World CleanUp Day is September 15. At Bug Soother, we’re a big supporter of people and organizations who are working to make our world a cleaner place. So in honor of World CleanUp Day, we’ve decided to highlight one of our favorite organizations, Iowa Project AWARE. Each year, we provide participants with Bug Soother for the week as they canoe down the river. We have been supporting Iowa Project AWARE for many years because we love what they do.
The “AWARE” in Iowa Project AWARE is an acronym, which stands for “A Watershed Awareness River Expedition.” Each year since 2003, hundreds of volunteers gather together for a week in July to clean up Iowa rivers. Brian Soenen, Iowa Project AWARE coordinator who has been with the program since its inception, explains what the event entails, “[Volunteers] paddle canoes searching for unsightly trash by day, camp in local campgrounds and communities by night, and attend educational programs scheduled throughout the event.” Every year, Project AWARE moves to a different watershed around Iowa. In 2018, the 397 volunteers cleaned up the Maquoketa River. The participants are diverse; this year’s volunteers ranged in age from 3-76 years old. Engineers, farmers, garbage men, students, healthcare providers, and more all come out to help clean up Iowa’s rivers. On average, they muscle over 30 tons of trash from Iowa rivers each year, about 70% of which is recycled.
Soenen comments that while cleaning up trash is important, there are ultimately bigger issues that need to be addressed. Sediment, bacteria, hydrological changes, and habitat loss impact native flora and fauna and our quality of life. These things often can’t be seen or removed with brute force. But he sees how Iowa Project AWARE is helping to make these issues known, “By engaging in something as simple as picking up trash, these volunteers experience these issues first-hand, and as they begin to understand how they impact the river, they become more active in working together as a community to help develop solutions to these complex problems.”
When Brian Soenen talks about Iowa Project AWARE, he says the volunteers are the most uplifting and refreshing group he knows. “They are a diverse group of individuals, coming together to focus on something we can all agree on- there is trash in the river, it shouldn’t be there, and if we work together, we can do something about it.” So, if you are looking for a way to clean up the environment, consider Iowa Project AWARE. It’s real work, and there are real results. The volunteers are fantastic. Brian Soenen has a challenge for you, “Just Do It! If you’re not sure, give it a try for a day. I dare you.”