Caring for the environment is a task not reserved for any specific group of people. It is a frontier that has been traversed by people of all types of backgrounds; people who have often approached the battlefield wielding different weapons in the ongoing war against pollution. And for the tenth year in a row Summit County is giving its residents the tools to do the same.

All they have to do is take a picture.

From now until August 1, 2013 the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District is accepting entries for its 2013 Clean Water photography contest. The theme for this year is “more trees please,” as the district is trying to promote the importance of trees to the overall health and well-being of the environment.

The rules are simple. And anyone can compete. All one has to do is find a scene that correlates with this year theme, capture it, and send it to the SSWC office in Cuyahoga Falls.  A few examples include taking pictures of trees planted to green up a city, bird and butterfly gardens, rain barrels, or native plant species.

Sandy Barbic, an education specialist with the conservation district, said the initial motivation behind the contest was to make people aware of the relevance of clean water.

“It was to make them aware of the importance that water has in their lives,” Barbic said. “It is important in all of our lives.”

Last year the contest winners focused their attention on healthier cleaning supplies and pet owners cleaning up after their pets. Barbic said one contest photographed a woman cleaning her house with a mixture of vinegar and water. She said this is good for the environment because it means damaging cleaning supplies aren’t finding their way into streams and rivers.  

Another winner took a picture of someone picking up their dogs’ feces with a pooper scooper. A mundane task, but Barbic said it’s just another way average people can help to keep the water supply clean.

“The photo contest is all about educating residents on things they can do to improve the water quality, ”Barbic said.

Barbic made references to other things people can do to keep the water supply healthy. She mentioned checking the soil quality of lawns to verify if they really need fertilizer or not. Some yards can survive without fertilizers. This is good news, since many fertilizers end up in streams and rivers. According to Barbic, these are the source of dead zones, which are bodies of water deprived of oxygen.

“Excess fertilizer ends up in the rivers and the streams and causes alga blooms,” Barbic said. “When the algae decompose, the decomposers use a great deal of oxygen, so the fish and other aquatic organism can’t breathe and die.”

The conservation district is not running this contest alone. It is backed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which requires certain communities to get its residents involved with water quality. The photography contest is how Summit County is getting residents involved.

There will be a first, second, and third place winner. First place winners will get $100, second place will receive $50, and third place will receive $25. In addition to the monetary prizes each picture will be displayed on a bill board highlighting the theme of this year’s contest.

Although they haven’t received any submissions yet, Barbic expect the entries to increase as spring gets closer.

“Since the theme is trees and landscaping, we expect to get more as it becomes spring and people start gardening, and working on their lawns, ”Barbic said.

Further information can be found on the Summit SWCD website at Their phone number is 330-929-2871.