Green Tips: Celebrating River Day

Green Tips | September 13, 2019

World Rivers Day is coming up on September 22nd! To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of ways you can enjoy and protect your favorite river. 

Getting there. Automobile exhaust accounts for 36 % of all greenhouse gas emissions in New York State and it is one of the largest emitters of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the country. Cars can also leak toxic fluids that rain can be swept into waterways during heavy rain, including substances like motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and antifreeze, all of which are toxic to aquatic and animal life. If your favorite river is close by, consider taking a bicycle. Not only will you avoid these emissions, but your trip will be more scenic and you’ll get plenty of exercise and fresh air along the way. If traveling further, consider an electric vehicle or carpooling with a group.

Exploring the water. While you’re exploring the water, consider which type of boat you use. A motorboat can leak fuel into waterways, especially if the engine isn’t up to code. Not only does motorboat exhaust contain carbon monoxide, but boat engines are noisy and the propeller can generate strong waves behind the boat, both of which can be disruptive to wildlife. Consider a canoe, kayak, or sailboat instead of a boat with a motor. They are emission-free, quiet, and can be good exercise. 

Fishing. If you’re going out fishing, make sure to keep track of your tackle. Non-biodegradable, nylon fishing lines and nets can easily become tangled in underwater debris, becoming knotty traps for otters, diving birds, and turtles. To avoid these potential tangles, try switching to a biodegradable fishing line rather than traditional lines that don’t biodegrade

Avoid disposable plastic. Disposable plastic bags can be taken by a gust of wind into waterways, where they are harmful to fish and deadly to turtles and humpback whales, which mistake them for food. Bring reusable containers instead of plastic bags and water bottles when getting out on the river. Check out our other tips for reducing plastic use here.

Be aware of your septic system. Heavy rain and storms can flood your septic tank, causing it to overflow. The overflow then combines with stormwater and can end up in your nearest river. Septic waste contains nitrates and phosphates that cause harmful algal blooms. These blooms can also suffocate a body of water, depriving it of oxygen, leading to mass die-offs of its aquatic inhabitants. Several resorts closed this summer after the deaths of dogs swimming in waterways choked by cyanobacteria.

Avoid this overflow by making sure your septic system is working properly: Regularly pump out your tank; don’t flush materials like paper towels or personal hygiene products; plant grass around the tank’s absorption field; check your toilets for defective valves; and keep records of all your tank’s inspections. Click here for more information on how to properly maintain your septic tank.

Plant a tree. Trees enrich the soil around them with organic debris, not only sustaining the soil’s microbial community but, along with their extensive root systems, providing crucial obstacles in preventing stormwater runoff from entering waterways. Bacteria in the soil also break down nitrates and nitrites into simple nitrogen that plants can use. This recycling process removes toxic chemicals from the environment, preventing them from ending up in lakes and rivers. Leaf shade can also cool woody areas, countering heat and evaporation that can impoverish and dry out the soil.

If your community has a tree-planting fund or event, join in! To find one in New York, go to One Million Trees or Trees NY. Both of these organizations have community tree-planting events, how-tos and other ways to have fun while saving the planet.

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