In 2019, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) was awarded a $100,000 Planet Award from the Consumers Energy Foundation to support the On the Water (OTW) program, which helps Michiganders connect with our many waterways through stream and riverbed clean-up events and public education, outreach and recycling efforts.  

During the 18 months the program ran, more than 650 volunteers: 

  • Removed 8,665 pounds of trash  
  • Cleared 1,510 pounds of invasive species  
  • Cleaned up 1,872 acres of watersheds 

“OTW was a great success, and the numbers make it clear programs like OTW are needed in the Great Lakes state. The future is bright for our watersheds and communities because Michiganders care and are willing to clean them up and protect them,” said Emma Nehan, former OTW Coordinator/MUCC Staff.  

“We saw a higher-than-normal volunteer turn out for OTW,” said Shaun McKeon, Education Director. Once the Planet Award funding was fully utilized, they incorporated a few water events into their existing “On the Ground” program. “We usually still do two or three aquatic focused projects each year,” said McKeon. 

And he encouraged residents to continue caring for the Great Lakes even though the program has wrapped up. “Prevention is obviously the best method,” said McKeon. “Stopping the trash from getting to the water in the first place is ideal, so it’s important to recycle and dispose of your trash after a day on the lake.” He recommends having a bag or two handy for planned and impromptu walks along a shoreline.  

“Unfortunately, there is trash everywhere,” McKeon said. “You’ll be amazed how fast you can fill a bag while you walk along the shoreline in many places.” While reusable bags are always best, a plastic grocery bag is better than nothing.  

If you’re interested in doing more, there are always opportunities to leave it better than we found it. “It comes down to individuals doing a little bit at a time, and together they make a big change for our environment,” he said. McKeon had a few tips for individuals interested in a clean-up effort, big or small: 

  • Wear gloves 
  • Use “grabbers” so you don’t have to bend down as much 
  • Consider 5-gallon buckets – they don’t fly away like garbage bags, are lightweight and even float in the water 
  • Call your local park about opportunities to clean-up their grounds  
  • Contact the city or township to see if they would be willing to pick up the bagged trash or designate someone to take it to a landfill  

To check out current volunteer opportunities with the MUCC visit: [] 

For more on the MUCC Planet Award visit our website