgh. We see we are mentioned on blogs in Australia! Community Green Initiative will be on BBC's Landward Programme on 14th November, talking about our environmental issues and wearing armbands!

And we have only just begun!

8 Nov Sat'y
Another solo dog booth today. I didn't enjoy it much this time, it was VERY cold, not a lot of dog walkers came past (and some that did, I had already signed up!) and Rebus was determined that the soccer ball the kids were kicking was for HIM to go chase, so we had a battle of wills. However, I did talk to one lady who is trying to get an extra dog bin in her neighbourhood, so that was a good connection to make. And told a few folks about our big clean-up on the 22nd which will include a Green Dog Walkers booth.

Advice for anyone else starting a Green Dog Walkers campaign: Don't do the booths by yourself. The friendliness of TWO volunteers is much better to draw folks to talk to you. Ah well, lessons learned! It was quite a contrast to the booth that we did with the Falkirk Council Litter Strategy Team at a fair in Bo'Ness, where the visitors were non-stop and we signed up 40 dog owners in four hours!

New Leaf News, Part of the Plan...
However, there is good news! As part of Green Dog Walkers, we started an environmental newsletter, New Leaf News back in June. Til now it has just been a two-page supplement inside a local neighbourhood newsletter (Carronvale Tenants & Residents Ass'n Neighbourhood News) but it is about to become bigger. Beginning in March 2009 we will publish an independent quarterly newsletter, 8 pages, joining forces and reader lists with Falkirk Environment Trust's Art Berg's "Environment Action Network" newsletter. Our readership will leap to 1000+ (including international) and the New Leaf News will be available both as an e-newsletter and printed, covering environmental and life-affirming news for the Falkirk area and into Central Scotland. Meanwhile, til next summer, the supplement will still appear in CTRA's newsletter, focused entirely on dog fouling issues. We will have articles by local vets on the health aspects of dog poo, interviews with farmers who are having tractor trouble due to dog poo left on their land...and other goodies!

So Far Results of Our Friendly Experiment...
Basically, after ten weeks of doing this, we can say that just about everyone we talk to has a street or pathway in their neighbourhood that is almost unwalkable due to the dog poo at this time...we can say that many people want more dog bins and are not willing to carry the wee bags very far once filled...but we can also say that a number of people complain about bins even when they are looking straight at one only two blocks away!!! We can say that generally (about 99.9%) people are VERY willing to sign up and wear the armband - from wee children to sled dog team owners - the concept catches the imagination and that alone is a huge measure of success in terms of social change.
For more information on Community Green Initiative, email us at greendogwalkers@yahoo.co.uk or communitygreeninitiative@yahoo.co.uk

(Poster Art: Kirsten Harrower, Age 10, Head of Muir Primary School, Scotland; Photos by McCallum and James Stewart Photography)