BondingXperience Interview
March 20, 2012
Category: NEWS
The MOOPsquad
by Richard Voller

Everything is connected on Planet Earth. I found this out recently when I was checking out my friend’s wall on FaceBook. Ryan Reeves is his name. We have connected through our mutual friend Heather Odom. The common ground was The Venus Project and living in a Resource Based Economy. Now I was checking his wall and I came across a very interesting video of the group of girls picking up rubbish. They called themselves the MOOPsquad. Intrigued, I decided to dig deeper and find out more. Shortly Anders Gustavsson contacted me and the interview was setup with Sylvie Hitchcock, the leader of the MOOPsquad, who is based in Los Angeles, USA.

Sylvie: “Viral behavioral change is what we are focused on. And one the wonderful methods is using our technology to the advantage.”

Richard: Exactly! So can you tell me more about the MOOPsquad and what it is all about?
Sylvie: “We specialize in Matter Out Of Place (MOOP). It’s a term that grew out of ‘Leave No Trace’ festivals, and the MOOPsquad is a group of females that are a theatrical public service announcement to remind people not to litter in the first place, and when they see litter they should pick it up.”

“We try and make it fun,exciting and engaging. So we have an utili-militant style look. We basically demand authority by creating this look of being in charge. By doing this people tend to do what we say. It’s Alternative Education by example.”

“We use this device, we call them MOOPwands, which is a hinged reaching tool. We carry them like guns and there is a fun style we use to pick things up.”

“It could be a cigarette butt or something that fell out of somebody’s hand. Nobody really wants to bend down and pick something up. By using these tools we remind people that there is an easier way to do it!”

Richard: Trying to make people conscious-minded about picking up rubbish is quite difficult at times, isn’t it?

Sylvie: “It’s kind of like Fengshui for the mind. It’s a kind of walking meditation. It relates in many different ways, not just picking up trash. It is about clearing your mind and your space and by doing this it creates a better flow.”

“So trash has this idea of being dirty and gross and people don’t want to touch it. On the other hand we are very feminine, we are very clean, and we are definitely not garbage men.”

“This just reminds people, what is trash?”

“Not only is it an anthropological perspective of an area but it also leads to more questions. A candy wrapper... why is it dirty?”

“Someone opened it and touched it with their hand. Is it really dirty and gross, or is it in the way and needs to get put away somewhere?”

“Of course cigarette butts are the number one MOOP that we come across. Those we consider dirty! So yes, we use the wand and keep ourselves sanitized. We carry around our hand sanitizer, sun block and chap stick.”

Richard: Are you giving people these wands to go and clean up as well?

Sylvie: “For certain festivals we have our mobileMOOPunits, and these are carts that we have re- designed. It is a shooting gallery style where people can grab the wand.”

“We have different levels of the wands. The orange wands are the public use wands. We have ways to engage people to use them, for example we have a Bingo game and for the festival ‘Lightening in a Bottle’ last year we had a Sangria party.”

“People come over for the Sangria and then we give them a wand and a bingo card and they have to go and pick up trash items, and then they can come back and trade it for a Sangria.”

“Each girl also has their own customized wand, which are our personal wands.”

Richard: So basically you have co-created a little fun game, that engages with the general public and you are trying to get this message into their minds about cleaning up the planet.

Sylvie: “Precisely!”

Richard: So what is your vision? How do you see your initiative impacting the world?

Sylvie: “It is not just about picking up trash. It is reminding people to be responsible for themselves. The bigger vision is to ultimately replace what is known as ‘The Girl Scouts of America’, this treasure hunting game is one of the many pieces to that puzzle, and we aim to instill responsibility and confidence in girls from toddlers to adults. We have our utility belts; everything is attached to us so we can’t drop things or lose things. We know how to start fires, we can camp, and we know how to survive. On the other hand, the point in this project now is to try and get people to be aware of their surroundings, and branding an identity of conscientiousness.”

“You can find yourself on a random adventure because you are following this trail of MOOP.”

Richard: So this sounds quite deep?

Sylvie: “Well if you look at our logo. That is something of a message in itself. Not only is it a target, but also it’s infinitely expansive and infinitely internal. The ripples go both ways. It is an infinitely flexible symbol.”

Richard: How are you touching on the message that rubbish can also be internal?

Sylvie: “I think that it is definitely part of the project. My personal guiding point is time self-reflecting and meditating. To change the physical environment has meant that you need to reach out and do something. So it is a link of action.”

Richard: When did you start to feel this change within you?

Sylvie: “When I went to ‘Burning Man’ in 2002, I was introduced to this wand. I was very lucky growing up here in the USA where there was this big ‘Litter- Bug’ campaign. So in the 80’s it was just common practice to not to litter.”
“You would be called a litter- bug! It was something that you did want to do! I spent quite a bit of time travelling around the world to different places and realized that people don’t have that same framework. There hasn’t been a litterbug campaign in a while.”

Richard: What was it that caused it in the 80’s then?

Sylvie: “Well it was a child friendly way to teach the younger generation.”

“Being introduced to the wand in 2002, I felt like I had a purpose. I was able to explore on my own without feeling uncomfortable. It would lead me in places I might not have gone.”

“So I started doing the Burning Man ‘Decompression’ events and ‘Leave No Trace’. I started doing these but there was nothing solid, no structure. We just shared a wand, harassed people and picked up rubbish.”

“When I went to Berkeley, I met a few like-minded girls and we started to take it a little bit more seriously and tried to reach out in a larger way and we started dressing up in thematic colours and became a more public display. So our colours are a very bright orange, white, and blue.”

Richard: What do they symbolize?

Sylvie: “If you look at the logo, the sun is the centre or the core of the fire inside of us all, we have the infinite expansiveness of the sky and ocean which is the blue band and the white band is more personal. It is a feminine symbol and it is also very clean.”

“The target definitely one of the universal signs that people see straight away and they recognize it.”

Richard: How can people get involved with your project?

Sylvie: “People can get involved in anyway! Just by seeing some rubbish and throwing it away in the proper receptacle! If they are at an event that we are at, they can come and join the MOOPtroops. We do MOOPmissions where MOOPagents to go out together on these adventures.”

“People can also go to our FaceBook Fan page, where we post the MOOPmissions, so people can join us.” “We often do one big MOOPmission a month. I often carry my wand with me when I go out or when I go to a club.”

Richard: So you have become quite a celeb with your wand?

Sylvie: “People do know me. They recognize the wand and me. They recognize the message. They know not to drop a cigarette but in front of me!!!!”

Richard: I suppose chewing gum is pretty difficult for your wand?

Sylvie: “You know, I have never really had problems with chewing gum. Maybe people don’t spit it on the ground here. I have picked up some pieces of gum, but luckily it has hardened so it is not sticky any more.”

Richard: Out here it is a major problem!

Sylvie: “I guess we should make a wand with a solvent!”

Richard: YES! So do you travel to Europe at all?

Sylvie: “Well my sister lives in London, in Greenwich. And I had forgotten to bring my wand and there was so much litter! There were just piles and piles of trash everywhere. Rather than picking it up, I started to document it. I would take a photograph of each piece of trash because it is an anthropological view of an area and the kind of trash that is on the streets of Greenwich is different than the streets here in Venice.”

Richard: How is it different?

Sylvie: “Different brands of candy. I noticed that candy wrappers were the most popular MOOP there.”

Richard: So you notice all the detail in the rubbish?

Sylvie: “Yes, I do! I can’t help it! We specialize in microMOOP as well! The precision of this tool is amazing. We can pickup a fibre with it! So there are the larger cans and cups, but at ‘Burning Man’ or ‘Lighting in a Bottle’ it could be a feather.”

“We do find treasures and turn them into wearable decorations. Occasionally we will find someone’s missing jewelry and we’ll be sure to wear it until someone finds it again.”

Richard: What do you do with all the trash?

Sylvie: “We throw it away!!!!!! Hahahaha.... Just kidding!”

“Sometimes it gets integrated into new things, like jewelry or into wearable creations. We have been collecting bottle caps for the last month so we can create our Badges of Honour.”

Richard: It’s interesting because I was working on another article for a company called ‘’ who make eco-friendly homes out of recycled materials. They are American and maybe you could both work together?

Sylvie: “Part of the larger hopes and dreams of this project is re- use into building materials. If we have troops of people all over the world, we will be able to go into a more of a waste management direction. So when we have a million water bottles, we can build some incredible things out of them, whether it is a floating island or a house.”

Richard: You could be working with Earthship! I always believe in synchronicities and this just popped into my mind!

Sylvie: “This is absolutely great!”

“Everything has multiple purposes. There is the one that it was intended for and then there is the thing that comes out of it. One of the more simple things that we do with water bottles is making a wine glass.”

Richard: You are spreading a message about being more conscious-minded; I feel there has been a big shift in 2011 and certainly in 2012.

Sylvie: “It is incredible to watch our culture adopt certain behaviours that used to be marked as “not cool”. Things like sustainability and eco- mindedness. It separated a lot of people from engaging in that world because it was something that they were being beaten over the head with.”

“You need to recycle, you need to do this!”

“I have a little bit of punk rock streak. I don’t want to be told what to do! There are some obvious things that are going on right now, where it is cool to be thoughtful and be aware of your neighbour, and smile at someone when you are walking by them!”

“And these are the things that we are all working together for on this planet. And we are all one, but we are all fragmented, just to come together again! It’s community building, it’s team building and it’s humanity building!”

Richard: And you are a leader in this!

Sylvie: “Yes, I am a leader in this.

Richard: I am glad you say this because a lot people say, ‘No! I am not a leader! But we are all leaders and you are especially a leader because you are standing out there in front of the general public with a message and inspiring people.

Sylvie: “It’s one of those things that if I am not doing it, no-one else will!”

“I moved quite a few times when I was younger and there was the realization of being the new person and shaping peoples perception of who I am. Also, everything can matter and then nothing really does!”

“So if I am standing on street corner doing something where people can be laughing at me, that’s fine! They can laugh all they want! Then there are going to be some people who see it and realize that what I am doing is actually valuable. And then we start to grow our troops. And then people come up and they are really excited about joining the MOOPsquad!”

Richard: Are the boys allowed to be involved as well?

Sylvie: “It is a female centric group although it is open for everyone, but we have different roles for the different genders.”

“I am a feminist. I can do anything for myself. I can open doors for myself and carry heavy things. But part of the shape of this project is we can be girlie girls, we can be pretty and cute and have the boy pick up the big heavy thing for us!”

 “They don’t get a MOOPwand, but they can carry our mobileMOOPbucket!”

Richard: They sound like groupies!

Sylvie: “Yes, MOOP Groupies are called ‘MOOPies’ and they are critical to our success!” “They support us and they get excited about being part of the project! But having this interesting divide between the girls and the boys makes it more special to be part of the MOOPsquad because girls can wear the jacket and the boys can only get the hat!”

Richard: This is quite funny because I am also an artist known as ‘The Heart Chakra Painter’ because I paint onto people’s clothing. My heart work is about people, especially women being able to confront their inner fears. I find that at the moment many women are still living in fear because we are living in a patriarchal world and there are still a lot of women who are very suppressed within it.

Sylvie: “That is true! So you have noticed!!!!!”

Richard: Yes, and through my artwork I am supporting with this release of the suppression of women.

Sylvie: “That is wonderful! I am all about empowering both genders, but I happen to be a girl. And we have definitely had an imbalance here for thousands of years.”

Richard: So I feel that there is no coincidence that you are coming to the forefront now. I don’t know whether you know or not, but on 28th December 2011, there was a massive solar flash on Planet Venus, a massive energy wave. It is being said that this is bring more feminine energy to Planet Earth, bringing more balance into our lives on a vibrational frequency.

Sylvie: “That doesn’t surprise me at all! The Universe is here for us to learn about each other and ourselves. The symbolism of Venus, being that of the female as big, strong and powerful! And also very sweet!”

“And I’ve never tasted Venus! Maybe this is a new candy bar that hasn’t been created yet!!!!”

Richard: Exactly! That is the one that will make the difference!

Sylvie: “Yes! And it will have a bio-degradable wrapper!”

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