Raising awareness of environmental issues is always a difficult balance between action on the ground and effective use of media channels. Lots can be done on the ground, but if too little reflective material and information is disseminated then the impacts of the work and the important messages get lost. Likewise, if too much promotion is done and not enough work on the ground is accomplished, the message can seem shallow or disingenuous.
All through October Forth Rivers Trust and RiverLife have been taking part in #Unblocktober, a campaign to raise awareness of what is being put down sinks, drains and toilets that ends up in our rivers and seas. It has been the perfect opportunity to double up the momentum of this national awareness campaign with our very own RiverRubbish initiative, which has been running events, workshops, clean ups and other volunteering sessions for more than a year now with the aim of quantifying the amount of sewage and other litter being released into the river environment on the Almond and the Avon.
RiverRubbish3 Avon ongoing throughout October is the third of four clean up sites within the project – two on the Almond completed last year and two on the Avon to be completed between now and next Spring. During our first two clean ups on the first Avon site we’ve managed to pull out over 150 pieces rubbish including what looks like a rubber eel and a car exhaust pipe. The difference between findings at sites on the Avon and the Almond so far have been striking. During RiverRubbish1 within 100 metres along the Almond around 90% of what was pulled from the river (over 1,300 items!) was wet wipes or flushed material. Within the same length of stretch during the first two events of RiverRubbish on the Avon, around 90% of what the team have found in the river has been plastic materials – bags, packaging, plastic wrapping, etc.
Regardless of material, source or location the message seems clear: We should all be more conscious of where things are going when discarded and dispose of things responsibly! We’ve released our Unblocktober social media campaign throughout October on Twitter and Facebook to reinforce this message, backed up with facts from our action on the ground. The RiverLife team have even made some short social videos to release as part of the information being disseminated throughout the month.
So far we’ve released 18 social media posts in October and our messages have reached more than 38,000 people. Nearly 4,000 people have engaged with our posts and we’ve had 233 likes and counting.
There are two dates left to get involved in RiverRubbish Avon clean ups with teams going out on Saturday 26th October and Monday 4th November. You can see what we find by following our social media on Twitter @ForthRiversT and Facebook Forth Rivers Trust.