Only Losers Litter Trash Walks aim to clean city

Only Losers Litter Trash Walks aim to clean city
Judy Pantazzo, Alexis Panchevre, Sarah Spinks and Nancy Jones encourage other Vistans to take part in the Only Losers Litter Trash Walk. The next pickup is May 20. Courtesy photo

Several times a year, Vistans hit the streets with the goal of keeping Vista litter-free. Since its inception in 2017, Only Losers Litter Trash Walks have had 331 participants for its eight community trash pick-up events. Now in its second year, has had four trash clean-up walks with 100 people taking part in the day. 

The next trash pickup is slated for May 20.

Only Losers Litter is a team effort championed by The Backfence Society and The Woman’s Club of Vista. The idea for Only Losers Litters came from Sarah Spinks, the president of the Backfence Society, who has lived in Vista her entire life.

“Only Losers Litter comes from a pop-up art event the Backfence put together in October of 2015,” Spinks said. “The pop-up art event was around Halloween and based on the idea that trash is scary and most scary because there is no day that passes that I don’t find trash littered all over town, or anywhere I go really.”

Spinks said when she was collecting trash for the October art installations event, she noticed all the garbage she gathered from her very short daily walk taking her son to school.

“We parked maybe two blocks from the school, but I was always able to fill a five-gallon bucket with garbage,” she said. “Then I would walk around my neighborhood, and there would be no shortage of litter. I sadly joked about how the medium of trash was so abundant.”

On her trash walks, Spinks said she noticed the attention she would receive from drivers and other walkers. So, she decided to make the most of it by dressing more outlandishly.

“I made a glittery gold cape, put on pink gloves, wore a massive sun hat and gaudy sunglasses,” she said. “From this, the idea to make cleaning up litter performance art came about. Talking about all the trash I was picking up, got me thinking about what a loser behavior it is and from there the tagline, ‘Only Losers Litter’ was born.”

Spinks believed that making the trash pick-up a spectacle was a positive action that was in and of itself infectious to other Vistans who became eager to join.

“My friend Alexis Panchevre, who is now the director of the Only Losers Litter program under Backfence, and I went out to lunch one day where she expressed how she wanted to get seriously involved in the effort,” she said. “Also, Judy Pantazzo from the (Vista) Woman’s Club wanted to sponsor the program with a $500 grant. Out of these serendipitous actions, the idea that we would meet once a month and invite people to pick up trash with us came to be. I think what is so successful about our events is how simple it is. Meet up with us and go clean up trash — it’s not hard to find.”

Nancy B. Jones, a longtime Vista resident and also the first vice president of The Woman’s Club of Vista GFWC, said the club donated to support the development of the Only Losers Litter Trash Walk website. Jones also helps coordinate the community trash events via email.

Jones said the club continues to be a sponsor of the walks. Jones attended the first trash walk in 2017 and to date has participated in 10 of them.

“Sarah is an amazing inspiration with her civic involvement on the Arts Commission and with the Backfence Society clubhouse promoting art events and meetings,” Jones said.

Jones shared that on average, the community trash clean-up walks has 20 to 30 participants each time. The events last about an hour-and-a-half. Supplies such as gloves, pickers and trash bags are provided.

“Only Losers Litter is all about citizens taking responsibility for cleaning up trash here in Vista,” Jones said. “Every month, we remove at least 10 bags of trash and recyclables from an area of our city. 

“We cover what no one else is taking care of like ordinary litter, discarded furniture and clothing and lots of cigarette butts and plastic water bottle caps,” she added.

Participants have also been coined “the caped community crusaders.” People of all ages come pitch in — and they cover a lot of ground. According to Jones, the first trash walk was based at the NCTD Transit Center in January 2017.

Since that time, these caped community crusaders have covered areas such as Shadowridge and North Santa Fe, East Vista Way and Hacienda Drive, downtown and Vista Village and Brengle Terrace Park and Buena Vista Park.

“There’s trash everywhere, and we’re doing our best to reduce that blight on our environment,” Jones said.

Spinks has a roster of people she’d like to thank for making the Only Losers Litter Trash Walks so successful. The list includes Pantazzo for sponsoring the program through the Woman’s Club of Vista, Jones for email event coordination, Panchevre for her leadership role, EDCO for its sponsored dumpsters, her family members and the volunteers who have helped make Vista cleaner. 

“Everyone out there should challenge themselves to pick up five pieces of litter a day,” Spinks said. “Imagine what an impact that would have.”

To learn more about the Only Losers Litter Trash Walk at 4 p.m. May 20 at the Food 4 Less parking lot on Hacienda Drive, visit OnlyLosersLitter.com.

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