Stream clean up can feel incredibly rewarding to a community. There's something exhilarating about seeing the mountain of trash that you're likely to pull out of the creek itself and also from its banks, at least the first time you do the clean up.
The beauty of these projects is that if they are done on an annual or semi-annual basis, there will be a tendency for less and less trash to be collected.
Partly that's because with the first event, you may be tackling years of accumulation. But the first clean-up day also creates an important psychological effect.
People begin to get the idea that someone cares about that river or stream, and it makes them think twice about just dumping their potato chip wrapper in the creek the next time they're walking by.
The benefits of clean water aren't just some kind of environmentalist tree hugger bliss. Because clean water is the law of the land in the U.S., and has been since 1972, your community is obligated to do some degree of cleaning streams of any size before sending them on downstream.
If there's a bottle of insecticide, for instance, that's thrown in the storm sewer inlet and winds up in your creek, there's some serious pollution that your community may have to pay to clean up before the stream can empty into a larger body of water.
The specifics vary from situation to situation, but you can bet that someone somewhere is paying for neutralizing the effects of the most environmentally offensive trash.
Besides, a clean stream is just plain nice to look at. Below, we give you a form so you can give an overview of your stream clean up and how you made it a success, or what you learned that would make you do it differently next time.
1. Prepare people for the day. Explain to your volunteers that they will need boots or hip waders if they will, and be frank about the dangers. Amazing as it may seem, a few people may appear in flip-flops if you do not explain proper footwear and dress. Ask people to bring their own work gloves and have a few extras on hand.
2. Have water, appropriate refreshments, sunscreen, and a first aid kit; know where there are restrooms.
3. If you know the area to be a haven for poison ivy or some other poisonous plant, be sure to point it out to participants.
4. Remember to photo document your effort. If there is large rubbish in the stream, grab the camera, and certainly at the end of the day show the quantity. Post it on Facebook and Twitter.
5. Mind your manners and make sure everyone is thanked; notice who's fading away and acknowledge their effort.
Can you tell us about a stream or river clean up event or campaign? Tell us where it is, why it's successful or where it struggles, and what you think would be the take-away advice that this example contributes.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors and editors.
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