Sunday, Jan 28th, 2018

I am going to start collecting garbage on the beach and on the cliffs in the area around my home. SWoPP stands for Single Woman Project Portimão. My first step yesterday was to determine the garbage problem in the immediate area:

1) I noticed that the garbage, like pieces of plastic, was often caught way in the bushes. So, my first step was to order a trash grabber. Also, a lot of the paper lying around was used as toilet paper, so a trash grabber is definitely a good idea.
2) A lot of the garbage is unfortunately cigarette buts. It sounds silly but I spent considerable time thinking about an efficient way to remove these from pathways and around benches, mainly consisting of sandy ground. I think I will try with a small rake and a sieve shovel (as used for a cat litter). Unfortunately, these don't come with long handles. 
3) Portimão provides quite a few dog litters but there are none in the immediate area. I would like to make contact with EMARP in Portimão and ask them why there are no litters in this area. 

I am trying to keep calm and not get discouraged by the size of my project. I will take one step at a time. As soon as I get on the way I need to also do some fund-raising. I am thinking about asking some of the bigger hotels around the area to support my project. If I could hire helpers the work would be easier and that would be a long-term goal. I plan to use this blog to undermine my fund-raising.  

Monday, Jan 29th, 2018


So, just came back from the cliff at the beach. I have collected my first big bag of bottles and cans and other garbage and taken everything to the ecology island on foot. It is a disgusting and frustrating job and I could not even take pictures because I did not want to touch my camera with my dirty hands. Everything is not so easy.


I have been able to collect another bag today. Many bottles. The bag was very heavy and the ecology island (where garbage is deposited) is about 400 meters from the cliff top. There I have to take everything in my hands again because in Portugal garbage is separated :). This time I made some Fotos. 

I picked up a lot of cigarette buts by hand for a start…maybe easier than lugging around a rake too...

People like to enjoy the beautiful cliff-top view whilst refreshing with a beer or wine and that is fine, but why throw your bottle over the cliff when you are done??? There are plenty of trash cans everywhere. One person even collected their bottles in a sack and then threw the whole sack in the bushes - HOW THICK CAN YOU GET??? 

Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2018

Today I started to tackle the business part of my project, because it is supposed to be a rainy day. Of course, it is not raining after all; it usually doesn't on the Algarve, which makes it hard to get inside stuff done. I'd really rather be outside collecting garbage but I am still waiting for my grabber to arrive.

First issue is how to do commercializing. I have no experience on this scale, but have started to sew a banner. Tomorrow I will get some paint. Without getting peoples' awareness my project will continue to run on a very small scale, which would be better than nothing, but I dream of success on a much bigger scale!

I wanted my son to create a Logo for me but had to find out first if SWoPP is already being used. I spoke with someone on the phone that told me to register my project officially high costs would be involved. Since I have 0 Euros budget, I will try to take another path and have contacted an already existing environmental organisation if they can help or if I can join them.

I did not think through the bureaucracy aspect of my project. Portugal is not too bad on that scale and I should be used to bureaucracy from living in Germany, but instead I really really hate it. All I want to do is something cool and I really don't want to do any paper work.

I suppose I can just write things like "don't litter please" on my banner. There shouldn't be a claim on that - ha!

Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018

Although I was busy today, cycling into town to buy colours for my banner, I am glad to report that I was still able to clean for an hour upon my return. Now, the whole area around the bench with a view is cleared of a considerable amount of garbage, mainly cigarette buts, which were tedious to pick up.

Although my grabber has not come yet by mail, I decided to pick up a lot of toilet paper by hand (with gloves), because I just could not stand looking at it any more. Just for information to all other woman in this world, paper handkerchiefs do not disintegrate in any speed that makes it acceptable to throw them into the bushes. I used to be a culprit too and then I realized once when peeing behind the same tree I peed behind before that my hanky from nearly a year ago was still there. That is when I decided to start taking a little baggy with me and not leaving my waste for others to have to look at. In case I forget the baggy, which I usually do, I just use the little plastic bag that is used as packaging for the hankies. 

Checking the bushes of the area for garbage reminded me of Easter egg hunting as a kid. Actually, I am having a great time getting everything tip top.

Soon I need to contact the Hotel nearby and inform them of my success. I hope to get some moral support and maybe a little appreciation. I will let you know 😊.

Finally, I made a design for my banner and tomorrow I can start painting my banner. LIXO is the Portuguese word for garbage.   

Friday, Feb 2nd, 2018

I wrote a letter to "Portimão câmara municipal" (=city counsel)

Subject: My project to clean nature

I would like to help with the rubbish problem in nature. This week I cleaned the cliffs near Prainha. Please see my blog:

I know, the Council of Portimão does many things to clean nature and I would not like my help to be counterproductive.

Please communicate with me, which places are not included in your own projects. My next place I would like to clean is the port in Alvor. Do you already have a plan for this area? I am happy to live in your beautiful country and hope to be useful.

Waiting for your answer.
Greta Auf der Maur
I hope very much to receive a response from the board. It would be so great if my project finds interested persons. Also, I would like to have the blessing from the board before I start contacting hotels etc. directly to support my project. Since the Portuguese already have a lot of cleaning up projects under way I don't want to step on any ones toes.

Sunday, Feb 4th, 2018
I started AND finished my commercial products. A thing to hang on my back:
(like runners have; don't know what they are called) 

And a flag. I cannot believe I did not dribble paint once. My project must be blessed 

I am so happy with this flag (I plan to attach it to my bicycle ), that I might even take it along on my bike trip to the North of Portugal in June. It would be wonderful to share my dream of a cleaner planet with all the cars that pass me during one month of travel. So much of the litter is tossed out of car windows. Perhaps my flag will help people be more conscientious. Every person I can change into a non-litterer is a winner!

Wednesday, Feb 14th, 2018

The city counsel has not yet replied to my e-mail. In a second try, I sent a very similar mail to EMARP yesterdayEMARP is the office assigned with providing clean water,  the removal of litter and also the installment of dog litters in Portimão, as I mentioned in my first post. I do hope they contact me, because then I could also ask about the dog litters in the nature reserve area. Fingers crossed!

I also did not receive a response from Quercus Algarve (the already existing environmental organisation I mentioned earlier) to my e-mail from January 31st so yesterday I sent a reminder just to check if they even got it. Quercus already has a lot of great environmental projects going and it would be fun to find support from them and to meet like-minded people. I'll just wait a day or two for a reply and then, if nothing evolves, I can try getting someone on the phone or send a message to their main office in Lisbon. Office stuff is always tedious and most e-mails need to be sent a few times before one can hope to get a reply. I know that from many years of running a business back in Germany ;)

Now, to the more outdoorsy part of my accomplishments. I am as good as finished cleaning this sector of the cliffs: 

If you look carefully, you will see a staircase going down to the beach on the left. The other light spots are popular little walk ways. The rest is the bushes and steep inclines that end in the sandy beach.

With the help of my grabber I collected many more bottles, plastic, tissues and cigarette buts out of the bushes. A few bottles were unfortunately so deep in the bushes that I could not get to them and others were in precarious places on the cliff that I also couldn't reach. We don't want the only worker in this project to fall of the cliff now, do we? That would be very counterproductive and jeopardize the whole project :)  

Some of the bottles were still full of liquid (yuck!) and had to be emptied out (hold your breath) before I could throw them out. It is hard enough lugging all the empty bottles to the bin; I cannot lug them full nor throw them into the plastic recycling container when they are full. I scratched my hands and arms reaching in to the bushes and had small allergic reactions later that day. I realized that I need to find a balance. Collecting garbage is hard work and as I am nearly 50 I need to be careful not to exhaust myself. Initially, I had wanted to go out every day, but this is not going to work. I will need to revive myself in between.  

I finally got to use my sign and flag. It felt strange at first as I don't like to be the center of attention. The flag, of course, is always temporary "decoration". I borrowed the use of the "danger" signpost for a few hours whilst I was working. I plan to always put the flag up whereever I happen to be clearing garbage. A few people were interested and gave me thumbs up signs or made a few inquiries. But understandably, they are enjoying their holidays and don't want to think about troublesome environmental issues, so their interest was not prolonged. I need to make little business cards with my blog info on it. Maybe some of the people will follow me, when they are back home again. 

I am very happy with the way my flag looks. 
Really, this picture could be used for my business card! 

These bottles were 1,50 m deep in the bushes. Too far for me and my grabber to reach :(  

After collecting many more sacks like these I feel that these cliffs are finally, nearly impeccable. 

Yes, the bottle problem!! It would be so easy to resolve it by selling only returnable bottles. That is however a political decision. Everything always amounts to being political, doesn't it? And everything is always more complex than is obvious in the beginning. I really must make sure I can initiate contact with Quercus, the environmental organisation. They will know if there are already initiatives to remove one-way bottles from the market. Not that I plan to go into Portuguese politics, but it would be interesting to know.    

When I was trying to film myself painting the flag the other day my camera fell into my coffee cup (don't ask!). OK, all right, if you want to know I was balancing the camera on my cup because I needed some additional height and couldn't be bothered with finding something better to prop up the camera with. It is hard to work and document at the same time, because I don't like to be interrupted when I am zealously working! I need to be more relaxed, obviously. I hope to get the camera fixed in Portimão so I won't have to continue my documentation only with the use of my iPhone...that would be a bummer :((

Sunday, Feb 18th, 2018

Hooray, I totally finished cleaning the cliffs yesterday. In a final comb through the area I found a whole section behind some bushes I missed. This is what I found: 

I got a free acupuncture from the surrounding bushes. I am still dealing with several mean little hair-sized thorns today. The're light and you can't see them. Only when you happen to rub against one they hurt. They were in my legs and hands and even in my T-shirt. And all because of a big green lemonade bottle I was determined to retrieve.  

After another whole additional afternoon I am happy to be finished with my first assignment. 

Today I was busy writing another letter to EMARP. I asked whether they would help keep the area clean by putting up "don't litter" signs. 

I have also written to a near-by hotel, in the hope that we can find some way for them to help me with my project. 

I wrote to all my friends and acquaintances and asked them to follow me. I also threw in e-mail addresses I found on the internet from Quercus, Seashephard and a Newspaper. Whatever comes to my mind is eventually getting done. I do find in life, that perseverance and determination will take you quite a way. And I do hope to have some good luck too! I really believe in this project. There are so many terrible things happening on this planet that are so hard to influence. I admire the people that risk their lives for freedom or human rights. Those goals are admirable beyond description. Those people are fighting against human's worst evils. Trying to conquer the littering problem is only a fight against human stupidity. Also very vast, but not quite so dangerous.

Finally today, I did the last thing from my first to-do list: Make a project plan (see below)

PROJECT PLAN from 18.02.2018
   Conception and Initiation: I want to clean the nature in the countryside of Portimão – Portugal – Planet. My minimal goal is to clean parts of the immediate area where I live. This goal has already been achieved 😊. My maximal goal is to start an avalanche that takes the whole world into my stride. The idea is to collect funds from people with enough money to hire jobless people without enough money to help remove litter from the countryside. One could also hire jobless teachers to give lectures at schools.  
   Definition and Planning: The basic thought is that anything is better than nothing. With the Malaysian proverb in mind: “How do you eat an elephant?” (The answer is obvious: bit by bit.), I am starting on all levels at the same time on a small scale: a) cleaning the countryside b) creating a logo and commercial c) contacting private potential donors d) finding & contacting responsible authorities e) initiating contact with other environmental groups f) contacting institutions that can help me advertise my project, like newspapers g) documentation on BlogSpot h) Recruiting followers for my blog. As I see it there are no priorities within the levels a) – h). All levels are important and must be pursued simultaneously. I will invest as much time as I can without overdoing. Overdoing will only deplete me of my energy and may cause the personal risk of giving up on this humongous project.
3   All other aspects of a usual project plan are superfluous. This is the advantage, maybe the only advantage, of a single person project. 
Saturday, Feb 24th, 2018

Today I started my next project: The Port of Alvor. 
I spent a good 3 hours clearing in between the boulders to the left side of the small wall. 

First the big stuff by hand: bottles, plastic bags etc.
Then the smaller things with my grabber, like drinking straws, cups, paper
And finally in an act of determination the cigarette buts and anything else I could find.
Climbing around on the boulders proved rather tricky and once I fell but thank god only my pride got hurt, apart from a little bruise on my leg and some scrapes on my hands.

My bike was used to hang up the advertisement. The wind kept on blowing the flag around. Next time I will make sure the bottom ends are secured properly. 

Several people stopped by to comment on my doings, i.a. a lovely lady from the UK that wants to help me with my next beach clean (HURRAH!) and a very nice Dutch family that immediately started to follow my blog. Also two very friendly official street cleaner ladies stopped and confirmed that their cleaning area, as I had already assumed, was only on the plastered right side of the little wall. They thought it was great what I was doing and did not see me as someone who might jeopardize their jobs. With such great motivation I decided to get back to my documentation straight away. 

In the back of the google map picture above you will see a little house. This is where the mostly elderly village people hang out together. These are the people that originally belong on this coast, mostly fishermen. They have nothing to do with the bustling touristy stuff, apart from the fact that their village is overrun from April to Oktober. Some of the senior citizens just sit there quietly day by day watching the lazy and sometimes crazy activities of holiday people. At first it freaked me out a bit, to be stared at. But then I decided to deal with my self-consciousness by putting my focus entirely on my project. I quietly worked away and only looked up when someone walked by or showed interest. I don't want to insult the lovely Portuguese people and appear like a guest that starts straightening up your living room. I really just want to do something worthwhile and my prophylactic shield is my biggest smile and friendliest "bom dia".  As I mentioned, the Portuguese are lovely people and generally return friendliness generously without fail.

On the paper-work end of my endeavors, I have taken two more baby steps:

1) I received a 2nd letter from EMARP where I was thus informed: "For matters related to dune areas and coastal cliffs, you should contact the APA (Portuguese Environment Agency)." In my 1st letter from EMARP, together with a very nicely formulated praise for my efforts, I was informed that the Port of Alvor lies in the responsibility of the Port and Maritime Transport Institute - Delegation of the South. To this institute I wrote a message 5 days ago and I am awaiting their reply. In regards to my question about the dog litters I was told that EMARP is not responsible for providing such facilities within the Hotel grounds nearby the cliffs. This was already clear to me. It is obvious. But there are also no dog litters nearby. Should I write a 3rd letter? I already see people at EMARP rolling their eyes in front of my mental eye. Perhaps better to tackle this issue together with the Hotel management, but they have not yet replied to my correspondence. Oh dear, politics is like quick sand.  

2) I also received a reply from the Environment Division, to my letter from February 2nd to the Portimão câmara municipal" (=city counsel). In this reply I am informed that the Municipality of Portimão does not normally organize waste collection initiatives, but that they seek to support and collaborate in the initiatives proposed to it. They also pointed out that for the area of the port of Alvor DOCAPESCA is responsible. 

This means I now have two different offices responsible for the Port of Alvor. Maybe I will wait for the reply from the Port and Maritime Transport Institute - Delegation of the South, before I contact DOCAPESCA.  

The list of letters I am to write in Portuguese is growing. I am still a beginner with the Portuguese language and it is not easy corresponding in a foreign tongue. Without Google Translate I would be lost. I am very glad that the diverse offices are willing to communicate with me, even although my head is starting to spin. I am slowly losing the overview of my correspondence. I am the generation that maintains an overview with an organized binder. I now need to learn to keep everything organized on my laptop. Right now everything is in a folder on my laptop desktop. If my former programmer B. knew this he would be appalled. 
Dear B.
I will put everything on a cloud ⛅ ASAP! I made a note in my binder! 
L. Greta

Monday, March 5th, 2018

I have been living in Portugal since April 2017 and for the first time, for one week, I have been experiencing bad weather. After 40 years of living in Germany I am not a stranger to bad weather but the rainstorms on the Algarve would make most Italian hotel showers jealous. You don’t want to be outside when a downpour comes and I have been successfully avoiding it. Often just through dumb luck, but mostly because I am staying indoors. The wind is ever so strong here and the noise level in my apartment makes me feel like I am on the bridge of a non-rocking ship with rain and wind bashing at the windows and the front door leaking.

Yesterday, I took a short walk down to the beach and the waves have shattered sheds that hold sun beds in the summer. The sheds were empty so I guess the people know you can’t store surf boards and sun beds in these flimsy sheds during the winter. A 5-meter long, 2-meter wide chunk off the end of a board walk was detached from its bolts and floating around in the surf. A lot of people were down at the beach, enthralled by the forces of nature. When nature entertains and does not put us in danger we can acknowledge that we have merely been spared.

Thank god yesterday my daughter asked me what my project and blog are doing, because I had been busy turning into a TV vegetable, waiting for the bad weather to pass.   

So, I have spent the morning on my “bridge” re-doing my correspondence, that means I sent “reminders” to the 3 offices I wrote to last week + a fourth office, that I had not contacted yet.

BTW, I received no response to the 6(!) e-mails I had written and 5 of them were formulated in time-consuming Portuguese (boohoo)! I am frustrated about this non-interest. Not even any of the environmental organisations I wrote to corresponded with me. I am not up to sending them reminders because I am just too disappointed that no one responded and it makes me feel stupid, like I am taking on more than I can handle and everybody knows it. Why does the underlying fear exist that you are making a fool of yourself, when you are trying to do something out of the ordinary?

Hey, I just received a reply from the Portuguese environmental agency. They say they did not get my e-mail from last week. I am now waiting for their opinion all over again. I will be eager to hear if they have any ideas upon how to keep the cliffs clean. I hope they like my sign!  

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Hello, yesterday was an exciting day at SWoPP! I am going to receive help from the office responsible for the Port in Alvor, called Docapesca. I will explain how it came to this favorable turn of events. I had written to Docapesca after waiting in vain for a reply from the Port and Maritime Transport Institute. If you remember, both offices were supposedly responsible for the upkeep of Alvor harbor.

Anyhow, I received a reply from Docapesca the day before yesterday and they wanted to meet me at the Port of Alvor! I cannot begin to tell you how exited I was about that! So, I confirmed to a meeting yesterday at 11 AM at the port but I was not sure my confirmation was received due to some of my e-mails failing and no counter-confirmation arriving.

Since the weather was acceptable yesterday morning I decided to use the chance and continue with my cleaning efforts whilst waiting for the Docapesca person. I arrived at 10:30 and started working. Yesterday, of all days, a lot of people stopped by and showed interest in my project, which is great! But I was slightly overwhelmed trying to keep an eye out for the Docapesca person, talking to several people in two languages and trying to pick up garbage while trying not to fall off the boulders. So, I actually managed to miss the Docapesca person! Of course, my first thought was that the meeting had not worked out after all and I cleaned for two more hours, then packed up and cycled home to avoid the next rain storm that was moving in.

I arrived home at 2 PM, looking forward to a cup of tea and so happy to be in my cosy apartment and out of the meanwhile heavy rain. I quick checked my e-mails and surprise, surprise, Bruno from Docapesca wrote at 12 that he had waited for me in vain - oops. OK, we had made a meeting place and I was not exactly there, but it was near-by and I was assuming he would see my bike with the big “LIXO” flag tied to it, but he hadn’t. In his E-Mail he invited me to his office later that afternoon if I was still inclined. I felt so bad I had missed him. My bad conscience advised me to don my rain gear and out I go again, to a 30-minute cycle through a wind and rain cocktail to meet up with Bruno in Portimão.

Bruno turned out to be a very friendly, extremely helpful young engineer. However, he does not speak much English, so we held the meeting in Portuguese! My problem is I can speak quite well but do not understand much. But he was completely charming and did not make me feel ill at ease at all and with the help of Google Translate we communicated very well. He was totally interested in my project and informed me that the year before umpteen square meters of garbage, mainly fishing waste, had been removed from the harbor by a company Docapesca hires for this matter. Then he made one longer phone call to said company and actually organized on the spot that they would participate in the cleaning efforts next week. I could not believe how fast Bruno's mills ground  and I was very impressed. Although Portuguese are not half as hectic as Germans at times they are twice as efficient - ha.

Since the company hired by Docapesca will clean the South End of the harbor (blue arrow) my hands will now be free to start tackling the North End (yellow arrow), at the far side of the little house where the elderly village people like to sit and watch what is going on in their town. The green arrow marks the area that I cleaned. It looks so small but it took me nearly 6 hours.
Bruno also asked me what I could suggest on how Docapesca can assist my project. I was not expecting that much forthcoming - what a pleasant surprise! I suggested “please don’t litter” signs and also an ash tray. Bruno suggested we have the signs in three languages: Portuguese, English and French. He will apply for money for these items and will keep me informed upon the success of the petition. It is an amazing feeling to have accomplished something and I am motivated not to give up. 
Thank you Bruno!
My cycle back home was very wet but I was so full of success endorphins I did not even notice it and felt I was at my door step in a hop and a jump – tea time at last 😊 

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Last Saturday I started cleaning the North end of the Alvor harbour (yellow arrow, picture above, a 300-meter stretch). Since I was hoping that the company the port authority Docapesca hired to help me would join me this week, I had to be present every day, so as not to miss my helpers. Today and tomorrow the weather is stormy so I get a break but Friday I plan to continue. I estimate another 14h of picking until the 300-meter stretch is clean.

Just to give you an idea on how much garbage there is: Every 15 meters there is a lamp post on the knee-high wall that separates the walkway from the boulders that descend into Alvor bay. I use the lamp posts as markers. I collected in and on the boulders ca. 50 l of garbage on a 15-meter stretch! The low stone wall is an ideal place to enjoy a cool drink, hot pizza, ice cream or a cigarette whilst enjoying the picturesque view of the bay with the fishing boats and windsurfers. Sometimes there will even be a slick catamaran to admire. The reason I know what people are doing on that low stone wall is – you guessed it? – They left their garbage to tell the tale . These left-overs are mixed at a half and half ratio with things the lake spit out during past storms, mostly fishing waste like Styrofoam, strings, ropes and plastic containers for bate. Not to mention masses of plastic bags and also quite a lot of clothing, although I assume the latter was mostly unintentional.  

It takes about 1 h to fill a 50 l bag (=15 m stretch). It is disgusting work because the garbage is old and mucky but so far at least, I have been able to skirt around a select few little baggies filled with dog poop. I poked these under the rocks so they will disintegrate. Even for me, there is a limit – sorry!

So far, I have collected 300 l. On Friday, I had planned to finish up the area, but just realized that in order to do so I’d have to work 14 h – maybe not…A friend might come and help me and the environmental organisation Quercus Faro finally contacted me (see next paragraph) and might help too – fingers crossed, together we could do it!

I was frustrated on the paperwork end of my project because the city hall just told me this week to contact EMARP (city waste) and APA (environmental agency) but I had already done that a long time ago. Neither office has come back to me with any useful help so far. I felt I was running around in circles and was very discouraged. Then life threw me some bait so I would stay on the hook: Quercus Faro (national association for the conservation of nature) finally contacted me with a very nice e-mail and we are going to meet soon to discuss my project, respectively their projects. We are still working on a meeting date but as soon as everything is set I will release my euphoria!

Now to the happiest aspect of my work. The village people have gotten to know me and greet me. In the pre-holiday season many workers in Alvor are busy with renovation, restoration and construction work. Other people are busy fishing, cooking and running the restaurants. Now I feel like I am a part of the bustling Alvor atmosphere. I am getting to know a few people, just like for a quick chat when you are walking by and it gives me a feeling of belonging that I hadn’t missed until now. It is a very special form of payment for my work that I truly cherish. The best things in life are so often unexpected and almost always for free. The restaurant owner closest to the walkway is offering me free coffee when I need a rest and the surf school owner next door to the restaurant is very patient with my language efforts and gives me “free lessons”. A lot of people just stop by to thank me and many of the people I talk to also collect garbage on a general basis. There is a true awareness to this problem in many more people than I had realized before I started my project. We need to somehow connect everyone, but how? Maybe Quercus has an idea. I can't wait for our meeting.
Last not least, this is the view at my work place 😊, after SWoPP was there!

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Help came in the form of Jos, my fellow student from the language school in Portimão. You cannot believe how happy I was to see him on Friday morning. Together we removed in several hours 400 l of garbage! With the 100 l I picked up Thursday afternoon and the 300 l I removed earlier in the week that amounts to 800 l of garbage on a distance of less than 300 m. I was so happy! But now that I see this information on black and white it makes me all sad. How can it be that so much garbage is lying around? What a disgrace! Especially in a country where there are litter bins everywhere. I cannot comprehend it.

There is good news! I have a meeting with Tereza and Fernando from Quercus on Wednesday afternoon in Faro (the capital of the Algarve). I am very excited about meeting them. I have much respect for people who do what I am doing next to a full-time job. I hope I can help Quercus in some way and I need to do a brainstorm, so I don’t forget any questions:

1. Are there fines for littering in Portugal? If not, can we start a petition?
2. Which office exactly is responsible for what area? Who, for example is responsible for Carvoeiro beach?
3. The road sides are littered terribly. What can one do and who is responsible? We need a lot more hands and vehicles to tackle that problem.
4. Whom do we have to contact for “don’t litter” signs?
5. Could I do fund-raising for/with Quercus? Do they have a bank account for such purposes? If not, I would need to start my own organisation but I don’t really have the necessary financial means for this. 
6. Portugal helps the whole world environment by cleaning their beaches, because it prevents the garbage, mainly plastic, from going back into the ocean. Could/Would UNEP* help support the beach cleans?
7. Is there an existing beach-cleaning network? If not, can we start one? How do you do this? Could it be in the form of a "flash mob"?

*The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

OK, that is a start. I will add try to add to the list until Wednesday.

I created 40 little flyers. They are not perfect yet, but that is why I only made 40 for a start. When people show real interest then at least I have something to hand out. However, the back of my bike turned out to be a lousy promoter. Not one flyer was taken on Friday. I will have to think of something else. My dad always said when we ran our business together that you never know what is going to work in Marketing. So, I will just keep on trying…eventually I will find something that works.    


                                           NEVER GIVE UP - TRY TRY TRY

Sunday, March 25th, 2018


My meeting with Quercus was very interesting and I learned a lot. I learned so much that it has taken me three days to get it sorted out in my brain. There are so many aspects to be considered when dealing with environmental issues that I had an information overload problem. Like when you are cleaning out your basement and following a promising start you realize after a few hours, as you are standing in the midst of your rubble, that you have totally lost control. 

I am slowly sorting through the information, but just like in my dad’s basement, nothing gets thrown away and all information must be saved in case it is needed later.

Here are answers to some of my questions from my last blog:

1. Nobody knows exactly what the situation is with fines for littering. Tereza from Quercus is doing the research and will get back me.

2. Finding the person responsible for a particular area remains a problem, however Tereza and Fernando highly recommend contacting the “Juntas” with any issues. Juntas is the local community. This means in my case contact Alvor, not Portimão, about the areas I have so far cleaned. Keeping this in mind I plan to write a letter to the President of Alvor. I do not give up hope to receive an echo from someone one of these days, that has the power to make a change.

3. In my letter I will also present the road-side litter problem.

4. Anti-litter signs: At least two offices are responsible, one for the payment of the sign and another for deciding where they should be installed. If two offices must work together to put up one sign it is no small wonder that there are no signs anywhere! I will also present this problem to the Juntas of Alvor, in the hope they can function as a puppeteer. I hope to get a more positive feedback from Portimão’s local community Alvor, than I received from Portimão itself. In my opinion the threat of fines needs to be on the signs. I am eager to know what the fine situation is from Tereza.

5. Quercus only does work on a voluntary basis. My idea was to have paid workers involved. Maybe the Alvor Juntas would be open to discussions on this point. Couldn’t hotels etc. be coaxed into supporting an anti-litter campaign?

6. 80% of beach litter comes from land, not the sea. So, my argument that the UNEP might help finance beach cleans has only 20% substantiation. Quercus has however informed me that they are already in close collaboration with international organisations. I will leave this issue in their capable hands as this is above my present capabilities.  

7. Quercus does have the infrastructure to organize beach cleans and could support a project I suggest, but the idea needs to be planned and formulated at least one month in advance in order for Quercus to be able to take action. I will keep this fact strongly in mind while planning my own further actions.

Conclusion: Quercus implied that if politicians help a cause they want to be in the lime-light. Every action must be to a high extent about publicity. Quercus make statistics, whilst collecting garbage, upon how many straws, plastic sacks etc. have been gathered, to prove a point. They have loads of experience on how to deal with the garbage problem. Their system is beyond criticism. Nevertheless, I am really struggling with these facts. How many straws are you not allowed to throw into nature? One, or? It makes my stomach churn to think that Quercus needs this kind of proof to prove their point. Every year they clean the entire area of the Rio Famoso. That should be proof enough that Portugal (not exclusively) is in dire need of an anti-litter campaign on an executive level! 

I have written a 3rd reminder to the Hotel and Holiday resort I live at about the cliffs I cleaned nearly two months ago – still no response…not even a little “obrigado”*   

obrigado (Portuguese) for thank you


Today I researched the garbage level in the nature area near my home to see if it would be suitable for a Quercus project (see 7). It is not an exclusive nature reserve, a few exceptions were made* for building (*made/paid no further questions asked). But the majority of the area, as you can see on the google map, is nature. To the left side of the map are the cliffs that I cleaned early February. 

The first problem I encountered was construction waste. This is not something I can tackle and I will present the problem in my letter to the President of Alvor.

The remaining area is not litter-free but also not devastating enough to maybe ask Quercus for help. I need to think about it. There is not a bush without a bottle but it is also not dramatically littered badly. I could lug out the garbage bit for bit – it is SWoPPable - but the area is secluded and the attention I have been getting in the middle of Alvor is not to be underestimated - as I learned from Quercus publicity is essential!

BELOW: Last week I cleaned the rocky side of the path, yesterday I started on the other side.

Yesterday, I continued my Alvor clean but that is getting out of hand too. On 125 mI collected a whole sack of mixed litter (mainly plastic bottles and sacks), ca. 20 glass bottles, one bag of old cement, 1 mof rotting plastic roof, 2 m of big rubber tube, one pair of old hiking boots, one old tent, a roof rack for a car, a plastic motorcycle cover and a few other bits and pieces. (I may be overwhelmed with Quercus’ request for statistics but I will try to adapt to their direction.)Below is a picture of me pretending I am an Ant. But I cannot do this on a general basis. It is too hard.

The litter
The human ant

The only way to truly get the litter problem under control is through a big campaign:

a) Contact Hotels and businesses to help support the project financially. Think of ways to make it attractive to support a campaign, e.g. an official note of thanks from the Juntas during a celebration. You could also make collections at the entrances of hotels (idea from Fernando, Quercus).

b) Hire a few people to systematically work their way through the community of Alvor clearing litter, also construction waste, professionally.

c) Request Hotels to remove construction litter from the outskirts of their properties.

d) Inform all the people living in Alvor of the campaign through a mailshot.

e) Put together 2-3 teaching lessons for children of all ages that are distributed to the teachers with the request to dedicate some learning time to the problem of littering.

Finally, if Alvor were to become the cleanest community in Portugal, rub it in everybody else’s face :) Or, in nicer words, use Alvor as a role model for all other communities. I know this is visionary but it could theoretically work. 

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Admittedly, I am overwhelmed by my project at the moment, although I have achieved so much. I finished cleaning in between the boulders of the harbour in Alvor last week. All in all, one can say that the port was cleaned by SWoPP, of course that includes my friend Jos’ help and the efforts from Docapesca that were most likely due to my prompting.

Last week Docapesca was at the port. They cut the grass on the beachy south end of the harbour and most of the bulky litter was removed. There are still bits and pieces of smaller litter on the final stretch. I am not sure whether that area will be taken care of by the EMARP cleaners, so I am waiting for a while before I do further collecting. 

My wrists are feeling brittle and there is a limit to the lugging I can do. The further away I am from the available trash bins the harder the lugging gets. For most areas that need cleaning, a wheelbarrow, a car and above all younger hands would be required.

Last week I wrote a letter to the president of Alvor. I do hope he will not ignore me, like all the other guys have so far. I need at least one person on top of the ladder on my side or I don’t see how I am going to be able to make a real difference. Of course, I can continue to nag the people I wrote to already with “third and fourth try” e-mails, but my stamina is getting dampened by the total lack of interest.

The areas I first cleaned need topping up again. Without signs, ash trays and some additional litter bins my efforts will not out-live the upcoming tourist season.  

However, a good thing happened 2 days ago: While visiting the absolutely fascinating 5000-year-old prehistoric site of Alcala, I met a language teacher who might be able to help me. She says she has many contacts and also knows the president of Alvor. I will write to her today. I don’t believe in coincidences so maybe our paths were meant to cross.

I cannot decide what my third project should be. I guess I am hoping this decision will be taken from me by help from above…

I need to go on a walk through Alvor and determine the garbage problem and see which areas could be reasonably tackled by me before the summer. It seems like a wiser move to stay near the village than to move out into the countryside, where no one will notice my efforts.  

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Did you fear my project had come to a standstill? Admittedly, so did I. But after 10 days of stagnation two things finally happened:

1)The district council of Alvor replied to my letter and now I have a meeting arranged with the district president on May 3rd.

2)Quercus contacted me to participate in a beach cleaning project that will cover the whole South of Portugal, mainly for the purpose of analysis. That means in several 1h actions involving 4-5 people each, sample cleanings will be undertaken in different areas. Then the exact amount of collected garbage will be analysed to support further political actions.

I have started doing my “homework” for the meeting with the president of Alvor and thus opened a Pandora’s box this morning, that elevates Quercus’ work to a much higher level of importance than I had previously grasped. I was so focused on removing litter that I was ignoring the real problem: Creating litter!

I will tell you how this enlightenment came about. For my meeting with the president I plan to prepare an estimate of a cost and time budget. The campaign I will be suggesting also involves the education of children, so I googled “USA anti-litter campaign 1976”, that I remember from when I was in the third grade in California elementary school, to find some educational material. 

My whole life I was this campaign’s biggest fan but now I struck upon the following report from Mother Jones (a reader-supported non-profit news organization), that shattered a belief that had been in my head for over four decades.  

If you have a spare 5 Minutes please ignore the next three paragraphs and read the whole article on the internet. It is very good!

I’ve never known anyone who was objectively pro-litter. Litter’s awful. It’s disgusting. We’re all agreed. But it seems that the nationwide anti-litter campaign, which began in the 1950s, was a bit less pure in its origins. According to Heather Rogers’ Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, the entire anti-litter movement was initiated by a consortium of industry groups who wanted to divert the nation’s attention away from the amount of waste these companies were putting out. It’s a good story worth retelling…

So that’s where litter comes in. In 1953, the packaging industry—led by American Can Company and Owens-Illinois Glass Company, inventors of the one-way can and bottle, respectively—joined up with other industry leaders, including Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Company to form Keep America Beautiful (KAB), which still exists today. KAB was well-funded and started a massive media campaign to rail against bad environmental habits on the part of individuals rather than businesses. 

No longer was the focus on regulating production—for instance, requiring can and bottle makers to use refillable containers, which are vastly less profitable. Instead, the “litterbug” became the real villain

I have always wondered how the gigantic USA anti-litter campaign was financed and organized. Now that I know that companies like Coca Cola were supporting the campaign it figures. A business that can convince people to drink poison obviously has no limitations to their PR capabilities.

It is great that I will be able to help Quercus in their work of analyses that supports tackling the litter problem at its origin: The production and sale of unnecessary packaging. I have offered to make a report with pictures etc. for Quercus about the litter problem in Ferragudo, a town that lies 10 km East of Alvor. And then, on May 27th, a few people, myself included, will make the said 1 h sample cleaning and analysis of the garbage collected.

My efforts with SWoPP removing litter will be continued despite my idol, the USA anti-litter campaign in the 1970’s, being destroyed today. I still hope to initiate a similar campaign in Alvor, albeit without the selfish component.

In anticipation of my meeting I have taken a closer look at the numbers, just to see if my goal is actually doable. I have calculated that a campaign in Alvor would cost 22000 Euros.

There are more than 110 Hotels (36 have 4 stars) that would be asked to help. You don’t have to be a math wiz to see that the costs could be recovered fairly easily if the costs were divided. I have made a hopeful estimation that 30 hotels would participate.

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Today I would first like to summarize some of my project results, respectively also the lack of success in some areas.

I started my project on Wednesday, January 31st and by Thursday February 1st I had already cleaned a considerable amount of area. 2 weeks later I had single-handedly cleaned the entire Prainha cliffs at which time I contacted the hotel and restaurant, that are the hosts of the majority of people that frequent these cliffs. I wrote to the hotel 3 times! There was NO RESPONSE whatsoever. This week, I spotted the first two beer cans at the bench with the spectacular view: One tossed into the bushes, one thrown over the cliff. A few days later someone had disposed of a tissue by stuffing it behind the bush beer can, what is the meaning of this? Simple rule: Garbage attracts garbage.  Cigarette buts are around the bench on default. I do think my suggestions would have worked, but alas, the Hotel gives a damn. I will pass this information on to the president of Alvor. I really hope he backs me up. The Hotel's lack of interest is really quite shameful. For the moment I am not removing these cans. 

I have also not done the last stretch of my harbor cleaning in Alvor on purpose.  I do think it may turn out to be of a certain importance to see the difference of where I cleaned and where I didn't. I went by to check the area and the EMARP cleaners had not removed the litter from the beach. I assume it is an area that lies in the responsibility of  Docapesca but they ignored all the smaller litter, even plastic bottles. They also never contacted me again about "don't litter" signs or the ash tray I suggested.

For the most part, I am not trying to point fingers but to define the problems I must look exactly at the existing situation. 

My connections with Quercus on the other hand are very satisfying and I sent a detailed report upon the garbage situation in Ferragudo to Tereza from Quercus: 

Dear Tereza

I have gathered a lot of information. 
Just use whatever you can and contact me if you need anything else. 
Love Greta

1)     Land opposite Vitor’s Village: Big piles of garbage, but maybe on private property (picture 2)
2)     No name Beach (waste land), opposite Vitor’s Village: Lots of garbage, bottles everywhere, no bigger space without garbage (picture 3)
3)     Canal entrance, North side: Terrible, several wheelbarrow fillings of garbage; I assume most of the garbage was washed onto the riverside by the canal (picture 4)
4)     Camper van area, on the other hand, is quite clean. Campers are actually helping keep things clean instead of vice versa.
5)     Praia da Angrinha (not open ocean): Not super dirty, but lots of little bits and pieces of garbage, a few bottles. I would not want to spend my Sunday afternoon there. You would need a sieve machine to do a good job, because lots of the garbage pieces are very small.
6)     Praia Grande: Not as clean as it should be, considering this is the main beach, but again, it is not open ocean. Locals say it will be cleaned soon. The cleaning was slack, they say, because of the rain. But some of the garbage is also building waste, that is obviously not going to be removed soon or ever…
7)     Praia Pintadinho has a “don’t litter” sign and is fairly clean. Only an ugly half-built hotel spoils the scenery. Someone should be held responsible; preferably the bank or office that OK-ed a building project when the builder obviously did not have sufficient funds to finish the project? The appalling thing is that behind the Praia Pintadinho there is now a new building site being started (picture 5+6). Very sad.
8)     Praia dos Caneiros: Clean, beautiful, I assume the fancy bar and the tide helps to keep it this way
9)     Praia da Afurada and Praia do Mato are not accessible, accept by boat (I did not see even a small foot path on google earth)   


A day later I sent Tereza another letter:

Dear Tereza

I have another thing, I want to tell you:

Yesterday I went to a very small beach in Alvor near my home. Really, I had wanted to relax, but then I ended up picking up plastic.  

As I already noticed on Praia da Angrinha in Ferragudo the garbage pieces were very very small and difficult to pick up by hand. Is that what they call micro-plastic? Usually, this beach is clean, but due to the waves and tide all these small pieces got washed onto the shore. (A lot of granules too - each the size of 1/2 pepper corn - nearly impossible to pick up) 

Keeping your advice in mind, I did not forget to do a few statistics: I collected for 1 h on a stretch of ca. 30 m. I collected everything in a half plastic bottle that I had also found in the sand. I saved the results of my search. Are they interesting for you or can I throw them away? (picture attached, my sun-glasses are next to the garbage so one can see the size).

The more I get involved in this garbage problem the more I can see the magnitude of it. 

Anyhow, one thing I can say for sure. To pick up these tiny plastic pieces human hands are no longer sufficient. You would need big sieve machines...(In the world of my dreams Shell, Coca Cola and McDonalds would be forced to finance this)

Love Greta

PS. I bought two new metal grabbers for 3,50 Euros a piece at the CASA CHINA in Portimao (a store that I obviously usually avoid). 

Tereza replies:

Hi Greta,

Microplastics are < 5mm (and I believe above 1 nanometer). You-ve probably identified microplastic pellets.

Great about the statistics, thanks. If you could keep the bottle, it would be great. I need to go to ferragudo, and we could arrange to meet.

P.S I might have to order a metal grabber from you.
Take care, T.

The reason I am sending you our correspondence is because it is important in order to understand the development I am going through, because later that day, just out of interest (and because I did not know what a Nanometer was), I googled "micro-plastic".  Oh my god, Wikipedia revealed shocking new information. The more I learn, the more I realize that I, and most likely the majority of people on this planet, know NOTHING about the problems of plastic waste. 

1 millimeter, by the way = 1 000 000 Nanometers

I have learned that the majority of micro-plastic in the ocean comes from the washing of synthetic clothing and the abrasion of car tires (this is called primary micro-plastic). So the problem is not only a garbage problem. The garbage that eventually breaks up and turns into secondary micro-plastic is only what is so ugly, but what we don't see is at least as bad... 
  There is a lot of information out there and one could literally spend hours on the internet reading about the problems plastic in general creates. There are also a lot of unknown numbers. On one page I read that the ratio of primary and secondary plastic in the ocean is not known. Assuming that information to be true, then there is a lot of research that needs to be done before our politicians start making laws and restrictions at production stage of products. I mean seriously, did you know that you were contributing to micro-plastic growth in the ocean by washing your fleece jacket?

But in the long run all I can try to do is my share. Buy less plastic, including cloths, clean the beach, get a wee bit involved in politics and hope that if a lot of people are thinking in the same direction eventually change will happen and our beautiful litte planet will be salvaged.

Do you know what Geocaching is? A friend of mine has this hobby (Jos, who helped me clean the harbor in Alvor). It is a sort of treasure hunt. Definition: an activity or pastime in which an item, or a container holding a number of items, is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find by means of coordinates posted on the Internet.

A group of people that do geocaching are combining their hobby with collecting garbage. They are going to do a big beach clean tomorrow on Praia da Galé in Albufeira and Jos has asked me if I want to join. I will send pictures of our work!  

Friday, April 27th, 2018

As planned, Jos and I met up last Saturday with about 20 other people to collect trash at the Praia da Galé in Albufeira. It was a very international group consisting mostly of Portuguese people, but including also Germans, English, Austrians and Dutch participants. We collected garbage for 1 hour. Here are the results: 

We covered a space of ca. 50000  = 0,05 km² = 7 soccer fields and collected ca. 1650 l of garbage = ca. 1 and a half 1100 l trash bins (see picture below)

Now excuse me if I get carried away, but I do like numbers, even if they are only rough estimates:

This means 1 person needed 1 hour to clear rubbish from 1/3 of a soccer field. 
This means that on 30 square meters (the size of a good-sized living room), is one liter of garbage.
This means that on a square kilometer theoretically lies 33000 l of garbage = 33 cubic meters - yuk!

Really, hardly imaginable. And Portugal, is really fairly clean in comparison to other places! 

Here are the pictures. The two big green bins were nearly empty before we began.

Yesterday I started preparing my meeting with the President of Alvor. I am really quite exited or nervous or whatever and I don't think it is just because they call the Mayor "President" in Portugal. It's just, I don't know how to say it exactly, like a little kid who says they want to do something outrageous when they grow up, like fly to the moon or make up rides at the fair and the parents say: "Of course, you can do or be anything you want to be...", but they don't mean it...

I am not referring to my own parents, who were always quite supportive. I am referring to the adult inside my head that is trying to quench the spirit of the child in my head that still believes in miracles.

Apart from that I don't presently have any more big projects started, because this is a time when Portugal is very beautiful and definitely nature should also be enjoyed, not just cleaned. However, I rarely leave the beach empty handed when I go and just pick up garbage whenever I see it. 

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

My meeting, two weeks ago, with the president of Alvor went very well. He is a down to earch, environmentally conscientious person and shared one and a half hours of his time with me to discuss my ideas. He also complimented me on my good work, which was nice.

However, many of my ideas are not realizable due to the problem that most areas of Alvor, although open for public use, like for dog walking etc., are privately owned and therefore the upkeep of these areas is not only the responsibility of the owners, but community workers are not allowed to access these areas.

An additional problem is that the information about the respective owners, like name and address, is kept confidential and even the president of Alvor cannot come by this information without submitting himself to extensive bureaucracy.

So obviously, it is hard to put pressure on the owners that, just to make it a little bit more difficult, live not anywhere near Alvor! Often not even in Portugal.

Finally, in our meeting we agreed upon two ways I could help:

Firstly, I will scout areas and inform the president of any garbage problems. Then, within ca. 2 weeks he will look for people to clean the area. This is not an easy task for him. He either has to contact EMARP, which is tedious and not always successful, or he must look for voluntary helpers, like boy scouts. 

Secondly, I am to help create a brochure to advertise more environmental awareness within the population.

After a two week “my son was here to visit me” break, yesterday I picked an area to scout and spent two hours making pictures and videos of the existing garbage problem. Then I put everything together in a nice neat report and sent it to the president.

I also had a cool idea for the brochure that I shared with the president in the same correspondence.

Today I went to the town council to make sure my e-mail had been received and to collect a new business card from the president. I had lost the first one he gave me, can you believe it, much to my embarrassment!

I managed to have a short talk with the president in the hall way when he gave me a new business card and shortly informed him what the report contained, as he had not read it yet. Quickly I learned that the area I had scouted was private and that most likely nothing can be done about the immense litter problem in the area. He said he’d discuss it with his team so there is still a little hope left, but nevertheless, I felt a little useless, because my whole report is most likely going to be in vain!  

An additional downside is that although I now received from the council a fairly decent map I still don’t know, and it seems they don’t either, which areas are non-private and therefore in the responsibility of the council. So I have no idea which areas are worthwhile to scout for litter issues. 

But we will see. My report is excellent, and they might decide that a bit of pressure on the owners is needful. It seems like the people that can afford big pieces of land should not be protected ceaselessly. On the property that I walked on yesterday was a building ruin, a lot of building rubble, bulky waste and no one enforces any change of the situation. I used to live in Germany where they rule the country with laws and fines, which I don't think is great either. But the solution of no action is somehow also not acceptable. Using a garbage bin is so easy...too bad so many people don't know how to do it. 



  1. How did Kästern say, you "Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es" (there is noting good unless you do it). You are doing it, and this counts.

    Was there still coffee in the cup, when the iPhone fell in.

    Great work!

    1. Thanks. My thought is that doing anything is better than doing nothing. Unfortunately, there was still some coffee in the cup. That last little cold sip, that one never wants to drink. I took the camera apart as a last try to save it. It is drying in the sun now. We shall see...chances are slight. Unfortunately, there is no place where you can fix cameras nowadays, at least not in Portimao.

  2. I hope you are not long a single woman doing this!

  3. On the top left there is a G+ button. I clicked it, and you have now 1 follower.

  4. Bravo Greta,
    Your idea is wonderful
    Hope soon you will find a lot of followers!
    Wish you success! Camelia

    1. I hope also, many people will like what I am doing and maybe even join in. Thank you for your great support.

  5. Greta,
    I heard about you through a mutual friend - Vania - at the café that I visit pretty much every day.
    I'm a volunteer at a nature preservation station called "A Rocha." It's near Mexilhoeira Grande. Here I'm helping out with the research about micro plastics. Among other things I have made an informative poster about this subject and right now I'm working on a portable sign that we can put in place when we clean the beach near our science station. I would be happy to help you with any graphic design work or if you need to construct a sign or similar things.
    Vania has my e-mail and phone number.
    Contact me if you wish, I'd be happy to support your mission.


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