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Respect our Mother Earth

The boating industry has always stood up for conservation efforts. And as we approach this Friday’s 52nd anniversary of the Earth Day, dealers should be looking to support events and initiatives in their communities through sponsorship or by encouraging staff and customer participation.

Earth Day was started in reaction to environmental concerns and growing public awareness of environmental damage. Those of a certain age will certainly never forget the media coverage of the polluted Cuyahoga River ablaze in Cleveland on June 22, 1969. Time magazine claimed the river “oozed rather than flowed.” But the fire captured the nation’s attention and became an icon for change, helping galvanize the environmental movement.

In contrast to today’s congressional inability to agree on anything — likely even the date for a New Year’s Eve Party — just seven months after the Cuyahoga burned, Congress passed the National Environment Policy Act in January 1970. This led to establishing the Environmental Protection Agency. Two years later, Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act, with its overarching objective to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s water, with goals of eliminating pollutant discharges and providing protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife, and recreation in and on the water.”

Earth Day is now a global event, with more than 1 billion people in 192 countries taking part each year. This year, the theme is “Invest In Our Planet. What Will You Do?”

It’s a question all dealers should be asking this week.

While one of the goals of the Clean Water Act was to achieve water quality everywhere that’s both fishable and swimmable by the mid-1980s, it was too optimistic. Despite the issues that still need to be addressed, the Clean Water Act has paved the way for improvements to waterways across America. And while we can applaud the enormous progress made, the goal remains and efforts to attain it continue because toxins, algae blooms, trash and much more are still fouling rivers and lakes that boating depends on.

Dealers should take time this week to show support for Earth Day and its importance. In waterfront communities across the nation, there will be special events this weekend that dealers can join or support. Have a staff member research local events. Send an email to your area customer list encouraging them to participate. Consider donating to or sponsoring an event, such as a waterway, waterfront park or a beach cleanup.

Consider sending a dealership boat with employees and customers aboard to remove debris in your area waterways. While capturing any kind of debris is good, plastics are a target we must no longer ignore. Plastic waste is choking our oceans, lakes and rivers.

These numbers should shock you. In 2021, an estimated 583 billion plastic bottles were produced. That’s 100 billion more than were produced just five years ago. In 2022, 5 trillion plastic bags will be used and discarded. That’s 160,000 every second.

In the U.S. alone, we discard a half-billion drinking straws every day. Moreover, the number of single-use plastics used globally has tripled since the start of the Covid pandemic, reportedly driven primarily by the huge increase in takeout orders. And we’re annually throwing away more than 50 billion coffee cups coated with plastic and with plastic lids. And on it goes.

Nearly every day we’re out cruising or fishing, we see foam cups, plastic bottles, food containers, paper wrappers, plastic ice bags and similar junk floating by with the tide. Was this or that thrown from a boat or from land, we wonder. Either way, we see first-hand that more attention to discarding trash on or near our waters is urgently needed.

Easily doable ideas include more trash cans and recycling bins placed around marinas; more signage and messaging in dealerships; occasional emails or pamphlets sent to customers calling on everyone, boater and non-boater alike, to be an activist in protecting the marine environment; and dealerships making a point to become identified in the community as good environmental stewards.

So for Earth Day 2022, what will you be doing?  

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