Differentiated Identity: Creating a Successful Image for your Nonprofit

The importance of a unique identity – branding your cause – goes beyond appearances. The identity of an organization lies in its sense of self, understanding your audience, and a consistent look. Even for a nonprofit, creating an image plays a huge role in spreading a message successfully. If anything, this communication skill is even more important for nonprofits, who may have less gilded marketing tools at their leisure.

                    Here's "who we are"!

                    Here's "who we are"!

The first question to ask yourself is “who are we as an organization?” - what makes your nonprofit a distinct group? It is important to think of the groups you work with or that you would consider similar to yours, and then asses why you are different in either your mission or your actions. After understanding your group’s unique trait or traits, identifying the target demographic and audience is vital. Without an understanding of who you are talking to you cannot decide how to talk to them, which is something to be addressed later. So, whose attention do you want? What do you want them to do for or with you?

Did you know that organizations have personalities? It’s true. Every successful company and nonprofit alike have a distinct feel to them that makes them distinguishable and likeable. This personality makes a group memorable, and if time is taken to form the right personality for your goals, it can be a huge push forward. That being said, forming your group personality needs to make sense. A healthcare company wouldn’t want to form a chummy and colorful personality, as this would conflict with their line of work which is more no-nonsense. Being too relatable and friendly would actually harm their work when what they really need to present is an image of strength and professionalism. On the other hand, a bakery with a cold and serious personality could lose customers.

An example from our Choose Clean Water StyleGuide 

Along with creating a specific attitude, you need a cohesive look. In the communications world we create the visual consistency of an organization by using what is called a style guide. A style guide is a document or booklet containing lists of logos, a color scheme, and a stylistic pattern for content. The creator of a style guide will lay out exactly what colors are used where – perhaps yellow is consistently used as a header color and blue is always the body font color. They will also have listed what fonts and logos are used on specific platforms as well. The stylistic rules of the style guide are to be shared to all the members so that the consistency can be spread thoroughly across the group.


Does your nonprofit have a mission statement? Having a well worded mission statement keeps you on track, and lets others know what you are about. To formulate this statement there are two components needed: your “vision” and “action”. By vision we mean your overarching goal - what are you hoping to accomplish? The action part of your phrase indicates how you achieve this vision. An example of a mission statement for a nonprofit could be: “Organizing local grassroots groups to advocate for clean air though fundraisers, lobbying, and hand on work”.

Here we show our mission statement (in the blue box) under the "Who We Are" section of our website. As you can see, it includes both the overarching goal and the actions we plan to take.

Here we show our mission statement (in the blue box) under the "Who We Are" section of our website. As you can see, it includes both the overarching goal and the actions we plan to take.

By combining these elements: a mission statement, an appropriate personality, a cohesive look, and sense of self, any organization can become more successful. An audience wants to understand the source of a message before they feel comfortable participating.


Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition


Meet Taylor

A week in Phoenix, Arizona changed my life and made me realize my true passion. When I was a junior in high school, I was required to complete a science fair project for my honors biology course. I remember telling my teacher that I didn’t really like science fair projects but I was willing to work on a project if it involved water. Growing up I spent my summers on the Chesapeake Bay swimming, crabbing and getting stung by jellyfish, so I’ve always had a love for water. After a few weeks, my biology teacher helped me craft ideas about possible research topics. He mentioned something about a project involving Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Finally, I narrowed my project to “Impervious Surfaces Effect on Overall Stream Health” with the use of GIS. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. After hours and hours of data collection and mapping, I finally completed my project in time for the county science fair. My hope was to not get last place. 

To my surprise, I was awarded the grand prize and was sent to the Intel International Science Fair (ISEF) in Arizona for a week. At first, I told my mom that I didn’t want to go. I told her I already knew I wanted to become a doctor and I didn’t see the point of going. Little did I know this would end up being the trip of a lifetime and changed everything I planned to do in the future. At ISEF, I met brilliant people from all over the world. There was never a dull moment and I was constantly running between the pin exchange, speakers, tours and ceremonies. I was even able to explore Sedona. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Although I didn’t win an award what I gained was priceless – finding my true passion. Once I arrived home from Arizona, I felt inspired to continue my research and have a career involving the Chesapeake Bay in some way.


Since my trip, I’ve become an avid kayaker and hiker. One of my favorite places to kayak is at Mallow’s Bay in Southern Maryland where the largest shipwreck in the Western Hemisphere can be seen. It’s an incredible place and soon will hopefully become designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. When I’m not outdoors, I’m usually at Crossfit or studying for one of my classes. Double majoring takes up a lot of time!

Finally, I ditched the idea of becoming a doctor and decided to double major in GIS and Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. Although I wasn’t sure where this would lead, I’m very thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had as a result of my decision. I’m in Sigma Kappa sorority and I’m on the executive board of the Maryland Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. Before my internship at the Choose Clean Water Coalition, I interned at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Mattawoman Watershed Society. Currently, I’m also working on a semester-long research project with a NASA scientist. I’m beyond excited to spend my last college semester in Annapolis at the Coalition!

Taylor Stark is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Civil War Trust

One of the joys of being a coalition of over 230 members is the opportunity to see how our collective mission can be shared among a diverse set of organizations.  One may not immediately guess that the Civil War Trust would be a member of the Coalition, but their work towards land preservation and safeguarding green spaces makes them a perfect fit. We spoke to Paul Coussan of the D.C. organization to get a better idea of how The Civil War Trust and the Choose Clean Water Coalition may have more in common than one might think. 

Photo courtesy of the Civil War Trust.

Photo courtesy of the Civil War Trust.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Civil War Trust is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America’s hallowed battlegrounds.  Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  Through educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives, the Trust seeks to inform the public about the vital role these battlefields played in determining the course of our nation’s history. To date, the Trust has saved more than 47,000 acres of core battlefield in 25 states, including thousands of acres within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – at Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Malvern Hill, Appomattox, Antietam, Monocacy, Cold Harbor and Manassas to name just a few.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

The Trust has long been at the forefront of creating online educational resources for the study of Civil War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. We are constantly rolling out new resources – animated battle maps, battle apps for smart phones, videos and web content – to aid heritage tourists, educators and students about these wars. We also continue to preserve key battlefields from the first century of our nation’s history, at Revolutionary War sites throughout the Southern Campaign, at War of 1812 battlefields in New York, and in Civil War Battlefields throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from Manassas, to Monocacy. Additionally, the Trust is working with the Culpepper, Virginia, community and the Commonwealth’s General Assembly to create a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park. In addition to interpretive trails and other outdoor activities, we hope to include kayaking along the Rappahannock River as a key recreational component of the park.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

While the Trust remains laser focused on our mission to preserve Civil War, War of 1812 and Revolutionary War Battlefields, we focus a great deal of our efforts on education and interpretation. We are constantly creating new platforms to educate about these wars and how they shaped and continue to shape the nation we are today. Through our new Generations programs, the Trust encourages families to visit battlefields together, and for adults to bring their children and grandchildren to explore a battlefield together.  The Trust is also exploring new ways to market these battlefields to encourage visitors young and old to explore these sites. America’s battlefields - when properly preserved, interpreted, and promoted — provide unparalleled opportunities to inspire new generations of American citizens. We are engaged in finding new ways to inspire more Americans to connect with, learn from, and experience firsthand the authentic places where history happened.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The Trust has a long history of working with partner groups across the spectrum, from historic preservation groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to land groups like the Trust for Public Lands, to clean water groups like the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Through these partnerships, the Trust is able to help identify ways in which these organizations can work together to achieve similar goals – preserving our history, safeguarding our green spaces, protecting our environment. In its efforts to preserve historic open space for use as outdoor classrooms, the Trust seeks to build partnerships across the spectrum to preserve the open spaces where Americans fought and died to make the nation we are today, while ensuring these sites are accessible and open to the public to give everyone an opportunity to explore these outdoor classrooms.

For more information about the Civil War Trust, contact Paul Coussan

Member Highlight: ShoreRivers

In 2017, three groups from Maryland came together to form ShoreRivers -the Chester River Association (CRA), Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), and Sassafras River Association (SRA). ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through community education, advocacy, and restoration of wetlands. Merging organizations can be tricky – however, these three have done an exceptional job of it. United, they are able to harness the collective power of their organizations and bring together more than 3,500 supporters who are passionate about improving their local rivers and streams. We spoke to Tim Junkins, communications director of ShoreRivers, to learn more about this newly formed organization.

So Tim, what brought your three specific groups together? What was the common ground?

All three groups come out of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and focus on agricultural pollution which is a huge issue in the area. We all concentrated in on rural areas as our hubs of work. This merger was actually a long time coming, when some of our major funders began to dry up, it was suggested that the time might be right to explore coming together in a more serious way.

Why are nonprofit mergers important to completing larger goals?

Smaller organizations coming together, pooling their resources, really creates a greater presence for these groups in the community – we especially wanted to have more standing in Annapolis. By becoming a larger group we are able to move from regional funding to national funding, opening up many more opportunities. Larger funding equals larger projects and the sum of all of us is greater than the individual parts.



What has been the most difficult part of a merger and what has been the most rewarding part?

Well, people/groups are emotionally invested in particular constituents, as well as have pride in their organizations as individuals. These groups are often, reasonably so, worried about losing their distinct connections with the river communities. It’s challenging to bring together everyone in a way that highlights separate strengths. There is tremendous excitement building over the merger, the new name, and new logo – really makes ShoreRivers feel more complete. We also are focusing in on keeping our connections to local watersheds, fostering those relationships, as well as keeping River-keepers in each area.

If there was one piece of advice or a lesson learned on mergers from this experience, what would it be?

It’s very important to involve each group and treat everyone as an equal part – no matter how small or large the group is coming in. For example, Midshore Riverkeeper was significantly larger than Chester or Sassafras - however, as a part of ShoreRivers, we have to make sure to share in influence equally. This creates a healthy partnership, and likely a longer lasting one as well. Also taking things at a good pace, taking your time. This merger took 6-7 months to really get going. Create confidence, create trust between everyone.

Are there any events you all have coming up or extra facts that the community should know about?

Most of our big events just passed actually, we had a merger press release this past season! We do have a film festival going on this coming February, and then our next major event will be in April, after the holidays/winter. I also wanted to highlight that ShoreRivers will have 17 full time staff members and a new board of leaders combined from all of the groups – 15 people including 5 local farmers. Our new main office will be in Easton, with smaller offices in Chester and Sassafras.

For any more questions about ShoreRivers, feel free to explore their website or contact Tim Junkins.



The Forest Conservation Act of Maryland

Forests do not often get the credit they deserve when it comes to restoring the Chesapeake Bay, but here at the Choose Clean Water Coalition we want to put a spotlight on this important part of the ecosystem. Forests work like giant sponges, absorbing rain water and pulling it into the soil. This absorption of water keeps the soil moist and able to grow vegetation, which creates the forests that provide food, shelter, nesting sites, and safe migration paths for critters in the water and on land.  Forest buffers also help to stabilize stream banks and improve water quality. Their large root systems keep the soil in place, keeping sediment from eroding into water ways and act as large filters to clean rainwater runoff. This is a hugely important part of keeping our Bay clean from stormwater and agriculture pollution. Forests are also economically valuable, as they supply wood and paper products, generate jobs and income, provide the state with a recreational income from parks, and increasing property value. 

When settlers arrived in the Chesapeake Bay region, their impression of the land was that there was “too much wood” and said the view of the untapped America was “an undulating surface of impenetrable forest”. These ancient trees were about 40 percent taller than the young new trees that grow here now. Between 1982 and 1997, the Bay watershed lost more than 750,000 acres of forestland. Today, there are about 24 million acres of forest and the watershed is losing about 70 acres each day. So how do we continue to benefit from the economic value of our forests without losing everything? Sustainable forestry is a broad term for management techniques that respect the environmental, social, and economic values of the forest – while still allowing for harvesting.

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Bay jurisdictions have worked to mitigate this issue. In 1991, the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) of Maryland was passed to protect our forest habitats from over-foresting. The act is primarily implemented on a local level, through the Department of Natural Resources. The FCA covers private and public forested areas 40,000 square feet or larger – with a few exceptions including highway construction. Thanks to the FCA, before construction is started applicants must submit a Forest Stand Delineation and Forest Conservation Plan. These are used to determine the best areas for construction, review information on the soil and trees present at the site, as well as a schedule, a reforestation plan, and a plan demonstrating minimal ecological disturbance. These mitigation requirements vary by plot size and essentially require replanting of trees to compensate for what is lost.

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Maryland has not altered its FCA since 2013, and now it is up for review this coming legislative session. About half of the Bay watershed is in Maryland, so, it is extremely vital that the decisions made in the 2018 Conservation Act positively impact the watershed. As for changes to the current FCA, some conservationists believe that the replacement ratio for trees should be 1:1 throughout all of Maryland, and done directly by those building on the land. Previously, builders have been able to pay a fee to the county instead of replanting, but it is difficult to track how those fees are used. The consensus from environmentalists is that without stricter rules on how replanting is done, "no net loss" is not truly fulfilled. It is imperative that we remember why the Forest Conservation Act was implemented to begin with – and to carefully weigh the benefits and risk of modern construction on our beloved wilderness.

 Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Lancaster County Conservancy

Our most recent member highlight goes to Lancaster County Conservancy (LCC), a Pennsylvania based group working towards cleaner water in the Lancaster region. With over 2,600 members, they work hard to ensure and secure a healthier future for the environment of Pennsylvania.The Conservancy is governed by an 18 person board of directors who have responsibility for the direction of the LCC, all chosen by the community. We spoke to Fritz Schroeder about what makes this organization so important and why they need your support. 


Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Lancaster County Conservancy’s mission is Saving Nature – Providing wild and forested lands and clean waterways for our community. The Conservancy was founded as a land trust in 1969 by local hunters and fisherman who were concerned about the loss of natural lands. Today the Conservancy owns over 5,000 acres, 40+ miles of trails, and 35+ miles of streams. In addition to land protection we have three departments that focus on: stewardship to ensure ecological function, management and care of the 5,000+ acres, education to instill a passion for nature that ensures the ongoing care of our wild lands for generations to come and Urban Greening, which focuses specifically on clean water infrastructure issues urban and suburban areas of Lancaster County.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Lancaster Water Week presented by the Lancaster Conservancy is entering its 2nd year, June 1 – 9, 2018. This event focuses in on the way water connects us all - celebrating the unique waterways of Lancaster County, educating the public about the challenges we face and opportunities we can create, and activating people to get involved in their watershed community. We also have First Friday in Downtown Lancaster, which is the official kick off to Lancaster Water Week. This event celebrates art in the community, connecting local culture with local environmental issues.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We hope to continue our preservation of protected areas, while strengthening community involvement. Our Urban Greening Program and Best Management Practice education require continuous effort and growth to make a difference, and we look forward to expanding this into a greener Lancaster. The Lancaster County Conservancy is also expanding its outreach in 2018 to target a family and millennial audience.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The conference has been invaluable in growing our knowledge about Bay wide issues and we’ve met many wonderful professionals. We are more than excited to be hosting the conference once again here in the City of Lancaster in 2018 and can’t wait to share our community with new and old friends. 

For more info, contact Fritz Schroeder, director of urban greening.

Nutrient Trading in Maryland: December 2017 Update

On December 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment published in the Maryland Register proposed regulations to establish a water quality trading program for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. A public hearing was held on December 18 and written comments must be submitted by January 8. The regulations were developed together with Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and a broadly representative Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee (WQTAC).

What is nutrient trading?

“Trading“ allows an entity that can reduce one or more pollutants more cheaply than another to install pollution control measures that provide a greater reduction than required by law, and sell the excess reduction, or “credit“, to the other discharger for whom the cost of pollution reduction is greater. The result is that the credit generator makes money for the sale of credits, and the buyer saves money by using the credits to meet its discharge limitations less expensively, achieving the same overall reduction at a lower cost. In a time when funding is tight, this can result in a bigger bang for the buck in meeting the Bay TMDL goals.


                               Courtesy of Chesapeake Quarterly   

                               Courtesy of Chesapeake Quarterly   

How can trading work properly?

To work properly, the program must ensure that a trade does not cause or contribute to a violation of any water quality standard or TMDL. A trade should also result in overall net pollution reduction - a feature known as “additionality.“  When this happens, we not only get lower cost compliance, but an overall reduction in pollution.

Before a discharger can generate a credit, it must comply with all pollution reductions required by law, referred to as its “baseline.“ Reductions beyond this generate the “credits.“ Credits can also be purchased to “offset“ a knew or increased discharge, which is required for any new or increased discharge to a water body which is not meeting water quality standards.

To be sure that trading is carried out in compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA issued series of Technical Memoranda (TMs) setting forth its “expectations“ for key elements which any trading program in the Chesapeake Bay watershed must incorporate. These key elements include determining “baseline“, protecting local water quality, duration of credits, credit calculation, accounting for uncertainty of the water quality benefits delivered by a best management practice (BMP) installed by a non-point source discharger, representative sampling, and credit certification and verification. They also call for establishment of a publicly available “credit registry“ on which each credit can be registered and tracked, and an opportunity for notice and comment at meaningful times in the process. MDE’s regulations must be evaluated under these criteria to determine how they will fare when reviewed by EPA for compliance with the CWA.

The proposed regulations cover baseline determinations plus calculation, certification and use of credits, and trading procedures. When a discharger buys a credit, the credit is incorporated into its NPDES permit. The buyer/user is liable for ensuring permit compliance, even if the BMP on which the credit is based fails. Any performance failure by the credit-generating practices should be addressed in a contract between the seller and buyer.

Tell me more about the online trading registry...

The regulations provide for an online registry under which each credit, when certified by the agency, gets a number, and it will be tracked through its lifetime. Credits are expressed in terms of pounds of a pollutant. Procedures are established for inspection and “verification“ that the credit practices are performing properly.  The regulations also provide enforcement measures, including corrective action orders, suspension from the program, and other sanctions, as well as an appeal process.

Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Credits generated by farming operations are reviewed and certified by MDA under regulations that it issued in 2016, COMAR 15.20.12. Those regulations are designed to work together with the regulations recently proposed by MDE, on which both agencies collaborated.

While the credit registry will be publicly available, the only opportunity for public comment under the proposed regulations is when a credit buyer proposes to use a credit in its NPDES permit, not at the time of credit certification. Because credit certification is when the agency determines whether baseline has been met and whether the credits have been properly calculated using approved methods, some contend that the public should be allowed to comment at this earlier stage in order to effectively address key issues in the credit generation and calculation process.

What are some issues with the Maryland Nutrient Trading Program?

As the regulations were being developed in consultation with the WQTAC, not surprisingly, there were disagreements over some of the provisions. Those disagreements provide a key to issues likely to be raised by commenters. They will likely include adequacy of protection for local water quality, clarity of the baseline requirements, adequacy of the uncertainty ratio, certification and verification procedures, and public participation. For example, on local water quality, the proposed regulations, to their credit, provide that when the water body where the credit will be used is “within any impaired waters“ (does not meet water quality standards), the credit must be generated in the same subwatershed. While the proposed regulation also appears to require that the credit should be generated upstream of the user, that is not clear in the text. Furthermore, outside of those circumstances, trades are allowed to take place within any of three broadly defined regions: the Potomac River basin, the Patuxent River basin, and the Eastern Shore and Western Shore river basins, including the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River. While in theory a credit generated on the Eastern Shore and used on the Western Shore might result in no net adverse effects in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, the credit will not protect the water quality in the place of use on the Western Shore.

Regarding the uncertainty ratio, EPA’s applicable TM provides that this should be presumptively 2:1 when a credit is generated by a non-point source, to account for the uncertainty in the pounds of pollutant reduction which a particular BMP will actually produce. MDE’s regulations prescribe this ratio where credits generated by a non-point source are used by a wastewater treatment plant, but fail to do so where the user is a stormwater point source discharger. The reason for this distinction is unclear.

MDE proposes creating a “reserve pool“ by imposing a 5% reduction (a “reserve ratio“) in the number of credits generated in any transaction to be set aside for use in situations such as replacement of credits that underperform or a lack of available credits. If not used for these purposes any part of the “reserve pool“ can be permanently retired so as to result in an improvement in water quality, but there is no obligation to do this. A “retirement ratio“, by contrast, would require the entire amount to be retired, thereby ensuring that each trade results in a net improvement in water quality (the “additionally” referred to above). The regulations do not include this.

EPA has been promoting trading for over 20 years, but only eleven other states in the country, including Pennsylvania and Virginia, have trading programs. They are still evolving and their effectiveness has yet to be determined. While the principles can be articulated, effective implementation has proven challenging. MDE’s proposed regulations will stimulate lively discussions of the issues facing any trading program, especially when the credits will be generated mostly if not entirely by nonpoint sources.

Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

MDE leaders believe that, if a truly effective trading program can be put in place, the benefits will outweigh the risks that are inherent in a program where the water quality benefits of various BMPs may not be known until years after they are installed.

If you have any questions, please contact Ridge Hall, board member for the Chesapeake Legal Alliance.

Virginia Takes Big Step in Environmental Justice

Recognizing that environmental impacts often disproportionately harm low-income and minority populations, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has created the state’s first Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

The council is charged with advising the executive branch on policies to limit harm to disadvantaged communities and those most vulnerable to pollution and other climate change effects, and it comes at just the right time for Virginia, which has big problems facing its citizens.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signs Executive Order 73 creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (photo: NRDC)

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signs Executive Order 73 creating the Environmental Justice Advisory Council (photo: NRDC)

The Vulnerability of Hampton Roads

The 1.7 million people of Hampton Roads, Virginia constitute one of the most vulnerable populations to sea level rise and storm surge in the country. They were spared in the last spate of hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast and Atlantic regions, but they are no less susceptible to severe storms in the future—as are millions of other Virginians. The state’s mayors have been pleading for help at the state level for years, with the  former mayor of Norfolk declaring,  “It’s a threat we can no longer afford to ignore.”

The Asthma Capital of the Nation

Richmond recently claimed the dubious distinction of being named the “asthma capital” of America by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, topping the list of U.S. cities that are “the most challenging places to live with asthma.” In urban areas, traffic congestion and power plant emissions have been identified as the main sources of air pollution, triggering elevated incidents of asthma symptoms while also fueling stronger and more frequent storms.

Black children are four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma than white children, and Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than their white counterparts, highlighting just one of the effects of pollution that disproportionately hurts minority and low-income children.

Nationally, seventy-one percent of blacks live in counties that were in violation of air pollution standards, compared to 58 percent of whites. Similarly, Hispanics are 165% more likely than whites to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter.

The placement of pollution sources near communities of color and the displacement of communities of color to highly contaminated areas, in fact, is a central concern for the environmental justice movement.

To state it simply, we do not all breathe the same air.

The Energy Burden Facing Minority Families

While the Commonwealth is making progress on clean energy solutions that will help limit the health and climate impacts of air pollution (see Virginia’s uptick from 33rd to 29thnationally in ACEEE’s most-recent state policy rankings), too often these solutions aren’t reaching communities that need it most.

In Richmond, one-third of black households and more than half of all low-income households have more than twice the energy burden of the average household in the city. The numbers are similar for the Commonwealth’s largest city—Virginia Beach. High energy burdens, which refers to the percentage of household income spent on energy bills, is a justice issue at its core because of its regressive impact on minority and low-income communities.

To read the full article, visit NRDC's website here!

Farmers Can Help #SaveTheBay... But They Need Our Help

The Chesapeake watershed is home to many farms; 87,000 to be exact. Farmers have been a force for Bay restoration for a long time, employing a litany of different sustainable farming practices to protect clean water in local streams and rivers. A new report by the Chesapeake Bay Commission finds that these practices are serving the watershed well, however farmers will require much more outside help to get the Bay to meet its 2025 cleanup goals. 

Farmers rely on a variety of programs—both public and private—to identify their farm-specific environmental threats and the methods they can implement to practice environmentally-sound farming. These programs provide farmers with experts that can discuss policy, financial assistance, program compliance, practice verification and much more. The CBC even went as far as to say, "Reliance on accessible, high quality technical assistance professionals is an essential component of successful modern-day, environmentally-sound farming."

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

An assessment by the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network found that there is not currently enough technical assistance available in Maryland, Pennsylvania or Virginia to meet farmers’ needs. This shortage exists in all six of the Chesapeake Bay watershed states, which can pose a threat to the 2025 clean-up goals launched in 2010 by the EPA. Specifically, the participants in the CBFN assessment estimated that the number of on-the-ground technical service professionals needs to increase by 30 percent to meet current demand.

Technical services that would be offered to farmers may include, for example: educating a farmer about available pollution reduction ‘cost-share’ programs; advising a farmer on ‘whole-farm’ conservation planning; or sharing engineering expertise on the implementation of farm-specific pollution reduction practices.

Without proper access to these services, farmers won't be able to access the needed help to implement pollution reduction measures. This threatens the Bay states' ability to meet their targets for reducing farm-generated pollution.

Some examples of agricultural conservation practices for which technical assistance is provided include the following:

Cover crops on a farm field at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary (via Chesapeake Bay Program)

Cover crops on a farm field at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary (via Chesapeake Bay Program)

  • The use of cover crops
  • Streamside fencing and alternate water sources for livestock
  • Nutrient management planning
  • Precision farming

These measures are not one-size-fits-all, and will vary based on the farm. 



The report isn't pessimistic, however, as the CBC put forth several ideas for ways that Bay states can meet its goals.

  1. Create a Robust Network of Private Sector and Non-Profit Providers of Technical Assistance

    The CBC feels that farmers could have more access to necessary help by making training and certification of technical experts more streamlined and accessible, and that private sector providers should be given full certification authority (e.g. the ability to certify plans, the implementation and verification of practices, etc.).

  2. Enhance the Job Climate for Governmental Conservation Professionals Providing Technical Assistance

    Similar how there needs to be an effort to harbor a more positive environment with private sector and non-profit experts, there needs to be a more favorable relationship for publicly employed conservation professionals. The CBC recommends that a tuition loan assistance program be available for conservation officials who provide technical assistance to farmers. They also suggest that a two-year technical assistance certification program for high school graduates that includes a post-graduate apprenticeship program be developed.
  3. Provide More Consistent, Stable, and Predictable Levels of Funding for Technical Assistance, Including Funds Independent of Cost-Share Programs

    As to be expected, increased funding on a state and federal grant level would greatly increase farmers' ability to employ pollution reduction measures. 

This report was peppered with success stories from various farmers about their positive experiences working with experts, which is an encouraging sign that these efforts are a step in the right direction. Bay conservation relies on action and unity on all fronts, but agriculture especially needs resources and funding to reduce pollution to meet the Bay states' 2025 goals. 

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 


Toxic Runoff in Maryland

Industrial Sites Ignoring Law, Polluting Communities and Waterways

A law enforcement culture that is soft on polluters and a state permitting system riddled with loopholes is leaving Maryland communities and waterways at risk from the toxic mix of rainwater and chemicals that wash off of old cars in junkyards and out of landfills or agricultural supply sites across the state.

According to a November 2017 report from the Center for Progressive Reform and the Environmental Integrity Project, more than 900 industrial facilities in Maryland are subject to the state’s industrial stormwater “general permit,” a critical tool developed by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to achieve the Clean Water Act’s fundamental goals of prohibiting toxic water pollution and restoring vibrant local waterways. These 900 facilities can be found in urban and rural areas, from Maryland’s westernmost counties all the way to the shore. But many of them are concentrated in low-income communities, raising concerns about the social justice implications of MDE’s weak enforcement and permitting programs.

The key to Maryland’s industrial stormwater general permit is that facilities are required to get a permit to pollute, then live within its limits. The facilities that pollute the most are required to test their polluting discharges and then report to the state on whether they’re within legal limits.

The report finds, however, that more than a third of the industrial facilities required by their permits to report results of stormwater runoff pollution testing are discharging such toxic metals as lead and copper in excess of legal limits, threatening the health of local residents, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition, the report finds that about 14 percent of facilities with such permits don’t bother to report the results of testing, if indeed they’re conducting tests at all, meaning that, all told, close to half of the facilities required to report on their stormwater runoff aren’t in full compliance with the law.

That kind of rampant failure to follow the law is only possible when enforcement is feeble, and that’s exactly what the authors of Toxic Runoff from Maryland Industry found. Although the state’s environmental policy is generally regarded as progressive, it has begun turning its back on deterrence-based enforcement, following in the footsteps of the federal government. As of September 2017, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) had only inspected 54 percent of the facilities that reported excessively polluted discharges. In addition, between 2014 and 2017, MDE inspected only 42 percent of the industrial facilities that had failed to file required reports on their polluting discharges, raising the possibility that these companies could be discharging untold quantities of toxic pollutants into the state’s waterways.

As is often the case, the burden from pollution highlighted in the report hits the state’s low-income communities hardest because the industrial facilities doing the polluting are often sited right on their doorsteps. CPR Policy Analyst David Flores, a co-author of the report, noted that low-income areas of East Baltimore, Prince George’s County, Salisbury, and Anne Arundel County are particularly hard hit.

Among the more egregious examples of polluters’ failure to comply with their permits:

  • Cambridge Iron and Metal Company in East Baltimore discharged stormwater that contained lead that exceeded acceptable levels by an average of 717 percent.
  • Potomac German Auto in Frederick had stormwater with aluminum that exceeded acceptable levels by 1,127 percent.
  • Salisbury Scrap Metal, Inc., on the Eastern Shore had stormwater with copper that exceeded acceptable levels by 1,564 percent.
  • The Southern States agricultural supplies outlet in North Cumberland, MD, had zinc in its runoff that exceeded acceptable levels by an average of 1,378 percent.

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The Center for Progressive Reform is a nonprofit research and educational organization with a network of Member Scholars working to protect health, safety, and the environment through analysis and commentary. The organization's 50+ Member Scholars -- working academics at institutions of higher learning across the United States -- provide research, analysis and commentary on a range of issues related to the environment, health and safety.

Member Highlight: Rock Creek Conservancy

As the only organization solely dedicated to Rock Creek, Rock Creek Conservancy plays a huge role in protecting and improving the creek's health. Development around Rock Creek threatens the water quality that even a boarder of park land cannot fully control. Thanks to Rock Creek Conservancy, the community has become more educated and aware of how they affect this local oasis. We spoke to Katy Cain, the Conservancy's communication guru, about what makes this organization so incredible. 


Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Unless you live in Washington, D.C., chances are you aren’t familiar with Rock Creek. The section of Rock Creek that you might know is Rock Creek Park, America’s first urban National Park, which is housed entirely within D.C. and taken care of by our partners at the National Park Service. People use the park daily to play, to commute, to learn, and to escape the non-stop motion of America’s most powerful city.  

Rock Creek Park by itself is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, but the actual creek is even bigger. It starts as a spring on an unassuming golf course in Laytonsville, MD, and winds 33 miles south, through Montgomery County, MD and Washington, D.C., to the Potomac River. The creek’s watershed is made up of 77.4 sq miles of primarily urban landscape, all of which impacts the health of the creek.

Rock Creek has been important to people for centuries, but such an old urban park comes with unique problems that will only get worse without our help. Heavy litter, invasive species, erosion, and stormwater pollution are just some of the things that put the health of the creek’s ecosystem at risk.

That’s where Rock Creek Conservancy comes in. The Conservancy, originally called “Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment (FORCE),” was founded in 2005 by a group of concerned citizens on a mission to protect Rock Creek and its park lands as a natural oasis for all people to appreciate and protect.  In order to ensure the health of Rock Creek, we take a system-wide approach, working throughout the entire Rock Creek watershed to address the challenges that the creek faces.

To realize our mission, we run four overarching programs: volunteering, youth education, restoration, and advocacy. We mobilize over 5,000 volunteers annually to restore Rock Creek, making up 42 percent of all volunteers who work in Rock Creek Park NPS. Our programs tap into the rich tapestry of people who reside in Washington D.C. and Maryland, so that together we can create a culture of environmental stewardship that lasts for generations. Through these programs we plant rain gardens, install rain barrels, remove invasive species, engage communities, pick up trash, and so much more.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

One project that has us excited is the Rock Creek Conservation Corps (RC3), which is a part of our youth education efforts. This past summer was our third year running RC3, which employs (yes, employs) students from District high schools to work on conservation projects throughout the Rock Creek watershed.

The 4-week program is intense, requiring RC3 crewmembers to work in teams to remove invasive plants, install stormwater management infrastructure, and maintain trails. But the crew members learn more than how to use tools and build berms; they develop essential leadership skills and engage with their communities both in person and through social media.

The past two years we have also included a Green Jobs Panel, which brought the crew members face-to-face with successful people who work in or around conservation. By meeting people who look like them at different stages in their careers, the crew members see that there are many legitimate options to continue making a difference beyond the work they do with RC3.

This year the program doubled from 20 to 40 students, and we have plans for it to expand to 60 in the summer of 2018. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for our crew members and for this program.  

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

Did you know that Rock Creek has a raw sewage problem? D.C.’s sewers are directly connected to drains and downspouts, which are in turn connected to the local water treatment plant and, in the case of overflows, Rock Creek and the Potomac River.

This means that when it rains heavily, the sewers can overflow, and D.C.’s favorite parks and waterways can end up full of raw sewage. As long as this issue persists, the creek will not be completely safe for humans and wildlife.

We are currently working to “Drain the Rain” with DC Water’s Downspout Disconnection Program, which will disconnect people’s downspouts from the sewer system. This will reduce the chances of an overflow event. A pilot project to assess the efficacy of this plan has just concluded, and we are hoping to focus more on this issue as we expand the project into phase two.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

We believe that local action can lead to global change, but we know that the only way to do that is to work with like-minded organizations and people. The Choose Clean Water Coalition helps to do that by pulling all of the talent in these smaller watershed groups together to work towards a common goal. By getting us all on the same page about important issues, we are able to communicate more effectively and ultimately affect a larger change in the world.

For more information on Rock Creek Conservancy, contact Katy Cain

Invasive Species - Exotic and Dangerous

Mention the Chesapeake Bay and you will hear quickly about pollution, run-off, and agriculture. There are countless threats our beloved Bay faces, however, the threat of invasive species is often overlooked. Perhaps this issue is somewhat misunderstood? We find ourselves preoccupied with other Bay issues like sediment and pollution, and the eradication of invasive species tends to not be on the front of our minds. Let us delve in to what exactly an invasive species looks like in the Chesapeake and how we handle the problem.

An invasive species is a nonnative organism that sets up shop in a new environment, causing damage and throwing off the natural balance of said environment. This could be a bacteria, a species of tree, or even a bird that reproduces quickly. So, what harm are we seeing because of these visitors? Our native animals are not used to contending with these invaders for food, and often they lose out in the competition. Intrusive creatures also bring with them diseases that animals here do not have immunity to. Two prevalent examples of this in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem can be found in the mute swan and nutria.

Photos from Chesapeake Bay Program

Photos from Chesapeake Bay Program

Mute swans are native to Eurasia and, to no surprise, are only here because humans brought them over for decoration in the 1800’s. The swans rapidly spread thanks to an aggressive nature that scares off most predators and since then have been consuming copious amounts of submerged vegetation, ruining the ecosystem and even killing off other waterfowl. Nutria, sometimes lovingly referred to as a “swamp rat”, arrived in the early 1900’s when Americans began to use them for fur farms. They reproduce incredibly fast and spread quickly across the Southeast. Similarly to the mute swan, they rip up large amounts of aquatic vegetation and throw off the food chain, as well as cause erosion. By tearing these shoreline plants out from the root, the surrounding soil becomes loose as it has lost its anchorage. The amount of erosion caused by both of these animals is irregular for this area and is filling our Bay with tons of sediment.

The only way to effectively remove the threat of these two species is with controlled extermination. The swan population was brought down to less than 200 in Maryland (as required by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources) and was fairly easy to control. On the other hand, multiple methods have been used on nutria to keep their numbers down, which at one point reached between 35,000-50,000 nutria in select parts of Maryland. Nutria went through mass population control as well as sterilization to control future booming. Blackwater Wildlife Refuge was hit hard by these nutria populations, however since their eradication, massive turn around and regrowth has been seen in shorelines previously destroyed.

Not everyone supports eradication as the best method to deal with invasive species, and rightfully so. However, these actions must be taken in favor of the bigger picture and for the entirety of the ecosystem. While humans are the original invasive species, we have to use our knowledge and self-awareness to make hard decisions, especially when the other option is the loss of our environment. Correcting the mistakes of bringing in these nonnative species is our duty as nature lovers.

The handling of invasive species is just as important as addressing run off, fracking, and every other threat to our Chesapeake Bay. We witness the direct and immediate damage caused by oil spills and run off, but for most of us it takes a keener eye to notice the damage done by invasive species. The shrinking of the shorelines to the deaths of other animals in the food chain, all play a large part in protecting the Bay. Without this one piece of the puzzle, the whole picture can never be completed.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Queers OUTdoors

The National Wildlife Federation was built on the principle that joint effort and solid cooperation are critical to conservation. Today we continue this great American ideal: bringing together people in their appreciation for nature to support conservation. The success of the Federation depends on people from all regions and backgrounds—cities, suburbs, and rural areas, young and old—who are empowered and committed to a better future for wildlife.


Last month, colleagues of the National Wildlife Federation came together in solidarity to support the first ever LGBTQ Outdoor Summit hosted by REI in Seattle, WA. Attendees far and wide from The North Face, Patagonia, the National Park Service, the Wilderness Society, and the Sierra Club came together to celebrate our shared passion for the outdoors and wildlife conservation. The mission of the summit was to cultivate connections, build community, and inspire leaders from across the outdoor industry and beyond to create more accessible and affirming ways for the LGBTQ community to get OUTside. 

Elyse Rylander, the summit organizer and founder of OUT There Adventures, outlined the following reasons to organize and talk about LGBTQ people in the outdoors:

  1. Community: “It’s profound for folx* to connect. I have that warm fuzzy when I see it’s not just me.”
  2. Support: “I’m struck by how isolated queer folx in the [outdoor] industry are in trying to do this work. We are siloed—so how can we break down those barriers to support each other?”
  3. Growth: “I’m also hoping this will put the larger [outdoor] industry on notice. We are here, and it’s not just one or two people. It will continue to grow—the next generation will be the queerest yet. The [outdoor industry’s] customer base is changing. How can we can show them that, cultivate data and give them the numbers?”

*Folx is a gender neutral form of the word "folks"


Throughout the Summit, attendees shared heartfelt stories about their experiences in nature and working in the outdoor industry. Panelists shared their own personal struggles and examples of what it's like to not fit in neither the workplace nor in outdoor spaces. For many of us, it can be hard to navigate the world and our niche in society. The Human Rights Campaign published a recent groundbreaking study surveying over 10,000 LGBTQ-identified youth aged 13-17 and found that 4 in 10 LGBTQ youth (42%) say the community in which they live in is not accepting of LGBTQ people. The good news is that over three quarters (77%) say they know things will get better. Infinity spaces like these are needed and provide much value for Queer people to learn, heal, and connect through opportunities in the outdoors. Overall, the Summit was a chance to not only feel safe, but also feel comfortable being simply ourselves. 

The Queer Caucus Breakout Session was a great opportunity to get to know and build relationships with new queer colleagues. We acknowledged those in our lives who have inspired us to be in this type of space and those who continue to support the good work that we are doing. We formed "families" and built alliances across a different aisle of the LGBTQ spectrum. In my new family, we quickly built trusted relationships and shared upcoming opportunities for us to work together and support each other. Supporting others who have a different gender identity from your own helps to harbor an inclusive environment where everyone can feel comfortable. If everyone practiced this welcoming behavior, we provide more opportunities for members of the LGBTQ community to rise above the obstacles they face and to find success and comfort in the world around them. 

Photo courtesy of Aer Parris

Photo courtesy of Aer Parris

All in all, I am grateful to have shared this inaugural experience with those who possess subordinate identities across the Federation. Given our current political climate, it is imperative that organizations continue to come together in solidarity to support one another and uplift the voices of those who continue to face injustice. We applaud the National Wildlife Federation for sponsoring this groundbreaking event and the Pride Foundation for their activism and legacy. Legislative attacks on both the federal and state level continue to jeopardize our human rights and dignities. These threats can have significant impacts on our workplace and in environmental spaces, especially for those who represent the global majority and people of color. The outcome of the 2016 presidential election has revolutionized grassroots movements for equity and social justice movements.

Despite obstacles and challenges ahead, the uprising we have seen for equal rights and the environment is remarkable to say the least. Maybe we need to replace presidents with queens!


Mariah Davis is the field manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Potomac Pipeline

Big Oil always seems to find a way to threaten the environmental health of our communities, whether it be in the form of spills or through fracking. One of the most recent threats is from pipelines, which yield negative impacts from its construction and maintenance. An analysis by Richard Stover, Ph.D, found that, since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels of oil per year, which is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.

The highly-publicized controversy of the Dakota Access Pipeline was a grave reminder of how vehemently the public opposes pipelines, and the lengths these billion-dollar oil companies will go to undermine these efforts.

In the Chesapeake watershed, a familiar figure to environmental injustice, foreign oil superpower TransCanada aims to run a fracked-gas pipeline from Bedford, PA, under the Potomac River and to Morgan County, WV. As one of the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, TransCanada will yet again be putting communities at risk with this “Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project.”

via Skytruth.org

via Skytruth.org

This proposed pipeline poses immense threats to water quality and public health, which is why this pipeline project must be stopped.

Pipeline Effects Clean Drinking Water For Millions

The Potomac River is a source of water for six million people, so it should make sense to most that a fracked-gas pipeline has no place being built under such a vital resource. TransCanada spilled nearly 17,000 gallons of oil onto rural land last year, and had two other leaking incidents in 2011. The construction alone could put area wells at great risk as well. Placing trust in TransCanada to safely build and maintain an oil pipeline under the Potomac would be putting clean drinking water for millions at risk.

Pipeline Would Run Through Vulnerable Karst Geology

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

Karst topography is a sensitive geology characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. Easily susceptible to the transmission of pollutants through connected underground aquifers, Karst allows for the easy migration of pollutants into aquifers that run into the Potomac River. Hydraulic directional drilling under streams in this geology will create pathways for water to drain down and dissolve the limestone around the pining. This drilling can create sinkholes that would put the pipeline at risk, and can cause subterranean ruptures and even explosions. 

Pipeline Is An Example of TransCanada Using Misleading Tactics

TransCanada would have you believe that this pipeline is a necessity and that it would bring jobs to the area, but these are just outright lies. The construction of this pipeline would employ out-of-town workers, and the positions would be temporary. The application for this project also includes no evidence for a "need" for natural gas in the Eastern Panhandle, yet TransCanada continues to move along with the project. Using age-old scare tactics that have displaced many landowners in the past, TransCanada has been facing landowners and farmers with the dilemma of willingly selling their land or having their land seized through eminent domain.

Say NO to the Potomac Pipeline

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

Just because TransCanada thinks it has the right to build this dangerous pipeline, doesn't mean we have to stand by and let them. The #NoPotomacPipeline campaign, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, is already in full swing with the support of a few other organizations. Many of the same members of the "Don't Frack In Maryland" campaign — who saw victory in their efforts to ban fracking in Maryland though legislation and garnering support from Gov. Larry Hogan — are fighting to stop the construction of this pipeline.

Once again, Gov. Hogan holds great power in this situation, as he has the authority to reject the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for this project under the Clean Water Act. Although he did end up passing the legislation that the "Don't Frack" movement supported, we need to ensure he'll support us again by making our voices heard. A few weeks ago, hundreds of Marylanders and West Virginians united to demonstrate their resistance to the pipeline. Standing hand in hand on the James Rumsey Bridge, the "Hands Across the Potomac" demonstration was a reassuring display of unity against faceless corporations. We hope Hogan saw this demonstration and heard the voices of those who will be directly affected.

If you want to ensure that your voice is heard on this matter and would like to join the #NoPotomacPipeline movement, we suggest signing up for our partners' action alerts. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Waterkeepers Chesapeake are two organizations that are providing great resources to get dissenters of the pipeline involved.

On Monday, November 8th, those organizations will be hosting a meeting at the Washington County Free Library to discuss the pipeline and volunteering opportunities. Those who are interested can RSVP to the free event, which will take place from 6:30pm-8pm. 

Like the symbolic joining of hands on the James Rumsey Bridge, we must all join forces to stand up to Big Oil and Gas. We've won battles like this before, and we must work to make sure we do it again.

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Five Tools That Will Change Your Communications Game

It feels like everyone has something to say these days — which isn't necessarily a complaint; there is a LOT to be talking about! An unfortunate byproduct of this is that getting heard is a lot easier in theory and not in practice. With the information and content overload that we sift through daily, employing different communications tools and strategies is a requirement to ensuring that your message is being transmitted as efficiently as possible.

While large organizations have communication departments at their disposal, smaller groups have to make due with what they have. Luckily, several game-changing communication tools exist online and can punch up your organization's communications to compete with the big guys. 


A social media must-have, Hootsuite is an absolute necessity for any organization that interacts with social networks (So... every organization!). This platform, with a totally fine free package and optional premium features, syncs all of your organization's social media platforms into one headquarters. Gone are the days of switching tabs between your org's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Wordpress, and Google+ profiles... it's all in one place!

Hootsuite's Publisher hub via Hootsuite

Hootsuite's Publisher hub via Hootsuite

Hootsuite Analytics via Hootsuite

Hootsuite Analytics via Hootsuite

With handy engagement tabs that display all of the mentions and interactions between other profiles and your own, Hootsuite makes having one unified voice on social media easy. It's also great for scheduling posts, so that your brand can maintain steady communication based on your needs. The premium suite of features has some great resources, the best one being the analytic reports. Their comprehensive reporting tools can narrow down your audience demographics to a T, which is essential to crafting content that will be noticed by your intended audience. 


So you have all of your social media in one place... but what do you post? You may have some messages you want to get across, but maybe you don't have a way to make them appear very interesting? Fear not, for Canva is here to make everything pretty and readable.

Another free service, with premium options that are way less significant than the previous platform, Canva helps you create beautiful graphics to liven up any social media post. You needn't be a creative genius; Canva has a crazy amount of templates with wide arrays of color palettes already selected (but they're customizable too if you're feeling inspired). The user-friendly service makes infographics, blog graphics, Instagram posts, event headers, and many more attainable for everyone. 

via Canva

via Canva


Similar to Hootsuite yet a bit more focused, TweetDeck is a valuable resource to get the most out of your organization's Twitter. Keeping up with the theme of free services, this platform puts all of the most important pieces of your Twitter on one screen. Divided into columns, you can see all of your organization's mentions, follows, tweets, and other related activity. 

via TweetDeck

via TweetDeck

The best part of TweetDeck, however, is it's ability to throw you right into conversations you want to be a part of. By adding more columns — formatted to show you tweets containing keywords or specific hashtags — you can view the notable and ongoing pieces of the subject most important to your organization. Whether you want to measure the success of a campaign or gauge public response to an idea or product, TweetDeck is a godsend for making sense of your often over-saturated Twitter feed. 


Maybe the name "Free Photoshop" would've violated some copyright laws, but the Pixlr Editor might as well be called that for how close this complimentary service is to the classic program. Pixlr is the place to go when you need to make your photos ready for anything Communication related. It helps to have some background knowledge of how to use Photoshop, as Pixlr's features mimic most of PS's functionalities. 

via Pixlr

via Pixlr

Pixlr is great for quick edits, creative overhauls, and even branding images!

via MailChimp

via MailChimp

Last off is a service that targets the most-used communication platform of any organization: Email! MailChimp is an automation service that helps you build email lists like a pro. Whether your marketing something or sending out a newsletter, this program makes reaching lengthy contact lists simple!

While the sending of the emails is a huge help, the real fun comes with the analytics reports, which detail how many people opened your message and what links they decided to click while you had their attention. MailChimp helps you make the most out of your emails and gives you a great idea of what your subscribers want to see. 

via MailChimp

via MailChimp

MailChimp offers a great start of features for smaller businesses and has various levels of price plans for varying sizes of organizations. 

Communicating to your organization's best potential isn't difficult when you have the right tools! 

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern at the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

Member Highlight: Lackawanna River Conservation Association

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) prides itself in years of river clean up and watershed protection, specifically focusing on the Lackawanna River. They envision a community of consciously planned neighborhoods, a healthy river, sustainable industry, and multi-generational environmental support. We were excited to hear back from the LRCA director Bernie McGurl on what makes this organization such an important part of our Coalition. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission: 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association, known to members and friends as the LRCA, just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a community based watershed conservation organization. Our mission is to promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Lackawanna River and its watershed resources. We accomplish our mission by involving the community with projects and activities that are mutually beneficial to the community and the river.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

We are conducting a “Water Quality Awareness” Public Outreach and Education Program (POEP) in 15 local municipalities in collaboration with the Lackawanna River Basin Sewer Authority. LRCA Staff and Volunteers attend community events, firemen’s picnics and festivals. We set up an outreach table under a popup canopy of festival tent and distribute water quality protection literature; How to booklets for installing rain barrels and rain gardens. We further engage the public in conversations about our river, its watershed and how we all can be better stewards of our local environment. These POEP events also provide us an opportunity to promote the establishment of a regional Stormwater Management Authority to consolidate MS4 responsibilities and build greater financial and management capacity into one central agency. We suggest in personal discussion taxpayer to taxpayer that centralized management of stormwater can save tax dollars and provide better service to local residents and businesses.Our response from the public and individual elected officials has been very supportive of the concept. We are still working to obtain a consensus among the 30 or so separate local municipalities to engender the intergovernmental agreements to bring a new stormwater agency into existence. We are optimistic that we will succeed in the long turn.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We announced a few weeks ago at our 30th Anniversary Celebration Dinner that we were initiating a Ten Year, One Million Dollar Watershed Conservation Fund Campaign beginning in 2018. The announcement was greeted with a rousing round of applause from a room filled with nearly 200 members, donors and sponsors. We are engaged in a determined effort to recruit and involve younger members of our community to become involved with our mission as members, volunteers and donors, The goal of our Fund Campaign it to establish a financial foundation to transition our staff leadership and retain new younger leadership with a more secure funding base to support family sustaining salaries for new staff that is competitive with other regional not for profit conservation agencies.When we created the LRCA in 1987 we developed a master plan to restore our river that had been damaged by 150 years of coal mining and industrialization. We have engendered a remarkable recovery of water and habitat quality along our river in the past 30 years. However, there is still a long list of unmet needs in our watershed for mine land and mine drainage reclamation, improvements to our ageing water and sewer infrastructure and conservation protection and acquisition of critical watershed lands. Our new fund campaign will help build our organization’s capacity to continue addressing these needs and our mission over the next 30 years.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The LRCA has been a member of the Clean Water Coalition for the past seven years. The Coalition continues to offer a way to engage with other local community based stakeholders across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Coalition provides opportunities to share information, educate others and become educated ourselves on a wide range of water resource issues. Membership in the Coalition provides opportunities to network with individuals and organizations working with common values to address our civic responsibilities for water resource conservation in non-ideological ways. We believe the our membership in the Coalition provides us with a collective, moderate, responsible and respected voice on clean water issues that can be heard clearly and distinctly in Washington and in our state capitols. 

For more information on the Lackawanna River Conservation Association, contact Bernie McGurl.

Clean Water Act at 45: Despite Success, It's Under Attack

This week is the 45th anniversary of the adoption of the Clean Water Act. This post takes a quick look at where we were, where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going on clean water policy.


The Bad Old Days Before 1972

Congress enacted the law in response to rampant contamination of waterways and brought about important improvements across the nation. By the 1960s, pollution brought numerous water bodies to the brink of death. The Cuyahoga River, running through Cleveland, Ohio into Lake Erie, became so polluted with industrial waste in the 1950s and 1960s that it famously caught fire on more than one occasion.

Lake Erie itself received so much municipal waste and agricultural runoff that it was projected to become biologically dead. Unchecked water pollution in inland waterways accounted for record fish kills; for example, some 26 million fish died because of the contamination of Lake Thonotosassa, Florida. Industry discharged mercury into the Detroit River at a rate of between 10 and 20 pounds per day, causing in-stream water to exceed the Public Health Service limit for mercury six times over. Waterways in many cities across the country served as nothing more than sewage receptacles for industrial and municipal waste.  The rate of wetlands loss from the 1950s to the 1970s was approximately 450,000 acres per year.

To read more, please visit National Resources Defense Council's website.

The Effects of Hurricane Season on the Chesapeake

Floodwaters in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. (photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Floodwaters in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. (photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Agnes, Hugo, Floyd, Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy turned out to be dastardly souls. This year, we also had the misfortune of meeting those vile beings called Harvey, Irma, and Maria. These infamous characters are none other than the hurricanes that have had damaging impacts on the landscape of the United States in recent years. 

As global temperatures increase, scientists have been warning that hurricanes will occur more often and be more intense. In May 2017, NOAA predicted an above-average hurricane season with anywhere between two and four major hurricanes (categories 3-5). NOAA updated this prediction in August 2017, suggesting that as many as five major hurricanes could impact the United States.The storms that make landfall are more intense due to rising global temperatures. Warm air can hold more water vapor, therefore allowing storms to hold and drop more precipitation when they make landfall.

Graphic: CNN

Graphic: CNN

The 2017 hurricane season may go down in history for the unparalleled destruction caused by the frequent and intense storms. Hurricane Irma destroyed 25% of the homes in the Florida Keys and resulted in 65% of the homes having major damage. Hurricane Maria was the strongest storm to ever hit Puerto Rico. The damage from Maria decimated the energy grid and it will likely take months to restore power to the island. Hurricane Harvey, however, claims the precipitation title. The storm set the record for the most rainfall ever from a tropical cyclone in the continental United States, dropping 51 inches of rain. It is estimated that the storm dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana.

While the Bay region has been relatively untouched by severe weather this hurricane season, we should be mindful that severe weather events could derail improvements made to the Bay. Hurricane season overlaps at least partially with the crop harvest season. Croplands are more susceptible to erosion when the crops have been harvested and the land is barren. Additionally, strong winds and flooding events virtually eliminate the benefit of soil capturing best management practices like vegetated buffers.  Strong storms also have the power to churn up and flush out legacy sediment that has been holding nutrients in place for centuries.

This photo (courtesy of Google) depicts the sediment clouds in the Susquehanna River leading into the Chesapeake Bay following Tropical Storm Lee.

The effects on the Chesapeake Bay of Tropical Storm Lee, which is by comparison a much smaller storm than either Irma, Maria, or Harvey, are well documented and informative. In September 2011, Tropical Storm Lee generated between 4 and 7 inches of rain throughout much of the Susquehanna River Basin, with some areas getting over 12 inches of rainfall and many areas experiencing flooding. The release of sediment, and therefore nutrients, from the Susquehanna River past the Conowingo Dam produced a 100-mile plume that was visible by satellite for several days. It was widely acknowledged that the nutrient releases to the Bay from this event were significant.

Multiple storms making landfall over the Chesapeake Bay in the same hurricane season could have compounded impacts.  We can look to the events in the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina in 1999 as illustrative. That year, three hurricanes hit the area and dumped approximately 1 meter of rainfall, which created 50-500 year flooding events. It was estimated that the combined floodwaters from these three storms decreased salinity in the estuary by 75% and delivered at least half of the annual nitrogen load. Other effects from these three storms on the estuary were: a creation of conditions within the water body that are not conducive for aquatic life, an increase in algae which exacerbates the poor conditions for aquatic life, the displacement of marine organisms, and an increase in diseases in fish.  

With two months remaining in hurricane season, the Bay Watershed is still at risk of experiencing a major storm event. Unanticipated releases of nutrients and sediment to the Bay could throw a monkey wrench in the progress that has been made to date. With Nate lurking around in the Caribbean and models suggesting a path over the Bay Watershed, threats posed to the Bay’s improvement by severe weather should not be discounted or ignored.

Kim Snell-Zarcone is the agriculture contractor at the Choose Clean Water Coalition

Getting Back To Our Roots At Fox Haven Farm


Our State and Outreach Leads have a critical role in our restoration efforts across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They are six voices based in New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia and they play a tremendous role in the Coalition’s work coordinating our policy and advocacy priorities with members on the ground. They are vital to the success of the Coalition and have a deep passion for protecting our waterways.

Each year, our staff and the state leads convene for an in-person retreat to strategize bond, and discuss Coalition needs. This year’s annual retreat took place at Fox Haven Organic Farm nestled in the Piedmont hills of central Maryland. The wooded sanctuary hosted a dairy parlor, learning center, and a variety of gardens making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. We had a wonderful time exploring the farm’s orchard and tasted a variety of herbs and medicinal plants. Some were sour, some were sweet. Some were delicious and yummy to eat. We learned a lot and talked about best management practices used on the farm. We even pet some pigs!


After some much needed R&R, we reflected on this year’s past successes. Our most pivotal moments were times in which we worked together and supported one another. We discussed ways in which we will continue to engage and support Coalition members as we face clean water threats at the state and federal level. Without a doubt, our work to maintain a healthy watershed took a turn on November 8, 2016. It is imperative now, more than ever, that we continue to advocate for healthy rivers and streams. Without the work of our members and our State and Outreach Leads, we'd be far behind in meeting our goals to improve and maintain the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The progress we've made is a reflection of our dedication to ensure clean water for all and future generations. 

Learn more about our state and outreach leads here.   

Mariah Davis is the field manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

“Hi, We’re from the Stormwater Workgroup and We’re Here to Help!”

As unlikely as the words in the title are to be spoken out loud, they would ring true if they were. Dealing with stormwater pollution, or “polluted runoff” - the more public friendly term- in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, has been a Policy Priority of the Choose Clean Water Coalition since our formation in 2009.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Our simple sounding goal is: “Strengthen policies and permits to stop polluted runoff in urbanized areas.” Anyone familiar with this issue knows that neither the problems nor the solutions are simple. Even narrowing down to “urbanized” areas is a bit of a misnomer, since there is polluted runoff on farms (think about what pops out of one end of a cow, and then what happens when it rains); from rural areas where drilling pads for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are located; and from the construction of pipelines and powerlines crisscrossing the rural parts of our watershed.  All are growing sources of stormwater runoff and pollution.

Let’s get back to the primary issue of stormwater pollution. This is the source of about 16 percent of nutrient pollution (both nitrogen and phosphorus) and 24 percent of sediment loads to the Bay. Far from the largest source of pollution to the Bay, but it is the fastest growing source in our region and one that tends to be very expensive to fix. That is why the Coalition decided early on to focus on this complex source of Bay pollution.

Much of the polluted runoff in our region though, does emanate from urbanized areas, and local and state governments, and the EPA, all have a role in regulating and reducing these sources of pollution. This is done primarily through a permitting system established through the Clean Water Act – the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, or “MS4” permits, for short. Kind of a cutesy acronym that engineers find comforting, and the rest of us roll our eyes about.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

But MS4 permits are a critical mechanism for dealing with stormwater runoff and that is why the Coalition’s Stormwater Workgroup has focused on this tool. In 2016, the Workgroup developed and adopted a “Model MS4 Permit” for our region, which clean water advocates could use, and have used, to lobby local, state, and federal governments to development stronger permits to reduce stormwater pollution entering local streams and rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay itself.

The Workgroup has also focused on mechanisms used by local governments to fund the actions that need to be taken “on the ground” to reduce pollution. Often, these funding sources are called “Stormwater Utilities” and are a user fee charged to residential and commercial properties for local governments to cover costs to fix stormwater pollution problems, many of which are caused by private development. The Coalition has put together an inventory of stormwater utilities throughout the six state (and D.C.) Chesapeake Bay watershed, with the intent of sharing success stories among local jurisdictions. These stories and “lessons learned” have been expanding around the watershed and more and more localities are considering, and implementing, new and innovative funding sources to pay for the work that is necessary.

There are no “silver bullets” to address stormwater pollution in the Chesapeake region – or nationwide for that matter. But the Stormwater Workgroup of the Choose Clean Water Coalition has been working hard to make a difference and to stop this growing source of pollution from growing any further.

Peter Marx is a federal contractor and the Stormwater Workgroup lead for the Coalition.