Americans have been known to occasionally complain about the cleanliness of Paris. Many, upon landing in the City of Lights, are surprised to find that this glamorous European capital is rife with less-than-shiny accessories. There's a fair amount of graffiti, public garbage cans are an eyesore of see-through green, and would it kill someone to take a power hose to the métro from time to time? Don't even get me started on the dog poo. Well, thankfully, Americans are not the only ones concerned about the state of Parisian streets. According to an article I stumbled across on Reuters, we can count on at least one other group of people to also care about cleanliness and, even better, to actually do something about it: Japanese expatriates.
Calling themselves the Greenbirds, this group of dedicated expats takes to the streets once a month and attempts to spruce the place up a bit. Their most recent cleaning expedition took place on the enormous, and enormously popular, Champs-Elysées; an impressive feat considering the city's most famous avenue is constantly under attack by trash-wielding humans. Established in Tokyo in 2003, Greenbirds expanded to Paris in 2007, with the goal of making Paris "more beautiful." I can't decide if that's a lofty or easy objective.
To be fair, the city of Paris really does try to keep itself clean, even without the help of eager expatriates. You can't go a single day without seeing the sweepers with their ubiquitous green jumpsuits (intended to coordinate with the green garbage cans?) and old fashioned-looking brooms. They flood the streets with water and brush everything down the gutter while trash mobiles suck garbage off sidewalks and overnight crews get everything ready for a fresh morning start. Nevertheless, Paris can get dirty, fast. Color coordinated or not, the massive Propreté de Paris campaign just can't seem to do it all. And while Greenbirds claim they clean the streets of Paris to make things nice for the thousands of Japanese tourists who flock to France's capital city every year, they're probably making the Americans happy as well. Now, if only they could convince people to pick up after their dogs.