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Don’t be Irresponsible. Be Eriesponsible

The name says it all. Eriesponsible is an initiative by Ohio boaters to tackle environmental problems in Lake Erie using a variety of means to get their message out.

I had an opportunity to spend some time with director Joshua Dykstra, who told me more about the group. “Eriesponsible is an organization started by a diverse group of individuals who share a love for Lake Erie and the bounties it provides, but also a shared concern for its future health if the current situation goes unchecked.”

Members are looking to not only do their part but to make a cultural change when it comes to prevention, collection and awareness of debris and invasive species in Lake Erie and other freshwater lakes and tributaries. “Taking steps now to maintain the health of Lake Erie for future generations is our mission and mantra,” Dykstra says.

Eriesponsible operates a three-tiered program consisting of education, awareness and action. “We’ve found there are more than enough educational materials available, for example, from experts at NOAA, Sea Grant and others,” Dykstra says.” So we’re not about reinventing the wheel. Rather, we serve as an expeditor, making sure appropriate supplies are available in local outlets like schools, marinas, clubs and the like.”

Tier two is awareness. Eriesponsible members are out taking advantage of every opportunity to spread their message. A mainstay is the use of social media, the group’s website and title products in a merchandise section that includes clothing, hats, bracelets, stickers and cleanup equipment. However, the greatest emphasis is placed on face-to-face interaction.

Eriesponsible is out speaking with children in schools, crowds at local Aquarium events, boaters in marinas and clubs, junior sailing regattas and others. Last year, it’s estimated that members made presentations to more than 15,000 people, including a presentation in Detroit at the Sustainable Brands Conference. The group has also won the Mini Challenge Award for Reducing or Reusing Plastic Waste, sponsored by Sea Grant at Ohio State University.

Eriesponsible has reached thousands more by manning exhibits at special events, such as the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Burning Celebration in Cleveland, Cleveland Aquarium special events and the Cleveland Boat Show; as well as from media coverage of multiple beach cleanup events.

The third tier, action, comprises cleaning up debris that plagues the lake. “We are truly a hands-on organization,” Dykstra says, “and we participate in the direct removal of trash. We clean up beaches, marinas, riverbanks and any other areas we or our partners and volunteers have red-flagged as areas that need attention.”

It’s not just the action of the members holding trash cleanups, it’s also the indirect action of many others doing the same because of the attention drawn to it by Eriesponsible.

“We and our Eriesponsible boat club partners spend time on the open waters and in harbors and tributaries cleaning and doing debris removal,” Dykstra says. “This coming season we are also expanding into an underwater cleanup effort. We’re organizing volunteer scuba events to give the lake bottom the attention it deserves while having a long-term goal of autonomous robotic development that can accomplish microplastic removal.”

A tip of the cap to an enthusiastic organization.

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