On most days, Dan Zipper goes out with his dogs, running trails or walking along the Bill Branch stream near his home in the Baltimore area. On every walk, Zipper picks up litter from the stream — and plenty of it. “My big motivation is plastics because they’re choking the earth,” Zipper says.
Plastic litter and other mislaid waste in American waterways is more than simply unsightly. Since two-thirds of drinking water in the United States comes from rivers and streams, “having rivers with plastics and other types of litter causes pollution in the water that you may end up drinking,” says Tom Kiernan. Kiernan is president and CEO of American Rivers, a nonprofit whose mission is to restore damaged rivers and conserve clean water both for people and wildlife.
That’s why the work that Zipper does is so essential — and he isn’t alone in his efforts. VTeamers, who contributed 52,000 hours of work for various nonprofits during Global Volunteer Month in April 2022, are a part of the solution. “VTeamers with Verizon are a key source of volunteers working to help restore our rivers by cleaning them up,” says Kiernan. He also notes the broad impact of Zipper’s work: “One person can make a huge difference and inspire other volunteers."
According to Kiernan, more than 2,000 VTeamers have volunteered with American Rivers since 2020, together removing more than 35,000 pounds of garbage from waterways and helping contribute to Citizen Verizon’s climate protection pillar of service. “Fortunately, rivers are dynamic systems,” Kiernan says. “They can recover; they can be restored if people get involved and help out, either advocating for rivers or getting in the river and helping at one of the cleanups.”
Zipper is committed to that idea, working both on his own—he says he picks up litter even while he’s away on vacation—and also combining efforts with other VTeamers on river cleanups. “I have an opportunity to effect change,” he says. “It’s tangible and very gratifying.”
Get inspired and join American Rivers today for a spring cleanup near you.