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James City County Determined to Reduce Roadside Litter

Posted on June 30, 2015 by | Comments (0)

JCC CLPP ButtsJames City County is doing its part to minimize roadside litter by educating smokers that cigarette butts = litter.  The James City Clean County Commission chose to spearhead this campaign at the Commuter Parking Lot on Croaker Road just off I-64 Exit 231B where cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips line the parking lot.

Cigarette litter accumulates in specific areas, which indicates the spots where commuters congregate when waiting for the commuter vanpools.   In other areas of the parking lot it is obvious that smokers empty their ashtrays on the pavement next to their parked cars.

Volunteers cleared the site of cigarette litter in mid-April and then conducted a survey in mid-May.  In just one month over 300 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips had accumulated on only 1/5 of the parking lot!  Thanks to a grant from Keep America Beautiful, 4 ash receptacles were installed at locations that would be most convenient to smokers.JCC CLPP Ashtray

On an early Thursday morning in June, volunteers from the James City Clean County Commission watched the sun come up while distributing litter bags with pocket ashtrays, cup holder ashtrays and information to commuters as they parked their cars and waited for the vanpool to arrive.

Because this is a transit site, people are in a rush while trying to commute from Point A to Point B, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t make better choices about what to do with their cigarette litter.  And so what we found is that smokers are happy to be educated about their options and are interested to learn more about how this outreach links to the James City County Board of Supervisors’ initiative to focus on county appearance.

JCC Outreach June2015The Commission is using this location to spearhead their work in other locations throughout the county such as county offices, public parks and construction sites.  James City volunteers care deeply about this issue and encourage other volunteers to help spread the word that cigarette butts = litter too!


This post contributed by Dawn Oleksy, Environmental Coordinator with James City County.

Posted in: Cigarette Litter, Cigarette Litter, Don't litter!

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Concert Goers Learn About Cigarette Litter Prevention in Portsmouth

Posted on June 26, 2015 by | Comments Off

Portsmouth1-June 2015The nTelos Pavilion was selected for the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grant in the City of Portsmouth.  This is a beautiful amphitheater on the Portsmouth waterfront.  The site had some ashtrays, but definitely needed more. The first concert after the project launch was Rob Zombie on June 5th.  There were 633 cigarette butts counted at that concert.  We noted the paths that people walked to determine where the new ashtrays would go for the next concert.

On Tuesday, June 16th, with new ashtrays in place, signs put up and a table filled with personal and automobile ashtrays to give away, the record breaking heat didn’t deter us from our mission of reminding patrons enjoying the Huey Lewis and the News concert that Cigarette Butts = Litter.

Portsmouth2-June 2015Many approached the table and picked up a personal ashtray for a spouse, friend or a family member.  Most of the people that picked up an ashtray were seated in the lawn seat section.  That’s the grassy area where most of the cigarette butts were located during the first concert count.  We added one new smoking outpost to the lawn section for this concert and were happily surprised at how many people used it!

We were not judgmental when handing out the ashtrays, nor did we encourage people to quit smoking. We simply provided smokers with an alternative to tossing the butts on the ground.  WVEC Channel 13 News interviewed us and we were able to promote our mission even though the story was about the extreme heat. 

Portsmouth3-June2015The cigarette litter prevention program was very well received at the nTelos Pavilion. We counted only 257 cigarette butts on the ground after the launch of the cigarette litter prevention program.  A thunderstorm appeared at the end of the concert making for a quick exit for some of the patrons.  If the storm hadn’t occurred, there is the possibility that there may have been a few more cigarette butts on the ground, but I’m an optimist. I believe that folks were given the right tools and that allowed them to do the right thing:  Less Cigarette Butts on the ground = a cleaner nTelos Pavilion.

Join the conversation by posting on social media using #NoCigaretteLitterNow or learn more about the regional Cigarette Litter Prevent Program now.

This blog submitted by Donna Corbus, City of Portsmouth Recycling Manager and Executive Director of Keep Portsmouth Beautiful.

Posted in: Cigarette Litter, Don't litter!

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Be a Responsible Car Washer

Posted on June 25, 2015 by | Comments Off

carwashWhen it comes to the environment, cars may not have earned the best reputation.  Driving less often and using fuel efficient vehicles can help minimize some of the environmental impacts, but in reality not all problems stem from driving habits alone.  One of the most basic steps we can take to help make our car a little greener is by changing the way we wash it.   

When washing your car at home, water that becomes contaminated with cleaning chemicals, car oil and grease, and dirt often gets deposited directly into storm drains. Storm drains lead straight to local lakes, rivers, and streams without any treatment. Runoff from our homes and businesses is a big part of local water pollution problems.

The most environmentally friendly way to wash your car is to take it to a commercial car wash.  Commercial car washes not only use significantly less water per wash, they reuse the water multiple times before sending it to a sewage treatment plant.  There, the water is treated before being discharged back into waterways, preventing dirt, chemicals, and other wastewater contaminants from entering local waterways.

Should you still decide to wash your car at home, making a few adjustments can significantly minimize the negative environmental impacts.   Make sure to:

  • Wash your car on gravel, grass, or another permeable surface instead of on concrete.  This allows for the water to filter naturally instead of directly entering storm drains as runoff. 
  • Use as little soap as possible and make an effort to choose detergents that are non-phosphate and non-toxic. 
  • Invest in a nozzle for your hose that will allow you to adjust the water pressure and volume.  When washing, try using a bucket of water instead of a hose for everything but the final rinse. 
  • If you have a rain barrel, wash with the collected water. 
  • Empty the leftover soapy water in the sink, not onto the driveway or street

When holding a car wash as a charity event, try to partner with a commercial car wash and sell commercial car wash coupons. If you can’t form this kind of partnership, make sure to keep the excessive amounts of runoff out of the storm drains by covering them with a rubber mat.  We can keep our local waterways healthy by keeping pollutants and runoff out of the storm drains. 

This blog contributed by Suzanne Dyba, Stormwater Coordinator with James City County General Services Department.

Posted in: Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Backyard Raingarden Part I: Help! I Need a Backhoe!”

Posted on June 23, 2015 by | Comments Off

A rain garden – sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Thanks to the assistance of the Elizabeth River Project and their River Star Homes program, I now have a lovely rain garden in my back yard that collects stormwater runoff and helps protect local waterways.

For years, I thought about DIY-ing a rain garden in the soggy spot in the back yard, but frankly, I was intimidated by the project. In order to function properly, a rain garden should meet certain design requirements (location, size, depth of special soil media, plant selection, etc.). The wet weather this spring finally prompted me to take action – I bookmarked the rain garden information page and started researching! I read the Rain Gardens Technical Guide; downloaded the free rain garden landscape plans and native plant guide; took a class to learn about sustainable landscaping, determined my soil type, and drew up a site analysis for my yard.

Long story short, I learned that my rain garden would not be a DIY project. I cringed when I totaled up my estimates of how much dirt needed to be removed and replaced with stone, special soil, and mulch. It would take my husband and me and our little pickup truck forever to complete such a project. I needed help. Professional help. With heavy equipment.


Backhoes to the rescue!



Depth of rain garden

Fortunately, River Star Homes offers special opportunities in the Eastern Branch and Lafayette sections of the Elizabeth River Watershed for homeowners to help reduce water pollution and restore the health of the Elizabeth River. I applied for their rain garden cost share program (learn more), and staff from the Elizabeth River Project assessed my yard and provided a list of recommendations, including a rain garden. With their partner, Bay Environmental, Inc., an appropriate location was selected. All of the technical design considerations were addressed and installation would be done by professionals. I was so excited!

On day 1 of the rain garden installation, the 16-foot by 6-foot area was excavated to a depth of 30 inches and approximately 10 cubic yards of clay soil was removed that afternoon. The next day, 2 cubic yards of stone was spread across the bottom of the excavated area and topped with 6 cubic yards of a special soil mix. The special soil mix increases the amount of water held by the rain garden and encourages it to soak into the ground. Finally, 1 cubic yard of hardwood mulch was spread over the rain garden site. A variety of colorful, flowering native plants were installed on the third day. The plants have quite a way to “grow,” but it’s already a very lovely scene.

Want to see the finished garden, the planting plan, and the native plants in this rain garden? Stay tuned for the next segment of this post, “Backyard Raingarden, Part 2: Hard Working and Pretty Native Plants.” I’ll have update on how the plants handling the summer heat.

This blog contributed by Tiffany Smith, Water Resources Planner at Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.


Disposing of clay soil



Rain garden refilled with stone and special soil.



A layer of mulch to top it off



Native plants arriving on scene & ready to go in the ground

















Posted in: Beautification, Lawn and landscape, Waterways

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Portsmouth’s Recycling Program Named the Outstanding Government Agency for 2015

Posted on June 18, 2015 by | Comments Off

From left to right: Dennis Bagley, Donna Corbus, and Henry Strickland.

From left to right: Dennis Bagley, Donna Corbus, and Henry Strickland.

The City of Portsmouth’s Recycling Program has been named Outstanding Government Agency by the Virginia Recycling Association for 2015! This award recognizes Portsmouth’s Recycling Program as the BEST among all Federal, State, and Local Government agencies, and institutions within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Each year the Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) recognizes the best waste reduction and recycling programs in the state at an annual awards ceremony. Nominations are sought from the public and private sectors, business, industry, schools, government and non-profit agencies, civic or volunteer organizations, and individuals.

The following are the selection criteria:

  • Integrated a waste reduction program (including reduction, recycling, reuse composting, etc.)
  • Ongoing employee education program with incentives for waste reduction.
  • Policy that demonstrates commitment to waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
  • Broad range of material managed or recycled, with records kept of quantities.
  • Waste-conscious procurement policies for materials and supplies.
  • Sharing of information and technical assistance with peers.
  • Innovative and creative components to program.
  • Program must have been in operation for at least one year.

Portsmouth Recycling TruckThe Virginia Recycling Association presented the Outstanding Government Agency award to the City of Portsmouth on May 6th during their annual conference at the Sheraton- Virginia Beach Oceanfront, 3501 Atlantic Avenue.


Guest blog submitted by Donna Corbus, City of Portsmouth Recycling Manager and Executive Director of Keep Portsmouth Beautiful.

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Reduce reuse and recycle

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