By Nicole Caldwell for NNY Living
BY: Nicole Caldwell
Eco-friendly initiatives, from zero-waste living to reducing meat consumption, are no longer concepts relegated to cities, progressive coastal communities, or the tired trope of yesterday’s “hippie.” With growing scientific evidence of the roles we all play in polluting our waterways, affecting climate change, and harming fragile eco systems all over the world, choosing to “live green” and tread more lightly aren’t fringe ideas at all—nor are they new in the north country.
One of the most iconic environmental stewardship groups, Save the River, was founded in 1978. Its mission then was clear, and continues today: to defend the ecological integrity of the Upper St. Lawrence River by educating the public, researching the science of the waterway, and to advocate on the river’s behalf. That organization was designated the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper in 2004, and today is an active member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance.
Protecting the river goes beyond the shoreline, of course—and many groups in the area have sprung up to make their own call to arms for protecting the wildlife, ecology, and natural beauty of this region. The area’s newest group, All in the Same Boat, has launched specifically to be an environmental ally that coordinates with area individuals, organizations and businesses to change the thinking around environmental pollutants disguised as conveniences, such as single-use plastics.
All in the Same Boat is the brainchild of Monica Behan Purcell, Liz Price Kellogg, Rich Rossmassler, and Julia Purcell. “This began as a conversation about how we could all make our businesses more sustainable as well as how disheartened we were that more of us were not taking a call to action in our personal approach as well as business,” Julia Purcell said.
The group represents business owners, real estate developers, and influencers who are all change-makers in their own rights. All in the Same Boat, therefore, is a natural extension of who everyone in the group is. They’re also counting on their local connections to expand the work of All in the Same Boat throughout Clayton, nearby areas, and beyond.
“We are currently working with Save the River, TILT, and other local organizations that have the same mission,” Purcell said. “We will continue to invite every local business to join us. We have built a website to be a resource for the community and beyond. We will post resources for businesses, events and the home. We will share our partners info and build this resource together.”
The All in the Same Boat event launch was held Feb. 2, following the 30th Annual Winter Environmental Conference put on by the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. The winter conference brings together national and regional policymakers, scientists, opinion leaders, students, and teachers to discuss ecological issues facing the St. Lawrence River. This year’s event featured information about the diversion of Great Lakes freshwater, research on American eels, the threat of Asian carp, plastics in our water, and research of mercury cycling in St. Lawrence River wetlands, as well as a scheduled screening of a short film called It’s Hard to be a Tern.
It was the perfect primer for the launch of All in the Same Boat. From the conference, around 85 people gathered at the Clayton Opera House to discuss what they’d learned and look forward to how All in the Same Boat can be a resource for the community.
“The conference covered the educational component and background info on plastics,” Purcell said. “Dr. Sherri Mason has done some very important work on plastics, and it was the perfect intro to our event—where action is our main focus. So the people attending the conference had an outlet to discuss what they just learned about plastics, which was a really scary reality. Turns out, plastics have made their way through the food chain into our bodies. Save the River will be posting that talk soon on their website, look out for it. “
The All In the Same Boat launch was free to attend and included drinks curated by Taste 1000 Islands (BYO-reusable cup, naturally) and featured offerings from Northern Flow Winery and Wood Boat Brewery.
“All in The Same Boat is a movement, community and a lifestyle that engages everyone to make better choices for healthier communities and a healthier planet,” Purcell said. “We are creating a platform for the conversation. Saturday night was a conversation about the things that we can all do to make Clayton a more sustainable community. We believe in the philosophy of thinking globally and acting locally. We are on the waterway from the Great Lakes through the St Lawrence River, which ultimately flows to the ocean. That really epitomizes the above adage and our importance in this mission.”
Purcell imagined what a green and healthy community might look like: “Maybe it’s more pedestrian friendly with accessible recycling and composting. No plastic or Styrofoam to-go containers, and water refill stations. A community committed to making consumer choices based on environmentally friendly outcomes… Raising the profile of Clayton and other riverfront communities as sustainable communities will be one more draw to the area, which is good for business, too.”
Purcell called the Saturday opera house event a “lively conversation that allowed people to transition from the educational seminars at the STR conference into community action. People are passionate and ready to see the change.”
The biggest challenge? Getting people on “board,” of course. Purcell said it’s tricky reaching people who may not be as aware of environmental issues, and who “simply just don’t believe or understand there is a serious problem with this issue.” All in the Same Boat’s founders plan to mitigate that resistance with educational events, by growing the group’s social media profile and website, and by going beyond Clayton to many other communities where ideas and connections can be shared.
To get involved, be sure to visit www.allinthesameboat.green and follow the group on Facebook and on Instagram @allinthesameboatgreen. The group will hold its next meeting at River Yoga in Clayton in March.