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.
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!
The City of Suffolk, for the first time, took part in the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy. In Virginia this initiative is coordinated locally through Clean Virginia Waterways based at Longwood University. The initiative is designed to raise awareness about and reduce ocean marine debris. However, it’s more than just a traditional cleanup. It is an effort to understand what type of debris and how much is getting into our waterways. To understand it, a survey must be taken to find out how many tires, plastic bottles and kitchen sinks etc. are found within the area surveyed. This makes this initiative more complicated than your traditional cleanup. As Litter Control Coordinator for the city and veteran Clean the Bay Day Captain I knew that conducting a debris survey of the downtown section of the Nansemond River shoreline in kayaks and canoes would be challenging. Not challenging because it’s mentally complicated, but practically, as it’s not easy cleaning out the wetlands, reaching for plastic bottles, completing a survey whilst trying not to drift or drop something.
So being our first year, and as a seasoned kayaker, I knew it would be literally a juggling act and so I wanted to “get my feet wet” before we really promoted it and recruited volunteers. I registered our cleanup with Clean Virginia Waterways, but I kept it exclusive to people I knew with the goal of getting feedback so that next year when we roll it out to the public it would run smoothly and give us a good foundation to build on year-on-year. As an experienced volunteer coordinator it’s essential that an event runs smoothly and is well-organized. Nothing frustrates a person donating their time more than a poorly organized and executed event.
So what did we learn from our 3 hour pilot effort on a beautiful Saturday morning in October? To do this in canoes and kayaks it takes two people. One person has the litter grabbers and one person with the pencil and clipboard to record the data. I had originally thought that we would do the cleanup and then do the survey by emptying the bags and recording all the debris using the app developed by Ocean Conservancy. However, it quickly became apparent by the rate of bags we were filling that this method would be extremely time consuming and, in addition, I realized there was a lot of larger items we had to leave behind, but needed to include in the survey. The largest of these items was an ice refrigerator like the ones you find outside any gas station. I suspect this came from the gas station washed out by Hurricane Mathew the week before and then marooned in the wetlands.
Having the right equipment is also important. I purchased four sets of six feet long litter grabbers and tested them out during this cleanup and they are great at reaching into the wetlands and grabbing plastic bottles and other types of consumer packaging. I would highly recommend these for this type of a cleanup. It’s also important to have a larger canoe or small boat to go between teams offloading the collected debris, providing supplies and dropping the debris at the collection point.
I’m thankful for having done a test run before actively recruiting volunteers next year. It’s a fun and an educational experience as well as rewarding to be part of an international effort to collect data and contribute to a global picture of what type of debris is finding its way into our oceans. With quantitative data, governments, businesses, non-profits, individuals etc. can begin to address the problem and work towards solutions and hopefully we will see a downward trend in marine debris.
One of the highlights for me was meeting a guy named Bill Farrell. Bill was enjoying a morning stroll by the river as we were in the middle of the cleanup. He shouted out to me “thanks for doing this, I have a kayak, how can I get involved?” so I told him I’m the Litter Control Coordinator in Public Works. Monday morning when I was back in the office he called me and gave me his details and said his wife would like to help as well. I never expected to be recruiting for next year so soon but I’m looking forward to it and making this an annual Suffolk event which will be fun and educational for all.
Every year we have a big Halloween party at our house. We really get into the spirit covering our home in spooky decorations right down to the animated creatures. We have carloads of trick-or-treaters come by the house and enjoy taking our own daughter door-to-door to collect tasty treats. Halloween is such a simple, yet magical holiday.
But the day after Halloween is when things really get scary…
When I wake up on November 1st I feel like I’ve been transported to the Twilight Zone! I look out my window to find candy wrappers littering the sidewalks and streets of my normally tidy neighborhood. It’s a hard truth to admit, but admit it we must:
Our kids are litter bugs.
Yep, I said it. Those darling pumpkins, spooky monsters and sweet storybook characters are responsible for this post-Halloween litter fest. I totally understand the need to power up with a miniature Snickers bar so that you can make it down just one more street. Who doesn’t sample their treasures before they get home? But what’s not cool is letting that little candy wrapper flutter out of your hands and onto the ground. Sure it’s dark and crowded, no one will ever know it was you. And it’s just a tiny thing, surely it won’t matter, right? Wrong! Come morning, the neighborhoods everywhere will be trashy and that’s not a good look, Hampton Roads!
So before your little tykes head out for a night of screeching scares and tasty treats, please have “the talk” with them. Let them know that a candy wrapper does not magically disappear when dropped on the ground. In fact, it could take up to FIVE YEARS for a plastic-coated paper wrapper to decompose. Littered candy wrappers will be washed into a storm drain and out into our local waterways. The fish, crabs and wildlife really don’t appreciate our misplaced trash.
Here are a few tips for a litter-free Halloween:
Consider wrapper-free treats. Gone are the days when you could hand out homemade goodies, but you’d be surprised how excited kids can be over non-candy treats like bracelets, stickers or vampire fangs.
Give a helpful reminder. Help your child and his crew make the right choice by reminding them that trash on the ground means trash in our waterways for up to 5 years.
Give some specific directions. Tell your child to put candy wrappers in his pocket, back into the candy bucket or in a neighborhood trash can.
Hold a post-Halloween cleanup. Make another trip around the neighborhood with your little ones when dawn breaks to collect littered candy wrappers. Make a game out of it and see who can find the most!
A very Happy (but not trashy) Halloween to you all!
By now you’ve probably heard all about the Zika virus. Zika was first launched into the headlines when it was linked with birth defects in newborns. There has been additional scrutiny on the mosquito-borne virus because of the Olympic games in Rio. With athletes and spectators from around the world travelling to Rio, there is real uncertainty surrounding how widely the virus could spread. Recently, Florida reported its first cases of mosquito-borne Zika so now is the time for us all to take action to limit the spread of this nasty virus in our communities.
What can you do? Worldwide health crises don’t usually seem like the kind of thing an average Joe can solve but in this case, we all have the power to stop the spread of Zika by taking action to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. The number one way we can do this is by preventing water from standing in or around our properties. Pools of water in containers around your yard, whether big or small, will provide the habitat needed by mosquitoes to breed. Look around your yard, identify these breeding grounds and correct the issue through tip, toss and cover. Watch this short video below to learn more.
Do you have old tires laying around? That’s a big no-no. Tires catch lots of water and turn into five-star resorts for mosquito breeding. Responsibly dispose of tires by checking our handy tire disposal guide listed by city/county below. Together as a community we can prevent the spread of Zika virus.
Chesapeake Residents may schedule bulk pickup online or by calling 382-2489. Up to two tires (without rims) will be accepted per bulk pickup. Residents may schedule 12 bulk pickups per year.
Gloucester Residents may drop off four tires (off the rim) at any Gloucester County convenience center. For more information, call (804) 693-5370
Hampton Residents may place up to five tires, including rims, at the curb on their regularly scheduled trash collection day. There is a max of 10 tires per household per year. For more information, call (757) 727-8311
Isle of Wight Residents may drop off up to four tires per day at any Isle of Wight County convenience center. For more information, call (757) 365-1658.
James City Residents may use the Jolly Pond and Toano Convenience Centers for disposing of tires. Coupons required. Call 565-0971 for more information.
Newport News Residents who pay the Solid Waste User Fee may drop off four off-rim tires per week to the Recovery Operation Center. Maximum of 12 tires per year. Passenger car and small truck tires only. For more information call 886-7947.
Norfolk Residents may dispose of up to four tires per household per month at no charge. Bulk pickup requests must be placed by 3 p.m. the day before collection. To schedule a bulk pick, please call 664-6510.
Poquoson Tires may be brought to the City’s old Recycling Center which is located behind the Municipal Building next to the pool parking lot. To cover the cost of the disposal of tires there is a $1 per tire fee. Purchase City decals in the Treasurer’s office and affix the decal to each tire prior to disposal.
Portsmouth Residents may place up to 8 tires (without rim) each year at curbside for pickup on scheduled trash pickup days. There are also three Portsmouth Recycles Day events each year where tires are accepted without counting towards the annual maximum. For more information, call 393-8663.
Smithfield Residents may drop off up to four tires per day at any Isle of Wight County convenience center. For more information, call (757) 365-1658.
Southampton Check back soon!
Suffolk Residents may use SPSA or special recycling events for disposing of tires. For pricing on year-round disposal, call SPSA at 961-3668 or find the next free recycling event here.
Virginia Beach Virginia Beach residents can recycle tires via the City Landfill & Resource Recovery Center. Up to four automobile or light truck tires with or without rims can be disposed of free of charge with proof of residency. Only waste generated at the primary residence of City of Virginia Beach citizens will be accepted. Waste must be delivered in a privately owned, non-commercial, vehicle that is no larger than a pickup truck bed. The City of Virginia Beach Landfill & Resource Recovery Center is located at 1989 Jake Sears Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23464. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you have questions call (757) 385-1980 or email WasteMgt@VBgov.com.
Williamsburg Residents may use the James City County Jolly Pond Convenience Centers for disposing of tires. Coupons are required. Call 565-0971 for more information.
York Residents may bring up to five tires per day to the Waste Management Center for disposal. Fees apply: $1.50/for standard automobile tires without rims; $3.00 if the rim is on. Tires 19.5” or larger are $5.00 (no rim) and $7.50 (on rim). Please call for fees on additional tire sizes, (757) 890-3780.