As Head of the Schuylkill Regatta competitors and supporters, you’ve likely read about, witnessed and participated in our REfill REuse REgatta Initiative. This was the third year of providing free reusable water bottles and Philadelphia water refill stations with the goal of eliminating single-use individual size water bottles from the regatta, and the second year of our Litter-free Regatta goal.

In 2017, the HOSR expanded its initiative goal to a Zero Waste and Litter Regatta, in line with the City of Philadelphia’s city-wide plan, and asked competitors and spectators to take five actions to help meet this goal. And we added a little flair – six different free pins with messaging towards these actions. One pin jumped off the tables – the one that read “Love Where You Row.” Reflect on that. You can play basketball or soccer in thousands of venues. Where can you row? Not so many places. We are blessed to be able to row on rivers, lakes and bays – the Schuylkill, the Potomac, the Harlem, the Erie Canal, the Thames. We know these waters on good days and bad, in the heat of July and the cold of February, in calm and in whitecaps. Whether we are novice or veteran rowers, what we develop, whether we recognize it or not, is a deep, abiding love for where we row.

That love, and desire to protect and enhance where we row, is the basis for REfill REuse Head of the Schuylkill REgatta. It started as a partnership of the Regatta and the Schuylkill Navy’s River Stewards Committee. We identified a problem – plastic litter in the river and along the banks degrading water quality and the beauty of the park in which we row. We asked ourselves – what can we do about this? Can we be stewards of the river and by extension the park, City and watershed within which it flows? Can we do something to help achieve a Litter-free Schuylkill? Out of this questioning came an answer – yes, we can, but we can’t do it alone.

We started and quickly partnered with the Schuylkill Navy, Philadelphia Water, Parks and Recreation and Streets Departments and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. These partners help set the stage. The Water Department provided the HOSR water bottles and twenty staff from their Customer Information Unit to help distribute the bottles and educate the public. Water stations were established along Kelly Drive and the 4,200-meter race course. Parks and Recreation immaculately prepared Fairmount Park for the regatta. The Streets Department provided 75 trash/recycling barrel sets and 14 compostable waste containers.

Our greatest partners however are you, the nearly 9,000 rowers and over 30,000 supporters – volunteers, coaches, officials, family, friends and neighbors. With you, we achieved a Litter-free Regatta at the end of both Saturday and Sunday and a nearly Litter-free regatta in real time throughout the 18 hours of competition. The 1,500 gallons of water you consumed from our water stations reduced single-water usage by 12,000 bottles. You recycled thousands of pounds of plastic, glass and aluminum – over 65 percent of the waste generated by volume! You helped us start a compostable collection program that we hope to build upon next year. Many teams left the single-use water bottles on the supermarket shelves. Many of you packed out your waste. As remarked to us by the Park’s assistant manager late Sunday afternoon, ‘groups from every team were policing the grounds together’. PARTNERSHIP, STEWARDSHIP, TEAMWORK. Isn’t that what rowing (and so much else in life) is all about.

We also learned a great deal by talking with you during the regatta as to how we can further build upon a still higher goal of virtually eliminating waste. To those of you we did not talk to who have ideas that can help us reach this goal, we welcome you to share these with us. We will be communicating with you over the next year as to how we can partner together to progress towards this goal in 2018. Be on the lookout for additional messaging from the HOSR and from our partners. Meanwhile, think about how you can give your river, lake or bay some stewardship and love. Build a team, find some partners and just do it. We encourage others to use the RE logo to grow the initiative in your community/rowing venue.

THANK YOU for doing your part and we look forward to seeing you in 2018.