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Pollution

Down the Drain

Think: sink. Specifically, what you put down it.

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Spotlight: Rachel Schoeler

In 2014, she became the first woman to swim across the Strait of Georgia without a wetsuit.

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It’s good to raise awareness. If more people realize pollution is an issue then it will push higher authorities to do something.

Rachel Schoeler

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Challenge: The Drain Game

Record everything you put down the drain in a day.

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Sinful Things to Flush

Bin, don't sin.

  1. Wipes

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  2. Kitchen Grease

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  3. Contact Lenses

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  4. Pills Pills Pills

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  1. Wipes
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    Wetter is Not Better

    They used to just be for baby bums, now adults use them, too. Marketed as luxury toilet paper, wet wipes are clogging sewer pipes worldwide. Their synthetic fabric takes up to a decade to break down and contains microplastics that could harm the marine environment.
  2. Kitchen Grease
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    Cooking Up a Fatberg

    The liquid oil in your fry pan quickly congeals into a solid after you wash it down the drain. When cooking oil meets a sanitizer wipe, they form the mother of all blockages: the fatberg. One the size of a Boeing 747 was recently pulled out of a drainpipe in London, England.
  3. Contact Lenses
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    Don't Be Short-Sighted

    Contact lenses are made of soft bendable plastic that degrade and break up into ever tinier pieces that poison the environment. Park that disposable sight in the trash before it travels downstream and harms fish and other wildlife.
  4. Pills Pills Pills
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    Chemical Chaos

    Wastewater treatment plants are not built to filter out all the trace chemicals contained in many meds in the pharmaceutical rainbow. Male fish swimming downstream from treatment plants are showing feminization traits, likely from hormone-disrupting pills in the water.

Drain-ger Things

There have been some odd discoveries in the upside down (the drain).

  1. Hamster

    Hamsters

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  2. A Massive Pooh

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  3. An Alien (Sort Of)

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  4. Mini Car

    Half of a Car

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  1. Hamster
    Hamsters
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    Poor Little Fluffy

    Unsurprisingly, deceased pets (RIP) are a frequent fixture in the world’s sewers. And, as moving as a toilet-bowl ceremony might be, they shouldn’t be flushed — the little critters clog up filters and block drains.
  2. A Massive Pooh
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    Beware the Bear

    Oh bother, indeed. A Winnie-the-Pooh toy was found lurking in a Scottish sewer, wreaking all kinds of havoc and spawning a string of pun-based headlines in the British press.
  3. An Alien (Sort Of)
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    They Come in Peace

    A team of construction workers claimed to have discovered an alien life form underneath the streets of North Carolina in 2009. Fun fact: the pulsating mass turned out to be a large colony of worms.
  4. Mini Car
    Half of a Car
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    Parking Mad

    Yup, half of a MINI Cooper was found down a London drain. There are so many questions.
Photo: Eric Ray / flickr

Just Do One Thing

It's time to ditch those phosphates.

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Here's How: All-Purpose Cleaner

Save some cash — and the ocean — with this ridiculously easy tutorial.

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CLEANER RECIPE Down Arrow

Harbour No Sludge

How Copenhagen turned its polluted port into a pool.

Photo: Kyle Wyss / flickr
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Three Au-Naturel Water Cleaners 

When it comes to filtering water, Mother Nature knows best.

  1. Oysters

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  2. Seaweed

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  3. Floating Wetlands

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  1. Oysters
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    Nitro Genius

    This bivalve’s specialty is nitrogen, which it uses to build tissue and shell or releases harmlessly into the atmosphere. One little oyster can filter up to 190 litres of nitrogen-tainted water a day.            
  2. Seaweed
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    Two Birds, One Weed

    Many varieties of seaweed thrive off the very nutrients that create dead zones at sea: nitrogen and phosphorus. Entrepreneurs are building seaweed farms at sea, cleansing the ocean and creating tasty seaweed salads at the same time.
  3. Floating Wetlands
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    Good Morning, Baltimore

    The City of Baltimore and the National Aquarium launched a floating island in its polluted inner harbour. On a platform made of recycled woven plastic sit 450 native species, their roots dangling into the water below, sucking up nutrients and chemicals. 
Photo: J. Meghan / flickr

The Keep-It-Clean Pledge

I promise to...

  1. Read the Fine Print

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  2. Think Before I Sink

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  3. Spread the Word

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  1. Read the Fine Print
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    Dude Looks Like a Label

    Look, if saving our oceans and all that live in them means having to be the kind of person who stands in the grocery store, reading the back of cleaning products, so be it. Some of us were just born to be great.
  2. Think Before I Sink
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    Plughole-y Moly

    Ban food scraps, wet wipes, cooking oil and pills from your drain for good. Sorry, sir, if you're not water, pee, toilet paper or poop, you're not coming in. It's regulation. Please step away from the drain.
  3. Spread the Word
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    Like Butter on Toast

    Hey, people! Fun fact: there's a connection between what we put down the drain and the health of our oceans. Spread the word with a song, a dance, a megaphone or just... you know, speak to people in a normal fashion (and share this story).

Clean It Up

Get involved in a shoreline cleanup today!

Photo: picccus / flickr

Enjoyed that? Cool, share it with pals

It’s a lot of work. It takes up your whole life. But it’s definitely worth it.

Rachel Schoeler

There wasn’t a time I felt I couldn’t do it even though there were challenges along the way.

Rachel Schoeler

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Now It's Your Turn: Take the Challenge

Keep a drain diary for one day — it just might surprise you.

Photo: Leonardo DaSilva
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You might think that whipping up a DIY all-purpose cleaner is all kinds of complicated, but it’s not. In fact, all you need is these two (yep, just two!) ingredients. 

750ml of Hydrogen Peroxide 
Available at most local drug stores, or big supermarkets. Easy. Wear rubber gloves while handling to avoid skin irritation, open in a well-ventilated room, and ALWAYS keep away from children.

5-10 Drops of Essential Oil 
In the scent of your choice.

And that’s it! Simply deposit your mixture into an opaque spray bottle and you’re good to go. 

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Photo: Jean Robert Thibault / flickr

Cities have long treated the waterfront as a gigantic sewer and Copenhagen’s harbour was no different. When the rain poured, the sewage flowed. Ships dumped their bilges in port and shoreline factories purged industrial chemicals into the water. No one wants to live near a sewer, let alone swim in it. For years, Copenhagen’s harbour sat stinky, undeveloped and underused.

Unfortunately, a polluted port is the rule in major cities, not the exception. From oil refineries pumping toxic sludge into New York’s East River during the industrial era to athletes swimming through raw sewage during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro’s bay, clean water has often taken a backseat to industry and development.

Some cities are making strides in cleaning up their act, but Copenhagen is ahead of the pack. In the mid-1990s, the municipality invested in a series of projects that aimed to revitalize the port.

Nearly 100 overflow channels once fed wastewater into the Danish capital’s harbour and coastlines. After building a reservoir to hold rainwater during a storm, they closed 55 channels. This severely curtailed the amount of sewage flowing into the city harbour.

Photo: Naotake Murayama / flickr

In 2003, Copenhagen’s investments bore fruit when the water was deemed safe for swimming and a free public pool opened in port. More soon opened catering to every watery preference, from paddlers to loungers to lane swimmers. Where once there had been barren contaminated shorelines, now there are public docks where hundreds clamber to take a dip on a sunny day.

After very heavy rainfall the harbour still gets a shot of sewage, but hooked-up Danes can check the water quality via phone app before taking the plunge. Cleaning up a polluted waterway isn’t easy, fast, or cheap but, as Copenhagen discovered, a new swimming hole is worth it.

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