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Contribute to a Litter Free Chicago River System

North Branch Works
March 31, 2023

Friends of the Chicago River is committed to caring for and improving the Chicago-Calumet River system for people, plants, and animals.

The river system is healthier than it’s been in 150 years, but litter remains a persistent problem detrimental to water quality, decreases the safety of critical habitat and diminishes the beauty of our region.

That’s why Friends is dedicated to creating a Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River system. We know it’s not easy and takes collaboration and coordination, but we are known for successfully tackling big challenges in the past, from improving wastewater treatment to removing dams.

Experience has proven we can do anything if we all do our part, encourage and support each other and harness the power of collective action. Here are some ways that we can take action and move towards a litter free river system:

  • Volunteer for Chicago River Day, our annual watershed-wide stewardship day. Register before May 5to receive a Chicago River Day t-shirt with this year’s featured creature, the blue spotted salamander. To make is easy to encourage your employees, partners and customers to volunteer, there is even a Marketing Toolkit with resources to promote the event through your newsletter, social media or community boards.
  • Consider becoming a sponsor of Chicago River Day to provide essential support to ensure this beloved annual event continues to be free, accessible and watershed-wide.
  • Host an independent cleanup on your property. Friends’ litter free efforts focus on public lands, and we need your help to keep another essential piece of the puzzle litter free - private land. After all, litter on the land is just one rain or wind storm away from being litter in the river where it is much more difficult to remove. The Litter Free Toolkit is a great resource for learning how to organize a cleanup. Friends also works with partner to offer Litter Free Supply Stations where you can borrow cleanup supplies like litter grabbers and buckets to make your cleanup easier and more accessible.
  • Attend virtual Litter Free Community Presentation April 24 at noon to learn more about the damage litter causes people and wildlife, how to host an independent cleanup, and to offer your thoughts on how you can contribute toward our goal of a Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River system.
  • Take the Litter Free Survey to pledge your dedication to cleaning up your site, share information on what you found and ideas for how to create Litter Free community. We encourage you to also put your site on the Litter Free Map where we and our partners will be posting our cleanup sites so we can start to really see our collective impact (we’re also happy to add it for you, just reach out!)
  • Plan a River Action Day cleanup to provide an opportunity for your team to work together, get out in nature and get to know the river. Information on the process, locations and pricing for River Action Days is available here. Our capacity for these events in spring is limited because we are focusing our efforts on Chicago River Day, but we are happy to talk about setting something up for summer or fall.

When volunteers started Chicago River Day in 1992 the river was a badly neglected dumping ground for everything from cars to household waste.

In the last 30 years we have come a long way in understanding that we are all connected and there is no “away” for trash thrown in the river.

Now we are dealing with the new issue of single use plastics which create mountains of waste and end up broken down into smaller and smaller pieces until they end up in fish, birds, and each one of us, creating a host of health problems.

The will to solve this problem is evident, we see it in the thousands of dedicated volunteers who make a difference on Chicago River Day and throughout the year.

We invite you to join us by doing what you can to contribute towards caring for the rivers that built our city and remain valuable natural resources for the health and well-being of our community.

When we all take care of our little piece of this beautiful planet, we are ensuring the health and wellbeing of current and future generations not just in our community, but to all those downstream.

Join us as we think globally and act locally working side by side with partners from all parts of our community from businesses, to places of worship, to pubic land managers to bring a Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River system to life.

This is a guest post by Annette Anderson,  Volunteer, Events, and Canoe Program Manager, Friends of the Chicago River.

Image credits: Friends of the Chicago River

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