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Eco-Friendly Kid Party Ideas

Posted on September 17, 2014 by | Comments (0)

happy-birthday-519220-mI hate to be the one to say this but kid birthday parties are hugely wasteful.  Paper plates, cups and napkins, plastic toys, one-time-use decorations, all of which will be forgotten in less than 24 hours.  Even if you did have leftover supplies to potentially reuse, you know little Bobby is going to be so over Thomas the Tank Engine by next year.  So this year, consider going green (and bonus alert: saving green) with these eco-friendly kid party tips.

Invites:  Go electronic and send an e-card.  Quick, easy and somewhere a tree gets to live another day.

Supplies:  I know it’s tempting to get the matching plates, cups and napkins and be done with it but there’s a better way!  Get a set of reusable plastic plates and cups in bright colors that you keep just for kid parties.  This way they remain special for your child, you can have them year after year, you can avoid wasteful paper and plastics, and you don’t have to worry about using fragile china.

Decorations:  Every girl in her class is going to have a Barbie-themed party at some point or another.  Help your child break the mold by having her make her own decorations!  A few days before the party, have a decoration-making extravaganza!!  Make a triangle banner by allowing your child to choose pictures from a magazine or coloring book.  Cut them into triangles and staple them, point down, onto a long piece of twine.  Hang that masterpiece on the wall or over doorways.  If you’re a glutton for punishment and want your child to have confetti (you’re the coolest mom ever), make your own confetti from old magazines.  Hang up Christmas lights inside (every kid likes Christmas lights).  Involve your child in choosing flowers to display on tables or buy a bunch of his or her favorite fruits to put in bowls!  Skip the plastic table cloth but avoid expensive cloth tablecloths by choosing a cheap bed sheet that can be washed and reused.  Check out Pinterest for many more homemade ideas.

Activities:  Encourage a green lifestyle by showing kids it can be fun!  Have them make recycled paper (which can double as a party favor).  Ask each child to bring a piece of clothing that no longer fits them and at the party, tell them about an organization to which you’ll be donating the clothes.  Take the party outside and have saplings for them to plant or take them on a litter clean up.  Be sure to explain to the kids why your child chose this type of birthday party so that they can make the connection between their actions and the health of our earth.

Goodie Bags:  There is nothing better than going to someone else’s birthday party and leaving with a present of your own.  This year, skip the bags of candy and give each child a small plant or seeds to encourage them to get outside and plant more plants! 

What “green” party suggestions do you have to add?

Posted in: For educators, Going Green, Reduce reuse and recycle, Uncategorized

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What YOU Can Do to Prevent Street Flooding

Posted on September 11, 2014 by | Comments Off

We saw lots of flooding this week after the ten inches of rain that soaked the region. But do you know what you can do to help prevent street flooding? There are three basic types of floods: storm surge from tropical storms and hurricanes; tidal flooding from natural influences; and heavy rains that overwhelm the municipal stormwater system. Since there’s not much we can do to prevent tidal or storm flooding,  it’s crucial to prevent the stormwater system from becoming overwhelmed. To do so, our neighborhoods must be committed to: (1) reducing the amount of rain that goes down the storm drain and (2) giving stormwater runoff a clear path to flow through on its way through the system.

Stormwater-Runoff-GraphicJust think of it like the drain in your kitchen sink: If you poured a cup of water into the sink it would drain in seconds, right? But what about a 5 gallon bucket of water? The sink isn’t able to process 5 gallons of water as quickly as a cup of water. This, in a nutshell, is what happens when too much rain falls on hard surfaces (i.e. roofs, sidewalks, roadways, parking lots, etc.) and runs off into the stormwater system.  Finding other ways to manage stormwater runoff is so important to flood prevention.

Now, imagine you’re back at your sink only this time the drain is clogged. When you pour the cup of water into the sink it will not drain as quickly as before. And it would empty even slower with 5 gallons of water!  Yard waste like grass clippings and fallen leaves as well as everyday litter are frequent offenders for clogs in the stormwater system that contribute to flooding.

Here’s what you can do to take action against street flooding in your community:

  • Install a rain barrel to capture rainwater that can be used for outdoor watering.
  • Divert gutters towards rain gardens, flower beds and grassy areas so water has a chance to soak up.
  • Plant more flowers and trees – they soak up water better than turf grass, bare spots and concrete!
  • Support green infrastructure projects in your community that will reduce both flooding and water pollution.
  • Keep your gutters and downspouts clean and free flowing.
  • Don’t litter and pickup trash around your community – even if it isn’t yours.
  • Keep your roadside curb and ditch clear of litter and overgrown vegetation.
  • Only put rain down the drain. Grass clippings and fallen leaves cause troublesome clogs in storm drains, pipes and ditches.

Posted in: Don't litter!, Waterways

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Chesapeake Recycles Day

Posted on September 8, 2014 by | Comments Off

Chesapeake RecyclesDuring the summer, the last thing I want to do is spend time cleaning out my house and shed.  I want to be at the beach or by the pool!  But then September rolls around and I have to face the mess I’ve created while having my summer fun.  Now it’s time to clean things up!

If a major cleanup is on your September to-do list too, I have great news.  Here in Chesapeake, we’re holding one of our Chesapeake Recycles Day events on September 20 in South Norfolk!  We’ll accept your electronics and plastic bags for recycling, household hazardous waste for proper disposal and paper for shredding.  (Here’s a more detailed list of what will be accepted.)  Goodwill, TREX, SPSA, Stealth Shredding and TFC Recycling will be on-site to collect your items.  We hope to be your one-stop spot to safely and responsibly get rid of your clutter.  Citizens from all municipalities are welcome!

Come visit us on September 20 from 9 a.m. to noon at Southgate Plaza Shopping Center, 2307 Bainbridge Blvd, Chesapeake.  I’ll be out there in my fashionable safety vest so if you see me be sure to say “Hi!”

Posted in: Community events, plastic bags, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Help Us Fight Ocean Trash – It Might Save a Whale!

Posted on September 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

We all followed the story of the Elizabeth River whale last month. We wondered why it had travelled into our local waterways and tracked its movements wondering where it would be spotted next. Many of us also worried about the health of the whale. Sei whales are not a native of our local waterways or even the Chesapeake Bay and prefer the deep waters of the world’s oceans.

So why was this sei whale, an internationally protected endangered species, swimming around the Elizabeth River? The likely answer is plastic. Upon inspection, experts from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center found a sharp 3×5 piece of plastic lodged into the whale’s stomach which was empty of food. That small piece of plastic, likely smaller than your hand, may have prevented the whale from eating. If this is the case, the whale probably wandered into the Elizabeth River via the Chesapeake Bay while suffering from malnutrition and confusion.

top-10-itemsWhile this may seem to be a freak accident to some, those of us working in environmental fields know all too well the seriousness of marine debris (aka ocean trash). Litter from land is the primary source of marine debris in the world’s oceans. Rain and wind carry litter into city storm drains or local waterways and the trash accumulates in higher volumes as it collects farther and farther downstream. Marine animals like sea turtles, whales, ospreys and albatrosses (to name a few) may mistake our litter as food or become entangled in it. Plastics are particularly harmful because they are often not digestible and prevent the animal from eating …just like the Elizabeth River sei whale.

So we are asking all of Hampton Roads to help us in the fight against ocean trash – because it’s the right thing to do and it just might save a whale too! Here’s how you can help:

  • Participate in the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup from September to October. Clear litter and debris out of roadways, parks and waterways right here in Hampton Roads. For events in Virginia, visit the Virginia Clean Waterways program for details.
  • Don’t litter. And yes, cigarette butts are litter too.
  • Secure your trash. Keep your trash can lid sealed tight and be mindful of trash that can blow out of your car or truck.
  • Cut back on plastics. Ditch disposable plastic items and packaging especially when it is not recyclable.
  • Refuse plastics more often. Don’t take plastics just because they are offered for free. Think twice before grabbing plastic bags, disposable cups and disposable plastic straws!
  • Share the message with a friend. Help others understand that decisions they make on a daily basis can really make a difference.

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Don't litter!, Reduce reuse and recycle

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What makes your community beautiful?

Posted on August 29, 2014 by | Comments Off

PUCU1In the spring of 2014, with support from my wife Sallie, I bicycled 3,269 miles from San Diego to Virginia Beach. Along the way, I experienced our country’s amazing natural beauty and history. I also learned what people personally believe make their community beautiful.  I made . . . connections.

It was great to be back in Hampton Roads on June 28th after 69 days of cycling about 55 miles per day, from San Diego to Virginia Beach through our very beautiful and often hilly country.  For more about the ride check out the blog I kept.

There was so much about this experience that was interesting to me- whether it was meeting the physical and mental challenges of the ride, exploring new places, talking with people from America’s heartland, taking in the natural beauty, or learning about the history of how simple places became the foundation of our country.PUCU2

We introduced ourselves by having our support vehicle, a Toyota Highlander, wrapped with our message of bike safety and cleaner communities. At some point in our conversations with those that we met, I asked the question, “What makes your community beautiful?” I heard many different responses from the 69 people I spoke with. One thing they all had in common: they cared about their communities and what they said gave me a clue as to why. Here are some of the responses I received:

“I can go into town and someone will always know me there” — Anthony, Mountain Grove, Missouri

“Our public library.”  – Hugh, Chanute, Kansas

 PUCU3Personal connections lead us to cleaner, greener, more vibrant communities.

How do YOU connect to your community in Hampton Roads?

Next time: What is a “Pedal Up to Cleanup” and how did it work in Hampton Roads and in selected locations along our route?

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Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!

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