Hey, Is this Yours? Why Is It In the Water?
Activist and paddleboard record-holder Lizzie Carr calls for companies to take responsibility for plastic they produce throughout an eight-day endurance paddle on New York’s Hudson River.
Lizzie Carr paddles the Hudson River from Source to Sea
In early September, British environmental activist Lizzie Carr became the first person to successfully paddleboard the navigable length of New York State’s Hudson River, a 170-mile (275km) stretch, setting off from from Albany, the state capital, and reaching the Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor eight days later.
“This journey wasn’t just about the thrill of adventure and, because there was a much bigger purpose at play, I was even more determined to see it through.”
Putting in September 6th, Carr paddled for up to nine hours a day, confronting unpredictable wind, water and weather conditions throughout her journey. Incoming Hurricane Florence brought gale-force winds and large swells to the river, along with bands of sky-blackening thunderstorms that brought on lightening and torrential downpours.
The Hudson is no lazy river; its strong currents and large-scale commercial shipping traffic make Carr’s feat even more impressive. As she recounts,
“Paddleboarding the Hudson River was an incredible way to explore and experience New York, but it didn’t come without its challenges. It was physically demanding and mentally draining with each day throwing up new obstacles to navigate. This journey wasn’t just about the thrill of adventure and, because there was a much bigger purpose at play, I was even more determined to see it through.”
Passionate & scientific: Lizzie Carr discusses Microplastics
En route, Carr conducted a series of citizen science activities to develop a better understanding of water quality on the Hudson River. She also hosted a series of beach cleans for local communities along her route and collected water samples for microplastic analysis.
“When I first picked up a paddle and had a go at SUP just a few years ago I never imagined it would transform my life. I had finished radiotherapy a week earlier and was in a pretty bad way – both mentally and physically – as I waited for the results. Paddle boarding came at the right moment (funny how the world works!) and ignited a little spark inside that I was worried I’d never find again.” – Lizzie Carr
Plastic Patrol: Interactive Learning about Marine Debris and How YOU can Help
Those environmental and civic programs were sponsored by REN Clean Skincare and were attended by more than a hundred volunteers, who collectively photographed and plotted over two thousand pieces of plastic debris. That effort provided additional data for an interactive map Carr has developed––www.plasticpatrol.co.uk/map–– cataloguing more than fifty thousand crowd-sourced examples of plastic collected across eighteen countries.
“By tackling the problem from the root––inland, where eighty per cent of marine debris starts––we can really make a difference.” – Lizzie Carr
The founder of the Plastic Patrol initiative in the United Kingdom (www.plasticpatrol.co.uk), Carr originally took up paddleboarding to recover from the treatments to a cancer diagnosis. She created the Hudson River challenge to bring attention, across the United States and beyond, to the issues of plastic pollution, ocean health and climate change.
“I am thrilled to have brought Plastic Patrol to the USA,” said Carr. “We are gathering really interesting and important data on the types of plastic we are finding, where it is situated and which brands are the most prolific offenders. Our plotting photographic evidence is a powerful way of building evidence against––and awareness to––the brands and manufacturers responsible for creating it.”
United States No. 1 culprit in single-use plastic consumption
The United States is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of single use plastic. In 2017, an estimated ninety thousand pieces of microplastic per square kilometer were found floating in the Hudson.
“The Hudson River estuary is as unique as it is valuable, and the health of its ecosystem deserves our commitment to reducing pollution in these waters.” – Carrie Roble, Director of Science & Stewardship Hudson River Park Estuary Lab
At her journey’s end, Carr asked, “What better place to end this challenge than in the heart of New York City where a lot of these companies are based?”
Carr also elaborated on the crisis, adding, “By tackling the problem from the root––inland, where eighty per cent of marine debris starts––we can really make a difference. I was overwhelmed by the positivity and support I received from locals on my way. I was joined on the water by people who had been tracking my journey online, and by others on the shoreline who cheered me on. It was all incredibly motivating and really illustrates how much people care about the issue.”
The Riverkeeper and Hudson River Park are working in partnership with Carr to compare and analyze the data collected. Carrie Roble, the Director of Science and Stewardship at the Hudson River Park Estuary Lab, said, “The Hudson River is one of the largest estuaries in the United States, making it a significant place for Lizzie to highlight how microplastics are impacting the world’s waterways”.
Roble added, “The Hudson River Park Estuary Lab began researching the concentration of plastics two years ago and is finding far too many of these tiny plastics in the Park’s waters. With Lizzie’s help, we’re able to examine other parts of the river, better assess the scale of the problem and start developing solutions supported by science. The Hudson River estuary is as unique as it is valuable, and the health of its ecosystem deserves our commitment to reducing pollution in these waters.”
Editor’s notes: Journeying solo and unsupported, Carr brought attention to plastic pollution in the UK in 2016 by becoming the first person to successfully paddleboard the length of England via its 400-plus miles of inland waterways, In 2017, Carr became the first female to solo paddleboard across the English Channel while taking water samples en route. To follow Carr’s efforts, look for the hashtags #plasticpatrol, #savethefuture and #thehudsonproject. Her Hudson River sponsor, REN Skincare, is committed to finding new ways to improve our positive impact on the world. Their social media tags include @renskincare, #cleantoskin and #cleantoplanet.
Edited by: Benito Vila
In 2001 Benito left New York City, where he was president of a graphic design firm, to raise his children on the East End of Long Island. That decision has led him to be on or in the water about 200 days a year, lately chasing flat water more than surf. Working as a columnist for The Sag Harbor Express, Benito developed the paper’s lifestyle section and its top-earning magazine group. He is currently writing features for pleasekillme.com, a popular online magazine known for compelling glorying of subcultures and its thisiswhatscool hashtag. Benito still enjoys helping brands express themselves in ways that bring their distinct personalities to life.