- 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.