8 ways to keep the Great Lakes great

Earth Day has always been about action as much as education. But in a complex world with complex environmental problems, where do we begin? Here are eight specific actions you can take protect the world’s greatest lakes:

Pare down plastics

Plastic pollution is growing exponentially, with some of the highest concentrations of microplastics in the world’s waters found in the Great Lakes. Plastics in the environment pose risks to wildlife but also threaten human health as they accumulate in the human body. You can help by avoiding plastic bottled water containers, enjoying plastic-free picnics and purchasing produce that is not shrouded in plastic.

Benefit beaches

Despite our love of Great Lakes beaches, the strips of sand that edge the lakes are too often a dumping ground for cigarette butts, bottles and cans and trash. Participating in a beach cleanup is a tangible way to attack this stewardship problem.

Prevent PFAS

The health and environmental impacts of chemicals known as PFAS are becoming clearer every day. Used in water-repellent outerwear and other consumer products, they continue to be manufactured even as governments spend large amounts of public money to clean up PFAS hotspots and reduce PFAS in public drinking water. Being a savvy consumer enables you to play a positive role in preventing the scourge from spreading.

Clean up After Canines

Picking up dog poop may seem a matter of manners, not environmental stewardship, but it’s both. Studies show that in some urban areas, runoff that includes dog feces contributes measurably to bacteriological pollution. Let’s show our love for dogs and the Great Lakes by cleaning up after our pets.

Whittle down water use

Surrounded by fresh water, Michiganders may think there’s no need to conserve. But there is. In addition to reducing regional water shortages, water conservation is good stewardship and a way of demonstrating to distant politicians and communities that there is no surplus of Great Lakes water. It is all needed to ensure a dynamic ecosystem.

Be careful with balloons

Balloon releases are inspirational events, but their fallout includes debris that can threaten fish and wildlife as well as contribute to beach blight. There are good alternatives to balloons as a way of commemorating loved ones or celebrating the Great Lakes.

Learn about the Lakes

Any of the 40 million of us who live among the Sweetwater Seas should be familiar – or intimate – with the specifics about these world-class wonders, and able to talk about them to anyone. Here’s a good place to start.

Relate to Your Representative

Building a relationship with your local, state and federal representatives and senators is a crucial way to help the lakes. Don’t just write them to complain. Educate them before any votes occur and thank them when they do the right thing.

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