A Clean Wake Up Call

We all want to enjoy a pristine beach, with porcelain white sand and clear-blue oceans free of residue and plastic. Or to dive among vibrant coral reefs free of acidification, abuzz with marine life. And while at times, the concept of spotless, pollution-free beaches may seem like something unattainable, as long as there is awareness and action, there is hope and possibility to achieve these ideals. That is why Boat Trader has launched the #CleanWake Instagram challenge and boater awareness campaign. We urge boaters or anybody who spends time on or near the water to do their part by picking up trash left by waterways or on the beach. Find out more about the campaign by watching our video on why we started the initiative.

Taking part in the challenge and campaign is super easy, and it’s the perfect, covid-friendly outdoor activity to get you out of your home. All you need is a bag and some gloves and then go fill up your bag with as much rubbish as you can find near a waterway or beach. If you have a boat – even better! Then snap a shot of your trash and share it on your social feed with the hashtag #cleanwake and and nominate five of your friends by tagging them in your post.

Boat Trader has been inspired by such an overwhelming response with people participating in the Clean Wake campaign across the US and the entire world. We want to share some inspirational stories from our fellow boat lovers with a passion for saving our fragile shores.

A Trailblazer for Lake Conservation

Boat Trader met with Meag Schwartz, a trailblazer in promoting the protection of our fragile coastlines’ beauty. Meag is based in the Midwest in Michigan and leads a clean-up campaign of her very own. She’s bidding to pick up 1 million pieces of trash from the Great Lakes basin, and trying to inspire and empower others to join her through her non-profit, Great Lakes Great Responsibility. If you live in the Great Lakes region, you can contribute to the #greatlakes1million challenge by picking up trash, snapping a photo and sharing how many pieces you removed.

Meag is an avid water lover and native who grew up by the Great Lakes; it’s no surprise that the lakes are close to her heart. The Great Lakes are a chain of freshwater lakes. The five large lakes that make up the Great Lakes are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario; they hold about 90% of the freshwater in the United States. The shores of these inland seas can rival any coastline. The northern reaches of the Great Lakes offer stunning rocky peninsulas, craggy cliffs, tree-covered islands, mammoth dunes and deserted beaches. It may surprise you to know that the lake’s marine life is suffering from pollution despite its natural beauty. The use of leftover plastic means that the lake breaks it down into extremely small pieces of plastic debris, known as microplastic, over time. The result is fish guts spilling with plastic and the degeneration of species. There are currently over 250 species of fish in Lake Michigan. Unless we all start to get involved with eliminating plastic waste, the biodiversity will continue to deteriorate, unless the pollution declines. Humans are also consuming the microplastics, which end up in the water we drink. And while water is purified, microplastics can often be too small to get rid of.

Meag-collecting-trash-at-Lake-HuronMeag collecting trash at Lake Huron. Image credit: Rick Houchin Photography

Meag has always been somewhat spellbound by her local breath-taking scenery and commits her entire life to preserving Michigan’s natural environment. Meag works for a non-profit educating younger generations about their local natural environment and how to be good stewards of natural resources.

How the Great Lakes 1 Million Challenge Began

In November, Meag was walking along one of her favorite Great Lakes beaches and discovered bits of trash left by the lake. Her frustration drove her to create a passionate video about the mess left by others on social media, sparking other social media campaigners’ attention. Meag turned her passion into positivity, and she felt compelled to start Great Lakes Great Responsibility and the #greatlakes1million campaign. Meag is hoping to pioneer new ways to run large scale clean-ups, and has partnered with Great Lakes Divers to clean-up trash underwater. Meag takes photos of the rubbish to remind others of the damaging effects of pollution and encourage them to keep the Great Lakes trash-free. I asked Meag which piece of trash she sees out and about most, “Definitely cigarette butts. I think smokers may be unaware that they are in fact not biodegradable and they leach nicotine and heavy metals before turning into microplastics.”

“There’s something about flicking that cigarette butt that feels intuitive to smokers. We need to rewire smokers’ behaviour to encourage them to either take their butts with them or pop them in a dedicated smoking bin,” says Meag.

Meag-freediving-by-a-shipwreck-in-Lake-Huron's-Thunder-Bay-National-Marine-SanctuaryMeag freediving by a shipwreck in Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Fauna Creative

The Mental Health Benefits of a Clean-up

Meag comments on how we can all pull together to make a change, “Embracing accountability beyond your trash trail pushes us out of our comfort zone. But this is what it will take to start changing behaviours and changing people’s mindset.”

Being outdoors and taking part in Clean Wake has a profound impact on our mental health too. Humans need to feel productive and like to serve a purpose to feel fulfilled. Meag lives in a relatively rural area, and during lockdown Great Lakes Great Responsibility gave her a focus. “I get a strong sense of accomplishment when I see all of the trash that the #GLGR crew has collected, not to mention the sense of wellbeing I get being outdoors.”

Great Lakes boaters and healthy water advocates, join the #CleanWake challenge. Let’s keep our freshwater FRESH. Follow both Great Lakes Great Responsibility’s and Boat Trader’s Instagram to take part in the Clean Wake challenge. You can read more about Meag’s campaign on her website Great Lakes Love 

Boat Trader Tips Clean Wake Tips

  • Plan to clean up areas where boaters and other people have been;
  • Picking up near a waterway is an excellent way of preventing rubbish from getting into the water before it’s too late;
  • Take a pair of puncture resistant gloves with you;
  • If you are going to count your trash, count as you go, to save you counting it out afterwards;
  • If you have a bad back, bring a stick or a grabber;
  • If you are in the Great Lakes region, take a photo of all of the trash and send it to Meag at Great Lakes Great Responsibility, -lets help her to collect 1 million pieces!
  • Post of photo of you on your cleanup on Instagram and use #cleanwake
  • Nominate five friends to take part and tag them in your Instagram story;
  • Time for a well-deserved boating trip! Participate in a clean-up again the following week, or even the following month if you can! Try out a different location next to keep things interesting;

Leftover-trash-on-Lake-Huron beachLeftover trash on Lake Huron beach. Image credit: Rick Houchin Photography

If you want to find out how to become more eco-friendly boater, you can find useful help and tips below:

An Eco-friendly Boating Guide

Eco-friendly anti-fouling paint

How to reduce your environmental footprint while boating

How yacht owners can participate in environmental schemes

Hybrid and electric boats

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.


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