If there is one takeaway from the 2021 National River Cleanup photo contest winners, it’s that you have to see it to believe it!
Winner of Most Interesting Cleanup Find
Kevin Tossie snapped a photo of volunteer Alyssa Thomas holding a unique piece of litter, dentures. In celebration of Missouri River Relief’s 20th anniversary, eager volunteers set out on the Big Muddy Sweep. This multi-day camping trip immersed participants in river conservation, cleaning areas of the Missouri River camouflaged to the public eye. Their finds were anything but normal; refrigerators became a common sighting, and one bend was said to have hundreds of straws.
Although these are fascinating discoveries, Tossie states the most meaningful part for him was the change in people’s realizations and attitudes towards water pollution. “They know litter is a problem, but it is not until they’re out there physically removing the trash that their attitudes begin to change.”
Winner of Favorite Cleanup Photo
Adventuring out to create change is something Boardman River Clean Sweep’s Norman Fred is also familiar with. Fred’s winning image pays tribute to their slogan, “Paddling with a Purpose,” by capturing volunteer Harold Lasser paddling a kayak with an old street sign. Setting out to organize effective cleanups, Fred and his paddling club established Boardman River Clean Sweep as a way for the community to help the environment in a safe and fun way.
“There’s so much satisfaction in getting so much joy seeing people do what they love to do and do something that they would most likely not be doing if it weren’t for me.” He notes that the “instant gratification after a cleanup,” wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated volunteers that help make Boardman River Clean Sweep, what it is today.
Winner of Favorite Post Cleanup Photo
Let’s Stay In Touch
Uniquely, Newtown Creek Alliance takes a much more educational approach to attract volunteers. Lor Malotra-Gaudet states that the Newton Creek Alliance is set out on a mission to restore, reveal, and revitalize, and cleanups help fulfill this. Restoring by removing and planting, revealing local creeks to communities, and revitalizing sites by transforming them into public green spaces. The cleanups are led by Brenda, a horticulturalist passionate about teaching others the importance plants play in the water cycle. This newfound understanding creates excitement amongst volunteers such as those depicted in the Dutch Kills Cleanup photo.
“I have noticed that I see hope in people’s faces when they see that they can make a difference; that their actions can translate into larger systems change.” Malotra-Gaudet states when speaking to American Rivers on the impact Newton Creek Alliance has had on her. “There is no typical cleanup, each site has its own specific charms.” If you would like to register or volunteer for an event, please visit American Rivers website under National River Cleanup.