#GreatLakes Lives On

#GreatLakes Lives On

Co-written by Dr. Neil Hawkins, President of the Erb Family Foundation, and  Jim McClelland, MA, Founder of SustMeme

In September of 2021 when the Foundation, in association with SustMeme, launched a ranking of the top 500 Great Lakes influencers on Twitter, there was little dialogue about the Great Lakes.

As word spread about the new weekly #GreatLakes500 list—that would rank users based on their engagement in and discussion of #GreatLakes topics—it quickly became a go-to resource for making connections, building relationships, and spreading awareness. Open to anyone across the Great Lakes region interested in and working on Great Lakes issues, it attracted organizations and individuals alike.

On April 4th, 2023, SustMeme published the final #GreatLakes500 list. Due to changes in Twitter’s API, the ranking cannot continue. However, it has created momentum that will continue to energize the use of the #GreatLakes hashtag and ensure that critical Great Lakes conversations will continue to flow.


The #GreatLakes500 list deepened a shared sense of community and responsibility for the Great Lakes basin. It provided opportunities to forge professional relationships and a platform on which to explore and establish new collaborations. Countless videos, images, Twitter chats, and conversations educated followers and encouraged participation and action.

In total, nearly 600 different players were featured in the ranking throughout its 17-month lifespan, with the top 500 regularly reaching an audience of some 4 million followers on Twitter every week. This community was also growing rapidly, with new followers joining at rates of up to almost 10,000 a week.

Since the ranking was based on hashtag usage and active participation in and engagement with #GreatLakes, accounts of any size could join the running and boost their visibility. Accounts in the list ranged from ones with under 50 followers to others with over 1 million.

The #GreatLakes community also encouraged conversations amongst those with shared interests in the U.S. and Canada, creating a bridge for binational issues and solutions.

#GreatLakes Lives On

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world. And whilst the challenges facing the lakes are many, the vast number of passionate individuals and groups with innovative solutions and forward-thinking ideas, plus the opportunities they collectively present, far exceeds them.

Conversations using #GreatLakes should and must continue for the benefit of the region. Even though the friendly competition of the #GreatLakes500 list has ended, #GreatLakes lives on.

Follow #GreatLakes and use it in social posts to be part of the conversations advancing a flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem.

About Jim McClelland

Jim McClelland is the influencer behind the business media platform and brand SustMeme, which is published and managed by McClelland Media, a UK-based company. Highly active and engaged across social media, Jim is ranked in the Top 3 Media Influencers in Sustainability worldwide. He has also had the honor of being included in Debrett’s People of Today, the annual publication celebrating individuals positively influencing Britain and inspiring others through their achievements and leadership. With a Master’s degree in ‘The Word & the Visual Imagination,’ Jim has amassed over 20 years of experience in publishing, media, and events. His publishing portfolio ranges from newspapers, through regional and national B2B and B2C periodicals, onto yearbooks and in-depth supplements and white papers.

About Neil Hawkins

Dr. Neil C. Hawkins is president of the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. He is a leading global expert in sustainable business practices and sustainability policy. His ground-breaking work in leading Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) and sustainability reporting led to his appointment by Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney to the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) of Financial Stability Board (FSB) and his appointment to the International Olympic Commission Sustainability and Legacy Commission. continues to drive scholarship and research through his appointments at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Policy and Global Affairs Committee and The Council on Foreign Relations. Neil is also an adjunct professor at Wayne State University where he co-teaches the Sustainable Urban Business graduate seminar at the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

About the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation

The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, founded in 2009, advances environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant communities in metropolitan Detroit and a flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem. The Foundation will award $14 million in grants this year.