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A River Commute to Work
In a region known for its epic traffic problems, Metro-Washington, DC resident Gabriel Horchler has perhaps the best commute in the city. During fair weather months, Gabriel hops in his rowing shell to commute to work down the Anacostia River.
Not only has Gabriel biked and rowed to and from work for 15 years, he’s a steadfast supporter of the nonprofits working to keep the river healthy. We asked Gabriel about his commute, and why he’s so involved in groups like EarthShare member charity Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS).
What would help more people connect to the rivers in their midst?
I think the best way for people to connect to the “rivers in their midst” is to spend as much time as possible on the rivers. Gradually, they will develop an appreciation for these close-at-hand waterways, and an awareness of the problems facing them.
What makes the Anacostia River special?
Many things make the Anacostia special. It has an interesting history and is in the heart of the nation’s capital. Although navigable for less than 10 miles, it is remarkably diverse. The upper portion is a narrow, sheltered stream, which becomes tidal, wider, deeper, and less sheltered as it flows towards the Potomac. While descending the river, one’s awareness of the surrounding flora, fauna, and even water conditions is constantly changing. An added attraction is that it flows by two national treasures – the Aquatic Gardens and the National Arboretum.
How are you involved with the Anacostia Watershed Society?
I have been involved with AWS for many years, as a dues-paying member and a volunteer helping to clear trash traps, lead Earth Day cleanups, and testify on behalf of AWS at hearings. I worked with AWS to have a floating dock installed at the river entrance to the National Arboretum, and while rowing, I regularly stop at that spot to pick up trash. When a bag is full, AWS picks it up.
I am especially grateful to AWS for having made possible my commute by boat. Jim Connolly, the former executive director of AWS and an avid rower, played a critical role in the development of the Bladensburg waterfront and the establishment of a highly successful rowing program there. Jim was also a founding member of the Capital Rowing Club, originally located at the 11th Street Bridge and now at the Anacostia Community Boathouse in DC. Thanks to Jim, I had a secure spot to store my boat at both terminals of my commute.
Why are advocacy groups like the Anacostia Watershed Society so important to protect the health of our rivers?
Such advocacy groups are very important because they have a strong and long-term commitment to a particular cause. Over the years, the AWS has mobilized citizens and convinced public officials to act on behalf of the Anacostia. Its accomplishments are too numerous to list here, but the more notable ones include: bringing lawsuits against polluters, implementing major wetland restoration projects, monitoring toxics, organizing large scale trash removal events, expanding public access to the river via the Anacostia River pedestrian/bike trail and the Kingfisher canoe trail, and much more.
How have you changed since you began commuting this way?
The water commute has lowered my blood pressure, prevented me from gaining weight, improved my mental outlook, saved me from the agony of overcrowded and unreliable Metro rides, and best of all, connected me with the Anacostia in a way that at times verges on the spiritual.
What tips do you have for other people thinking of commuting by river?
I would encourage them to try it, not as a great challenge akin to running a marathon but as a practical and very fulfilling alternate mode of transportation. Of course such a commute requires living close to a waterway that happens to flow within a few miles of one’s place of employment, and finding a place to park the boat at both ends can be a challenge, but if these conditions can be met, it’s worth a try.
I would also discourage obsessiveness. If on a particular day, commuting by boat is impractical because of bad weather or some other circumstance, then that should be accepted graciously. And rowing in the winter is not a good idea. In fact, when December arrives, it feels good to take a break and take up another form of exercise until March.
Do you have any other environmental interests?
As a member of the Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek, I work on and around small tributaries in Cheverly, MD of this creek that flows into the Anacostia. We installed a trash trap, maintain a nature trail, and are constantly removing invasive plants and reestablishing native plants. Now that I have retired, I plan to spend much more time on these activities.
Do you want to support the Anacostia River like Gabriel? Join EarthShare and the Anacostia Watershed Society on April 23rd for our annual Earth Day Cleanup.
On March 24, the Interior Department announced that it will begin a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” to review how coal production on public lands impacts climate and whether it is providing a fair return to tax payers.
“It is great to see the administration take action to modernize how the nation uses and manages the coal resources that are owned by all Americans,” said Josh Mantell, Carbon Management Campaign Manager for The Wilderness Society. “It is long past time to shift away f
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Earth Month Roundup 2016
The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 was the catalyst that helped jumpstart the modern environmental movement, inspiring citizens around the world to demonstrate their commitment to a healthy and sustainable world. Earth Day is just one day, but there are opportunities to get involved all month long, thanks to EarthShare member charities and affiliates.
Here’s our roundup of just some of the activities you can join this April. If you don’t see an opportunity in your area, enter your zip code into our volunteer widget to search for events, or visit Idealist.org.
Nationwide & Online Opportunities.
- Whether you need help organizing your own event or want to join an existing opportunity, Earth Day Network offers tools and resources for you to get involved with Earth Day in your community – or get your community involved in Earth Day. Find out how you can participate.
- Why not celebrate Earth Day on a Rail-Trail? Visit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and their Trail-Link tool to find the closest trail to you, then jump on your bike or pull on those hiking boots.
- Visit the Nature Conservancy's Volunteer Calendar for a list of Earth Month activites by state.
- Show your love for America’s national park system throughout April with National Parks Conservation Association. From the Everglades to our nation’s capital, there’s a way for people everywhere to celebrate these special places. And don’t forget National Park Opening Weekend – admission to our country’s many national parks is free from April 16-24.
- The Environmental Protection Agency offers lots of great resources for Earth Day activities you can join or start in your community.
San Diego's annual EarthFair in Balboa Park is the largest free annual environmental fair in the world, drawing around 60,000 visitors. This year it takes place on April 17.
On April 23, thousands will converge on the Mission to celebrate Earth Day San Francisco 2016. The event will feature entertainment, speakers, workshops, green businesses, and more.
Join EarthShare California on May 5 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley for an evening filled with live music, silent auction, refreshments and more, all in celebration of California's environmental charities.
Union Station in Washington DC is hosting Earth Day events from April 21-22 featuring interactive, eco-friendly experiences to raise awareness of environmental issues and encourage sustainability.
Take the EarthShare EcoChallenge on April 23! Join EarthShare, local member charity Anacostia Watershed Society, and thousands of volunteers to help care for our community by donating a couple of hours to the DC Anacostia River Cleanup!
Join Sarasota's Earth Day Celebration on April 23. Event includes a plant sale, music, food, guided walks, and more
Central Florida Earth Day is an exciting day of colorful and educational exhibits and activities! It will take place at beautiful Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando on April 23. Admission is free.
Join Illinois environmental organizations in Springfield for their Environmental Lobby Day 2015 and an Earth Day Clean Jobs & Climate Rally. The Lobby Day takes place on April 7 and the Earth Day events happen on April 21.
Join Friends of the Parks county-wide effort 27th annual earth day parks & preserves clean-up in Chicago on April 23. Volunteers are encouraged to get out and clean and green their neighborhood parks and preserves.
EarthShare Georgia has engaging opportunities for businesses, individuals and communities in the Metro Atlanta area – there’s something here for everybody! Events range from a Corporate Green Day Challenge on April 2 to a Leadership Breakfast on April 14 and an Earth Day Party on April 21.
The annual Baltimore Green Week will take place from April 16-23. The public will have access to a variety of educational workshops, lectures, films, tours, and hands-on projects on issues such as climate change, sustainable agriculture, water conservation, and energy efficiency.
Join the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust in Lowell on April 26 for an evening of short films on environmental topics to celebrate Earth Day.
The West Michigan Environmental Action Council invites you to West Michigan’s signature Earth Day event, the Blue Tie Ball in Grand Rapids on April 20. This formal event will feature cocktails, dinner and an auction.
On April 23, a flotilla of small boats will ferry volunteers out to various islands to clean up the Lower Detroit River with Friends of the Detroit River.
St. Louis Earth Day organizes one of the largest Earth Day celebrations in the nation on April 24.
The Green Homes Festival on June 4 at the Missouri Botanical Garden presented by the EarthWays Center will be a fun, hands-on, day-long festival of learning, playing, and engaging in sustainability.
For a full list of Earth Month events happening in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website.
Don’t miss Earth Day New York’s events at Union Square in Manhattan on April 17 and an Earth Day 5k Walk and Green Tour on April 22.
Go Green at Durham’s Earth Day Festival on April 23. Participants will enjoy activities and demos; learn about many green practices and products at the Sustainability Expo and Earth Art Market; and enjoy great music, food and much more!
During the week of April 16-23 at projects across central Ohio, thousands of neighbors will pick-up shovels and hoes, grab garbage pickers and honeysuckle poppers, and put in the hard work needed to keep our communities clean and green.
Join the Bicycle Transportation Alliance on April 16 for an urban bike tour to check out some of the great community building projects happening in Portland.
Creativity, imagination and joy will be on display during Olympia's Procession of the Species on April 23 as people of all ages take to the streets wearing costumes depicting Earth’s remarkable biodiversity.
Marion County's annual Earth Day event takes place on April 23 at The Oregon Garden in Silverton featuring exhibitors, entertainment, and activities for all ages.
Over the past 35 years, the Clean Air Council’s 5K Run for Clean Air has grown into Philadelphia’s largest Earth Day Celebration. Located on the beautiful banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the Run is a celebration of sustainability, clean air, and improvements in the region’s environmental health. The run happens on April 16.
Earth Day Texas is an annual, outdoor festival in Dallas seeking to elevate environmental awareness and influence the way North Texans think, live and work. This year, it’s happening from April 22-24.