I’m reminded of a Beatles song this morning…”I read the news today, oh boy!”
And, oh boy, the news is not good. Business Insider reports that bottled water sales have now surpassed the sale of carbonated soft drinks. Now that’s great for our country’s health and our collective waistlines but it’s oh so bad for our environment. Bottled water consumption grew by 9 percent to 12.8 billion gallons in 2016. The most frustrating part of the bottled water trend might be the fact that half of bottled water is not from a mountain spring in a pristine forest somewhere in the Pacific Northwest or a remote tropical island. Nope. Bottled water is often regular municipal tap water, pumped through a filter and into a bottle at 2,000 times the cost of filling up a reusable bottle. Bottled water is even produced in drought-plagued areas of our country contributing to local water crises in places like California and Maine. Other baffling facts surrounding the bottled water trend include:
Bottled water is not held to the same quality standards as municipal tap water. Municipal tap water is constantly monitored by a local lab with standards set through the EPA. Bottled water has only moderate monitoring standards set through the FDA . For example, coliform bacteria testing is done once per week for bottled water and more than 100 times per month for municipal tap water.
It takes three times the amount of water to produce a plastic water bottle than it does to fill it. That’s 36 ounces of water used per 12 ounce bottle of water.
An estimated 17 million barrels of oil are consumed each year to produce and transport bottled water. That’s enough to power 1 million cars for a year!
22 billion water bottles end up in landfills each year and will take hundreds of years to decompose.
You can refill a 20 ounce refillable water bottle at any tap in Hampton Roads 1,500 times for the same cost as a single container of bottled water.
So don’t be a sucker. Don’t fall prey to the hype. Instead, pick up a reusable water bottle to fill with tap water to make a healthy choice for your body and our environment.
To learn even more about the true cost of bottled water, check out the documentary Tapped.
On a typical, cold, rainy February morning in 1992 at the General McArthur Memorial conference room, regional water utility representatives came together for the initial meeting of what would become the askHRgreen.org Water Awareness Committee. Coffee, donuts and bagels on the table provided sustenance to about 75 water utility directors, planners, administrative and budget employees from cities and counties throughout the Hampton Roads region while they discussed how to promote water conservation and wise water usage.
It just seemed ludicrous because the region is surrounded by water from the ocean on one side, to the bay, rivers and creeks on the other. Isn’t that plenty of water? The short answer is, no. Salt water doesn’t do it. The Hampton Roads region was growing rapidly at the time. While new water resources were being sought, current usage needed to be “stretched.” In a word, conserved.
16 cities and counties under the umbrella of the Hampton Roads Planning District made the fateful decision 25 years ago to pool resources and form an educational team to create the conservation education program known as the Hampton Roads Water Efficiency Team or HRWET for short. Our logo was the sun – Saving Today’s Water for Tomorrow’s Hampton Roads.
Today, HRWET is known as the askHRgreen.org Water Awareness Committee, one of four environmental educational groups – Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG), Recycling & Beautification, and Stormwater Education – that make up askHRgreen.org.
We’ve gotten a lot done in 25 years and look forward to continuing our efforts to education Hampton Roads about the value, quality and availability of Hampton Roads tap water. Enjoy this trip down memory lane!
Blog post contributed by Jerry Hoddinott, Chesapeake Public Utilities and original member of the HRWET team!
Hampton Roads volunteers will be out in full force working across the region to pick up roadside litter, clean up beaches and shorelines, improve community parks and more. The 2017 Great American Cleanup™ is underway, now through June, and residents can find a list of planned community projects, or find out how to start their own, by checking out this regional list of happenings.
Cared for communities tend to be safe, desirable places with great curb appeal. But participating in a Great American Cleanup event is about so much more than protecting neighborhood property values. It’s also important for protecting our region’s rich natural resources, booming tourism industry and overall quality of life.
Spearheaded by Keep America Beautiful, the Great American Cleanup is the country’s largest community improvement program. Litter cleanups and recycling events typically top the list of activities led by local Keep America Beautiful affiliates, but there’s also a focus on individual neighborhoods. The “Clean Your Block” theme promotes not only clean communities, but also community engagement, pride and stewardship – behaviors that lead to lasting, positive block-by-block impacts nationwide. Citizens are encouraged to organize a beautification or cleanup project in their neighborhood and celebrate their hard work with a block party once that project is completed. It’s a great way to see neighbors, meet new friends and understand how we’re all connected to the region.
And while neighbors are bonding and strengthening their sense of community pride, the region’s natural resources are gaining the long-term benefits of cleaner communities. In 2016, nearly 4,500 volunteers across five cities and counties recovered over 100 tons of trash from over 400 sites. And that’s just a fraction of the real impact when the work done by all 17 cities and counties is taken into consideration.
Organizing a clean up or beautification event for your business, office or neighborhood is the perfect way to create safer, more beautiful spaces for both man and animal. Get involved and learn how to organize your own “Clean Your Block” project for the Great American Cleanup!
Last week, askHRgreen.org recognized two local schools and educators for their commitment to environmental stewardship and leadership. Wendy VanHosen, assistant principal at John Yeates Middle School in Suffolk, and Amber LaMonte, a teacher at York High School in Yorktown, each received the Environmental Action Award from askHRgreen.org on Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) meeting in Chesapeake.
The Environmental Action Award was developed to recognize individuals who inspire youth (K-12) to have a positive impact on the environment by taking action in their schools or communities. The winning projects had previously received funding through the askHRgreen.org mini-grant program and were selected as outstanding by a panel of local askHRgreen.org representatives from the HRPDC’s 17 member jurisdictions and HRSD. The John Yeates Middle School and York High School projects were among 19 projects under consideration for the award, all of which were funded by askHRgreen.org in 2016.
John Yeates Middle School was recognized for VanHosen’s leadership of a school-wide recycling program.
“This project is a shining example of what can be done when students, teachers and community partners work together,” said Katie Cullipher, askHRgreen.org team leader. “Not only did the project focus on the importance of recycling and reducing landfill contributions, but also on integrating diverse studies from art to science to social studies. The project itself is a sustainable initiative that will continue to impact students and the environment for years to come.”
At York High School, LaMonte helped the school’s green team improve availability and access to tap water and reduce plastic bottle waste by installing a water bottle filling station at the school.
“We were impressed that the students tracked data on water usage and challenged their peers to reduce waste. Because of their efforts, the school experienced a 75 percent increase in the number of students carrying reusable water bottles,” said Cullipher. “While the projects may have started with a simple idea and a small amount of grant funding, both serve as a legacy to their schools and will continue to remind students and faculty alike that we can each make an impact by thinking globally and acting locally.”
In addition to the award, each school received a check for $100.00 to be spent to further their project or to launch a new environmental initiative.
askHRgreen.org offers environmental education mini-grants of up to $500 to provide funding for environmentally-themed projects for students. All Hampton Roads teachers (K-12), youth leaders or organizations working with youth are eligible to apply. For details visit www.askhrgreen.org/mini-grant-program/
Deciding to buy a greenhouse catapults the novice gardener into the big leagues. Even a small model provides the space and the conditions to extend the gardening season and try new techniques, such as starting seeds early, that just are not possible in most gardens. Here are four questions to ask yourself when deciding on a greenhouse that meets your needs.
1. How will I use the greenhouse?
The answer to this will help determine the size and the features you may want. Walk-in greenhouse kits designed for residential use range in size from 5×5 feet up to 8×20 feet. You can find smaller, portable kits for about $100, but more permanent kits can cost from several hundred up to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and features.
Smaller models are great for getting a jump on spring planting by starting seeds early, but if you want to grow plants to maturity, you will need a bigger model. Your plans for the greenhouse will also determine the “extras” you will need (see below). Of course, you will have to balance your gardening needs with your budget and the available space for constructing the greenhouse.
2. Where will I put it?
If you plan on growing plants to maturity or using the greenhouse over the winter, you will want maximum sun exposure—at least six hours a day. It’s best to situate the greenhouse so that its longest dimension faces south, which means most of the space will receive direct sunlight. This is especially true in the winter when the sun appears lower in the sky.
Select a spot that is convenient to get to and has access to water. You may also want access to electricity.
Before you purchase a greenhouse, check with the local building department to ask about zoning requirements, such as how close you can erect the greenhouse to the property line, and whether you need a building permit. In some locales, any structure on a foundation requires a permit, and some kits require a concrete slab or a wooden foundation.
3. What are my options in materials?
Greenhouse frames are available in a number of different materials:
Aluminum and galvanized steel. These provide the strongest greenhouses, but they are the most expensive.
PVC pipe. These don’t provide the structural heft of an aluminum or steel frame, but they are relatively inexpensive. PVC structures are often used for portable greenhouses.
Wood. These provide a rustic, classic look and are usually made of insect-resistant woods such as redwood or cedar. Be aware that wood components will require periodic sealing or staining.
While glass may be the traditional glazing material, greenhouse kit manufacturers are now turning to plastics such as polyethylene and polycarbonate panels because they are lighter and easier to handle. Polycarbonate panels can provide either direct sunlight or diffused light to the plants. They also come in a variety of thicknesses, making them a better insulator than glass. Look for panels that are treated to block the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
4. What extras will I need?
There are a lot of extras available to make your gardening experience more enjoyable:
Shelves and benches. Some kits come with shelves, but not all do. They make caring for plants easier. Make sure the frame can support the shelves and the plants.
Ventilation. Greenhouses get hot, so you will need at least one operable vent in the roof. Some kits feature vents that open automatically when the greenhouse becomes too hot. Larger models can accommodate ventilation fans.
Watering system. You can pull the garden hose into the greenhouse to water the plants, but automatic watering and misting systems are available. Some greenhouses include gutter systems that allow you to collect rainwater.
Heaters. Greenhouses placed in cold climates will need a heater for year-round use.
Sensors and controls. Keep the greenhouse functioning properly with controls that track the temperature and humidity levels and can automatically operate watering and ventilation systems.
A greenhouse kit can enhance your gardening experience, and the right kit will provide years of gardening pleasure.
Fran Donegan writes on home improvement for Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author and has written several books, including Paint Your Home.