July 26, 2018

A Clean Shoreline, A Healthier You

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the phrases like “plastic pollution”, “micro-plastics” and “marine debris”. And by now, almost everyone and their mother is aware that there is “an island made of garbage” floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This type of talk seems to be everywhere in the media these days. 

But, the question is, do you know why? Or more importantly, why you should care?

“I don’t live by the ocean” you think, “marine debris doesn’t affect me”. 

Well my friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future

Whether you live on the coast or thousands of miles inland, trash in our lakes, rivers and oceans DOES affect you. These bodies of water all play an important role in our daily lives, from providing us with the oxygen we breathe to the food we eat, regulating our climate and providing us with hours of relaxation and enjoyment. Protecting these natural resources is essential to our wellbeing.

For example - the above photo was take along Lake Ontario last summer during a shoreline cleanup. Keeping in mind that last summer Toronto experienced record spring rainfall and as a result, record Lake Ontario water levels. Looks beautiful, right? Like a beach and a lake should, right? 

Well, if you look closer, you’ll see the photo below. 

One of those things is not like the other.

Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future
Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future
Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future

That’s plastic. Tiny pieces of plastic. Plastic that once was large, but over time has broken down (or photo-degraded) into smaller and smaller pieces with no where to go except our lakes, our rivers, our oceans and our beaches. 

That big fancy word “photo-degrade” doesn’t mean bio-degrade like a compostable product may, completely disappearing after a period of time. It means that over time, the rays of the sun break the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces. It never completely disappears. 

So, while folks are so concerned about this “patch the size of Texas” floating in the Pacific Ocean, they don’t realize that the problem is also occurring without our own backyards. In the Great Lakes. Our drinking water.


Lake Ontario Shoreline Cleanup with A Greener Future

But, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are ways to help. While completely eliminating single-use plastics from your lifestyle would be the ultimate goal, it is a big ask. Plastic is EVERYWHERE! By making small changes, such as refusing the straw, using a reusable water bottle and coffee mug and even participating in a local shoreline cleanup, those small changes become cumulative and CAN make change.

Each year the environmental non-profit A Greener Future embarks on a cleanup adventure along the shores of Lake Ontario. Starting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, they work east towards Kingston, ON completing 100 litter cleanups along the way. 

So far this year, they’ve picked up over 13,000 pieces of trash on Toronto’s shorelines, with about half of the cleanups still coming. Most of that amount has been made up of completely unnecessary single-use items such as straws, food wrappers, cutlery, cups, etc., while the remainder is coming from uncertain sources such as sewage bypasses, storm debris and even shipping cargo on the lakes. And then there’s the more bizarre items, such as toilet seats (yes, as in multiple) that just can’t be explained. 

The point is, there’s way too much trash in our lakes. The beauty of our natural landscapes and the health of all species on Earth are being threatened by the waste we're leaving behind. But you CAN do something about it. The time to act is now. 

Interesting in joining? Check out A Greener Future’s website to find a cleanup near you.

Have you ever participated in a shoreline cleanup? How are you a good steward for the environment? And, why do you care? I’d love to hear!

Note: This post was sponsored by A Greener Future. All thoughts and opinions are 100% that of To & Fro. 
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