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Environmentalism, with a splash of destruction please

Students removing multi-flora rose at MPEA.

Improv­ing our eco-footprint always seems to mean being gen­tler on nat­ural resources and often trans­lates to, “don’t do that,” so it’s a wel­come change when we can be green while using our poten­tial for destruc­tion. We can’t all remove dams to save rivers, but with very lit­tle train­ing any­one can har­ness their destruc­tive force to remove inva­sive plants. Man­ag­ing inva­sive plants is impor­tant for ecosys­tem health and is an excel­lent way to blow off steam, get fresh air and exer­cise, and meet other folks who are giv­ing back to their communities.

A Howard County Weed War­rior pro­gram removes inva­sive species in the Mid­dle Patux­ent Envi­ron­men­tal Area (MPEA) between Colum­bia and Clarksville. This for­est pre­serve suf­fers from an influx of inva­sive plants which can cause ecosys­tem imbal­ances affect­ing species and habitats.

Students removing multi-flora rose at MPEA.

Stu­dents remov­ing mul­ti­flora rose in the MPEA.

Ani­mals and plants that evolved together in this region rely on one another to hold together a com­plex web of species that pro­vide ser­vices, such as habi­tat or food, for each other. When plants or ani­mals from far­away are brought to a new area and find con­di­tions suit­able for their exis­tence, there may soon be a problem.

One local invader is known as mile-a-minute or tearthumb (Per­si­caria per­fo­li­ata). This vine spreads quickly and is cov­ered by small thorns as its com­mon names sug­gest. This plant monop­o­lizes areas by grow­ing over other plants, weigh­ing them down and block­ing out the light they need to survive.

Last month I joined the MPEA Weed War­rior pro­gram as they put on leather gloves and began tear­ing these thorny vines out of trees and off of bushes in hopes of get­ting the plant into trash bags before its seeds could drop to the ground or be eaten by birds. In two hours we had filled 8 fifty-gallon trash bags and learned quite a lot while doing so.

Mile-a-minute with seed, growing on top of native and invasive plants at the MPEA.

Mile-a-minute with seed, grow­ing on top of native and inva­sive plants at the MPEA.

Crew Leader Davey Rogner is very knowl­edge­able about plants and passed on some inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion includ­ing this shocker: Inva­sive species cost our soci­ety over $142 billion/year accord­ing to the Fed­eral High­way Administration.

The Weed War­rior pro­gram is clos­ing down for the win­ter, but will be up and run­ning again in the spring. They hope to triple their vol­un­teer par­tic­i­pa­tion. Inter­ested? Con­tact Davey Rogner @ DRogner@howardcountymd.gov, or 410−313−0476.

Bill Mahoney
Novem­ber 2014

Christmas Bird Count and Citizen Science

The 113th Annual Audubon Christ­mas Bird Count is tak­ing place Dec 14, 2012 to Jan­u­ary 5, 2013. Accord­ing to Audubon, this project is the longest run­ning cit­i­zen sci­ence sur­vey in the world. What is the Christ­mas Bird Count? What is Cit­i­zen Sci­ence? Glad you asked.

The mod­ern Christ­mas Bird Count is an inter­na­tional vol­un­teer activ­ity where the Audubon Soci­ety orga­nizes bird “cir­cles” and vol­un­teers come out­side, bird guides and binoc­u­lars in hand, to iden­tify and count all the birds in that area. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in this fun hol­i­day activ­ity. But the data is actu­ally very valu­able and used widely by sci­en­tists. This helps with con­ser­va­tion efforts.

The event has a bit of a dark his­tory. The orig­i­nal Amer­i­can tra­di­tion started at the turn of the cen­tury with fam­i­lies com­pet­ing in “side hunts” where peo­ple split up into teams to see who could kill the most birds in one day. As the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion and the tra­di­tion grew, peo­ple began to sus­pect that it was reduc­ing bird pop­u­la­tions. So on Christ­mas Day, 1900, with the con­ser­va­tion move­ment just begin­ning, the founders of the Audubon Soci­ety started chang­ing that tra­di­tion into a Christ­mas Bird Cen­sus.

Check out the Audubon web­site for more info and to find local bird cir­cles. I didn’t see any listed for Howard County, but per­haps you are trav­el­ing to an area that does have one. There is another great bird-related Cit­i­zen Sci­ence oppor­tu­nity com­ing up in Feb­ru­ary, the Great Back­yard Bird Count.

Back to Cit­i­zen Sci­ence for a moment. I don’t have an actual def­i­n­i­tion, but there are lots activ­i­ties where vol­un­teers par­tic­i­pate in help­ing sci­en­tists col­lect and record envi­ron­men­tal data. Sci­en­tists count on this data to track and find trends. You usu­ally don’t need any spe­cial train­ing and the time com­mit­ment is gen­er­ally low.

The Great Back­yard Bird Count may be the eas­i­est of the all. You cre­ate an account online, pick a 15-minute time dur­ing Feb­ru­ary 15 – 18, 2013, and enter the types of birds you see in your back­yard or other loca­tion you choose.

In Howard County, we have a num­ber of other nature-based Cit­i­zen Sci­ence pro­jets. Frog­watch, But­ter­fly and Drag­on­fly Counts, and the Mary­land Amphib­ian and Rep­tile Atlas are a few of my favorites. I’m work­ing on com­pil­ing the local ones into a Cit­i­zen Sci­ence page for livegreenhoward.com, so keep tuned in for that.

Elissa Rei­neck
ereineck@howardcountymd.gov
Decem­ber 2012

World Water Monitoring Day

Ah, back to school time. Many par­ents in Howard County are doing dances of joy or are dread­ing the things that come with it like wak­ing up grumpy kids, nag­ging over home­work, etc. So I want to get to you all while you are still eager and fresh to rec­om­mend an activ­ity that is easy to do in a school set­ting, or on your own.

World Water Mon­i­tor­ing Day (WWMD) is an inter­na­tional pro­gram for vol­un­teers to test local water and report the results. It is easy and edu­ca­tional in so many ways. Basi­cally, you buy a kit online that comes with sim­ple instruc­tions and equip­ment for 4 tests – pH, dis­solved oxy­gen, tur­bid­ity, and tem­per­a­ture. OK, maybe that sounds hard, but I promise that it’s not. Dis­solved oxy­gen and pH are done by putting lit­tle tablets into the pro­vided tubes. Tur­bid­ity is done by putting the water in a plas­tic can and observ­ing a black and white sticker at the bot­tom. Tem­per­a­ture is done with a plas­tic strip that turns dif­fer­ent shades on the num­bered degrees. I actu­ally pre­fer using one of those cook­ing ther­mome­ters where the metal part that goes into the food is on a wire con­nected to a dig­i­tal meter. Or, you could email me and I can prob­a­bly bor­row a ther­mome­ter on a string for you. You do not have to buy the offi­cial WWMD kit, you can use your own equip­ment, but the basic kit is less than $20, includ­ing shipping.

This is a great activ­ity for a class­room. I have done it with a math class and we turned it into a sta­tis­tics les­son. Remem­ber mean, median, and mode? I have also used the WWMD kit as a demon­stra­tion for a GT class that was later going to mon­i­tor a local stream. There was no stream on the school prop­erty, so we prac­ticed doing the tests on some water I brought in.

This activ­ity can also be a social stud­ies or geog­ra­phy les­son, because the next part of WWMD is really cool. Once the tests are done, you log on to the web­site and enter the data. Peo­ple all around the world are doing the same thing– 340,000 peo­ple last year in 77 coun­tries. This is great for stu­dents, adults, Scouts, any­one inter­ested in find­ing out more about their local water and water around the world.

World Water Mon­i­tor­ing Day is offi­cially Sep­tem­ber 18, but you can do it any­time until the end of the cal­en­dar year. And it will start up again next March and run though the rest of 2013.

I highly rec­om­mend it, and con­tact me if you want more details. I can even help you find out if there is a stream on your school’s property.

Elissa Rei­neck
ereineck@howardcountymd.gov
August 2012

2012 20 Minute Cleanup Results

Well Howard County, you’ve amazed me again. The 2012 20 Minute Cleanup had over 2300 par­tic­i­pants! They are over-used these days, but I think that deserves some extra excla­ma­tion points. All I can say is wow. And thank you.

Thank you for not being the only crazy one out there pick­ing up other people’s lit­ter. Thank you for get­ting out­side and tak­ing action. Thank you for par­tic­i­pat­ing, moti­vat­ing oth­ers, and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. Thank you for re-energizing us gov­ern­ment work­ers, who some­times see the less happy side of our won­der­ful residents.

The 20 Minute Cleanup is a very sim­ple idea, which we bor­rowed from a project in Toronto called the 20 Minute Makeover. That sounded con­fus­ing to me, hope I’m not the only one. The Howard County project is very low cost – the County doesn’t pro­vide any mate­ri­als or extra trash or recy­cling pick­ups. We pro­mote it elec­tron­i­cally and haven’t printed fliers since the first one in 2010. I think the idea is start­ing to get some real trac­tion as I’ve seen more peo­ple know about it, and more groups, par­tic­u­larly schools, embrace it as an easy and effec­tive project.

Thank you all for mak­ing Howard County cleaner and greener. By work­ing together, we made our neigh­bor­hoods more beau­ti­ful and less trash will end up in our streams, rivers and the Bay.

Here is the list of the 2012 par­tic­i­pants. Thanks for all the pic­tures of your cleanups. They are up on our Flikr page. Great job everybody!

Busi­nesses:

Allen & Shar­iff Engi­neer­ing
First Fin­ish, Inc.
Straughan Envi­ron­men­tal, Inc
Versar

Indi­vid­u­als and Families:

Bar­bara Gra­ham
Bussey Fam­ily
Carol and Steve Yanek
Ellen and Jim Bil­leter
Gauert Fam­ily
Guarin Fam­ily
Kathie and Ralph Lil­lie
Loraine Fam­ily
Lyons Fam­ily
Mark and Shel­ley Sweeney
McCready Fam­ily
Rager Fam­ily
Rie Fam­ily
Ron LeClare
Smith Fam­ily
Strick­land Family

Neigh­bor­hoods:

Ash­leigh Knoll Res­i­dent
Brant­wood Neigh­bor­hood
Governor’s Grant Neigh­bors
Lin­wood Neigh­bor­hood, Elli­cott City
Spring Breeze Com­mu­nity Asso­ci­a­tion
Team Landing

Youth Groups:

Cub Scout Pack 793
Cub Scout Pack 794 Den 1
Cub Scout Pack 794, Den 6
Daisy Troop 1928
Girl Scout Troop 311
SAC Galaxy United soc­cer team
SAC Red Bulls soc­cer team

Schools:

Atholton Ele­men­tary School
Clarksville Mid­dle School
Dun­log­gin Mid­dle School
Lau­rel Woods Ele­men­tary School
North­field Ele­men­tary School
Point­ers Run Ele­men­tary School
Rock­burn Ele­men­tary School
Stevens For­est Ele­men­tary School
Vet­er­ans Ele­men­tary School
Waverly Ele­men­tary School

Howard County Government:

Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices
D.I.L.P. Inspec­tions and Enforce­ment Divi­sion
DCA Cen­tral Fleet
Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Zon­ing
Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works, Director’s Office
Dorsey Build­ing — South Team
Elkridge Senior Cen­ter
Fire and Res­cue Engine 22 and Para­medic 26
Fire Sta­tion 1
Fire Sta­tion 10
Fire Sta­tion 11
Fire Sta­tion 3B
Fire Sta­tion 5
Fire Sta­tion 6B
Fire Sta­tion 9
Fire Sta­tion 8B and EMS 2B
Grass­roots Cri­sis Inter­ven­tion Cen­ter
Howard County employ­ees, Elli­cott City cam­pus
Howard County Police Depart­ment
Mead­ow­brook Ath­letic Com­plex & Park
Office of Con­sumer Affairs
Office of Human Resources
Office of Human Rights
The Green Ladies of DTCS

I’m sure there are more of you out there, so if you would like to be included in the list and totals, please send an email to 20minutecleanup@howardcountymd.gov .

See you again next year,

Elissa Rei­neck
Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sustainability

May 2012

When Disaster Strikes — Stay Green

Given Mother Nature’s recent out­bursts in this area, let’s talk about being pre­pared. Whether we’re fac­ing another snow­pocalyspe, hur­ri­cane, earth­quake, flood, or even an after­noon elec­tri­cal storm, it’s easy to be pre­pared while still being “green.” Hav­ing wit­nessed the chaos that ensued in the Twit­ter world just before Irene hit (i.e.“[insert name of any store here] in #HoCo just ran out of water, milk, toi­let paper, gen­er­a­tors, and bat­ter­ies!”) it seems that often in quick prepa­ra­tions we grab the eas­i­est thing off the shelf instead of think­ing long term. Plan now, think through what you really need, and you’ll find your­self at home with a stack of good library books instead of elbow­ing peo­ple for that last bot­tle of water.

  • Buy a large reusable cooler jug to fill with tap water rather than scram­ble for a zil­lion bot­tles of water at the gro­cery store. You can also use the jug for car trips, pic­nics, camp­ing, etc.
  • Buy recharge­able bat­ter­ies for flash­lights, etc. and spend the day before the storm charg­ing them up rather than fight­ing for more at the store. Recy­cle them when they are drained (other bat­ter­ies are not recyclable).
  • Use a crank radio or flash­light that doesn’t require bat­ter­ies. Hand it to your kids to burn some of their energy and enter­tain them.
  • Don’t buy extra per­ish­ables that will need to be thrown out if you lose power. How likely are you to chug that gal­lon of milk when your fridge starts to get warm? Gross. Buy smart – only things you are will­ing (and that are safe) to eat and drink at room temp.
  • Keep in mind indoor air qual­ity and your health and safety. Make sure your gas gen­er­a­tor, camp stove, or other back up power is out­side, not in a closed area to avoid breath­ing in car­bon monox­ide or other gases. Use a gen­er­a­tor only if absolutely necessary.
  • Be neigh­borly and make sure your sump pump dis­charge doesn’t flow across other people’s prop­erty which could flood their house or yard.
  • Make sure your rain bar­rel over­flow points away from your house foun­da­tion. Also, try con­nect­ing a sec­ond or third bar­rel to store even more of the pre­cious rain water for use on your plants later when it inevitably dries up again.

And a few ideas for those long days with­out power (and antsy kids crawl­ing the walls):

  • Get out­side. Bun­dle up the kids, pets, or your friends in the appro­pri­ate attire for the weather event and go explor­ing to burn off some energy. (Of course only do this when and where it is safe, avoid pol­luted stand­ing water, downed trees near power lines, retain­ing walls that look ques­tion­able, or any­thing else that raises an eyebrow.)
  • Explore your own back­yard or one of Howard County’s many parks. Nature doesn’t need elec­tric­ity to be fas­ci­nat­ing. Look for birds, snakes, frogs, fish, sala­man­ders, and more. Report some of your find­ings to the MD Herp Atlas HERE.
  • Look for ani­mal tracks in the snow or mud and see how many you can identify.
  • Col­lect fallen leaves, acorns, or pinecones and iden­tify which trees they fell from. When you get back indoors look them up online or in books to learn more about the tree species.
  • Take advan­tage of the quiet. With­out the back­ground hum of air con­di­tion­ers, trucks, or planes, stand in a field or for­est and lis­ten to the sounds of nature. See how many you can identify.
  • Purge. It’s one of those things we always put off, but with­out the nor­mal pro­cras­ti­nat­ing options avail­able this is the per­fect time. Go through your clos­ets, toy boxes, book shelves, kitchen, and garage and col­lect things you haven’t used in a few months to donate to those who really need them or recy­cle them. Kids can eas­ily join in this activ­ity and will be happy to know their toys and clothes will bring excite­ment to other children.
  • Go old school. Make sock pup­pets, brown paper bag mon­sters, toi­let paper roll tele­scopes, news­pa­per hats, nap­kin origami, bird feed­ers from milk jugs, or get cre­ative with any­thing else you find in your house to recy­cle and reuse for fun.

- Lind­say, OES staff

Sep­tem­ber 2011

2011 20 Minute Cleanup — Thanks for a successful day!

Thank you to every­one who par­tic­i­pated in the 2011 20 Minute Cleanup! Over 1500 peo­ple in Howard County par­tic­i­pated and removed many, many bags of trash and recy­cling. Not every­one counted their haul, but for those who did, the total was 141 bags of trash and 32 bags of recycling.

Thank you all for mak­ing Howard County cleaner and greener. By work­ing together, we made our neigh­bor­hoods more beau­ti­ful and less trash will end up in our envi­ron­ment, par­tic­u­larly our streams, rivers and the Bay.

That is really won­der­ful and shows the great vol­un­teer spirit in Howard County. On a per­sonal note, It was very inspir­ing to get all of your won­der­ful emails and pos­i­tive com­ments about the project. I hope that every­one felt the same way, doing a small part of a larger good.

In the office com­plex where I work, we had a great day with about 75 employ­ees, includ­ing the County Exec­u­tive, doing a quick pick up of trash around the Elli­cott City cam­pus and sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood. Tak­ing a 20 minute break to do a cleanup was sur­pris­ingly fun.

An extra THANK YOU goes out to the fol­low­ing groups and indi­vid­u­als. Thank you so much for doing the cleanup and for let­ting us know that you were out there. We appre­ci­ate you very much!

Brownie Troop 1777
Brownie Troop 1948
Brownie Troop 2327
Brownie Troop 703
Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Services
Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices, Alpha Ridge
Carol and Steve Yanek
Carol McKissick
Clarksville Mid­dle School
Cub Pack 794, Den 6
D.I.L.P. Inspec­tions and Enforce­ment Division
DCA Cen­tral Fleet
Depart­ment of Corrections
Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works-Engineering
Diane Juray
Elkridge Senior Center
Elli­cott City Col­ored School, Restored
Glen Mead­ows Community
Glen­wood 50+ Center
Glen­wood Recre­ation and Parks
Grass­roots Cri­sis Inter­ven­tion Center
Hal Bryson
Hocoblogs
Howard County employ­ees, Elli­cott City campus
Howard County NAACP Youth Group
Irene and Jim MacDonald
LDS Mis­sion­ary
Lin­wood Neigh­bor­hood, Elli­cott City
Lyons Fam­ily
Mark and Shel­ley Sweeney
Mary Anne McDermott
Police Depart­ment, Sup­port Ser­vices Division
Rock­burn Ele­men­tary School
SAC U-11 Boys Clas­sic II (Galaxy United)
Scout Pack 62
Soeken Fam­ily
Straughan Envi­ron­men­tal, Inc
The Green Ladies of DTCS
Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Exten­sion – Ho. Co. Office
Ver­sar
Vet­er­ans Ele­men­tary School
Waverly Ele­men­tary School
Wilde Lake High School
Win­dridge Farms Neighborhood

We’re sure there are more of you out there, so if you would like to be included in the list and totals, please send an email to 20minutecleanup@howardcountymd.gov .

This is the sec­ond year for this project and I hope that it grows every year and builds aware­ness about lit­ter­ing and work­ing together to get rid of it.

Thanks again to all, and see you again next year. If we can just get that beau­ti­ful weather again, we’ll be all set.

Elissa Rei­neck
Envi­ron­men­tal Vol­un­teer Coordinator
Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sustainability

Neat Earth Day Idea

Around this time of year, Howard County gov­ern­ment offices get calls from peo­ple who want to “do some­thing” for Earth Day. This is won­der­ful and we’re glad to help! April is a great time to do out­door projects and we’ve got some com­ing up. The Upcom­ing Events cal­en­dar has some inter­est­ing ideas. Check it out for Green­fest (April 2), Project Clean Stream (April 2 and 3), and tree plant­ing projects (CA April 9, Rec and Parks April 30).

On Thurs­day, April 14th, Howard County is doing what we have named the 20 Minute Cleanup. Basi­cally, County Exec­u­tive Ken Ulman is ask­ing every­one to get out­side for a short time and pick up lit­ter around their neigh­bor­hoods, offices, schools, what­ever they can do. If we all do a lit­tle, we can really get a lot of trash out of our envi­ron­ment and make our County look nicer.

Some stu­dents at Vet­er­ans Ele­men­tary school have come up with an inter­est­ing twist on the 20 Minute Cleanup. Last week I met with their 4th grade envi­ron­men­tal club, the “Green Geckos.” The whole school is going to get out­side on April 14th and clean up around the school. Each grade will clean up a dif­fer­ent area. Then, they are doing an Earth Day Pledge Con­test. Stu­dents can pledge to “Clean up trash from my neigh­bor­hood over Spring Break.” The Green Geckos have already col­lected used paper from the recy­cling bins for the stu­dents to write the pledges on. If the stu­dents do a lit­ter cleanup at home and have their par­ents sign, they will be entered into a draw­ing to win 4 tick­ets to the Bal­ti­more Zoo. The prize is being paid for by the PTA.

A sim­i­lar easy pledge idea is for stu­dents to write an Earth Day pledge of their choos­ing and then they cut them out in the shape of a leaf and add it to a blank “tree” that is posted in the school some­where. How inspir­ing it would be to see that tree full of pledge “leaves.”

We’ll see how it goes at VES, but what a cre­ative way to take a school activ­ity and bring it home. Can’t wait to see what hap­pens and I’ll add an update to this post after­wards. Feel free to bor­row the pledge idea for your school.

The 20 Minute Cleanup is a flex­i­ble and easy project. We’re aim­ing for April 14th, but if that par­tic­u­lar day doesn’t work for you, any day that week is fine. There’s still plenty of time to form a team or do a cleanup on your own. Offices, schools, HOA’s, sports teams, Scouts, any­one can get out­side for 20 min­utes and make a dif­fer­ence. Please email your results to 20minutecleanup@howardcountymd.gov and we’ll thank you on GCS and let you know the over­all results.

Thanks!

Elissa Rei­neck
Envi­ron­men­tal Vol­un­teer Coordinator
Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sustainability

Project Clean Stream

Project Clean Stream is a region-wide event aimed at keep­ing trash out of the Chesa­peake Bay. Is trash in water­ways really an envi­ron­men­tal prob­lem? Well, if you con­sider a swirling area of trash in the ocean twice the size of Texas a prob­lem (Pacific Garbage Patch), then yes it is. Sci­en­tists recently doc­u­mented an Atlantic Garbage Patch as well.

Dur­ing the 2010 Project Clean Stream, 3,381 vol­un­teers par­tic­i­pated, remov­ing 119,321 pounds (about 60 tons!) of trash and debris from area streams and wooded areas.

Last year, my daugh­ter and I helped clean up a site in Howard County. Sue Muller, from the County’s Nat­ural Resources Divi­sion, orga­nized the clean up and con­ducted a herp search too. A “herp” is an amphib­ian or rep­tile, and there is a 5-year project under­way to track where they are in Mary­land. This effort relies on vol­un­teers, and for more info on the Mary­land Amphib­ian and Rep­tile Atlas, click here. Last year, my daugh­ter found a spot­ted sala­man­der. Sue iden­ti­fied it as a red eft, the only one doc­u­mented in Howard County so far.

On Sun­day, April 3, 2011 ‚from 12–3, please join us in clean­ing up a stretch of the Dorsey Run. We will meet in the park­ing lot of United Elec­tri­cal Sup­ply, 8100 Dorsey Run Rd., Jes­sup. Sue and I scoped out the site and we saw lots of trash and 4 tires in the small part of the stream that we looked at. We’ll also be look­ing for herps while we’re out there.

For more info, please email Sue (smuller@howardcountymd.gov) or me, Elissa Rei­neck, at ereineck@howardcountymd.gov. There are other stream cleanups going on that week­end too. Click here to see the loca­tions that the Friends of the Pat­ap­sco and Her­itage Green­way are orga­niz­ing for April 2. Here is the Project Clean Stream web­site.

If you would like to learn more about stream cleanups, there are a cou­ple of train­ing ses­sions com­ing up: March 7, and March 22. Learn how to be a Stream Cap­tain or a Stream Watcher. Very reward­ing pro­grams and you can pick a site near where you live. These can be found in the Upcom­ing Events sec­tion of Green Cen­tral Station

Please con­tact me if you have any ques­tions about any of this. Thanks!

Elissa Rei­neck
Envi­ron­men­tal Vol­un­teer Coordinator
Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sustainability
410−313−1175

Don’t drop the ball: 2011 Resolutions

New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions. If you’re like me, come late Jan­u­ary, you’ve long for­got­ten what­ever non­sense you thought you could take on when the ball dropped on TV. The idea of New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions is great in prin­ci­ple; don’t get me wrong, so how do we make it eas­ier to fol­low through even when there’s not cham­pagne in our hand and party shoes on our feet?

We sim­plify.

Don’t worry, I won’t start in on how sim­pli­fy­ing is a way to live more sus­tain­ably – I’ll save it for another blog. For now we’ll focus on sim­ple res­o­lu­tions that you can com­plete and see results.
How about this res­o­lu­tion: Try one new thing on Green Cen­tral Sta­tion to live more sus­tain­ably. I know, I know the web­site is PACKED with AMAZING info and so many ideas, so where to start?!?! How about these:

- Plant a tree (we’d love it if you plant 100 trees, but even one will make a big dif­fer­ence)
– Fig­ure out what to do with the CFL light bulbs, ring binders, kids toys, cell phones, and other items that bit the dust in 2010
Install a rain bar­rel
Caulk and weather strip around win­dows and doors
– Go to your near­est farm­ers’ mar­ket on open­ing day in spring
– Ride one of the Howard County hybrid pub­lic buses
– Choose low or no-VOC paint when you redec­o­rate your next room
Insu­late inside out­let cov­ers (check for a breeze from out­lets on exte­rior walls)
Join a car pool (now with a guar­an­teed ride home!)
Shop locally – buy one gift from a local non-chain store or hire one local com­pany to work on a project.
– Get a free com­post bin and start mak­ing your own fer­til­izer
Ride your bike to work once a month (we’d love it if you’d ride daily, but we’ll take baby steps)
Plant two native plants in your gar­den this year to attract wildlife
Join a local CSA
– Use green clean­ers to improve your indoor air qual­ity
Stop fer­til­iz­ing your lawn
Insu­late your attic
Plant a tree (It never hurts to reit­er­ate)
Vol­un­teer (click here to sign up with OES or see below)

That last one is for those of you with greater deter­mi­na­tion that com­pleted res­o­lu­tions in the past with suc­cess. We just fin­ished com­pil­ing a list of local envi­ron­men­tal groups in Howard County so check it out to find one local envi­ron­men­tal group you’d like to work with or learn more about; they are always look­ing for help. (Of course many other groups in the County love vol­un­teers as well, but I have a bit of an agenda to push so envi­ron­men­tal groups get the shout out.) We’ve tried to make it as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. Find a group that sounds inter­est­ing, click on their page and find out what they have to offer. Now only a sim­ple email or phone call away and you’ve got your­self a com­pleted New Year’s 2011 Res­o­lu­tion! Congrats!

Also, con­sider vol­un­teer­ing at this year’s Green­Fest. Sign up HERE and men­tion Green­Fest in the com­ments sec­tion and I’ll get back to you with optional duties and times for that day (April 2, 2011). It’s a won­der­fully fun event and you’ll help the com­mu­nity a lot with­out even try­ing. Plus it’s a one­time deal so no long term com­mit­ments required.

So this year resolve to get involved. No I’m not say­ing you should go all out and start attend­ing every pub­lic meet­ing or shout things from your rooftop at your neigh­bors, but you can make a qui­eter dif­fer­ence. A big one. Just pick an idea above or join OES or one of Howard County’s amaz­ing local groups to help out and you’ll have made that big dif­fer­ence. Thank you in advance.

Let us know what your green res­o­lu­tions are for the com­ing year or how you did with last year’s efforts.

~Lind­say DeMarzo, OES Staff

Not a tree-hugger? Read on… and Happy New Year!

merry%20mulch%202010

So your brother/aunt/neighbor/friend walks to the super­mar­ket in their hemp shoes with their reusable bags and buys only organic gro­ceries, and then recy­cles the major­ity of the pack­ag­ing. Maybe you would like to be more like them but find the idea of incor­po­rat­ing envi­ron­men­tally friendly habits in to your lifestyle a lit­tle overwhelming?

Here’s your chance… it’s a New Year!!! First and fore­most, I think the biggest key to suc­cess in any effort is the famous Chi­nese Proverb, “A jour­ney of a thou­sand miles begins with a sin­gle step.”

Here are three easy sug­ges­tions to start your year and get you on your way. Once you get a taste for how easy it is to make a pos­i­tive impact on your world, you can con­tinue by seek­ing out addi­tional rec­om­men­da­tions at www.livegreenhoward.com. You’ll dis­cover that it is eas­ier (and more reward­ing) than you think!

Step One – Reduce Back Strain Next Hol­i­day Season

Pre­pare your­self for next Decem­ber – reg­is­ter now to take your name off of mail­ing lists at www.Dmachoice.org. Your mail­box will thank you.

Step Two – Get Rid of Your Dead (or Arti­fi­cial!) Tree

The Merry Mulch Pro­gram has been a sta­ple in Howard County for years. For details on how to have your tree mulched, or your arti­fi­cial tree recy­cled, visit www.howardcountyrecycles.org.

Step Three – Stop Leav­ing Your Car Running

I will allow our Car Talk friends to elab­o­rate on this one:

With mod­ern cars, all you’re doing with a long warm-up is wast­ing gas, increas­ing pol­lu­tion, rais­ing the tem­per­a­ture of the planet and mak­ing your­self 10 min­utes late for your chi­ro­prac­tic appoint­ment. The proper pro­ce­dure is to start the car. If it starts and keeps run­ning, put it in Drive and go. Go gen­tly (don’t back out of your dri­ve­way and floor it right onto a high­way entrance ramp), because you’ll be warm­ing it up dur­ing your first few min­utes of dri­ving, but DO drive it.”

There are count­less ways to make minor adjust­ments to your daily rou­tine that will ease your impact on the earth. Please con­sider these steps as a way to get started!

Green Tip

Use cloth napkins.It’s actually cheaper to throw cloth napkins in the wash than to buy paper ones.