River Guardian: Washington, DC Activist Heals Her Community by Protecting the Anacostia River

From Guest Blogger: Zandra Chestnut, Founder Groundwork Anacostia

As residents of Washington, DC, my husband and I have raised six children and 12 grandchildren in our northeast neighborhood of Hillbrook.  Our community is located in Ward 7 on the east side of the Anacostia River.  Our community has a very abundant canopy of mature trees.   We live minutes away from the shores of the river.  Over the years, we have worked with various groups to clean up the river and the communities that surround it.  These river and park cleanup efforts have collected a dreadful amount of debris and refuse, including items such as grocery carts, tires, plastic bags, car engines, almost the entire contents of an apartment, and an air conditioning unit.

Climate change has a definite impact on the river and our surrounding communities. We understand that the health of the river is directly related to the health of our residents. We also know that the Anacostia is one of the most polluted rivers in this nation, and that we are charged with changing that reality.

We improve our environment by planting trees and other vegetation for shade and water retention, which lowers the temperature on our streets and absorbs potential floodwaters.  We promote growing home gardens to encourage healthier eating and lessen the financial burden on our food budgets. We also use recycled cloth or paper bags for shopping, to keep plastic bags out of our landfills and the river. Furthermore, we supported DC City Council’s recently passed bill to discourage use of plastic bags and encourage recyclable shopping bags.

On a daily basis we find cost-saving measures to reduce our carbon footprints including paying bills electronically, buying recycled papers for our business cards and stationery and using less plastic containers. We use CFL bulbs in every light fixture in our home to lessen our electric consumption, unplug chargers and other gadgets that are considered “ghosts” and add to our electric consumption.  We use energy saving appliances, cold water washing for our laundry, and cleaning products that are non-toxic to our waterways. We compost our garbage to use in our garden. We participate in our city-recycling program for our regular trash.  We promote using public transportation and bicycles within the city to save gasoline and lower the emissions from our cars.  We collect rainwater in barrels for plant watering and car washes.  We believe that each one of us, working individually at home, can collectively, have a major impact on lowering the carbon footprint we leave on this planet.

The mission of the Groundwork Anacostia River DC trust is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships, which empower people, businesses and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being. We work with local elected officials, agencies, and like-minded partners to advance our philosophy.

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