A 31-year-old cancer survivor is taking a nine-day journey south on the Hudson River to raise awareness about plastic pollution.
Lizzie Carr, from London, England, is paddle boarding from Selkirk to New York City — a distance of 134 miles. She pushed off early Thursday afternoon at Henry Hudson Park, on Barent Winne Road, Selkirk.
Along the way, Carr will collect trash, take photos and geo-tag them. She also has a Smartfin with a microchip to record the temperature and water movements to help look at factors of climate change.
“America is one of the biggest consumers of single-use plastics,” Carr said. “One of my goals is to rid the world of single-use plastics.
“...I’ll also be doing beach clean-ups in Poughkeepsie, Croton and New York City. Anyone is welcome to volunteer.”
Carr’s journey will end Sept. 15 when she will race around the Statue of Liberty with 500 other paddle boarders with the Association of Professional Bodyboarders World Tour.
Because of the severe thunderstorm that rumbled in Thursday afternoon, Carr was forced to make an unscheduled stop at the Tri-City Yacht Club in Selkirk after paddling about 8 miles.
“This wasn’t the start I envisioned, but it is what it is,” Carr said. “It’s all part of the adventure. The Hudson is known for its unpredictable conditions and I certainly felt that today.”
In spring 2017, Carr was the first woman to paddle board across the English Channel. After accomplishing that feat, she wanted to do a project in the states, she said.
The “Plastic Patrol” began began two-and-a-half years ago when Carr took on a 400-mile paddle boarding challenge in England.
“I started geo-tagging all the rubbish I found and used the hashtag ‘plastic patrol,’” she said. “It caught on and it grew and grew. It’s a nationwide initiative in the U.K.”
After her initial trip, 400 people contacted Carr asking how they could help.
“I borrowed six paddle boards and told people, ‘Here, have a board and litter pick,’” she said.
In summer 2017, about 40 people cleaned for four sessions a day in 15 locations. Some people started bringing their own boards, kayaks or canoes.
Two years ago, Carr developed an app, Plastic Patrol, which other patrolers can upload their collections.
“We have 50,000 uploads from 18 countries,” Carr said. “There are about 7,500 users.”
Carr initially started paddle boarding as a way to get fit.
“I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014 and figured I’d give it a try,” she said, adding it was a low-impact activity for her to do after having a thyroidectomy and radiotherapy.
“I fell in love with it,” Carr said. “It’s also good for mental well-being. It’s a stress reliever and very meditative.”
Once she became more familiar with paddle boarding, Carr went on the canals and rivers in London and was horrified by the amount of trash.
“I was marred by seeing it in my playground,” she said.
Carr was especially affected by what the trash did to the wildlife.
“There were birds’ nests made of plastic,” she said. “It was more than just an eyesore for me — it was a bigger problem for marine animals and wildlife.”
Plastics break down into microplastics — fragments smaller than 5 millimeters — that aquatic life and birds ingest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
Microbeads, another form of microplastic, have been used in health and beauty products for the last 50 years, according to NOAA. In 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Microbead-Free Water Act, which banned the use of microbeads in these products.
Nobody wants to clean up pollution caused by 100 years of industrial waste, said Candy Channing, of Hannacroix.
“To enjoy recreation on the river, someone has to take responsibility,” Channing said.
Carr planned to get an early start Friday to make it to her next planned stop at the Coxsackie Boat Launch. Carr plans to arrive at Eve’s point, Bristol Beach, Saugerties on Saturday and arrive at Esopus Lighthouse Park, Ulster Park on Sunday before continuing her journey for the next week.
The paddler has to keep an eye on tides and currents to be as efficient with her energy as possible.
“In New York City, there is a lot of boat traffic,” she said. “There isn’t any scope for error.”
With the faster flow, stronger currents and the choppy wakes of boats, Carr has to keep her eyes open and wits about her, she said.
The Brooklyn-based SeaHive — an environmental organization founded in 2017 — that helps companies replace plastic with alternative packaging, is backing Carr’s crusade, Operations Manager Emily Diamond said.
“We’re happy to support Lizzie,” said Diamond, of Hudson. “She’s bringing real-world awareness. She’s literally paddling for awareness. Our mission is to keep plastic pollution out of waterways.”
Ocean athletes such as Lizzie see how detrimental and pervasive plastic pollution is, Diamond said.
“It’s their lives and mission to keep our oceans, rivers and lakes clean,” she added.
Consumers can use reusable grocery bags, metal or glass water bottles and avoid making purchases from companies that use plastic in their packaging to contribute to the cause, Diamond said.
“It’s an easy, conscious decision people can incorporate into their daily lives,” she said.
To view Lizzie’s Live Tracker or to sign up for beach clean-ups visit lizzieoutside.co.uk/live-tracker
*Editor’s note: This story reflects a change. Carr paddled across the English Channel in spring 2017, not 2018.