How Litter in a Landlocked City Ends Up in the Ocean

This woman is on a mission to make it easier for you to recycle before that happens.

Inland Empire Waterkeepers clean up Mill Creek.

Southern California is famous for its beaches, but not many people know it’s home to one of the most unique river ecosystems in the world, the 110-mile Santa Ana River, which is fed by many smaller tributaries. It’s such a special environment that famed biologist E.O. Wilson named it one of the world’s 10 biological hotspots, according to Megan Brousseau, director of the nonprofit organization Inland Empire Waterkeeper. The Riverside, California, group has worked hard to restore these waters and to protect them from pollution.


“People don’t know this river is a riparian forest, with great white egrets and blue heron, and home to an endangered species that lives nowhere else in the world, the Santa Ana suckerfish,” she says. “We are absolutely responsible for this species continuing or disappearing, right here in little old California.”

Megan Brousseau
Director, Inland Empire Waterkeeper

Brousseau spends a lot of time educating people about their personal part in pollution, and motivates them to recycle and reuse by getting them down to the river, where they can see the effects with their own eyes. By bringing their attention to the intersection between the natural world and their own consumption, she’s better able to encourage recycling and proper disposal.

Because consumers are able to “vote with your dollars,” as Brousseau points out, they are able to hold manufacturers and corporations responsible for pollution. Emphasizing that the natural world is our home and needs our help, she reminds us that we should insist on buying products with post-consumer recycled content, and to avoid things that can’t be recycled at all.

“Overall, what we’re working on is creating ownership and pride,” Brousseau says. “If there is no ownership, then there will be no stewardship. What we really want to do is give this river back to the people. We are cleaning it not only to make it safe and to recreate, but by getting [people] down there, they start to feel like it’s theirs.”

Thanks to her organization’s cleanup efforts, the portion of the river that runs through Riverside—creeks and streams once too full of trash and toxins for anyone to swim or play in them—are now host to kids’ educational summer camps and recreational play that teaches personal responsibility.

People have trouble understanding how “a little landlocked city 50 miles from the ocean can be contributing to trash in the ocean,” she says. Yet when they bring kids down to the river beach to pick up trash, the idea becomes very clear. “I say to the kids, ‘How many apple cores do you see? How many pieces of steak? None. The point is: Whole foods don’t contribute to litter.”

The obvious answer to getting trash out of the water, she says, “is to keep [trash] where it is supposed to be. Make sure it makes it to the actual receptacle or recyclable facility by not getting it into the street.”

Brousseau feels that stewardship, which includes teaching the importance of recycling, should be a part of the curriculum at every grade level. “We would never give somebody a car and not teach them how to pump gas, steer, or change a flat tire. Even in the most remedial job, you give them the tools to do it right. We release our kids with no tools on how to care for this earth. The river is an outdoor education space that is free to 10 schools within walking distance that are Title 1 impoverished,” says Brousseau.

With grant funding, Inland Empire Waterkeeper has been able to sponsor a summer river camp for kids. Under the guise of fun experiments like inspecting the water under microscopes, collecting aquatic insects, and testing water quality, the camp teaches them good habits for life, like recycling and reusing. “All of my life I was told: ‘Don’t drop that chip bag, it will end up in the ocean,’” says Brousseau. But today’s kids are not as aware of the connection between trash and our waterways. “Many kids think I’m full of it, until I take them down for these cleanups and show them the huge pipe dumping right into the river and the Mylar Capri Sun packaging floating by.”

Thanks to grants and a partnership with Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, parts of the Santa Ana River are on their way back to recreational health. At a joint last cleanup at Mill Creek, volunteers pulled more than 4,500 pounds of trash from the urban stream, including such egregiously dumped items as shopping carts, tires, and carpet rolls. The group has since initiated a program that redirects thousands of pounds of housing and landscape development materials by setting up drop-offs for hazardous trash and big, bulky items.

Brousseau understands that when it’s easy for people to recycle and dispose of waste, they’re more likely to do so in the proper ways.

Still, she stresses the importance of the individual’s power to effect change. “Instead of complaining about what isn’t working, we need to take control and write the laws that reflect the way we want to live. And all the companies that want to do business are going to do it within those boundaries. It’s not fast, but it’s simple.”

“I’m not saying to let corporations off the hook, but responsibility lies with us. We make, craft, and pass the laws and need to put the effort into where we want to see the change being made.”

Articles

We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News


Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape www.youtube.com

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Facebook: kktv11news

A post on the Murdered by Words subreddit is going viral for the perfect way a poster shut down a knee-jerk "double-standard!" claim.

It began when a Redditor posted a 2015 Buzzfeed article story about a single dad who took cosmetology lessons to learn how to do his daughter's hair.

Most people would see the story as something positive. A dad goes out of his way to learn a skill that makes his daughter look fabulous.

Keep Reading Show less
Lifestyle