Posts Tagged ‘Trash Free Potomac’

Pursuing The Usual Suspects: A Cleanup Story

April 5th, 2017
by Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer Coordinator

 

Those who have participated in a cleanup understand that while the items found span the whole spectrum, they’re usually all made from a few consistent materials. From straws to plastic bags, random toys to little bits of Styrofoam and food wrappers, the majority of products are plastic and single use items. Cleanups offer experiential learning opportunities that can raise awareness and change behavior.

“This has been an eye opening experience…” said Khara Norris, a cleanup volunteer. “We are finding a lot of Styrofoam. I am never buying Styrofoam again.” 

One volunteer who knows all too well these cleanup materials has been participating in the Potomac Cleanup for more than a decade:

While hiking and enjoying the Potomac shoreline, experienced cleanup volunteer Lyle has closely observed, documented, and photographed the seemingly never-ending and wide variety of trash that washes ashore. He has dubbed several categories of trash as “the Usual Suspects,” as they are found on every outing. These include tennis balls (Lyle has picked up several thousand), disposal lighters, flip flops and shoes of every type, pens, plastic lids, straws, and emergency road flares.

Lyle and Dave at Chapman Forest

 

When he led last year’s cleanup event, it was a volunteer trifecta! Eric Celarier, a local artist, joined the efforts in search for trash for their latest piece. Lyle led Eric to the trash hot spots and even donated his distinguished collection to the project. David Howe, another volunteer, and his crew from the Institute of Maritime History, provided 3 boats to help haul trash from the shoreline to the collection site (a huge help!). The boats also provided transit to additional access points. One of the biggest finds was an eight-foot-long picnic table that washed ashore and has since been refinished and reused.

On April 8, and throughout the rest of the month, volunteers will once again unite for the 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Last year, nearly 10,000 volunteers came out and removed more than 300,000 pounds of trash from the watershed. What will they find this year?

Visit PotomacCleanup.org to find a cleanup site near you, or to host your own.

 

The Maryland Push to Ban Styrofoam

February 2nd, 2017
by Laura Cattell Noll, Assistant Program Manager

In the last decade, communities throughout the Potomac River Watershed have taken substantive action to prevent litter, clean up communities and protect the water we drink.  Local jurisdictions in the Washington DC region have been national leaders in disposable bag laws, polystyrene foam bans and innovative social marketing campaigns.

The Maryland General Assembly is looking at the successes of these local jurisdictions and considering a state-wide ban on polystyrene. Commonly known as Styrofoam, polystyrene use poses risks to human health and threatens our drinking water.

Volunteer in yellow jacket carries beach-ball sized chunk of styrofoam away from the river.

A volunteer carries a large block of Styrofoam found on the shore of the Potomac River during a cleanup.

When hot food or beverages are placed in polystyrene food containers, they can leach toxic chemicals directly into our food. Scientists have found that most Americans have residues of these chemicals in their bodies. Because it is lightweight and floats, discarded polystyrene containers are often carried by runoff to storm drains and eventually  end up in local waterways. Over time, the polystyrene breaks into small pieces, but never decomposes. These small pieces absorb chemicals from the water and are readily ingested by fish.

For the last 29 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has organized the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup in collaboration with hundreds of partners throughout the region. Since its inception, more that 150,000 volunteers have removed more than 7 million pounds of trash. Our volunteers have consistently found that polystyrene food containers represent a significant portion of the trash in our communities and waterways.

Together we can make polystyrene a thing of the past! What will you do to help?

  • Call your legislator and tell them you support Senate Bill 186 and House Bill 229.
  • Pledge to go foam free by bringing your own reusable coffee mug.
  • Sign-up to volunteer for clean land, safe water and healthy communities.

 

 

2016 in Review: What’s going on in the Trash World?

January 24th, 2017
by Julia Saintz, Community Outreach Coordinator

 

At the beginning of a new year, we pause to reflect on recent successes of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative.  This past year was filled with proud moments for environmental educators, litter fanatics, and volunteers in action.

Keeping the conversation going

A little over a decade ago, we launched a multi-jurisdictional, region-wide conversation about the issue of trash with the first ever Trash Summit. As a result, more than 100 officials signed a treaty pledging their commitment to the issue.  Spring 2016 saw the 10th annual trash summit, Transforming Communities, which convened nearly 200 community members and representatives to talk about the issue of trash in the region’s waterways and what can be done about it. In the fall, just a little over a decade after the first Trash Treaty was signed, officials from the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County came together to renew their commitment with the Anacostia River Accord. 

Officials at table shake hands after signing the Anacostia Accord.

 

Inspired by our volunteers

Each April, we celebrate Earth Month with an enormous region-wide cleanup effort. In 2016, our team helped organize more than 9,400 volunteers for the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup who removed more than 330,000 pounds of trash at 265 sites! Volunteers from across four states and the District of Columbia came out to clean up their neighborhoods, roads, parks, and waterways. Even after three decades of organizing this event, the passion and community commitment to our environment and waterways continues to inspire.

Group of kids in bright yellow vests roll a discarded tire out of the woods and towards a road.

 

Youth and leadership

This summer, we also launched the Watershed Leadership Program, which teaches young people about the watershed, the importance of proper waste management and how to lead a successful watershed cleanup. The program engaged youth from the Student Conservation Association and the Green Zone Environmental Program of the Department of Energy and the Environment in the District of Columbia. This program joins initiatives like Trash Free Schools and Trash Free Classrooms in working to engage the next generation and give them the tools to make a green difference in their community.

Three children sit on playground fence holding bright yellow trash bags.

 

Keep an eye out for more in 2017:

  • In 2016, we continued to refine our litter prevention campaign with brand new social marketing research to help us better reach millennials and Spanish-speakers. What did we find? Messaging focused on healthy communities and drinking water was most effective with those groups. Based on these results, our campaign has been updated and will be unveiled soon!
  • The Alice Ferguson Foundation is excited to partner with Rock Creek Conservancy for a three-year project to create a D.C. Adopt a Stream Program.
  • If you live in DC, you’ll be seeing more of us. This year, our Litter Prevention team will be working in all 8 wards of DC!
  • Keep an eye out for our 11th Annual Trash Summit, coming this autumn.
  • As of January 1, 2017, the District of Columbia joins Prince George’s County in implementing a Foam Ban, requiring food service packaging to be made from recyclable or compostable materials only. This is great news; Styrofoam is one of the most toxic and least degradable plastics out there. Be ready to support upcoming legislation on Foam Bans in other jurisdictions! 

 

Ready to dive into 2017 with us? Sign up for our mailing list to stay on top upcoming events, cleanups, and happenings.

 

 

Evidence of Changing Behaviors with the Litter Campaign

April 9th, 2014

By Clara Elias, Program Manager, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Litter is in our communities, parks, and waterways in large part because someone chooses to drop their trash on the ground instead of finding a trash can. Yes, some litter is there because people accidentally drop things, or because people forget to make sure the lids of their trash and recycling bins are covered, but by-in-large litter is a problem because of personal choices in how we dispose of trash. So it is not surprising that when people sit down to think about solutions for cleaning up our communities and waterways the discussion ultimately ends up talking about public education. But how effective is public education and how do we measure its impact?

Last year the Trash Initiative set out to answer this question by piloting a new method of measuring behavior change, by measuring the effectiveness of our Regional Litter Prevention Campaign. We launched the Litter Campaign in 2011 after several years of research and development, which included an in-depth study to understand how people feel about litter and what motivates them to do it (read the study here).  It has been used both by governments and by communities to educate and inspire people to change behavior and its reach is ever growing. In the last year we had many community groups, businesses, governments, and citizens join our efforts to spread our message.

Litter_Campaign_PilotEvaluation_4-1-14-1We are pretty confident that the Litter Campaign works, but we wanted more proof beyond anecdotal evidence, so we decided to directly observe pedestrians at four sites in Prince George’s County over the course of a year. During our study, we made notes on the behavior of nearly 5,000 pedestrians while we watched discretely from a parked car. The information we gathered showed a 45% reduction in the number of people littering in places where the Litter Campaign was used. What’s even more interesting is that 75% more people were putting their trash in trash cans! While these preliminary results need to be flushed out more fully, it certainly suggests a positive change in those communities away from littering and towards responsible waste disposal.

We will continue to collect information about the Litter Campaign to see if the trends hold true in other places and from year to year. You can read more about our study here [link to my summary] and if you are interested in using our Litter Campaign Materials, they are free to use and available online at TrashFreePotomac.org. While we will continue to spread the Litter Campaign throughout the region, we could also use your help. Please consider using our tools in your community and leave a note in the comments below about what kinds of outreach tools would be most useful for you.

Don’t Litter Feed the Can, Man!

October 1st, 2013

By Everette Bradford, Community Outreach Liaison

This Summer, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) had the opportunity to work with approximately 275 youth, ages 6-12, at five Summer Playground Camps through Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission. Each camper completed two sessions, a cleanup of their summer playground, and learned about the litter issues both in their neighborhoods and the Potomac River Watershed. The campers learned about some of the successes and also some of the challenges in working to create a behavior change when they were given a visual tour of the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign and shown some of the work implemented in the Trash Free Communities and Trash Free Schools projects.

Over the course of two weeks, campers were able to identify trash hotspots and determine how long it would take certain pieces of litter to either decompose or biodegrade through use of AFF’s “Trash Timeline” lesson and activity. Both campers and staff showed great fascination especially in learning that a plastic bottle could take nearly 450 years to decompose in the natural environment. Participants were also tasked and given insight on how to reduce litter through the items they pack for their lunches. Outside of learning how to pack a “Trash Free Lunch”, campers were given insight on buying in bulk, which will reduce packaging along with saving their parents money.

LitterPosterAlthough some of the campers admitted that they themselves were litterers and also knew litterers, they pledged to change their ways and even spread what they learned to friends and family. Participants were deemed honorary members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and tasked to create ways in which they could positively impact the litter issues in their homes, schools, and communities.

If you would like to take control, take care of the trash in your community and be an honorary member or the Alice Ferguson Foundation, try the following: