Building Resiliency Through One Positive Action Every Day

by Mark Zaugg 9. July 2013 13:52

Why do I believe in doing one thing every day to make Calgary a better city?

It isn't because I have had a long abiding love of the city. If you do not know the story, I was planning on staying in Calgary until 2018 and then leaving it behind for good.  "Calgary had become too big, too unfriendly, it had lost touch with what it what it had been," I once thought not too long ago.  I had struggled to find good work, I had felt the slow crush of debt and the difficulty of finding a decent home in a tight rental market.  I have lived bunkered in my home against the horde of strangers in the neighbourhood who cared nothing beyond complaining of how horrible we all were as neighbours. 

Aspects of that may still be true for many people in this city.  That is a part of Calgary that may exist literally anywhere in the city, it's just a mentality and not a place.

I hope everyone who lives in that part of the city finds the place where I live now, where we like our neighbours and love our neighbourhoods.  A place where even if we took a hit we have a thousand people showing up to help.  Sometimes quite literally.


Over the past month many Calgarians who have discovered what it means to be Calgarian.  If you were flooded, neighbours volunteered to help.  If you couldn't volunteer to tear out drywall or lift heavy things or make sandwiches you found a way to donate or contribute.  But the most important thing is that you contributed!

It goes back to a tweet I received long ago.  "Report to yourself.  Take the ownership to make change.  Don't wait for permission."

That created my new address in Calgary and I know precisely what it means to get what you give.

We will get through the flood because we haven't questioned if we should participate, we just helped.  We got through the immediacy of helping Calgary and then responded to the surrounding areas because it is the right thing to do. 

It remains so because we've baked it in that way.  You need to report to yourself.  You need to take ownership of that sphere of influence around you and change it for the better.  Nobody else is going to say yes or no, so just take on what you can.  You can't fix everything, but you can make it better, and only you will know what "better" looks like once you are finished.

That is what builds resiliency.  That is what makes us strong and keeps us moving forward.  The next phase is where we develop those immediate relationships we have formed, check in on our neighbours and rebuild our city.  Yes, we are up to this.

I saw it yesterday with Thomas, the Gutter Doctor who took pride in his work to fix the slapstick mess left behind by someone else.  I saw it with friends who simply appeared in order to make things right and are determined to see it through.  Pride in your work, giving a little extra, helping a friend: This is the better Calgary I envision. 

It happens by doing one thing, each and every day, to make Calgary a better city.  Take on the challenge for yourself.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

by Mark Zaugg 26. October 2011 18:47

I'm pretty serious about making Calgary just a little bit better.  I'm definitely serious about doing at least one thing above and beyond the ordinary to make it happen.

I'm absolutely determined that I'm going to be more than just a person who lives in my neighbourhood.  I'm going to contribute.  I'm going to make it a place where I want to live and where I want my neighbours to live as well.

When I started with #BetterYYC the very first thing I did was start to clean near the intersection of 17th Avenue SE and Deerfoot Trail.  It was terribly littered and that annoyed me.  So when I was challenged to make Calgary better on my own, that was the first place I tackled.  I've made a visible difference.  There is significantly less garbage there, it is clear to see the lower half where I have put more effort from the upper half of the hill where I have not done as much since the spring.

So last week I picked up one of the pieces of vinyl siding that someone had let fall off a truck or something and left at the side of the road.  It annoyed me, I had the time and carrying capacity to pick it up, so I finally got it.  There were originally two or three, I presume the others had blown away.  I actually feel bad about that, I really should have picked them up months ago and prevented them from being a hazard along 17th Avenue.

So today I came home and found this along the fence in the back yard.


I called 3-1-1 and was told that it's considered residential renovation waste and therefore it does not get picked up with regular garbage.  Fine, but this wasn't renovation waste, this was clearly picked up from the side of the road.  "Well, did it fit fully into the black bin?"  Absolutely, it was fully in the bin with the lid closed.  One of the purported benefits of the black bins was that we wouldn't have to chop all our garbage into small manageable sizes for disposal.  I was told if it goes in the bin (and it's not hazardous or restricted material) it's okay.

I have two points to argue.

I absolutely understand that we cannot have renovation materials dumped in with regular garbage collection and the renovators should be responsible for proper disposal on their own.  I absolutely understand that a piece of vinyl siding counts as renovation waste.  On the other hand, this is one single piece of vinyl siding - clearly I am not renovating the apartment nor am I loading up the black bin weekly trying to sneak it past the garbage man.

The second point that I will categorically make is to say, "HEY GARBAGEMAN!  What you just did by leaving that siding on the side of the alley like that is LITTERING!  This is my neighbourhood, there's litter enough and I'm doing my best to pick up the litter and clean up the area.  How dare you leave it like that so it could be blown away by the wind and continue to be the hazard that I tried to avoid in the first place?"  That's an unacceptable action.

So instead of going out to pick up more garbage tonight, I'm down to chopping up the siding into little pieces, putting it into a garbage bag, and then it goes away no questions asked.  Out of sight, out of mind.  That completely defies common sense.

Another one of those Red Tape rules that defies logic, and calls for poor behaviour from the the City of Calgary's Waste Management staff.

I'm not going to stop.  If anyone from the City wants to talk to me, you'll find me along 17th Avenue SE tomorrow sometime around 5:00 picking up cigarette boxes, fast food containers, candy wrappers, coffee cups, styrofoam, broken plastic car parts, broken hub caps, and whatever treasures get left along the road for me. All of which will be considered garbage and hauled away.  Except a single piece of vinyl siding, that's where you draw the line.

I don't care all that much whether I have to cut it down and bag it.  But I care a whole lot that I'm trying to make my community better, and someone else comes along and makes it worse.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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