Be Good to the Critters: Don’t Litter!

February flowers bring March showers, and March showers sweep litter into our streams. This means spring is the perfect season to get involved in litter prevention, awareness and education in your community. Here are 5 ways you can get involved:

Volunteer at a litter clean up. Clean Jordan Lake, Keep Durham Beautiful, and Wake County Waste and Recycling are a few examples of organizations who host spring clean ups in the Triangle. 

Host your own creek clean up. Not sure if your community has a clean up? Create your own! Stream Watch is a state-wide community science initiative where groups plan two creek clean ups/water quality monitoring events per year. Contact our stormwater education specialist at cwep@tjcog.org for help picking a safe site, learning how to use the online surveys, and assistance with hosting your first event.

Learn about what happens to your waste. Did you know that Durham and Orange Counties truck their trash over 90 miles away to Montgomery County? Find out what happens to waste in your community by contacting your local government and planning a field trip to your landfill or recycling facility, or check out their website to see if there’s a video.

Promote litter prevention in schools. In Baltimore Maryland, a school-wide ban on styrofoam started by 2 high school students eventually led to a state-wide ban. Organizations like Don’t Waste Durham encourage K-12 education on litter prevention through action projects and volunteering. 

Educate yourself so that you can educate others. Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling just rolled out a new “Don’t Waste It” curriculum for formal and non-formal K-12 educators. Head over to the department page to find out about upcoming workshops or request one near you. 

Do you have other ideas about how to prevent waste in your community? We would love to hear from you! Drop a comment in the box below or contact CWEP for more information.IMG-7442CWEP member Hannah helping out at a Clean Jordan Lake cleanup this past fall.

Waste-Less with Green to Go

Anyone who has visited or lives in Durham knows that it’s a foodie town. From food trucks, to fried chicken, to vegan soul, Durham is the land-of-plenty when it comes to creative food fusions. It’s also an environmentally conscious place to live. Local grassroots community group Don’t Waste Durham is at the forefront of these movements, by keeping waste out of the system and “creating solutions that prevent trash”.

Along with delicious savory bites, the food industry also produces a lot of single-use product waste. According to the U.S. EPA, single-use food packaging makes up nearly 30% of annual solid waste. Straws, plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups/containers, and even “eco-friendly” single-use items like paper to-go boxes are all potential sources of litter that can enter our waterways through stormwater runoff.

single use plastic

What if we could reduce this threat to our watersheds by eliminating single use items in restaurants? Green To Go (an initiative of Don’t Waste Durham) is “taking the trash out of takeout” through their service which provides consumers and local restaurants with reusable to-go containers.  Customers pay an annual subscription fee ($25), download an app, go out to eat/ order take-out from a participating restaurant, and then return their container to a drop-off location. The containers are then washed and returned to restaurants to begin the process again. Using “smart logistics, behavior science, and technology”, Green to Go is attempting to not only eliminate single-use packaging, but build resilient circular economies in the process.

Image result for don't waste durham logoImage result for green to go durham

This past spring, CWEP launched a one-click giveaway campaign sponsored by several community partners, including Green to Go. Green to Go offered an annual subscription for their reusable container service to the giveaway winner. Partnerships like this help CWEP reach a broader audience who might not otherwise know about our work in the  region, while also promoting local businesses who are working towards more resilient communities. We look forward to featuring more local businesses like Green to Go in future CWEP giveaways, and expanding the reach to include local businesses from other member communities as well.

Litter

To Learn more about the Green To Go Initiative, or to sign up, please visit these links:

Don’t Waste Durham Webpage

Green to Go Webpage

Sources:

SOLVE MIT Challenge: Green to Go

Taking the Trash out of Takeout article

Don’t Waste Durham

Green to Go 

Image 1: Green Peace USA

Image 2/3: Green to Go and Don’t Waste Durham webpages

Image 4: CWEP image

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Spring is finally here! And with Spring comes lots of parties, celebrations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, fairs, and more! Balloons are commonly used around the world to celebrate many of the occasions listed, however, when your balloon disappears into the sky, where does it end up going?!

What goes up must come down! Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment and our waterways.  All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as litter. And when it rains, all litter and trash end up down the stormdrain- which in turn lead to our waterways.

Balloons kill countless animals, cause dangerous power outages, and affect our water quality. They can even travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.

Balloons-in-Power-Lines-300x300

Balloons return to the land and water where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, causing death. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.

hawks

The Problems

Inflated balloons that make their way back to earth or water, pose a risk for wildlife due to the high chance of becoming ingested due to attractive color or their ribbons and tassels forming the perfect trap for animals to become entangled. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.

Balloons can travel far and often end up riding the world’s oceans or rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. A report found on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data shows 1000’s of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast each year. The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem. Nevertheless, the Ocean Trash Index provides a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place. It is for that reason that a handful of states including but not limited to California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Virginia have recently passed legislation restricting the release of balloons.

What Can I Do to Help?

There are many alternatives that will not pollute the Earth or harm animals. We can opt for reusable party & advertising décor – banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles. Sky Lanterns are NOT a good alternative. Sky lanterns are an uncontrollable fire hazard and have sparked massive wildfires and structure fires. Falsely marketed as biodegradable, the chemically treated paper, bamboo ring, metal wires, and fuel cell can last over a year- polluting the planet & risking harm to other lives. Animals have become entangled in them or have ingested the metal parts.

Protesting or stopping a balloon release is another option. Below are some tips on how to go about stopping a balloon release:

  1. Do your homework! Check to see if balloon releases are illegal in the area. Mylar/foil balloons have a “warning” on them saying they should not be released outdoors because of their conductivity.
  2. Contact the organizer. Private message or email may be better. Offer alternatives. Click here for form letters and ideas.
  3. Contact the venue/location. 
  4. Contact city officials. City Manager, Mayor, Parks & Recreation/whoever has jurisdiction of the venue/location. If it’s a sky lantern release, also contact the fire department.
  5. Didn’t work?  You can Email Info@BalloonsBlow.org or Report a Release.

Please choose sustainable products when celebrating and be mindful of the simple choices we can make to protect the planet we all share!

Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!

Simple-Solutions-to-Less-Plastic-Pollution

 

7 Tips to Reduce Stormwater Pollution This Spring!

With over 10 million people living in the state of North Carolina, state residents’ day to day activities have an impact on water quality. Stormwater is surface runoff that does not soak into the ground during precipitation events (drizzle, rain, snow, and hail). As stormwater flows over neighborhoods, businesses, and streets, it picks up the trash, cigarette butts, pesticides, motor oils and other contaminants accumulated on hard surfaces and deposits them into our local creeks, rivers, and the ocean UNTREATED! Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of water pollution and the biggest threat to water quality in the state.

So what can you do? Here are some easy ways you can improve water quality this spring!

1. Don’t Over-Apply Fertilizer! Why?

Premature Plant Death

Over-application of synthetic or chemicals fertilizers can increase soil salinity and root burn in the long run, which may result in your plants not being able to properly absorb water and nutrients in the soil, leading to their untimely demise. Overuse of synthetic fertilizer can also disrupt soil chemistry and actually do damage to soils.

Harmful to Aquatic Life and Humans

When excess fertilizer gets into our storm drain system and travels into our waterways and oceans, algae blooms can form resulting in a loss of oxygen in the water. Algae blooms pose a direct threat to aquatic animals, which need to breathe just like we do!

A well-maintained, natural lawn care system requires little to no fertilizer. Talk to your local garden center about how to care for your landscape and if you must fertilize, what products you can purchase that are organic and environmentally friendly.

2. Sweep, Don’t Hose!

Sweep around your house and driveway vs. hosing to clean away the accumulated dirt and debris. When you sweep, pick up the debris and place it into the appropriate trash receptacle. Potentially impactful items and debris picked up and placed in the trash are less likely to get into the storm drain system and degrade water quality.

3. Take Your Car to A Car Wash

Spring is a great time for cleaning up inside and outside the home. However, when you spruce up your car, think of going to a local car wash vs. hosing it down at home. This actually saves water and reduces runoff to our waterways that contains soap and debris.

A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. If you wash your car for 10 minutes, you might consume 100 gallons of water. While hosing with an automatic shut-off valve may save more water, it’s still recommended to take your car to a commercial car wash that can properly dispose of harmful runoff (debris, oil, harmful soaps, etc.). Commercial car washes also have sophisticated reclamation systems that enable them to re-use water, so they only expend approximately 9-15 gallons of water during any given wash cycle.

4. Plant Native Plants

Native plants are the foundation of a natural ecosystem. They provide biodiversity and give critters ample food and habitat, creating a sustainable ecosystem in your yard. Native plants also thrive in their “home” environment, requiring less water to thrive. Check out this list of North Carolina’s recommended native species here!

5. Make Your Landscape Water-Friendly

Consider installing green infrastructure practices like permeable pavers, rain barrels, French drains, bioswales, or reducing lawn areas altogether. When you use these practices to control the flow and sinking of water in your landscape, you’re helping to keep toxins and debris out of the storm drain system as well as capture water naturally — a WIN-WIN for you and the environment. Check out these Green Infrastructure Ideas, click here.

6. Scoop Your Pet’s Poop!

With warmer weather comes more walks with your fuzzy friend in the outdoors. Always remember to clean up after your pet’s waste and place it in the trash. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that will wash into our waterways after a rainfall- which there is plenty of in the spring!

7. Drain Swimming Pool Safely

If you have a pool, drain it only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels. Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system, where it will be treated. Also, store pool and spa chemicals in a covered area to prevent leaks and spills to the stormwater system.

Durham Creek Week 2019 Dog Pledge!

What is Creek Week?

Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up our local streams through recreational, educational, and volunteer opportunities! It has been celebrated in Durham since 2009, with 2,783 volunteers collecting 152,798 pounds of litter to date. Please refer to CWEP’s Creek Week page to learn more about Creek Week happenings throughout the state of North Carolina this coming March!

Did you know?

Did you know that pet waste contains bacteria and parasites that can pollute our waterways? Pet waste also contains high levels of nutrients that can enter our streams and lakes, contributing to harmful algae growth and invasive aquatic weeds. This harms the freshwater organisms, and produces toxins dangerous to humans and animals.

For Durham Creek Week 2019, stop by Piney Wood Dog Park and have your four-legged friend sign a pledge promising that he/she will pick up their waste! In exchange for signing the pledge, your dog will receive a copy of the pledge, some dog treats, and a biodegradable dog waste bag! To learn more about all of the events taking place during Creek Week 2019, check out Keep Durham Beautiful’s events page here.

Organized by: Triangle J Council of Governments, Clean Water Education Partnership. Contact Blair Frantz with questions at bfrantz@tjcog.org

Canines for Clean Water

No Straw November Challenge!

Millions of plastic straws are being used daily all around the world. Many end up in our waterways where they harm wildlife, impact water quality, and add to pollution. The goal of “No Straw November” is to bring awareness to the many plastic straws that are being used once and then thrown away in a single month. This national campaign challenges people to refuse plastic straws the whole month of November while raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution. One plastic straw does not seem like much, but they add up one by one and have damaging effects on the environment. Because plastic does not biodegrade, nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists. Over time, plastics break into increasingly smaller pieces called microplastics, which ultimately find their way up the food chain and into our seafood and drinking water. Plastic pollution in our waterways is also often mistaken for food by animals like sea turtles, fish, and seals, impacting millions of marine organisms and, human health.strawGlobewMsg1200x475-1024x405Straws are just one of several plastic items that the public thinks are recyclable, yet often are not due to ineffective processes and high costs. Plastic straws contaminate recycling because they are too small to capture and make into new products. Ultimately, straws reduce the value of other recyclables and end up in landfills.

What Can You Do To Get Involved?

Simply request “no straw” at bars & restaurants and share your commitment with others. Encourage your favorite restaurant or bar to only provide straws on request from the customer and to use reusable or naturally compostable options to the plastic straw. Print these forms and hand them out to staff, management, commercial businesses, schools, etc. that use plastic straws.

We also invite all bars and restaurants, to be part of the movement to eliminate plastic pollution from the source. By simply stating on menus “Straws available upon request”, bars and restaurants can be part of the solution.

Here’s How:

  • Provide a straw only when requested by a customer
  • Provide either reusable or naturally compostable straws
  • Or get rid of straws completely

To learn more about this national effort, visit https://thelastplasticstraw.org/. Break the plastic straw habit during November…and beyond!

 

Hurricane Florence and the Hazards of Stormwater Runoff

The Atlantic Hurricane season is now upon us for 2018. The season began on June 1st and runs through to the end of November. Although it is possible for storms to form outside of this time frame, we can expect the bulk of the weather to fall in this period. As Hurricane Florence nears the Carolina coast, many local stores are experiencing empty gasoline pumps and barren store shelves. Hurricane Florence will generate 140 mph (225 kph) winds and drenching rain that could last for days. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency and prompted those who live on the coast to evacuate inland. While many think a hurricane only harms coastal communities, flash flooding, high winds, tornadoes, landslides, and mud slides can cause incredible damage to inland communities both during and long after a major storm event like Florence.

It is important to understand that even after a hurricane passes through your neighborhood, you could still be at risk. The precipitation that does not soak into the ground where it falls is referred to as “stormwater runoff“, which can continue to accumulate and cause flooding issues for several days after the rain stops. This runoff is incredibly good at picking up whatever it comes into contact with as it travels downward to the lowest elevation, so it can sometimes also contain hazardous substances such as debris, chemicals, oils and grease, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants.

Contamination of local waterways is a major threat that can arise from heavy rainfall. Runoff may pollute rivers, lakes, aquifers, and other water bodies nearby. This can add chemicals and hazardous substances to water sources that people drink and swim in. Runoff may be harmful for humans or livestock which may attempt to feed off of plants or water sources that have been affected by runoff. When water runs off roofs, yards, streets, and parking lots into storm sewers or directly into waterways, it carries with it sediments that clog streams and reduce oxygen in the water, as well as chemicals that can be fatal to aquatic ecosystems and lead to undrinkable water supplies for humans.

What To Do During Hurricane Florence

To avoid contributing to runoff pollution during Hurricane Florence, residents can take certain precautions such as cleaning up any debris or waste in yards and streets, and refraining from fertilizing and watering yards, or using toxic products directly before the hurricane. Other steps you can take include reducing the amount of impervious surfaces on your property, lining impervious surfaces with gravel trenches, using the water that drains off your roof, replacing lawn areas with native plants, adding organic matter to your soil, planting trees, creating a rain garden, installing berms and vegetated swales, as well as reducing the slope of your yard. It is also important to ensure pet waste is disposed of properly, as pet waste left on the ground can be washed into surface waters, causing significant bacterial contamination and boosting the nutrients to unsafe levels. It is also important to secure septic systems to ensure that waste does not seep into runoff.

Rain is never going away, and neither is human infrastructure. However, growing technologies like permeable pavement, rain garden construction in urban centers, and public education can go a long way in protecting the health of the lakes, rivers, and oceans that so many people and animals call home. By working together to preserve plant life that filters storm water and taking steps in our everyday lives to slow runoff and instead use it for something like a rain garden, we can begin to tackle the problem of stormwater pollution together.

New CWEP Stormwater Video Heading to a Theater Near You this December!

We are very excited to release our new animated stormwater video that we’ve been working hard on over the last few months! This 30-second version of our full-length video will be shown in theaters across the region this holiday season, so tell your friends: If you’re headed to the movies between December 15th and 29th, grab a seat a little early to catch this ad rolling a few minutes before the previews start!

You can find our full-length videos in both English and Spanish, as well as individual pollutant spots you can use at home, at work, or in the classroom on our Resources page.

Keep your Community Beautiful on “America Recycles Day”!

Here at CWEP, we know that clean and healthy water goes beyond just keeping leaves and oil out of our storm drains. It means supporting an entire system of sustainability and keeping our nation trash-free. One of the ways we can achieve this goal is through recycling. Today, the national non-profit Keep America Beautiful, which aims to increase national appearance through community involvement in cleanup and beautification projects, is hosting their annual event, “America Recycles Day.” America Recycles Day happens every year on November 15th, and communities from all over the nation participate with a variety of events from social media campaigns to local cleanups to school recycling education. There are over 2,504 registered events this year alone!

Here in North Carolina, we have a number of events, some of which are hosted by CWEP members. The Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden (VEBCOG) in New Bern is hosting a Feed the Worms event in which they will be educating the public about compost and collecting vegetable food scraps, newspapers and cardboard to feed their worms over the winter. On Saturday, November 18th, CWEP member Spring Lake will be hosting a fall litter sweep to keep their town looking its best. During the event Spring Lake will also be accepting non-standard recyclables, such as e-waste, tires, eye glasses, cellphones, and medicine. If you don’t live in New Bern or Spring Lake, don’t worry, The State of North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance & Customer Service (DEACS) Recycling and Materials Management Section (RAMMS) is also hosting an event for America Recycles Day. Their event is social media-based and asks state agencies, businesses, and citizens to take photos of people who are recycling using the hashtag #CaughtRecycling. They also ask that people tag them in the posts on Twitter and Facebook at @RecycleMoreNC as well as sharing other pictures of their community’s events.

If your community got involved (or if you or someone you know got #CaughtRecycling), be sure to let them know!

What Lurks Below

Last month, London sewage workers discovered an enormous greaseball blocking the pipes in the Whitechapel neighborhood, creating a nasty situation and limiting water flow. The ball, weighing 130 tons, took 3 weeks for workers to break down using high-pressure water jets. It was made of a combination of hardened grease and fat from food production as well as wet wipes, diapers, and other non-flushables that had been flushed down the toilet. Experts say that if the ball had not been caught when it was, waste could have started to burst from manholes and flow through the streets of London. Watch the London Fatberg in action here.

It’s not just London that’s in danger of having its sewage system ruined by improper waste disposal; many towns and cities may have greaseballs lurking beneath them, too! So how can we make sure our pipes are functional and our streets stay feces-free? There are many things we can do in our kitchens and restaurants to dispose of cooking grease, fats, and oils the right way and keep our pipes flowing smoothly, especially as the holidays approach!

  1. Make sure to let the grease cool before either pouring it in the trash or into a storage container.
  2. Once you’ve poured out the grease properly, make sure to wipe out your pots and pans with a paper towel to remove any grease that might be stuck to your cookware. Be sure to do the same with plates!
  3. Check if your municipality has a grease recycling program like Durham, which accepts and recycles cooking oil free of charge.
  4. As for toilets, remember that only toilet paper should be flushed. Most wet wipes are not meant to go through our pipes and sanitary napkins and tampons should never be flushed either. We are fortunate that our sewage treatments systems are top-notch, but that doesn’t mean we should overload them. When in doubt, throw it out!