Happy happy summer! Nothing like beautiful weather to get those eco-friendly practices going! This season is a great opportunity to renew and kick start the plans and practices that we all have been wanting to achieve. A great way to begin reducing your carbon footprint is to ditch driving around town and start exploring new places to shop and new ways to get around.
Taking the Bus, Biking & Walking
Life is about the journey not the destination! Once you start to enjoy the trip the walk or bus ride to your destination won’t seem so long. It is a great time to contemplate and be outside. Dane County has a plethora of bus routes to accommodate travelers from all directions as well as many walking and biking paths. Connecting all of these paths and routes it is easy to maneuver yourself around. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- A feature on the Google Maps App on your phone will give you exact walking directions and stop times to take the bus, making it that much more accessible.
- Check with your employer to see if they offer Metro Commuter Cards, which can give you an unlimited bus pass through your workplace.
- Around Madison there are rentable bikes called B-cycle, they are hard to miss as they are all bright red! Using them is cheap and easy giving you the possibility to bike and park all around the city.
- If you don’t live in Madison that is no problem either! Dane County has an interactive bike map that gives you all the information you need to bike anywhere in the county.
- Need a little more encouragement? With a Bike Benefits sticker on your helmet, you get discounts at participating businesses to bikers with a sticker on their helmet.
Still thinking biking or walking isn’t for you? Just try it out for 10 minutes and you’ll be surprised!
Community & Local Businesses
Start shopping at businesses near your home to cut down on length of trips but also to support your local community. Madison has many main streets that are packed with mom and pop stores with everything you need from pharmacy to clothing. Start making local shopping a priority and you will be able to find a store that matches your need. Shopping local helps the environment, allows you to meet your neighbors as well as keeps money in your community. Win-Win-Win!
- The classic example for eating local in Dane County is the Farmers Market, it’s the perfect event to bike to and grab all your groceries and maybe some extra treats.
- A few easy stores to switch from chain to local is your grocery store, pharmacy, and hardware store. Next time you are headed to one of these do a quick Google search to see if there is a local store near you.
- Dane Buy Local is a great resource to find out the special deals on all small, local businesses. Become a member, save money and support your community.
Location of Home
Finally, a more long-term commitment to driving less is to move. The next time you are moving it is a great idea to look for a location that has bus stops and is in walking distance to some of the places and stores you go to often. Dane County has many places to live that offer these perks, from downtown to the suburbs there will be a place that works best for you and your needs! Moving with location in mind is preparing you perfectly to decrease your dependence on oil.
- Downtown & State Street: Not only packed with small businesses and bus lines, Downtown is completely walkable! Anywhere you need to go is a walk away, no need to find a parking spot.
- Monroe Street: Another small hub in Madison, it is a main street lined with local business and surrounded by a lovely neighborhood (close to the Henry Vilas Zoo!)
- Williamson Street: Willy St. is a great small gem in Madison with many local stores, bus lines and great neighbors.
- Cannery Square, Sun Prairie: Best of both worlds! Get out of the city but at the same time have a small downtown to meet all of your needs.
- Downtown Middleton: Close to the action of Madison but still gives a more suburban feel. Great place to take advantage of the bus lines that’ll take you all over Middleton and Madison.
Driving less saves you gas money as well as having many personal benefits. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people, be outside more and exercise a bit! Now it is time to go out and enjoy this beautiful weather!
What does it mean to practice “Earth to Table” ways of eating? Does choosing local even matter that much when deciding what food to purchase? Well… yes. Eating locally is a great way to experience an earth to table, sustainable, and healthy way of eating. Although there is no universal definition of “local eating”, most people take this to mean within the state they reside.
But why eat local?
Choosing food grown at local farms means the freshness will be much better when compared to food that has traveled for days or weeks across the country. You will also be taking steps to decrease your carbon footprint because much less fossil fuels are used for food transport when you are eating within your state limits.
Eating locally, eating seasonally.
Committing yourself to eating locally means you will be eating seasonally as well. Although your grocery store sells all produce throughout the entire year, local farmers can only grow what is in season. Deciding to buy from local producers gives you a great opportunity to learn new recipes for making meals with all of the seasonal produce!
What resources are available in Madison?
The Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producer-only farmers market in the country! The outdoor market has finally returned for the summer and offers products from dozens of farmers and businesses in Wisconsin. Spend your Saturday mornings at the Capitol Square or Wednesday mornings around the 200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to pick up some of your favorite items.
Willy Street Co-op also specializes in organic, natural, and locally produced foods. Whether you are searching for organic, vegan, or natural products, Willy Street likely has the product for you! This full-functioning grocery store offers great products every day of the week for those unable to attend the farmers markets.
If growing your own food is something that interests you, check out any of the 60 Community Gardens throughout the Dane County area. Learn how to become more self-sufficient and be empowered by growing safe, healthy food for yourself and your family.
For more resources check out:
The birds are finally happily chirping away, as each day that passes is getting warmer and brighter! The bike paths and lake docks are starting to swarm with all the people excited that spring is finally here. What a perfect time of the year to get outside and celebrate Earth Week 2015! Engage in an intellectual discussion on hard-hitting environmental topics or take the whole family to the zoo for some outdoor enjoyment. Check out this list at some of the most exciting happenings for Earth Week activities near you!
Monday, April 20th:
Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference – Celebrate Earth Week with the 9th annual Earth Day Conference held at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. Pre-registration was required and the program begins at 9am.
Tuesday, April 21st:
Sustainability Business Panel – Enjoy speakers from local businesses such as Sustain Dane and Capital brewery to engage in conversation about the importance of sustainability in businesses. Hosted in Grainger Hall, Room 1266 form 6-7pm.
Aldo Leopold Wonder Bugs – Bring the whole family to learn about the wonder of the environment at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center from 9:30-10:45am.
Reflections of an Environmental Advocate – Come here Brock Evans speak about his experiences as an advocate for the environment at the Fluno Center from 6-8pm.
Wednesday, April 23rd:
Pictures at Senator Gaylord Nelson’s Desk – Get your picture taken at the desk of Senator Nelson to remember this special day! Pictures from 11am-1pm at the Nelson Institute Director’s Office.
Willow Creek CleanUp – Join the Lakeshore Nature Preserve crew for an afternoon helping to clean up Willow Creek. Meet on the Willow Creek Bridge at 5pm.
Panel on the Future Conservation Science in Wisconsin – Join the discussion on environmental legislation at Tripp Commons in Memorial Union from 7-9pm.
Earth Day Trivia – Come for a fun night of trivia at The Sett in Union South from 7-9pm. Hosted by the Nelson Institute Ambassadors.
Arboretum Garden Tour – Go on a native plant garden tour of the UW Arboretum to see all the beauty of early spring! Tours are from 7-8:30pm.
Madison Children’s Museum – Bring your nature-minded kids for an afternoon of fun and educational environmental programs. Programs and classes from 1-:30am-3:30pm.
Thursday, April 24th:
Film Screening – Sierra Student Coalition of UW Madison is hosting a screening of the film “Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization” in the Education Building, Room L196 from 6-7:30pm.
Friday, April 25th:
Seminar – Come learn about the characterization of variations in Wisconsin’s extreme weather from Steve Vavrus. The seminar will be held in Room 811 of the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences building from 1:30-2:30pm.
Toddler Story & Stroll – Bring your kids to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens to spend a nature-focused experience from 10-11am.
Saturday, April 26th:
Ecological Restoration – Volunteer to help learn about and restore the Curtis Prairie at the UW Arboretum. Meet at the Visitor Center; volunteering runs between 9am-12pm.
Henry Vilas Zoo – Have an afternoon of environmental education with visits from the MG&E solar energy trailer, the Dane County Arborists, and the Wisconsin DNR from 10am-2pm.
Spring has finally sprung! The snow has melted, green grass is emerging, and bright sunshine is starting to warm the Midwest. This time of year causes many people to go on a spree of “spring cleaning” but there is one important issue that can come up during this time as well and is often forgot: water leaks.
The US Environmental Protection Agency offers an abundance of helpful tips and tricks to get a handle on your household leaks and stop wasting large amounts of water and money. More than 1 trillion gallons of water is wasted annually in the United States due to household leaks. An average household could wash 270 loads of laundry with all of its water wasted yearly! Not only could you be saving big on water, fixing these common leaks can save about 10% on water bills as well.
Common leaks in households include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking valves. The EPA offers many solutions for both checking leaks and fixing easy leaks around your home.
To Check For Leaks:
- Look at your water usage during the colder months. A family of four should not exceed 12,000 gallons. If you have, this could mean there are some bad leaks.
- Check the water meter before and after a two-hour period. If the meter does not read the same for both times, then there is most likely a leak.
- Check for toilet leaks by adding a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank and checking the bowl after 15 minutes. If any of the food coloring is visible in the bowl, there is a leak.
- Check for surface leaks by examining faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of them.
To Fix Leaks:
- Easily replace your toilet flapper from a hardware store or a plumber. Bring your broken toilet flapper in order to purchase the correct type.
- Pipe tape, or Teflon tape, can be used to seal a variety of pipe leaks around the home.
- Replace outdoor hoses or repair them with pipe tape and rubber washers.
If any leak seems too extreme to handle on your own, be sure to call a local plumber and start saving water and money in your household right away!
What if you could reduce your food waste in the kitchen and save money while doing it? When shopping for groceries we can be swayed by merely a ten cent price difference in brands, but in the kitchen we so often throw our money away unknowingly. Although you won’t get a fine for tossing your food scraps in the garbage like in Seattle, you can take steps to starve the landfill while swelling your wallet.
Studies from the USDA in 2010 reveal that 31% of the retail and consumer food supply went uneaten. That’s nearly 133 billion pounds of food waste, equating to $161 billion dollars lost! These are some large numbers to fully comprehend their magnitude, but on a smaller level, about 20 pounds of food per person per month gets wasted.
If these facts seem alarming to you, we are going to give you a few simple tips and tricks on how to reduce food waste in your kitchen and save some money too!
Plan Meals Ahead. Creating a list for weekly meals allows you to determine which ingredients you need and use up ingredients you already have. If you arrive at the grocery store with a plan, you can use your time more efficiently and be confident that the ingredients you buy will be used.
Sell-By Dates. Speaking of food going bad, sell-by dates can bring some confusion and deception. These dates are not monitored by the FDA and are merely a recommendation by the producer for when the product will be at peak quality. In most cases, if your food still looks and smells fresh you don’t need to toss it right away. Save yourself some money and waste by giving those foods a few extra days.
Reusing Food Scraps. Food scraps can be reused in countless different ways. You can use meat scraps for your next soup stock, carrot tops for a yummy pesto, or stale bread for a crunchy bread crumb crust. Use the power of the internet and turn your next pile of food scraps into a gourmet dinner!
Composting. Maybe repurposing food scraps is not the thing for you. Creating a compost can greatly decrease your food waste! Whether you have a large garden space or just a corner in your kitchen to fit a bucket, your food scraps have many other options than the landfill.
When is the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? Years of sinus infections and winter viruses have a way of leading to an accumulation of various leftover prescriptions from sickness’ past. We count on these prescriptions to sustain our healthy mind on bodies through every season of the year, but what do we do with them after our sickness is over? And how do we properly use them in the first place? If you think it’s time to clean out your medicine cabinet you will need to keep the safety of your body and our environment in mind.
The National Patient Safety Foundation is having their annual Patient Safety Awareness Week Sunday, March 8th– Saturday, March 14th. Their hope is that we can all be united in safety as we promote awareness in how to properly take care of our bodies. This entails knowing your medications, securing your medications, and properly disposing of your medications. We want to keep both our bodies and the environment free from harm and the American Recall Center offers us three simple steps and questions to keep in mind.
- Know your medications: Do you take your prescriptions as prescribed and understand all of its possible side effects?
- Secure your medications: Are your medications stored in a secure location and how do you monitor their amounts?
- Dispose of you medications: Do you know how and where to safely dispose of unused or expired medications? Have you checked to see if any medications are recalled?
For resources on taking the Medicine Cabinet Clean-Put Challenge check out FDA tips on medication disposal (How To Dispose Of Unused Medicines) and American Recall Center’s easy way for checking if medication is recalled (Patient Safety Alerts).
February in Wisconsin brings more cold weather, inches of snow, and brisk winds. Instead of letting this cold weather keep you and your family inside, let’s remember all of the outdoor winter activities that Madison has to offer! Before you get too stir crazy stuck in your home, try a new fun activity such as cross-country skiing, ice skating, hiking, or ice fishing!
Madison parks have a lot to offer for you and your family! Cross-country skiing is a great activity to stay warm while in the cold outdoors. Six parks in Madison provide a combined 32 kilometers of clear, groomed trails. Twelve more parks are open for outdoor ice skating too! Whether you’re a novice beginner or a seasoned expert, these activities are sure to brighten your mood during the grey winter months. Be sure to check out the City of Madison website to choose your venue and for helpful information about park conditions, fees, and more winter park activities! (http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/seasonal/winter/).
If outdoor sports aren’t really your thing, why not plan a hike in this beautiful winter wonderland! Challenge yourself with the adventurous Ice Age Trail, one of the 11 National Scenic trails that run through Dane County and a perfect activity to increase your heart rate during these frozen months in Wisconsin. Otherwise, you could take a casual walk through the UW Arboretum and enjoy the natural landscapes of Madison. At the arboretum there are also opportunities to volunteer, participate in classes, take a private guided tour, or explore on your own!
No Wisconsin winter activity guide would be complete without ice fishing! Here in Madison, we have plenty of frozen but fish-filled lakes just waiting for you to set up your fishing lines. There is nothing like cooking up some fresh fish that you proudly caught earlier in the day. So grab your warm boots and fishing bait and head to the lakes!
Don’t let the cold keep you inside all winter! Pick a new activity for you and your family to try this weekend!