Cleaning Up the Chicago River

Cleaning up the Chicago River is hard work, but this volunteer is happy to help - Event Photography by Michael Courier

Cleaning up the Chicago River is hard work, something that Friends of the Chicago River have been doing for over 40 years. When the weather is better, Friends hosts regular cleanup events — bringing together like-minded volunteers to help with the effort.

I’ve been documenting Great Lakes Plastic Pollution for a while now, providing information and resources about the environmental impact of plastic on our local ecosystem.

In May of 2019, I reached out to Friends of the Chicago River, who were hosting a cleanup event along the North Branch of the Chicago River (at River Park, near Lincoln Square). I thought donating my photography services would be a great way to learn more about the organization and to help raise more awareness about plastic pollution.

The original plan was to have me photograph from a canoe, but that changed due to the number of people in attendance. With each canoe in use during the event, I organized a plan to document from the riverbank instead.

Thankfully, I had researched the area, and I had a general understanding of the best possible vantage points available to me. Using a telephoto lens, a bridge, and some random gaps in a fence, I was able to run around and photograph the work.

Throughout the year, Friends of the Chicago River hosts a variety of events. For now, many of their spring events are being canceled or postponed due to the current outbreak of Covid-19. When it is safe to gather again, you can expect more opportunities to volunteer with them in the future!

Cleaning up the Chicago River is no easy task, which is why many volunteers are needed - Event Photography by Michael Courier

Cleaning up the Chicago River is no easy task, and many volunteers are needed to help with the effort.

Resources for Covid-19

While Covid-19 continues to impact daily life, I’ll continue posting images from previous events — highlighting local organizations, their missions, and the communities they serve.

If you’ve been financially impacted during this trying time, I’ve compiled a list of local and national resources that may be able to help ease your situation. As I discover new resources, I’ll continue to add them to the list.

To clean up the Chicago River, volunteers have to use a canoe - Event Photography by Michael Courier
An overhead view of volunteers removing litter and debris from the riverbank of the Chicago River - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Litter and debris that was collected along the riverbank of the Chicago River - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Volunteers hold up the litter they collected during the cleanup event - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Staff and volunteer guides for the Friends of the Chicago River pose for a group photo after the cleanup event - Event Photography by Michael Courier

Staff and volunteer guides for Friends of the Chicago River pose for a group photo after the cleanup event.

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