Posts tagged ‘leaves’

Environmental Health Report Card gives mixed grades

This university town is probably full of “A” students. But we’ve learned that we still have a ways to go to get a better GPA on our environmental health in Dane County.

Every two years the Madison and Dane County Environmental Health Report Card is issued, telling us where we’ve improved and where we have regressed in terms of our air and water quality, recycling, alternative energy, and vehicle travel.

The bad news first: water quality and water conservation have both declined. That means more phosphorus in our lovely lakes and more beach closures, and lower groundwater levels. FYI: Groundwater provides 70% of Wisconsin residents with water.

The bad news second: And, while there was a small increase in recycled material, there was also an increase in the amount of waste produced and sent to the landfill.

The great news: Don’t despair! There is a LOT we can do to make this better.

The also great news: EnAct offers loads of tips that people can use to reduce their water use and their waste production. Our “EnAct: Steps to Greener Living” book offers chapters on saving water and wasting less that you can download here to take action in your own home. Or start an EnAct team with your neighbors or friends and talk about why this stuff matters right here in our backyard!

Want to do something right now? Here are a few ideas:

Water

  • Only run full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher, and use them in off-peak times (middle of the day or after 7 p.m.)
  • Don’t flush medicines or over-the-counter drugs down your drain OR throw them in your garbage. Check with your doctor’s office or pharmacy about medical waste drop-off days.
  • Try using non-toxic alternatives to household chemical cleaners. Commit to trying one new natural product this month. And a second one next month. And so on…
  • Install a faucet aerator in your kitchen; they cost about $1 and can save 3 gallons of water per day per faucet.
  • Keep your leaves out of the gutters and out of the lakes. Use them as mulch on your flowerbeds.

Waste

  • If you are not curbside recycling everything you can, start now! Here’s a list of what is recyclable in Madison.
  • Remove your name from junkmail lists at DirectMail.com
  • Donate or sell items rather than throwing them away. Try Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Stores, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, or Freecycle.
  • Buy at least one post-consumer recycled-content product that you use on a regular basis, like office paper, or that’s a one-time purchase, like fleece clothing made from recycled soda bottles and other plastics.
  • Buy and manage the food in your house to reduce spoilage and waste and to save money. Try not to buy more food than you are certain you family can eat before it goes bad.
  • Try composting. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.
  • When eating out, bring a reusable container for your leftovers rather. Trust me, no one minds if you do this (even my husband realized it was silly to be embarrassed when I whip my trusty Tupperware out of my purse)!

So we got a few Bs and Cs. That’s okay. We can still make the next report card something we’d be proud to show to our grandchildren.

Be green. Have fun.

Maria

December 1, 2009 at 10:08 am 1 comment

Mulch. It Matters.

What to do with the falling leaves? The best (and the easiest) option is to keep those leaves and their yummy nutrients in your yard. Say it with me: Mulch! It matters more than you might realize.

Only about half of Wisconsin residents compost their yard waste. They are clearly not as lazy as I am…who can be bothered to rake everything and move it all to the front of the yard for pick up?

The mulch (!) easier option is to rake smaller piles into the places in the yard that need warmth, protection, and nutrients. Into the flowerbeds! Under the bushes! In the herb pots! In my compost bin! Every place gets a pile of leaves.

How much does mulch matter? One-quarter of the U.S. waste stream is food and yard waste. Despite being easily compostable, these materials often go to landfills, which costs our taxpayers money and eventually adds to greenhouse gas emissions.

Worse still, if leaves are brushed into the streets, they can be washed into our lakes where the nutrients contribute to algae growth. And no one wants another summer of blue-green algae keeping us out of Lakes Monona and Mendota, now do we?

Be green. Have fun.
Maria

October 13, 2009 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment


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