Hamline News

Hamline-Based Adopt-a-Drain Program Goes Regional


Monday, April 22 is Earth Day but we can celebrate our planet every day. An easy, local and high-impact action available to those in the Twin Cities and Rochester is to participate in the Adopt-a-Drain program which is run by Hamline’s Center for Global Environmental Education (CGEE) in partnership with the Metro Watershed Partners, a group of more than 70 member organizations are dedicated to inspiring action around water protection.

Participation is as easy as creating an account at www.Adopt-a-Drain.org where residents can claim one or more available storm drains in their neighborhood. They can even name their drains. Many choose recognizable names but some people get clever, calling their adoptee “Bubblesworth” or “Stormy McStormdrain.”

In addition to naming rights, participants receive tips on how to be safe while cleaning the drains and get annual reports on how much pollution they and other participants have kept out of local lakes and streams.

There are more than 300,000 storm drains in the Twin Cities metro area and each one flows into a local waterway with plenty available to adopt, including a few in the neighborhood around Hamline. Members of the Hamline community are encouraged to adopt a storm drain.

The Adopt-a-Drain program began in Saint Paul in 2014 with support from the City of Saint Paul, Capitol Region Watershed District and the CGEE at Hamline University. It has been piloted in Minneapolis and other cities. To date, more than 3,000 residents have adopted more than 5,000 storm drains. In 2018, these residents prevented more than 35,562 pounds of debris -- or 17.78 tons -- from washing into lakes and rivers just by sweeping up around storm drains.

Program Administrator Jana Larson MFA ‘15 created the Adopt-a-Drain program, which recently upgraded its online presence. Those improvements received notice in late March when people discovered that the map was a great tool for community members who wanted to prevent spring flooding by excavating storm drains from ice and snow on city streets.

The new website also means that more Minnesotans can now participate in the Adopt-a-Drain program because it now covers the seven-county metro area and Rochester.

“Five years ago Adopt-a-Drain was just a brainstorm to promote awareness of the connectivity between what happens on our streets and the health of our rivers and streams,” said Larson. “Now it’s a useful online tool that helps communities take action to keep our waterways clean.”

Hamline alumna Jenni Abere ‘17 assists in running Adopt-a-Drain as the Implementation Coordinator. The environmental studies major began working for the CGEE in 2015 on outreach activities for the Adopt-a-Drain program. Her initial responsibility was door hanging fliers about Adopt-a-Drain in neighborhoods. Over time her role grew. She has also worked at the Minnesota State Fair, where CGEE and Adopt-a-Drain have a large presence in the Eco Experience Building.

“By my junior and senior year at Hamline, I was training other student workers and coordinating their schedules, while also implementing the Adopt-a-Drain program,” said Abere.

Current Hamline students Maren Grunnet and Samantha Johnson now provide some additional operational muscle for the Adopt-a-Drain program, helping to distribute flyers and send packets and signs to new adopters.

Abere noted her job has enabled her to learn the details of running a community-focused environmental program. She’s also been involved in decision-making around the new website and program expansion.

“Most of all, I have learned a lot about coordinating with other organizations and entities. I've been able to build relationships with many other environmental professionals at cities, watershed management organizations, and nonprofits in the Twin Cities region,” she said. “I'm very fortunate to get a job in my field right out of college!”

Abere is currently hiring work study students for the Adopt-a-Drain program within CGEE. (Here is the job listing.)

Hamline’s CGEE was founded by polar explorer Will Steger and other environmentalists to foster environmental literacy and stewardship in citizens of all ages. CGEE addresses its mission through teacher education, developing educational materials for young people, creating multimedia resources for parks and museums, and community outreach.

For more information please see the Adopt-a-Drain press release.

4/1/19 Written by staff.