Headquartered in East Moline, Illinois, Living Lands & Waters is a 501 (c)(3) environmental organization that was established by Chad Pregracke in 1998. Since the organization was founded, Living Lands & Waters has grown to be the only “industrial strength” river cleanup organization like it in the world. Spending up to nine months a year living and traveling on the barge, the Living Lands & Waters crew hosts river cleanups, watershed conservation initiatives, education workshops, tree plantings and other key conservation efforts. With the help of over 100,000 volunteers, our crew has removed over 10 million pounds of trash from the Mississippi River basin. Through our educational programs, students learn about water health and collect critically important data on the quality of local waterways, which they share with the world through the EarthEcho Water Challenge database.  

Waterways, big and small, are important to keep healthy because water is what connects all living beings, literally and figuratively! Waterways are the bloodline of our planet, providing us with the ability to live and thrive, and have inspired many elegant technologies, language, poetry and music since the beginning of time. Man-made garbage has no place in the natural environment, and is choking our streams, lake, rivers and oceans. But, what can YOU do about it? Here are some tips for starting your own watershed cleanup initiative in your area:

• Do you know of an area of waterway that needs some love? The best thing you can do is simply start cleaning it up. Gather friends and family and bring gloves and bags, and a way to transport and secure the litter to the proper receptacles.

• Need help gathering gloves and bags? Ask your family, friends, and local businesses to see if they will donate supplies to your cause. Living Lands & Waters two Programs-Adopt a River Mile and the Great Mississippi River Cleanup-provide supplies for cleanup initiatives to people in need. You can reach out to Meghan at meghan@livinglandsandwaters.org for more information or visit our website at www.livinglandsandwaters.org.

• Education is key to keeping the garbage out of waterways. By researching the damages that litter (especially plastics) is causing to our wildlife and water, you can share that information with any and all about your cleanup initiative!

• Reducing our use of plastics (including foam products, water bottles, and single-use cutlery) is key to keeping our waterways clean. Consider reducing your use of plastics (and trash overall) in your daily lives, and reach out to local businesses who need to do better as well.

• Write to your local lawmakers regarding the need for legislation to reduce single use plastics. Several cities and states are enforcing plastic bag, foam, and other single-use plastic bans to help reduce the amount that is making it to our waterways, and it’s working!

Meghan Elgan is the Educational Coordinator for Living Lands & Waters. We are proud to partner with Living Lands & Waters to support their efforts to empower young water stewards through experiential learning and service programs.