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On 2 September 2016, 150 persons met up in the train station of Montenvers (Chamonix) in order to climb and to do the clean-up of the “Mer de Glace”. Over 9 years, many participants helped to collect approximately 18 tons of accumulated waste over time on the famous glacier. Among them, employees of Lafuma’s company, partners and guests have worked together during this “atypical” work day. Relieve this moment through their interviews.
I entered a Lafuma competition on a mountain-sports website. Three weeks ago, I got an email to tell me I'd won! I couldn’t believe it at first. I’ve come from Avignon, in Provence – and with a car-share, to push the experience as far as I could!
Yes it is. I think it’s a very helpful initiative. There’s a great team with a common goal, the scenery is stunning, and they even lend us all the gear! It’s given me the urge to return to the mountains. I used to live in Grenoble, but I’ve lived in the south for 25 years… I’ve had some health issues, and today I’ve seen that I’m capable of walking in the mountains! It’s been over 20 years since I wore hiking boots, crampons and harness!
I’ll definitely do Grande Sure near Grenoble. I have a family home just opposite. I often climbed this summit when I was young. We used to take food up to the shepherds, and walked the cows up to the pastures…
Were you surprised by what you found on the Mer de Glace?
I actually thought it would be a lot dirtier. There was litter to pick up, but I was expecting to see an open-air dustbin – so I was pleasantly surprised! I think it’s due to the clean-ups in previous years. And the helicopter rotation to carry the garbage back down to the valley was really well organised. I’ll be entering the competition again next year!
Yes, a coin minted in 1974, in the ice!
On the Mer de Glace, yes. I’ve cleaned other “mers” before, but they were seas of water, not ice…
For the WaterTrek foundation, is this litter clean-up initiative important?
Definitely. We do a lot of work in aquatic ecosystems, but also in urban settings. Most of the litter found in water comes from dry land – it’s thrown away by people in the streets, and in the wild, then ends up in rivers and seas. So it makes sense for us to be here because meltwater from the Mer de Glace comes down into the valley, and then reaches waterways.
I wasn’t expecting to find so many bits of glass. I was told that, back in the old days, the refuges didn’t have a waste-sorting policy and just discarded their used glass recipients. And it’s always surprising to find food tins in such a wonderful and unspoilt place! I found two that were at least 20 or 30 years old.
Twenty years ago, was there a different attitude towards litter?
I think we’re starting to see a reality check. People are now far more careful about not discarding their litter in the wild – waste that will last for 20, 30, 50 or even 100 years. Waste that doesn’t degrade, and will pollute land and sea for years.
Are clean-ups as useful as awareness-raising?
Sure, it’s useful to clean up litter – and it’s also useful to run this kind of operation to highlight the reality. There’s a long, long way to go before everyone has the right reflexes and mindset regarding the natural world. A lot of education and awareness-raising is still required! But nor do we want to become round-the-clock garbage collectors, otherwise you never stop!
Yes, it’s exactly the same. It’s an everyday fight that involves educating people and raising awareness.
(laughs) I have a bin for cardboard and paper, one for glass, and another for organic waste. When I take them to a bank near my home, I see that my neighbours throw them away any old how – they put everything in the same bank, even though the glass bank is only 20 metres further away! People need to realise that chucking out unsorted waste has a cost.
No, it’s the third time I’ve helped clean the Mer de Glace with Lafuma.
The same stuff as usual, basically: the famous lift cables, which symbolise the waste you find on this glacier. Then you have beer-bottle caps, drink cans, bits of glass. And occasionally you get a little surprise – pieces of skis or clothing, T-shirts, bolts, can-openers…
First of all, it’s a good deed, and it’s also a chance to mix with colleagues away from the office. There’s a special mindset and a pleasant atmosphere. You feel like you’re making yourself a little bit useful – a very little bit! (laughs)
It’s something I’m receptive to. I take care in my daily life, and when I get an opportunity like this, I enjoy being part of it. For me, this was a pro-active move as an employee to take part – you have to sign up, and places are limited!