By AMANDA GIBB
Environmental group A Greener Future is doing a 420-kilometre stand up paddleboard challenge as part of this year’s annual Love Your Lake program.
Founder and executive director Rochelle Byrne has been paddleboarding along the shores of Lake Ontario since July 1 to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the lake.
“Love Your Lake is usually a series of 100 litter cleanups along the shores of Lake Ontario, and the public can come out and we organize cleanups with school groups and Girl Guides, but because of COVID-19 we weren’t able to host public events this year,” said Byrne.
Byrne started her journey in Kingston and will conclude it by the end of the month in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
She said that she will be leaving Bluffer’s Park in Scarborough at around 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, and will be passing by Woodbine Beach at approximately 10:30 a.m.
On Friday, July 24, at 9 a.m. she will start at Cherry Beach, go through Centre Island, and then go to Humber Bay Park East.
Byrne said that some staff members and regular volunteers will be doing litter cleanups around the shore independently.
“We chose paddleboarding because it’s a safe thing to do in COVID-19 times, we can distance from each other. I also wanted to see if I would find litter in the lake further away from the shoreline. It’s been going well, we’ve done about 30 cleanups so far,” she said.
Byrne said some days other people paddleboard with her.
When she goes through the Toronto islands area she will be joined by some people from the Lake Surfistas group, and Toronto Island Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUPS).
“If people do want to come out and paddleboard along with me they’re welcome to, but I just want to make sure people have a safe and fun experience if they do come out because it (the waves) can get pretty rough out there,” she said.
So far, Byrne estimates that she has found 30 pieces of litter in the lake, but about 18,000 pieces have been picked up along the shore.
This Saturday, July 25, A Greener Future is hosting a five-piece challenge, where they’re asking everyone to go outside into their neighbourhood and pick up five pieces of litter.
People can then snap a picture to the Facebook event or Instagram after collecting litter. Byrne hopes that at least 200 people will participate to cumulatively pick up 1000 pieces of litter.
“Since we can’t host public cleanups in a group, we thought this might be a good way to get people to participate wherever they are, they just literally have to go outside their house and see what they can find. So it’s a good way get involved. And hopefully, we can make a decent impact by picking up some garbage together,” she said.
A Greener Future’s main program is Love Your Lake, but also runs a program called the Butt Blitz each year that focuses on cigarette litter.
They also have a Zero Waste Program that educates people about reducing their waste and providing simple solutions to minimize waste ending up on the ground and back into the lakes.
A Greener Future’s website features engagement with special guests, the release of litter cleanup results, interactive trivia, citizen science opportunities, and educational information about plastic pollution in Lake Ontario.
To find a live tracking map, video updates, and all other information about Love Your Lake and A Greener Future, visit their website at https://www.agreenerfuture.ca/lyl-2020, or Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/agreenerfuture/?hl=en.