Eventful Months for CWEP!

January and February have been very eventful months for CWEP! From Steering Committee meetings to Creek Week meetings to library, school, scout, STEM, and festival programs, CWEP has done it all- and we are on track to meet our goal of reaching all members before the end of June!

First, we had our quarterly Steering Committee Meeting on January 22, 2019, where we discussed program updates, direct education recaps, and reviewed our 5 year plan. In addition, CWEP recently added a new page to the website called “Steering Committee” where you can find all updated Agenda’s and Meeting Summaries! We want our partners and communities to be in the know at all times.

Secondly, our CWEP family has grown with the addition of a new Water Resource Planner who will be working closely with CWEP this year! Welcome to the team, Maya!

In addition to our successful committee meeting, CWEP also continues to participate in the monthly planning meetings pertaining to a week-long event in Durham called Creek Week. Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up local streams. It has been celebrated by Durham since 2009. It is a successful event in helping to rid trash from local creeks, as well as getting the community involved in their surrounding environment. This year, Creek Week is from March 16-23rd. Individuals can sign up for multiple events that occur during this week through this page: https://keepdurhambeautiful.org/creek-week/ CWEP has also added a new Creek Week page to the site which outlines all the creek weeks in North Carolina! CWEP will be hosting a “Canines for Clean Water” Dog Pledge event during Durham Creek Week 2019 on March 18th from 4-6 PM at Piney Wood Dog Park in Durham. Stop by with your four legged friend, sign a pledge promising to pick up dog waste, and get some treats- We hope to see you there!

CWEP has been doing a lot these past couple months- but we have even more eventful months coming up! Check out our new Calendar of Events page to see what we’re up to next! We also have a ton of new pictures out in the field that you can check out here!

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

The Importance of Native Plants

Native plants are trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and other plants which occur naturally to a particular region.  These plants provide a less labor intensive and water efficient landscape which is beneficial to commercial businesses, home owners, and the environment. Conversely, an invasive plant is an exotic species that has the ability to thrive and spread aggressively outside its natural range. Plants are the first line of defense when it comes to erosion control and stormwater management. Understanding plant species’ susceptibility to water-level fluctuations and landscape pollutants will enable better stormwater detention treatment and aesthetically pleasing environments.

Native plants, in rain gardens and in landscaping in general, are preferred because they are best adapted to soil and temperature conditions in a particular area. Because they have adapted to local conditions, native plants require no fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, or watering (once established). Native plants are also resistant to most pests and diseases and provide food and shelter of native animals. In regions with heavy clay soil, deep rooted native plants can break-up the soil better than typical varieties of lawn grass and improve clay soil’s permeability, ultimately acting as a green stormwater alternative. Trapping localized stormwater on site through the use of native plants can ensure percolation and increased filtration of nutrients entering the ground water.  The extensive and deep root systems of native plants (see image below) slow down runoff, reduce soil erosion along river and stream banks, and absorb dirty water before it gets into the nearby waterways. Greater infiltration from native plants results in better pollutant filtering and more water replenishing the aquifer- ultimately reducing flood water and stormwater impacts. In summary, utilizing native plants and trees in your business or school landscaping allows for short and long term positive effects on stormwater runoff quantity and quality. Restoring your business, household, or school with native vegetation is one of the best things to do for the environment while also saving time and money.

native roots

The Audubon Society of North Carolina has recently expanded its native plant guide to help many cities have awareness of what they are planting. Birds, bees and butterflies are also getting a little help from Audubon North Carolina. The nonprofit conservation organization, which has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill, announced Oct. 11, in time for fall planting, that its free, downloadable guide which helps identify the best plants for wildlife by habitat has been expanded from 400 to 692 native and cultivated plants that thrive in North Carolina. Everyone from home gardeners to educational institutions to landscapers to businesses are adding native-friendly plants to their backyards. The list is a single source of recommended bird- and pollinator-friendly plants that can be filtered by habitat, food source type, animals benefited, wetland status and more. Every species thrives in a different region and this resource helps planters choose a spot for the plant where it will thrive. The wetland status option is important for many city planners and stormwater managers who want to reduce flooding and stormwater impacts in their communities.

To find native plants in your area, Audubon North Carolina provides a terrific ZIP code locator at www.nc.audubon.org where people enter their ZIP code and get not only a list of recommended bird-friendly plants native to their area, but also their nearest Audubon chapter and a list of area businesses that sell native plants. By using the ZIP code locator, gardeners, city planners, landscapers, etc. can refine the list of plants suitable for their specific area.

CWEP encourages North Carolina residents to ask their favorite garden centers to carry more native plants so they’ll become more readily available to everyone. It is also recommended to assess and learn about what is already growing in your yard as this can serve as a starting point for your native journey! The updated Audubon North Carolina list will continue to serve as a helpful resource for communities to determine which plants are native and which are not.

 

 

Maintaining Your Rain Barrel This Winter

As we come into cooler, winter months, it’s time to start thinking about any additional maintenance that needs to be done with the rain water harvesting systems you may have!

What is a rain barrel?

A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from your roof  through a drain (gutter) system for future use such as watering lawns and gardens. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes, but a 55 gallon container is the most common size. Rain barrels can be added to any building with gutters and downspouts. You can construct a rain garden yourself, or purchase one already made- but they all serve the same purpose: to collect rainwater and decrease the amount of stormwater runoff that leaves your property. Using rain barrels is one way to decrease your household’s impact on local waterways and to become a good steward of the local watershed.

Why use rain barrels?

The average rainfall of one inch within a 24-hour period can produce more than 700 gallons of water that runs off the roof of a typical house. Much of this water runs from gutters onto surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground. These are called impervious surfaces and include concrete, asphalt, and compacted soil. Even commonly used sod has a very low infiltration rate and can be a major cause of increased runoff. As it flows, runoff collects and transports soil, pet waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, oil and grease, litter and other pollutants. This water drains directly into nearby creeks, streams and rivers, without receiving treatment at sewage plants. Polluted stormwater contaminates local waterways. It can harm plants, fish and wildlife, while degrading the quality of water.

How to maintain your rain barrel?

Rain barrels need regular maintenance, similar to other features of your property. It is especially important to remember to drain water before every storm and to remove debris and sediment from your barrel regularly.

Do…

Check the entire system (gutters, debris filter, pipe, spittings, spigot, etc) to ensure the barrel is functioning properly.

Place gutter guards and/or screens on top of roof downspouts and on top of the barrel to prevent leaves and sediment from entering the rain barrel.

Remove leaves and other debris from the screen at the top of the barrel, the overflow pipe, and the roof gutters.

Regularly use water in your barrel between rain events to make sure there is room to collect rainwater during the next storm. Drain your rain barrel before the winter season!

If your rain barrel has a filter screen, make sure it does not have holes and securely fastened to keep mosquitoes out.

Unless your rain barrel is made out of a material specifically designed for freezing temperatures, disconnect it during the winter to avoid damage. Around thanksgiving, disconnect the rain barrel from your downspouts, empty and wash the barrel, and store it upside down. Re-connect your rain barrel to the downspouts around April Fool’s Day.

Open the rain barrel spigot if you are going to be away from your home for a long time during the holidays- make sure it will drain away from your foundation.

Clean the barrel using a non toxic substance such as vinegar to remove residue or algae.

If you find mosquitoes in your rain barrel, you may add a quarter dunk monthly depending on the size of your rain barrel.

DONT…

X Don’t leave rain in your rain barrel for long periods of time.

X Don’t drink the water in your rain barrel or use the water inside your home or for your pets. This water should be used as non-potable water.

X Don’t let kids play in or around rain barrels.

X Don’t forget to re connect your rain barrel after the winter season.

X Don’t spray the water directly on vegetables or plants, as it may contain bacteria from the roof.

X Don’t let the barrel foundation become unstable or tip over.

Who is responsible for this maintenance?

As the property owner, YOU are responsible for all maintenance of your rain barrels.

rainbarrel3

Why is it important to maintain your rain barrel?

An unmaintained rain barrel may lead to problems including:

  • Overflow flooding and erosion near the foundation
  • Become clogged and not allow rainwater to pass into or out of the barrel
  • Become a breeding place for insects
  • Cause ice dams in the winter if not disconnected

By maintaining your rain barrel, you are doing your part to conserve rainwater and protect your local streams. You can prolong the life of your rain barrel and save money on maintenance costs by regularly maintaining and inspecting the rain barrel to ensure everything is running smoothly!

rainbarrelblog

 

Capture it! Raleigh’s Upcoming 2019 Stormwater Arts Contest

In 2018, the City of Raleigh’s 2018 Capture it! Stormwater Arts Contest was a huge success!  This annual contest is an opportunity for students in 8th through 12th grades to capture the importance of stormwater runoff through art and film. This will ultimately bring more awareness to the positive impacts the community can have on the environment by keeping waterways clean! In 2018, winners for three categories were announced at the 11th Annual Environmental Awards this past March. A photo of last year’s rain barrel winners are shown below.

Rain Barrel Finalists 2018[1]

Now…here are the details for the year ahead! Registration is currently open for Raleigh Stormwater’s annual Capture it! Stormwater Arts Contest! 

WHO:
Students in 8th – 12th grades who attend school within the City of Raleigh, Raleigh extra territorial jurisdictions (ETJ), or the utility service area

WHAT:
Create a film or artwork that shows how the community can reduce pollution to Raleigh’s streams and lakes. This brings more awareness to the importance of protecting local waterways by keeping trash and other waste out of storm drains.

THE PRIZE:
Winners in each category will receive a $500 prize and will be recognized at the 2019 Raleigh Environmental Awards for creating a 60-second video or painting/drawing for a rain barrel or storm drain cover.

WHEN: 
Registration is open until Feb. 1, 2019. Submit an entry today.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact Carmela Teichman at 919-996-4032 or Carmela.Teichman@raleighnc.gov

We can’t wait to see you there!

 

Melting Snow, It’s Stormwater Too!

Stormwater runoff can come in many forms, including melting snow. Winter snow often brings a unique feel to North Carolina as it doesn’t happen often: making for beautiful photos and lots of family fun. However, it’s not long before the sun comes out to expose a host of issues created by the melting snow.

Heavy rains sweeping across your yard and driveway carry pollution and high volumes of water into our nearby streams, lakes, and other waterways. Melting snow does the same things. Both rain and snow melt can seriously impair North Carolina waters when they travel over the land in our developed communities.

In winter, melting snow actually causes a few unique stormwater problems. Because the ground is often frozen at the surface, melting snow can’t infiltrate into the soil the way a light or moderate rain would be able to. So even a small amount of snow can cause localized flooding on your property. When snow builds up over several small storm events without melting in between, it can turn into large winter storm impacts when it finally does melt – leading to potential community wide flooding events. In both cases, that standing and flowing water on the ground is picking up all kinds of debris, pollutants (especially deicing salts and chemicals), and litter that will find their way into nearby streams.

When shoveling/plowing snow this season, pay attention to where you place it. Try to pile snow in areas where it will have a chance to infiltrate, not runoff!

Winter Stormwater Pollution Prevention Tips

Start shoveling early! The more snow you remove, the less salt and sand you’ll need. Below are some do’s and don’ts when shoveling or plowing snow

snowmelt

Snow and Your Rain Garden

Normal snow accumulation does not pose a threat to rain gardens, so there is no need to shovel a rain garden. However, heavy snow loads can weigh down and saturate your garden and hurt plants. Pile snow uphill from the rain garden so when the snow melts the rain garden can do what it is designed to do.

Do:

  • Pile snow in locations with the most opportunity to infiltrate into the ground.
  • Pile snow in areas where water does not pond.
  • Clear away any snow that may have been thrown onto the storm drains
  • Clear your downspouts to allow melting roof snow to flow and not collect at your foundation.
  • Pay special attention to places that are eroding during snow melt, and make a plan to improve these areas in spring using plants that can slow and stop erosion, like native grasses and meadow plants or native trees and shrubs.

Don’t:

  • Do not pile snow on top of storm drains or near water bodies and wetlands.
  • Do not pile snow onto rain gardens or bio retention areas.
  • Do not over use de-icing chemicals and salts, and avoid spreading around sensitive areas like waterways and your private well.

Tips to Avoid Using Salt as a De-icer

More salt does not equal more melting snow. Follow product instructions when spreading deicing material and give it time to work. Sweep up any material remaining after the snow/ice melts.

When temperatures hit 15° F or below, salt is not effective. Consider using traction materials that contain an acetate, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, or cracked cornmeal instead of sand or kitty litter.

Stay safe and warm this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving!

As Americans prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, many parts of this country are still facing water shortages and drought. Thanksgiving is a good time to practice indoor water conservation and below are a few ideas on where to start!

The Great Thanksgiving Flush

After Thanksgiving dinner, approximately 30 million Americans will watch football. At halftime, American toilets will flush 30 million times and use 108 million gallons of water – enough water to fill an entire football stadium! Water efficient toilets would save 62 million gallons of water.

Tips for Thanksgiving Day Water Conservation

  • Clean vegetables in a sink or pan partially filled with water rather than running water from the tap.
  •  If you wash dishes by hand, rinse them in a sink partially filled with clean water instead of under running water.
  • Cut down on the amount of rinsing you do before loading the dishwasher. Most modern dishwashers do an excellent job of cleaning dishes, pots and pans all by themselves.
  • Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator instead of running it under tap water.
  • For fluffy potatoes, use a little water- not a full pot.
  • Use charms or labels to cut down on extra glasses.
  • Wash full loads in the dishwasher with environmentally friendly detergent.
  • For black Friday, apply for a water saving rebate online!

Don’t Pour that Grease Down the Drain!

During these coming holidays, cooking will be a major priority for many households and restaurants across the country. Almost all cooking involves the use of cooking fat such as grease and oils. Most of us are aware they go a long way in ensuring the foods we enjoy are appeasing to our taste buds. However, if not properly disposed of, they can take a destructive toll on the environment and your piping system.

After you’ve finished cooking your favorite holiday turkeys and hams, it’s easy to dump the excess grease and oil down the drain without giving it second thought. It’ll just get washed away, right? Well, not exactly.

When fats, oils and grease are dumped down the drain, it forms large, thick grease balls that clog pipes. Clogged pipes can result in sewer backups and spills, create environmental problems, and even flood home and businesses. Most sources of oil and grease are insoluble in water. Harmful effects on the environment could be sewer flooding in your neighbourhood or pollution in local streams. These fats coat animals and plants with oil and suffocate them by oxygen depletion. This cooking waste also destroy habitats, produce rancid odors, foul shorelines, and clog water treatment plants.

Sometimes people think they can flush grease down the drain with hot water, but that grease quickly cools and builds up in pipes. The toilet is not a suitable solution to pour your grease either. The grease will still harden in the plumbing underneath, potentially leading to some pretty grim consequences.

So what in the world are you supposed to do with it? Luckily, it’s easy to avoid problems like these with simple, free, cheap alternatives that can help you get rid of leftover cooking grease safely and responsibly. For starters, using less fat to begin with means you have less to dispose of after cooking. Sometimes, the spray cans allow for minimal, more controlled use during cooking. Instead of discarding grease and oil down the drain, dump it in a cup or jar, wait for it to cool, and throw it in the trash, as shown in the image below. Even a small amount of oil dumped down the drain can build up over the years and wreak havoc on not only your drainage and sewer system, but your local water quality and environment.

grease in jar

Here are some simple ways to reduce the amount of fat used when you cook this Thanksgiving:

  • Instead of deep frying, roast or broil in the oven, shallow-fry in a pan on the stovetop, or use the grill.
  • When sautéing, decrease the amount of fat a recipe calls for (use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon, for instance).
  • Replace oil or butter with small amounts of water or stock. Add a little at a time to keep food moving and browning in the pan without steaming.
  • Measure fats instead of free pouring them.
  • Trim visible fat on cuts of meat (and put the trimmings in the trash or give them to your dog or cat).
  • Choose leaner meats at the market.
  • Steam vegetables instead of sautéing.
  • 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!
  • Use leftover fat for future cooking and repurpose your cooking grease.
  • Turn it into other things: From candles to dog treats, there are lots of ways you can put leftover cooking fat to use around the house, in your yard, and even in your car.
  •  If you don’t want to re-use your grease at home, some areas offer recycling programs for safe cooking oil disposal. Check if your municipality has a grease recycling program like Durham, which accepts and recycles cooking oil free of charge.
  • 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!

While petroleum spills capture all the attention, it’s clear the potential harm grease and oils can have is significant. This holiday season, make sure to keep our stormwater clean and our stormwater systems functioning at peak efficiency by keeping it out of the drain.

Let Us Give Thanks!

It is widely known how important water is to our lives and the world we live in. As stated earlier, our planet is comprised of about 70% water, making it seem like it is easily accessible and plentiful. However, when you rule out our oceans and ice caps, less than 1% of all the water on Earth is drinkable. Safe drinking water is a privilege we often take for granted while we brush our teeth or drink a glass of water in the morning. While we are giving thanks to our family, friends, and food during Thanksgiving, we should also give big thanks for our clean drinking water and the people who make it happen!

Keeping yourself hydrated can do wonders for your health. The benefits water provides for our bodies range from relieving headaches, flushing toxins out of the body, improving mood, helping with weight loss, and relieving fatigue. In the U.S., we are fortunate enough to have some of the cleanest drinking water anywhere in the world to keep us healthy and safe. In other countries that is not the case. Many do not have access to sufficient drinking water and the water they do have often contains dangerous pathogens. Often, unclean water sources are miles from villages and some people are forced to spend hours each day simply finding and transporting water. With so many people not having access to clean drinking water around the world, it is important to appreciate the plentiful and safe drinking water we have here in America.

A Special Thanks for the People Who Make Our Water Safe!

When looking at America’s clean water, it is especially important to give special thanks this Thanksgiving to the water and wastewater utilities that work nonstop to give us some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. Despite the fact that our country has beautiful rivers and lakes, the water that comes from them to our taps goes through several processes that require a lot of work and maintenance. Our water and wastewater utilities maintain some of the highest standards in the world when it comes to drinking water, and new innovations for treatment and distribution are always being researched and implemented. Water and wastewater employees work tirelessly to meet regulatory requirements and preserve local waterways despite major setbacks like deteriorating infrastructure and shrinking funding for necessary projects. On top of treating our water, utilities are responsible for keeping their distribution systems running efficiently and also to being stewards to the environment through improving effluent quality. Our water utilities are arguably the most important utilities in the nation because water is so crucial to our survival. Check out the visual diagram below of water and wastewater distribution systems.

W_WW_treatment_INFOGRAPHIC

In Conclusion…

We are so incredibly fortunate here in the United States to not have to think twice about the purity of water from the tap, a glass of water in a restaurant, a highway rest stop, an airport, or motel – all thanks to our water and wastewater utilities. For that, we should be especially thankful. This Thanksgiving, be sure to give special thanks for having safe drinking water and to the dedicated, hard-working people at water and wastewater utilities.

What lessons could other communities learn from Charlotte?

Two major hurricanes hit North Carolina in the last month, and while the damage was severe to some parts of the state, damage from flooding in the Charlotte area was less than it would have been a decade ago. This is due to many years of hard work and preparation in the making.

It all started in 1995 after Tropical Storm Jerry. Charlotte homes flooded and the storm led to $5 million in property damage. However, as time passed, residents and local government officials forgot how bad the flooding had been.

It wasn’t until Hurricane Danny in 1997 that major flooding hit Charlotte again. The major difference from the ‘95 flood to the ‘97 flood was there was a number of homes that flooded, yet, they were outside of Charlotte’s mapped floodplain. This raised doubts about the accuracy of Charlotte’s floodplain maps. In addition to all of this, came pressure from people who lived in neighborhoods that flooded for the second time in three years. It was clear that local support for a new, proactive approach to flooding had to be a priority.

The first step Charlotte took was buying out homes that were in floodplains- areas that are prone to flooding because they’re right by creeks or rivers that are prone to flooding. With federal grants from FEMA, as well as funding from the county, Charlotte initiated a home buyout program. Since 1999, the program has bought out more than 400 homes in floodplains and demolished them- ultimately restoring creek and river banks over time. All in all, the buyout program cost more than $71 million. However, the buyouts have saved $27 million in property damages, according to the county. During Hurricane Florence alone, the program saved $1.9 million.

It is important to note that buying out houses and tearing them down isn’t sustainable in the long-term by itself. Stormwater flood sensors were also placed at rivers across the city. This sensor sends a beam down to the water, which then determines the distance between the sensor and the water. All of those sensors make up FINS, or the Flood Information & Notification System which track flooding in real time. Once the water elevates to where it’s going to breach over the road, the fire department then gets notified before any people or roads bear the cost. While the real time emergency notification system is useful for first responders, it didn’t solve a bigger issue Charlotte was facing- outdated maps.

Most states use the flood maps FEMA provides. However, at the time in the 1990’s, a lot of these maps hadn’t been updated for North Carolina since the 1970s. FEMA didn’t have enough money to update all the flood maps across the country constantly. So, local governments worked together to set aside a couple million dollars to map flooding. This included a new process called “future conditions floodplain mapping.” This process takes land development and use into account, and helps determine how cities can best orient themselves to avoid damage from flooding. To accurately map flooding, the state partnered with FEMA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The program in Charlotte was getting off the ground when another hurricane hit the state in 1999, Hurricane Floyd. At this time, politicians got the North Carolina General Assembly on board with tracking rivers in real time and making future conditions floodplain maps for the state. Unfortunately, in most states, it’s hard to get legislators to budget for expensive services such as this, especially when many still rely on old maps. Other states such as Alabama and Florida partnered with North Carolina to develop similar mapping programs. States even talked to experts on flood mapping in North Carolina to help their own programs.

The Charlotte case study is a great example of efforts that could be made by other communities in flood mapping and efforts to decrease damage from flooding. The success of all the planning and preparation is credited to a willingness for the city, county and state to adapt. Ultimately, the answer that worked was a “no” to flood prevention, and “yes” to damage prevention.

 

 

 

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!

 

Schools: This One’s For You!

How can I do my part to ensure clean water resources and a greener environment in my school? Many people should be asking this important question! Whether you are a parent, teacher, school staff member, student, or community volunteer, you want your school to provide a healthy, welcoming place to learn. In this Blog, there are several ideas about how educational institutions can take a step towards a cleaner, greener future for our water.

Schools use a tremendous amount of water every day, and require water for their heating and cooling systems, restrooms, drinking water faucets, locker rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, and outdoor playing fields and lawns. Small steps in the community toward water conservation can make a big impact. Integrating conservation efforts in educational program for students makes an impact for future generations. Greener schools also protect the environment, keep teachers and students healthy, as well as promote environmental values in young, impressionable minds.

Reusable Water Bottles

Students and teachers can take reusable water bottles to school instead of buying plastic water bottles. Plastic water bottles are not sustainable when being manufactured, shipped, and discarded around the globe. U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone. Much of the plastic we consume ends up in the world’s water supply, where it is even harder to fish out and safely throw away. Many bottled water plastics also contain toxins that can have a harmful effect on human health. Financially in the long run, your wallet will also thank you!

Recycle!

When you’re able to recycle, you should! All schools should have proper recycling and compost programs to ensure a clean environment. Whether its paper products, food products, plastics or upcycling old items, it’s important to think about which trash can be saved from a landfill.  If you are planning on kicking off a recycling or composting program at your school in the future, it is helpful to know how much of each kind of waste your school produces so you target the right items. There are a lot of reasons to find out where your starting point is- the celebration of your schools success will be that much better if you can measure how far you’ve come! And showing measureable success is the best way to get other school’s on board with your program.

Recycling cuts back on energy consumption and can prevent water pollution in the future. In addition to recycling, composting is a great way to promote a responsible and environmentally friendly way to deal with food scraps and waste. The finished compost product can help enhance the soil and plant quality in school vegetable and flower gardens- acting as a buffer for storm water. Composting food wastes also saves water by reducing the water needed to run a garbage disposal. We can close the loop on the food system by diverting food waste from landfills and turning it back into soil to grow more food.

Energy Conservation

Water and energy are closely linked. A clean reliable water source consumes energy and water conservation leads to energy conservation. The clean water that flows out of a faucet needs energy in many stages of processing and transport before it gets to the tap. A system of pipes delivers water to the school, and in many systems, electric pumping is used to deliver the water at the proper level of pressure. The wastewater that flows away from the school must be transported to a wastewater treatment plant to be treated and released back into the natural water cycle. This also requires energy. The transportation of water is one of the most significant uses of energy in freshwater production. It is important to remember that when you conserve water, you conserve energy as well. Which leads to my next point… water conservation!

Water usage and conservation

Outdoors:

In a schools outdoor environment, a lot can also be done to reduce water use. Water-efficient landscaping helps a school conserve water outdoors. A school can maximize natural, native vegetative cover and limit lawn space. Most native plants can survive on the natural rainfall in the area since they are accustomed to the climate. Maintaining fields using drought tolerant grasses is also important. Consider planting more trees, shrubs, ground covers, and less grass. Shrubs and ground covers provide greenery for much of the year and usually demand less water.  Applying mulch around shrubs and flower beds can help them retain moisture. This reduces the amount of watering necessary to keep the ground moist. Adding compost or an organic matter to soil will improve soil conditions and water retention. Collecting rainfall for irrigation is another important step to ensure water conservation. Avoid using a hose to clean off school walkways. Rather, opt for a broom to clean walkways, driveways, and entrances.

Indoors:

At school or in your daily life, cutting down on water usage can save more water and make a bigger impact than you’d think. As stated earlier, schools use a large amount of water every day, and require water for their heating and cooling systems, restrooms, drinking water faucets, locker rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, and outdoor playing fields and lawns. To reduce water use in the school, consider replacing old equipment such as dishwashers with energy saving devices. Repair water leaks and leaky toilets. Installing sensor-operated sinks work well for kids because the faucets shut off automatically. Using water-efficient toilets, low-flow shower heads and timer shut-off devices to reduce water use during showers can dramatically reduce the amount of water consumed. Collecting excess water and using it later can also help to conserve water in the long run. For example, establishing a rain barrel or placing containers under school water fountains to use in the garden for later are some good ideas.

Student Involvement

Launch a water conservation awareness campaign within the school. Encourage your teachers and classmates to discuss the benefits of conserving water and ways the students can get involved in using less water. A water conservation poster contest allows all of the kids to take part in spreading the news. Choose the best designs and have them turned into permanent signs to hang in the restrooms. The signs serve as a reminder for students to conserve water. Assigning students the role of water monitors during busy restroom times also puts the responsibility in the hands of the students. Teachers can enhance their hydrology lesson plans with relevant, local environmental information. Schools can also take part in community clean-up events, Earth Week celebrations, and water related field trips/events to enforce the importance of water quality for their students. Communities can also organize a tree-planting event on school grounds, or organize a school-ground naturalization project to create opportunities for outdoor learning through hands-on experience.

Talk to your school’s staff and fellow classmates:

All students, teachers, administrators, cooks and janitors should ask themselves if there is a another way to do their job that will minimize waste and impaired water quality. For example, chefs in schools can be informed and avoid pouring fat from cooking or any other type of fat, oil, or grease down the drain. School chefs can try to purchase sustainable meats for school lunch as it is important to think about the impact of factory farms on our water supply. These farms produce huge amounts of waste, which ends up harming the nearby water supplies. Whenever possible, buying sustainable meats instead of those produced at factory farms will make a huge difference on the schools indirect water usage. Administration can come together to put more recycling and trash cans around the school as well as outside to prevent litter build up. It is also important that a schools community avoid disposing of hazardous chemicals or cleaning agents down the sink or toilet. Hazardous chemicals in schools can be found in cleaning supplies, aerosol cans, paints, science labs (mercury), art classrooms, janitors’ storerooms. Classes can also try to use less toxic glues, paints, markers, and other materials.

Stormwater Runoff:

What is Storm water?

When an area is developed, a large amount of impervious area, such as buildings and pavement, is introduced. When it rains, the water that once soaked into the ground is then carried into your ponds and lakes. If it is not managed properly, it can also lead to flooding. Additionally, the water carries pollutants with it, which are eventually carried into your streams, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. Stormwater has a large impact on the water quality and health of your environment.

How can you reduce Stormwater runoff at your school?

  • Parents and teachers can prevent their vehicle’s oil and other dangerous pollutants from leaking onto the schools nearby streets. Rain washes these materials from the streets into the nearest storm drain which is eventually carried into lakes and streams. Car owners can recycle used motor oil, maintain their vehicle to minimize leakage, avoid dumping any engine fluids, such as motor oil, antifreeze, or transmission fluid into storm drains, a ditch, or onto the ground. It is also important to clean up any spills as soon as possible.
  •  Planting native trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants on the school’s property will act as a sponge for the environment and naturally soak up any runoff that is on its way to local waterbodies or storm drains.  It is important to use native plants as they more tolerant of drought conditions and need less water.
  • Building a rain garden can improve water quality in your school’s community and reduce storm-water by collecting and filtering runoff.
  • Installing a rain barrel can collect and store rainwater from your school’s roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff or diverted to storm drains and streams polluting the water. A rain barrel collects and stores water for when you need it most, such as during periods of drought, to water plants, wash your car and more.
  • Be aware of your schools disposal system for hazardous products such as for cleaning or chemicals used in chemistry/science classes. Hazardous chemicals, such as toxic cleaning products and experimental products, contain harmful substances. These chemicals usually make their way into drains, sinks, and toilets, which end up polluting nearby water bodies and the humans and wildlife that depend on them. Schools and teachers can contact their local sanitation, public works, or environmental health department to find out about hazardous waste collection days and sites or local recycling drop off options.
  • Decrease concrete, asphalt and hard surfaces around the school to reduce runoff and try to create landscapes with vegetation, gravel or other porous materials that will absorb rainwater.
  • Fertilizers and Pesticides: Fertilizers enrich the soil with nutrients necessary for plant growth and are used on most school grounds. Chemical or synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using man-made materials are not the best option for the environment. Pesticides are used on most school grounds to kill unwanted weeds or plants, and keep mosquitos, ticks, and other insects away.  Both fertilizers and pesticides have a negative impact on the environment and can pollute local water bodies. They are also toxic to humans, wildlife, aquatic invertebrates, and plants.  Pesticides contain neurological and reproductive toxins, which are dangerous to both children and adults. If the chemicals are applied incorrectly, or are allowed to run off into streams or storm drains, they actually fertilize the water and result in algae blooms. Algae blooms remove oxygen from water which can cause tragic fish kills and severe environmental damage. Garden pesticides can harm humans and pets too, with kids and pregnant women being at the highest risk for exposure. A school can still have great looking lawns and gardens without using harmful chemicals that affect the community’s health, water and wildlife. Schools can opt for more natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers such as composted manure, fish emulsions, alfalfa pellets, bone meal, and cottonseed meal. There are also many great sustainable alternatives to using chemical pesticides. It is important that schools get their soils tested, understand what products they are buying, consider alternatives, use the lawn products correctly, and dispose of the lawn care products efficiently so that they do not ultimately harm local water bodies. Schools should never dump leftover products down the drain or in the trash, as they will be carried directly to creeks. Schools should store leftover chemicals in a safe place until they can dispose of them at a hazardous waste drop off event, or give leftover products to other schools.
  • If your school is close to any streams or rivers, consider planting grass buffer strips or trees along the banks to protect water quality and prevent contaminants, such as fertilizers and pesticides used at your school, from entering the environment and traveling to other locations.

In summary, a school should think about controlling and reducing water runoff from its site, consume fresh water as efficiently as possible and recover and reuse gray water to the extent feasible because basic efficiency measures can reduce a school’s water use by 30% or more. It is also important to note that schools who provide educational opportunities create very valuable opportunities for hands-on learning and the potential to instill environmental values in future generations. These reductions and implementations help the environment, locally and regionally and lower a school’s operating expenses. The technologies and techniques used to conserve water – especially landscaping, education and outreach, water treatment, and recycling strategies – can be used to help instruct students about ecology and the environment.