Just as a stream is made of many droplets, so all our actions count. Only together we can transform the health of our river. Here’s how you can befriend our river, and take small actions at home to help rivers everywhere.


It can often feel as though our individual actions are insignificant. Pointless in the face of the powerful systems that drive environmental destruction. However, Friends of the River Medway think that there is an alternative:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that one missing drop”     

                  Mother Teresa

Our individual actions are not devoid of significance. They are part of a collective movement, acting as ripples that can have far-reaching and profound effects. Although the systems that cause destruction do in and of themselves need to be transformed, individuals can still be powerful change makers.

Our Pledge System focuses on supporting individuals to take small, but meaningful actions, that can have a ripple effect, reaching out into the wider community and indeed society. It is designed to be a tool of empowerment, educating and equipping people to be the ripple of change.


Becoming a conscious consumer

  • I pledge to pick up litter that I see in/around the river and dispose of it responsibly and safely.

It is estimated that £1 million of charity funding is spent every year to deal with litter and fly-tipping. This money could be used to help prevent the issue, rather than alleviate the symptom. If citizens help to pick up litter, then we can take that pressure off of charities and ensure that that money is funnelled into something more productive. In fact, the Canal and Rivers Trust estimate that if every time that someone visits their local canal and river chose to pick up and dispose of just one piece of plastic, within one year there would be no plastic left.

  • I pledge to carry and use a reusable container for water for when I am out.
  • I pledge to carry and use a reusable container for hot drinks.
  • I pledge to buy loose fruit and vegetables, or subscribe to a vegetable box scheme that focuses on minimising plastic packaging.
  • I pledge to buy in bulk so as to reduce plastic packaging.
  • I pledge to take my own container with me when I go to buy meat or fish and if possible to my local fishmongers and/or butchers.
  • I pledge to invest in a reusable carrier bag and to keep it on me at all times.
  • I pledge to choose plastic-free tea bags.

Single use plastics often escape from bins, littering the natural environment and posing a threat to wildlife. 14 million items of plastic end up in and around our canals and rivers every year, with 500,000 items of plastic being carried to the ocean on an annual basis. Minimising our plastic consumption reduces the risk of contaminating natural habitats. Plastic increases oestrogen levels in water, which are already in excess because of human medications finding their way into water systems. This can contribute to ‘dual sex’ fish and thus needs to be avoided at all costs. Once in waterways and the oceans, plastics persist for an exceedingly long time, hundreds of years in some cases. As they start to break down, they form microscopic pieces known as micro-plastics, which are ingested by fish and other animals, eventually finding their way into the human food chain. As of yet, it is not clear how harmful this is for humans, but it is certainly very clear that it is incredibly harmful for fish, seabirds and aquatic mammals.

  • I pledge to buy non-toxic, eco-friendly beauty products.
  • I pledge to buy non-toxic, eco-friendly toiletries.
  • I pledge to buy non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products.

Even after passing through water treatment plants, chemical compounds from our health, beauty and cleaning products can still find their way into rivers, ponds and lakes. This can have a detrimental effect: ‘phosphates’ trigger algal growth, which saps oxygen away from the native flora and fauna. Animals and plants are starved of their natural supply of oxygen, meaning that — in the worst scenarios — they can die from asphyxiation. Many other compounds can be toxic to wildlife, or affect their growth and reproduction. It is therefore always best to choose natural alternatives. To clean ourselves or our homes, we don’t need to pollute the waterways that others call home.

  • I pledge to boycott fast fashion brands. This includes all high street brands, unless otherwise stated (e.g. American Apparel).
  • I pledge to buy from sustainable brands.
  • I pledge to buy second-hand clothes.
  • I pledge to buy clothes that do not contain plastic in them.

Fast fashion has spread across the globe like an infectious disease and with that, the fashion industry has become the second-largest generator of pollution on Earth, after the oil industry. Not only does it require vast amounts of water, with one cotton t-shirt requires enough drinking water to sustain one human for three years, but the manufacturing process also requires chemicals. Fast fashion relies on water for its sustenance, but then pollutes it in the process through releasing toxic substances such as lead, mercury and arsenic, rendering it harmful and undrinkable for both wildlife and communities. Rather than extracting more water, we believe it to be universally beneficial to make use of second-hand clothes, or to invest in sustainable brands. It is time to consider the true cost of manufacturing clothes — not in terms of money, but rather the impacts that it has on the waters that sustain us.

  • I pledge to support local and organic farmers through buying local, organic produce.
  • I pledge to create a dialogue with my local farmers and ask them to switch to more sustainable methods.
  • I pledge to inspire others to buy organic.

All farming practices run the risk of diffuse and point source pollution. Yet, intensive farming methods are considerably more likely to contribute to water pollution and have been one of the main sources of water pollution in the last  decades. Fertilisers and pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) enter water systems through rainwater runoff from fields where they have been applied and also filter into groundwater, contributing to the loss of biodiversity, algal blooms, the decline of pollinators (such as bees) and reduction in aquatic wildlife.

Although the term nutrients is often associated with good health, and nutrients in soil are important for plant growth, an excess of nutrients in soils as often happens when artificial fertilisers are applied in intensive agriculture pose a serious threat to rivers. When too much fertiliser is applied to land, chemicals such as nitrates and phosphates enter rivers. They cause excessive growth of algae which rapidly uses up the oxygen in the water, this then means fish and other river creatures cannot take up oxygen and can no longer breathe. The run-off from intensive agriculture can kill whole river ecosystems, and there are laws in place to limit and control the amount of run-off from farms. However these laws are often not well monitored or enforced, and as the polluted water from the rivers flows out into the sea, this can create huge areas called “dead zones” where all life has been killed off.

But not all agriculture does this, and there are many models of sustainable, organic and regenerative farming that seeks to reduce the farms’ impact on nature, and in some cases can even work to improve biodiversity and the health of local ecosystems. Food produced in such systems also contains fewer harmful pesticides, and in our view is better for our health too. Although the financial cost of organic food appears to be more than that of conventionally produced food, it is not necessarily the case, often the conventional intensive farms are costing far more in terms of costs of clearing up pollution, harm to water, livelihoods and harm to the planet.

So. if you are in a position to be able to spend a bit more on organic food, and supporting regenerative, sustainable farming, this is a wonderful opportunity to do something for the river and the planet more broadly.



  • I pledge to switch to eco-friendly, non-toxic detergents.
  • I pledge to put a full load in the washing machine and/or dishwasher, before running it.
  • I pledge to use a washing up bowl to wash dishes.
  • I pledge to reuse any ‘grey water’ from the washing up bowl to feed my plants and wash my car.
  • I pledge to use phosphate-free washing machine tablets.
  • I pledge to choose natural alternatives to bleach, caustic soda, disinfectants and anti-bacterials.
  • I pledge to put any waste oils, fats and grease into a container and then — once solidified — into the bin.

The kitchen, often the heart of the home, is a prime location to make significant changes. Not only is it a place where we can be more conscious of our water consumption, but it also provides the opportunity to improve water quality. Conventional cleaning products are laden with chemicals that make their way into waterways, passing through our sewage systems without proper filtering. These chemicals pose a direct threat to aquatic life, but such products also pose another issue: they often contain phosphates. Phosphorus is an essential component for plant life, but too much of it can result in the ‘eutrophication’ of rivers, whereby algae increases and reduces the available oxygen for other aquatic plants and animals. In the worst cases, this results in fish drowning and native plants dying. Choosing eco-friendly, non-toxic detergents and cleaning products reduces this issue meaning that
clean homes don’t result in a dirty river.
  • I pledge to switch to plastic-free toilet paper.
  • I pledge to only flush the three P’s down the toilet — pee, poo and paper.
  • I pledge to learn how to dispose of unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications properly, rather than using the toilet as a secondary bin.
  • I pledge to have fewer baths.
  • I pledge to collect my shower water in a bucket. This can save up to 5 litres of grey water (the same amount used to flush the toilet), which can then be used to nourish your indoor plants or water the garden.
  • I pledge to use grey water to flush the toilet.
  • I pledge to buy water-efficient appliances.
  • I pledge to fix leaky taps and toilets to ensure that I don’t accidentally waste water.
  • I pledge to live by the principle “If its yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down” with the knowledge that it takes 5 litres of water to flush anything down the toilet.
  • I pledge to switch to a compost toilet.

The bathroom offers a more intimate relationship with the sewage systems, ultimately through the technology that is our toilet. Yet the toilet is often used to flush other, non-biodegradable things, serving as something of a secondary toilet. 1.5 billion to 2 billion sanitary items are flushed down the toilet every year in the UK, whilst 93% of so-called ‘fatbergs’ are actually caused by wet wipes. £88 million is spent to clear blocked UK drains and sewer pipes on an annual basis and it is our water bills that are paying the price. Through educating ourselves about responsible toilet use, we could redirect that money and invest it into protecting the rivers that generously provide us with water. It is also a place where we can save even more water through flushing the toilet less (or not at all through a compost toilet) and collecting our shower water. The average person in the UK uses 42 litres of water* flushing the toilet per day - a third of our household water consumption - making it an important place to start when trying to improve our water footprint.

* It is important to note that the water we flush down the toilet comes from the same pipes that supplies our taps. In other words, it is the same standard as our drinking water. Some people have to walk ten hours to collect their water, therefore it is something to consider deeply.

  • I pledge to set up a compost bin so that I can dispose of my food waste properly.
  • I pledge to dispose of pet waste in a pet-waste processor or to safely compost.
  • I pledge to dispose of paints, solvents and chemicals at a civic amenity site.
  • I pledge to learn how to dispose of unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter medications properly.

If not disposed of properly, our waste can seep into waterways. Even when disposed of properly, harsh chemicals can still find their way into waterways through leaching out from landfills into the groundwater. It is therefore best to always opt for non-toxic products.

  • I pledge to find out about my septic tank, including where it discharges to.
  • I pledge to check that my septic tank’s soakaway isn’t waterlogged and that there are no pools of water running into ditches to watercourses.
  • I pledge to only use products marked as ‘suitable for septic tanks’ and ‘environmentally friendly’.
  • I pledge to only flush the three P’s down the toilet — pee, poo and paper.
  • I pledge to not over water my system.
  • I pledge to empty the sludge from my system on a regular basis.
  • I pledge to keep good records of my tank, including its issues and maintenance.

Most homes and businesses are connected to the public sewage system. Their wastewater flows via drains and sewers to wastewater treatment works, where it is purified and returned to the environment. However some properties - particularly in rural areas - rely on private systems to collect and treat their waste. If not working properly, septic tanks and private sewage treatment plants can release raw sewage into the environment, polluting the water in the ground rivers, streams and the coast. It is therefore essential to understand how to maintain private systems properly and to follow the best practice guidelines. This has even been put into law under the General Binding Rules, which were introduced in 2015.

  • I pledge to not use pet flea treatments with pesticides on my pets, unless absolutely necessary.
  • I pledge to use natural alternatives — such as Billy No Mates!®, AniForte®, Herbal Dog Co® and Biospotix® — as preventatives.
  • I pledge to avoid the following products on the basis that they contain harmful pesticides: Advantage®, Defense Care®, K9 Advantix®, Advantage II®, Advantage Multi®, Seresto®, Advocate®, Frontline®, Barricade®, Easyspot®, Effipro®, Sentry Fiproguard®, Parastar®, PetArmor®, Pronyl OTC®, Spectra Sure®, Fiproguard®, Flevox®, Fiprotec®, RidaFlea®
  • I pledge to raise awareness about the dangers of pet flea treatments with harmful pesticides and their impacts on the natural environment.
  • I pledge to write to my MP to encourage the banning of pet flea treatments with harmful pesticides in.

Even though it is largely unnecessary, we as pet owners are encouraged to treat our pets with pet flea and worm treatments on a monthly basis. Yet, this ‘preventative’ measure is having disastrous effects on the environment. Last year Sussex University published that certain pet treatments contain two pesticides — fipronil and imidacloprid — that are both prohibited in agricultural use. The increase in usage has had a devastating effect: researchers found that 98% of the freshwater samples tested contained fipronil and 66% contained imidacloprid. Both concentrations far exceeded safe limits. Studies showed that both pesticides are associated with the declines of aquatic invertebrate communities and that they are highly toxic to fish, insects and organisms. This routine use of such products are at the cost of both pet owners and the environment and can largely be prevented.



  • I pledge to not water my lawn.
  • I pledge to allow my lawn to turn into a meadow by letting the grass grow naturally.
  • I pledge to allow natural places for water to soak into the ground, such as swales and rain gardens.
  • I pledge to install a water butt to harness rainwater instead of using sprinklers.
  • I pledge to use rain water on my outdoor plants as much as possible.
  • I pledge to only water my plants in the very early morning, or in the evening.
  • I pledge to use natural alternatives to pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) or fertilisers on my garden.
  • I pledge to grow my own organic food.
  • I pledge to plant or allow natural buffers to grow at the edges of streams and wetlands.
  • I pledge to create a mini wetland i.e. pond.
  • I pledge to build an outdoor compost toilet.
  • I pledge to set up a Reed Bed Sewage Treatment System.

The garden is a space where we can not only prevent pollution, but also actively regenerate and improve the natural environment. We can conserve water through choosing to water our lawns less, or allow them to become nature-rich meadows; we can harness the abundant supply of rainwater, conserving water and enriching our plants with the nutrients retained in rainwater; we can avoid using chemicals on our plants, feeding them with compost and manure to enrich the soils naturally; and we can minimise our water and carbon footprint, learning to grow our own food sustainably and in a way that does not disrupt the natural environment. If we have the facilities to do so, we can even create our own sewage systems – using reed beds to filter out contaminants, or capturing our faeces in compost toilets, which (after two years) can be used as manure to enrich the soil.

  • I pledge to encourage my Council to use public land to grow edibles for the community.
  • I pledge to encourage my Council to plant or allow natural buffers to grow at the edges of streams and wetlands.
  • I pledge to encourage the Council to install Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems.
  • I pledge to campaign to ensure that no pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) or fertilisers are used on public land;
  • I pledge to write to my Council
  • I pledge to write to my MP
  • I pledge to write to the businesses and companies responsible for applying pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) or fertilisers on public land
  • I pledge to write to my Council

Public and community outdoor spaces are a great way to unite people over issues concerning the natural environment, for they offer direct contact and connection with nature. It is important that these spaces are protected, but also that the ecology is improved and enhanced.


Inspiring Common unity

  • I pledge to join as many community clean ups as I can.
  • I pledge to commit to regular community clean ups.
  • I pledge to set up and run community clean ups.
  • I pledge to dedicate a few hours a week to volunteer my skills and services for free.

Communal action is essential to our work: without the energy and enthusiasm of others, our impact would be highly limited. Through community litter picks, we can actively conserve the River and ensure that her banks are kept litter-free; through people donating their time and skills, we can make more of an impact without having to use our limited funding. It is an opportunity for us to find common unity and tap into our public spirit, which is - after all - the root of the word “community.”


Being the ripple of change

  • I pledge to sign and share petitions that are trying to ban pesticides.
  • I pledge to educate and encourage others to support their local, organic farmers.
  • I pledge to create a dialogue with my local farmers and ask them to switch to more sustainable methods.

All farming practices run the risk of diffuse and point source pollution. Yet, intensive farming methods are considerably more likely to contribute to water pollution and have been one of the leading sources of pollution in theist few decades. Fertilisers and pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) enter water systems through rainwater runoff and filter into groundwater, contributing to the loss of biodiversity, algal blooms, the decline of pollinators (such as bees) and reduction in aquatic wildlife. Though ‘nutrients’ is associated with positive health, in this case it can cause high concentrations of toxins and remove the oxygen in water necessary for other animals and plants to survive. Animal manure and slurry stores can be equally destructive, affecting drinking water processes and the aquatic ecology of the river.
Through buying organic, we are investing in farming systems that: enhance soils, rather than deplete them; prioritise animal welfare, instead of treating them as insentient beings;  and serve as a wildlife haven. Organic farms encourage healthy ecosystems, improving and regenerating the earth, rather than harming it. Yet, organic farming is not only better for the natural environment, it also produces food that is richer in minerals and nutrients!

  • I pledge to raise awareness about the ‘Rights for Rivers’ movement through sharing about it on my social media.
  • I pledge to email my MP and ask them to commit to working towards ‘Rights for Rivers’.

In our current legal system, inanimate entities - such as organisations and businesses - have legal rights and standing. This means that they are protected by the law. Yet rivers, living ecosystems that are packed with life, do not. If someone owns a stretch of a river and it is damaged, they may be able to claim compensation; however the river does not have rights in and of itself. The Rights of Rivers campaign strives to change that: it wishes to shift the perspective, so that rivers become a ‘subject of rights’. This means that rivers can be protected and defended.

  • I pledge to email my local water company and express my concerns about CSOs (Combined Sewer Overflows).
  • I pledge to email my local water company and ask them to do more to protect rivers from pollution.

Water companies not only provide us with drinking water, but they are also responsible for the public sewer system. They treat the wastewater from our homes and – once treated – return it to the natural environment through waterways. In ‘extreme weather conditions’, they are sometimes allowed to bypass the treating process and release raw sewage into rivers via Combined Sewer Overflows. This means that our faeces, chemicals and rubbish enter waterways without any filtration, polluting the environment and posing a threat to aquatic life. This occurred 200,000 in 2019 in England alone. The sewer system, a system that was built in the Victorian era, is outdated and cannot meet the demands of the modern population. It is time to exert pressure on water companies to improve the infrastructure of the public sewer system and step into the role of environmental stewards.

Take Action

River Explorers
The River Explorers project was created with the intention of empowering schoolchildren to learn about and care for the River Medway.


Here's how to get involved.

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