Due to accumulating plastic and waste, protecting our waterways is more important than ever. Litter has a tendency to accumulate in the environment, contaminating soil, water, and wildlife habitats. These human-made problems require human-made solutions. It is inspiring to see cities taking initiative by partaking in river clean ups. Volunteers gather together to remove litter from riverbanks and surrounding environments. Calgary, in western Canada is an example of a city that is committed to improving the quality of its riverbanks. The Pathway and River Clean-up is an annual event hosted in the springtime. Volunteers are encouraged to register to join a designated leader and area in order to maximize the efficiency of the clean up. This event occurred for the first time in 1967 when Sandra Crawford, a twelve-year-old girl, noticed a mattress lying on the edge of the Elbow River. After failed attempts at removing the misplaced mattress, she contacted the local newspaper, the Calgary Harold, about the issue. This inspired the first Pathway and River Clean-up which has continued annually for over 50 years.
On a more global scale, the Ocean Conservancy hosts Coastal Clean-up Days in communities around the world. This is the world’s largest annual event where volunteers gather to clean up local beaches, rivers, creeks and parks. This event attracts participants in over 100 countries to local clean-up events. The Coastal Clean-up day is hosted during September each year, so keep an eye out for event information updates at https://oceanconservancy.org/. However, all year long you can document your shoreline clean-up efforts. Check out the CleanSwell mobile app, created by Ocean Conservancy, that allows you to track each item of trash you collect at your local beaches and waterways. This app tracks the weight of the trash you’ve collected, total distance cleared, and uploads your data to a global database in order to identify littering trends.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to rely on designated clean-up days to improve your environment! Grab some friends and family and plan your own clean up. Supplies like reusable garden gloves, garbage bags, recycling bags, sunscreen, snacks, and water may come in handy. Also always remember to be safe around water, especially when the water is fast-moving and cold; keep children away from dangerous shorelines and have people work in pairs. Make sure to stay off of steep embankments and call in the local authorities for assistance with trash in these areas. Don’t forget to separate materials into recycling, compost, landfill, and hazardous materials in order to maximize the positive effects of your clean up!
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