The city of Madison Heights is participating in a nationwide challenge to improve water conservation habits among residents. The challenge is an initiative by the Wyland Foundation, led by marine artist and environmental activist Robert Wyland, whose 100 “whaling walls” are world famous. One of them is the mural “Humpbacks” in the pool room at Lamphere High.

The city of Madison Heights is participating in a nationwide challenge to improve water conservation habits among residents. The challenge is an initiative by the Wyland Foundation, led by marine artist and environmental activist Robert Wyland, whose 100 “whaling walls” are world famous. One of them is the mural “Humpbacks” in the pool room at Lamphere High.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Madison Heights participates in water conservation challenge

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 24, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — A national competition is underway to see which city can get the highest percentage of its residents to sign a pledge to maintain eco-friendly water habits. One of the participating cities is Madison Heights, which is especially fitting since the initiative was started by a hometown hero.

A graduate of Lamphere High, Robert Wyland — known around the world simply as “Wyland” — is the marine artist and environmental activist who painted “Humpbacks,” the sprawling whale mural that adorns the wall of the school’s pool room. It was the 25th whale mural out of 100 total — the last of which was made in Beijing, China for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Another famous mural by Wyland is “The Whale Tower,” which occupies the side of David Broderick Tower in Detroit.

His life-size depictions of marine life have encouraged people around the world to reflect on water as a life-sustaining resource requiring protection. Through his group, the Wyland Foundation, he has started a variety of initiatives to educate people on the matter. One such effort is the annual Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

At the core of the campaign is the “My Water Pledge,” which runs throughout August coinciding with National Water Quality Month. Residents of participating cities are encouraged to go online to mywaterpledge.com, where they can pledge to follow through on best water conservation practices.

Individuals can win prizes, and so can charities of their choice. Last year the competition awarded more than $50,000 in prizes to nearly 300 residents in cities across the U.S. Among the prizes was a Toyota Highlander Hybrid for a winning nonprofit, a prize that returns this year as well.

After visiting the site and clicking the green tab in the upper right that says “Take the pledge,”  participants type in their city and check off a series of boxes indicating the commitments they plan to make. These commitments are divided into four categories — at home, daily life, in the yard, and in the community.

The options for changes at home include repairing leaking faucets, pipes and toilets; shortening shower time, using low-flow devices and turning off the tap; washing only full loads of laundry and dishes; and powering down devices to save electricity.

The options for changes in daily life include wasting less food — “save a crop, save a drop,” as the site says; using reusable shopping bags; using a refillable bottle or cup for drinks; and no longer using plastic straws.

The options for changes in the yard include adding climate-appropriate plants; turning off sprinklers when it rains; using sprinklers on lowest settings before 8 a.m.; and using a PowerSweep instead of a hose.

And the options for changes in the community include scooping up pet waste; safely disposing of unneeded pharmaceuticals, and never flushing them; walking, biking or taking the bus more often; recycling batteries and electronics; and recycling clean paper, cardboard, aluminum and glass.

The pledge concludes by asking the participant to select a charity they want to win. Participants can choose a charity from the list or name a new charity if it’s not listed. One can also check a box to enroll in a prize drawing for residents. The pledge asks for an email address.

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, said that she enrolled the city in this year’s challenge. At press time, a resolution was being drafted for the City Council. She said the city is also planning a social media campaign, and she has reached out to the mayors of nearby cities to encourage their participation as well.

She is also making a short video detailing her own family’s water conservation habits.

“At our house, we generally take showers, not baths. We limit the number of dishes we wash by hand, as hand washing uses about five times as much water as our efficient dishwasher. We also do little things like turning off the tap when brushing teeth,” Grafstein said.

“For a few years, we used a rain barrel to water our gardens, but now once our seedlings are started outside, we just let nature do the watering and it seems to work. Years ago, we took out half the grass in our boulevard and planted a variety of pollinators and native plants. We planted lavender, coneflowers, sunflowers and irises to attract butterflies and bees. It worked, and also attracted birds who have in turn planted various berries,” she said. “It has been years since we have watered there, relying only on the rain.

“We also use compost tumblers for our plant-based waste, and walk or bike to run errands as much as feasible,” she added, noting that reducing pollution indirectly supports water conservation. “The panniers on my bike can hold two to four grocery bags, and worked great a couple of months ago when I picked up a watermelon, ice cream, milk and oranges.”

Mark Bliss, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, said that Wyland and the artist’s work raising environmental awareness is a point of pride for the city.

“While we know him locally as the hometown artist who painted all of the outstanding aquatic murals, Wyland’s impact has spanned the globe, and his foundation has helped to inspire millions of people to take better care of our oceans, lakes, wetlands and streams,” Bliss said. “Like many folks in our city, I had an appreciation of Wyland from an early age — my aunt actually graduated with him, and he grew up a block from where I did. It’s an inspiring story to share with the next generation. (Wyland) went to our schools and played in our parks, and has made such a huge difference in the world by following what he’s passionate about: his art, and the environment that inspires it.”

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