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Cleaning Up a River with Living Lands & Waters

Clean River

It’s rare that a stranger impresses you enough to support a cause. I met Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters (LL&W), while traveling on a plane last year. He spoke so passionately about his nonprofit’s mission to help preserve America’s rivers that I was inspired enough to get involved and spread the word.

Chad’s energetic organization, based in East Moline, Illinois, operates some 150 river cleanups each year. Volunteers are dispatched by boat along shorelines to collect trash that is dumped into our waterways or alongside them.

On October 27, 45 C.H. Robinson employees and family members from our Chicago offices took a 50-mile bus ride to the Des Plaines River in Channahon, Illinois. The group broke up into 4 teams, and each group was transported by boat to shoreline areas where pick up began.

You’d be surprised what surfaces on shorelines! You might expect to find tires, plastic and glass bottles, Styrofoam containers, balls, and other debris. But volunteers also find appliances, bowling balls, grills, duck decoys, and even messages in bottles. One of 27 tires collected by our group was stuck in a tree. Our group also found vintage full cans of Pepsi and a toy shark.

The C.H. Robinson Chicago volunteers had a lot of fun and found the work gratifying. When they were done, they could instantly see the results in the bulging trash bags and larger items placed along the shore. After the initial pick up by volunteers, LL&W crews collect the garbage by boat and transfer it to a barge for unloading, sorting, and recycling.

A huge thanks to Jason Chamberlain and Chris Brady, both general managers at our TMC division, who led the recruitment and logistics coordination for this successful event. All told, in a couple of hours of labor on that Saturday morning, the team produced 2,790 pounds of trash. You’ll find photos of the event at the C.H. Robinson Foundation and Community Involvement Facebook page.

Chad Pregracke’s enthusiasm to create a better environment is contagious. As a result of our chance meeting, I contribute to LL&W as a member of its board of directors and have participated in prior LL&W volunteer events with fellow employees, sponsors, and customers:

  • In the Twin Cities, LL&W sponsored an Arbor Day 2012 event that donated 1,000 bare root tree seedlings to employees at C.H. Robinson’s headquarters for planting.
  • We also held a Recycle Like a Rock Star event, where we sorted through about 2 tons of garbage collected from local LL&W river cleanups. That kept approximately 500 pounds of plastics, glass, and other recyclable material out of landfills.

I’d encourage anyone who wants to make a visible difference to participate in LL&W events. In 2011, LL&W collected 187 tons of debris along rivers. It all adds up.