Surfrider Chicago Initiates Impromptu Cut River Clean Up

The Cut River is a gem of a little Northern Michigan "tropical" river (at least in the summer), shallow and sand bottomed, crystalline waters (draining the Aruba-esque Higgins L. into Marl L., and then on toward Houghton L.) It is generally 20 yards wide, and varies from 1-6 feet deep, with a nice little current to push you along (or push against you). The 1st section from Higgins-to-Marl is less than a mile long ... twisty-winding through impenetrable wet lands of thick forest, scrub, brush, ferns. It's just a little bit of WILD for ya. All manner of birds-fish-turtles-serpents-beasts can be viewed along the water way, if one is discreet.

Surfrider Chicago, spearheaded by Chair Mitch McNeil, and his local guide/operative Pat Kelley, made a two-man sweep of the 1st section in kayaks, making a concerted effort to remove every bit of plastic they could. Nothing was easy, as large sheets of plastic were often wrapped around submerged tree branches. Fishing line. A GOP campaign poster. Bird seed bags. A large air conditioner covering. Cans. Bottles. Wrappers. Etc al ad infinitum. That's what was harvested. Thanks to staying on task, the guys made that stretch of the river wild and pristine - - at least for a while.

For a nifty video trip down the first section of the Cut, check this out.


With Great Lakes come great responsibilities. While this may be a paraphrasing of Peter Parker and his alter ego, the amazing Spider-Man, Earth Day 2017 saw the Surfrider Chicago chapter double-down on our environmental efforts to amazing results. 

Joining more than 400 cities around the world. along with approximately 40,000 dialed-in Chicagoans, we joyfully Marched for Science from Buckingham Fountain to the Museum Campus. Simultaneously, we also held a clean-up @ Montrose Beach (attended by 200, picking up 300 lbs of trash) in conjunction with the Sierra Club. (This was our first partnering with SC, and likely not our last.)

Following the March for Science, we partook in an expo where we collected a very healthy number of signatures petitioning on behalf of our campaign to shutdown the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline. With the recent governmental budgets cuts and threats of further environmental de-regulations in favor of fossil fuels, the March for Science was a much needed shot in the arm for concerned citizenry. A sincere thank you to all involved. The local resistance has a spine.

Lonely Whale - Follow Up

On Saturday, February 25th, four Surfrider Chicago members attended nonprofit Lonely Whale’s panel discussion on "Our Urban Ocean Love Story." The Lonely Whale foundation was born out of a documentary focused on a singular whale who sings at a frequency unrecognized by other whales leading experts to believe that it lives alone, calling out to no response. The foundation poses the question, "Why does the Lonely Whale need us?" And we all know the answer – from ocean noise and plastic pollution to acidification and overfishing, humans do terrible things to our waterways and this foundation in alignment with many others, including Surfrider, hope to make a positive change. 

This panel discussion at the SoHo House in the West Loop featured some of Chicago’s heaviest hitters from the Academy for Global Citizenship, Shedd Aquarium, Impact Engine, Common Ground Foundation and the Hip Hop Caucus. The talk focused on what these non-profits do for children, young adults and adults in the greater Chicago area to bring awareness and change to our environment and how we can all work together to help protect 20% of the world’s fresh water, the Great Lakes. 

One small change that the Lonely Whale is focused on is removing 500 million plastic drinking straws and replacing them with paper straws. By the way, did you know that 500 million plastic straws are used EVERY DAY in the United States? This amount of straws would fill over 125 school buses – that’s 46,400 school buses EVERY YEAR full of plastic straws – WE CAN DO BETTER! We’ve already started sharing ideas on collaboration and we can’t wait to get some activities on the books with the phenomenal individuals and organizations we met this weekend.

Chicago Takes Big Step With Bag Fee in 2017 Budget

Chicago Takes Big Step With Bag Fee in 2017 Budget

As Mayor Rahm unveiled Chicago's 2017 budget, conspicuous among the new revenue generators is an across-the-board seven cent fee on ALL bags passed out. From Surfrider's perspective, this is a major step in the right direction, improving the existing ordinance tremendously. The new ordinance takes effect January 1.