British activist completes 170-‐mile paddle boarding challenge along the Hudson River in New York to highlight plastic pollution
Double world record holder paddles from Albany to Statue of Liberty in eight-‐day endurance challenge, calling for companies to take responsibility for plastic they produce.
Environmental activist Lizzie Carr has become the first person to successfully paddleboard the navigable length of New York’s Hudson River -‐ a 275km journey from Albany in from New York State to the Statue of Liberty.
Lizzie, who paddled for up to nine hours a day for eight consecutive days, confronted unpredictable conditions throughout her journey. The incoming Hurricane Florence brought gusts of wind up to 30mph with large swells along the East Coast. This, coupled with intermittent thunderstorms, torrential downpours, strong currents and commercial shipping traffic on a river that spans 3.5 miles at its widest point, makes this feat of endurance all the more impressive.
Lizzie, a passionate environmental advocate who founded the Plastic Patrol initiative in the UK following a cancer diagnosis that prompted her to take up paddle boarding to recover, took on this challenge to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution, ocean health and, more broadly, climate change.
En route Lizzie conducted a series of citizen science activities to develop a better understanding of water quality on the Hudson River. She collected water samples for micro plastic analysis and hosted a series of beach cleans for local communities that were attended by more than 100 volunteers and supported by REN Clean Skincare.
Lizzie says, “Paddle boarding the Hudson River was an incredible way to explore and experience New York but it didn’t come without its challenges. It was physically demanding and mentally draining with each day throwing up new obstacles to navigate. This journey wasn’t just about the thrill of adventure and because there was a much bigger purpose at play I was even more determined to see it through.”
The USA is one of the world’s largest consumers of single use plastic and it’s estimated that 90,000 pieces of microplastic per square kilometer were found floating in the Hudson River in 2017.
Lizzie and the beach clean volunteers collectively photographed and plotted more than 2000 examples of plastic encountered along the Hudson River, pulling into an interactive map she developed (www.plasticpatrol.co.uk/map). The map currently houses more than 50,000 crowd sourced examples of plastic logged across 18 countries globally.
Lizzie continues: “I am thrilled to have brought Plastic Patrol to the USA and start gathering really interesting and important data on the types of plastic we are finding, where it is situated and which brands are most prolific offenders.”
“Gathering and plotting photographic evidence is a really powerful way of building evidence against the brands and manufacturers responsible for creating it and what better place to end this challenge than in the heart of New York City where a lot of these companies are based.”
Lizzie is working in partnership with Riverkeeper and Hudson River Park to compare and analyse data collected. Carrie Roble, Director of Science and Stewardship at the Hudson River Park Estuary Lab said: “The Hudson River is one of the largest estuaries in the United States, making it a significant place for Lizzie to highlight how microplastics are impacting the world’s waterways,”.
Carrie continues, “The Hudson River Park Estuary Lab began researching the concentration of plastics two years ago and is finding far too many of these tiny plastics in the Park’s waters. With Lizzie’s help, we’re able to examine other parts of the river, better assess the scale of the problem and start developing solutions supported by science. The Hudson River estuary is as unique as it is valuable, and the health of its ecosystem deserves our commitment to reducing pollution in these waters.”
Lizzie concludes: “By tackling the problem at from the root – inland where 80 per cent of marine debris starts – we can really make a difference. I was overwhelmed by the positivity and support I received from locals on my way. I was joined on the water by people who had been tracking my journey online and others stopped on the shoreline who cheered me on. It was incredibly motivating and really illustrates how much people care about the issue.”
See more from Lizzie’s journey via the hashtags #plasticpatrol #savethefuture #thehudsonproject and via her journey tracker at www.lizzieoutside.co.uk/live-‐tracker/