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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Mohapatra

Riverkeeper Sweep- May 10, 2014

About the Riverkeeper Sweep: The Riverkeeper Sweep is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series event that engages local communities nationwide in water-based activities and clean water action, and this May 10th was the signature event for New York City and the Hudson Valley.

This is what Paul Galley, President of Riverkeeper mentioned in a thank you email last week:

  • On Saturday May 10th, 1,900 volunteers like you joined together to remove more than 31 tons of trash and recycling from the shores of the Hudson estuary and watershed.

  • We were particularly happy to see that, in many locations where we’ve worked before, volunteers found less trash.  Why? People are less likely to litter where there’s no litter in sight.

  • You are making a difference.  People like you, who will roll up your sleeves and get dirty make us strong. On behalf of all of us at Riverkeeper—and, if I maybe so bold, on behalf of the river—thank you.

Each of the above sentence has significance worth elaborating on.

First, it’s good to see and know that more and more citizens are becoming aware of both the environmental problems facing us as a society as well as recognizing the role we play as educated citizens in being part of the solution. Non Profits such as Riverkeepers play an important role by making us all aware of important water issues such as how hydro-fracking affects our water supply, marine ecological destruction from nuclear waste etc. Just within 3 years of this annual event, they have gotten close to 2000 people to participate in ‘rolling up their sleeves’ and picking trash is a wonderful testament to their leadership in this area.

I was co-leading the Harlem River cleanup on 139th street through 155th street (see the event pictures below) with a fellow volunteer from Harlem Community Development Corporation.It was great to see a group of 50 or so young kids join us representing  OREY (Organization Reaching for the Empowerment of Youth). As part of our cleanup, we picked up A LOT of plastic bottles (in addition to a lot of styrofoam!). Since aluminum cans have an associated recycling price attached to them, there were hardly any cans out there. Maybe there’s an economic lesson to be learnt here!

The second point Paul mentions above is something I was pondering while picking up the trash. I do agree there is less trash because people will more easily trash a place that looks trashy but I also feel once people know how much work goes into cleaning up a place, they will think twice before dirtying it. That’s why I felt more local citizens are necessary at the grounds level to see the impact of their work and continue being ambassadors for the same. 

Lastly, it is very true that wanting to help the environment, studying about it, writing about it is all good but in the end there is a place and need for wearing those sneakers, t-shirt and jeans and showing up with a shovel and pair of gloves and actually picking up trash. It was hard work, it was in the hot sun, it involved picking dangerous items, seeing a dead cat, bending down and getting uncomfortable.. but in the end, me and my fellow city dwellers made the mess so it’s up to us to clean it up.

If the above piece resonates with you, please consider joining wonderful organizations such as riverkeepers, harlem cdc, and orey who work at the grassroots level. Feel the sense of achievement one gets with doing their bit for our rivers, our city, and most importantly ourselves.

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