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Content Theme 2: Everyday Actions Add Up

There are many active transportation alternatives to cars! Read more about how active transportation can have a positive impact on our rivers and streams.


In cities, we have altered the natural waterways to include the grated drains on the street–called storm drains or catch basins. These drains usually flow directly to our local waterways and carry oil, grease, dirt, metals, pesticides, litter and bits of plastic, without any treatment. This is bad news for enjoying water bodies that we recreate on. This is also really bad for the fish and other wildlife that need clean, cold water in order to thrive. Imagine how you would feel if someone started dumping dirty water into your bathtub while you were using it! We can all help by doing everyday actions that add up!

Choose a clean water action from A. B. or C. below:

A. Lowering Transportation Impacts

Make a video showcasing walking, biking, bussing, scootering, skateboarding, or rollerblading, etc. to reduce your car trips each week.

Brakes and tires are sources of metals and other toxic compounds that wash onto roads and leach out of used tires piled outside. These pollutants cause harm to salmon and other wildlife. Ask for low or copper free brake pads at your next brake replacement. Example car care video.

Watch this video demonstrating safe car washing techniques and make your own fun version. Car washes are also a great alternative because they clean and recycle water. #fishfriendlycarwash #onelesstrip #copperfreebrakes #buswalkbike

B. Plastic Is Pollution

Avoid disposable items, especially plastic. So much of our waste is making it to our oceans and very few plastics are actually recyclable and only break down into microplastics that harm wildlife. If we bring reusable coffee mugs, water bottles and even durable straws each time we go out, imagine how much plastic we can avoid! #plasticispollution #godurable #goreusable

C.      Leave No Trace

Demonstrate the concepts for safe and healthy recreation. #leavenotrace #getoutside #recreateresponsibly #petwasteispollution #buryyourwaste #bagyourwipes

  • Stay on designated trails to limit impacts to wildlife and always control your pet.
  • Pack water and food in durable, reusable containers to avoid having trash (leave as much packaging at home as you can). Bring durable bowls, cups, towels instead of paper plates and napkins.
  • Put your fruit peels and snack wrappers back in your pack (bring a small bag to hold them).
  • Pick up after your pet in parks, playgrounds, at the beach, near waterways.
  • Bring a bag from home for trash and recycling and take it back with you.
  • Plan for bathroom needs. Bring a trowel to dig an 8” cathole to bury your poop at least 50’ from water bodies. Bring a ziploc labeled for each camper and put your used toilet paper, cotton wipes, and feminine products in it to throw away later. Some people go even more hard core and use smooth rocks or leaves as toilet paper and bring an extra sock to capture drips! Backcountry hiking in many places now requires GO Anywhere waste kits or WAG bags.

Review past contest entries here.

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Video Topic Factsheet: Active Transportation

There are many active transportation alternatives to cars! Read more about how active transportation can have a positive impact on our rivers and streams.


Car emissions, engines, metal bodies, brake pads, and tires all shed pollutants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, formaldehyde, chromium, copper, zinc, arsenic, mercury, oils, and grease. Streets and bridges shed pollution from cars into our streams by way of storm drains. Outdoor stacks of used tires also leach pollution into rainwater. Some pollutants attach to soil and move into streams as soil is washed away. 

Metals used for cars parts, like copper, nickel, and zinc, are toxic to fish. Fish are more sensitive to metals than people. For example, people can safely swim in water with copper, but it inhibits a salmon’s sense of smell, making it less likely to detect a warning pheromone from another salmon. 

Here are some facts and ideas to help you choose a theme for your video:

  • Pollution from cars can be deadly to fish. In Seattle, salmon that returned to a restored stream turned upside down and began gasping for air after swimming in stormwater that drained from a road and mixed with the stream water. Read about it and watch a video here.
  • A good way to reduce car-related water pollution is to drive less. Use alternative transportation whenever you can (walking, biking, scootering, skateboarding, rollerblading, carpooling, or mass transit), and drive when you need to. Explore how using the best form of transportation for the trip can reduce water pollution. Active transportation is good for everyone!
  • Reduce car-related pollution by making maintenance choices with clean water in mind. When you replace your car’s brake pads, ask for low/no copper parts. If your car leaks, use a drip pan and clean up oil on pavement with kitty litter and a broom. Never dump auto fluids on the ground or into streets or storm drains.
  • Wash your car at a car wash, not in your driveway where the wash water can make its way to storm drains. Detergents (even those labeled biodegradable) and grease from dirty cars is dangerous to streams. Dirty water from commercial car washes goes to wastewater treatment plants where pollutants are filtered out. If you do wash your car at home, make sure wash water soaks into the ground and doesn’t run into the street. Watch this short video that shows one way to safely wash cars at home.
  • Choices you make today will affect the world of your future! Think about ways young people can protect rivers and streams by reducing their current and future dependence on cars.

Find more helpful information at these links

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