You don’t need to gather in-person to have a positive environmental impact in the community.
Between September 25 and October 4, individuals and teams from across the region are invited to join Niagara’s Virtual Fall Cleanup / Bioblitz. The event was organized by Niagara College’s Office of Sustainability who decided to take its annual fall event online for 2020 to protect participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event has branched out to a weeklong, region-wide activity for 2020, with help from new co-hosts including the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) and Brock University, along with supporters Swim Drink Fish and the Niagara Coastal Community.
“Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact that this initiative will take place virtually this year is a testament to our College’s steadfast commitment to the environment and sustainability,” said Pam Skinner, senior vice president, College Operations. “Thanks to support from our valued partners and all of this year’s participants, we are thrilled that this event will take root throughout Niagara. Together, we will make a difference.”
Participants, who are welcome to join in at any time during the week, are encouraged to walk around their neighbourhoods, pick up litter, record their findings and take plenty of photos to post for the event’s social media channels, and to help Swim Drink Fish monitor Niagara’s waterways. Participants can also survey and log species they encounter along the way as part of the bioblitz component.
The event is part of NC’s annual participation in World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Canada’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup program. It is one of the largest environmental community engagement programs in Canada, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited in partnership with Vancouver Aquarium and WWF as a conservation and cleanup initiative.
NC’s sustainability program and outreach coordinator Amber Schmucker noted that the College looks forward to hosting the event each fall as a kickoff to taking action for sustainability on campus.
“This year, we welcomed the challenge of keeping with tradition, but ensuring the safety of the event participants, which resulted in the concept of a virtual clean-up,” Schmucker said. “Our main goal this year is to spread the word that you can continue to take environmental action during these extraordinary times by just going for a walk in your neighbourhood.”
Because the event is traditionally a shoreline cleanup, Schmucker noted that they valued the opportunity to collaborate with the NPCA whose many properties are adjacent to local creeks and water bodies, as well as with Brock University to further engagement throughout the region.
“Given the unprecedented times we find ourselves in we are thrilled that this virtual opportunity to co-host a cleanup came about in order to offer Brock students the chance to make an impact in their own communities,” said Scott Johnstone, senior associate VP, Infrastructure and Operations, Brock University.
“Providing sustainability-focused volunteer opportunities for our students is important to us because it is hands-on opportunities like this that shape the postsecondary student experience,” said Ryan Plummer, Brock professor and director, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.
“The NPCA’s work focuses on the health of the Niagara Peninsula watershed, the sustainability of water resources, and the protection of conservation lands and natural heritage,” said NPCA community outreach and volunteer coordinator Kerry Royer. “Everyone can play a role in environmental stewardship and we should all take pride in these natural areas we are fortunate to call home. We are excited to partner with Niagara College Sustainability for this year’s Niagara Virtual Fall Clean-up and Bioblitz, and hope that our community will get involved and take action to clean up litter and keep the water and lands clean.”
Royer noted that the increased use of conservation areas this year due to the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented amounts of garbage and disposable items including masks, gloves and wipes — some of which are ending up on the ground and in the water. “We encourage residents to take action to participate in this cleanup and to always practice proper disposal when visiting Conservation Areas, public parks and other public spaces,” said Royer.
For details on how to participate and to register for the free event, visit Niagara’s Virtual Fall Clean-up / Bioblitz on Eventbrite.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.