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Only Rain Down the Drain

One city has a unique approach to keeping waterways clean.

By Ava Park-Matt

Ava Park-Matt painted this drain mural in Hoboken, NJ with her Girl Scout troop.

Ava and members of her Girl Scout troop painted a mural around this storm drain in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Did you know that cigarette butts and trash tossed on the street can be washed down storm drains and end up in our waterways? That is because garbage-strewn rainwater flowing into the drains does not get filtered—it goes straight into rivers and other waterways.

The Hoboken Green Team, a group of volunteers appointed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, New Jersey, was created to raise awareness about the dangers that trash and other contaminants pose to waterways and the environment. For Earth Day last April, the group asked local students to paint murals highlighting the city’s storm drains.


Volunteers painted more than 20 colorful murals, which featured fish, mermaids, sharks, and even a monster. The murals came with such messages as, “Only Rain Down the Drain,” and “I only eat rainwater. I’m trash intolerant.”

Girl Scout Troop 12881 painting a storm drain mural in Hoboken, NJ.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 12881 paint a storm drain mural in Hoboken. Similar environmental programs exist in Baltimore, Maryland, and São Paolo, Brazil.

Kids were excited to do their part. “It was really fun knowing that I was helping the environment,” said volunteer Kate Enger, 11. During the mural painting, passersby would sometimes stop and ask what was going on and learn something new.

“The program was a remarkable success,” said Jeffrey Train, the Green Team storm drain mural coordinator.

Mayor Zimmer agreed. “Our city became a much brighter, more colorful, and cleaner place thanks to the educational paintings on local storm drains,” Zimmer told student volunteers on Earth Day.

Several cities across the country, and even around the world, have similar projects. Storm drain murals are a great way to help the environment and make sidewalks, streets, and cities a little brighter. If you would like to create a Green Team in your community, contact your school administrators or local government.

Photos courtesy of the author

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