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The 2017 Great American Cleanup is Underway!

Posted on March 2, 2017 by | Comments Off

GAC2016Hampton 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. 

LMinner-GAC_2016_2Spearheaded 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.

FINWR: Volunteer Site Captains conduct a cleanup on Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge. Cleanups can be public or private. 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!

Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful

Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful

Volunteers cleanup in Ocean View Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful

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

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askHRgreen.org Honors Environmental Action Award Winners

Posted on February 23, 2017 by | Comments Off

Mr. Amber LaMonte, teacher at York High School Dr. Ella Ward, Chesapeake City Council Member and HRPDC Chair Mr. Michael Hipple, Chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors and HRPDC Vice Chair Mr. Thomas G. Shepperd, Jr., Member, York County Board of Supervisors Mr. Neil Morgan, County Administrator, York County 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.

Ms. Wendy VanHosen, assistant principal at John Yeates Middle School Dr. Ella Ward, Chesapeake City Council Member and HRPDC Chair Mr. Michael Hipple, Chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors and HRPDC Vice Chair Mr. Lue R. Ward, Jr., Suffolk Council Member 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.Students from JYMS, Suffolk

“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.

Students from YHS, York County“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/

 

Posted in: For educators, HR Green campaign updates

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How to Shop for a Greenhouse

Posted on February 16, 2017 by | Comments Off

Green HouseDeciding 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.

Posted in: Lawn and landscape, Lawncare

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Have you heard about SWIFT?

Posted on February 8, 2017 by | Comments Off

If I were to ask you what areas of the United States are facing water crises, your thoughts would probably veer toward drought-prone southern California or Texas. New Orleans might come to mind, with its flooding issues and precarious below-sea-level vantage point. But we’re ok in Hampton Roads! Nothing to worry about in our water-rich neck of the woods; we’re surrounded by bridges and tunnels and rivers galore! And we’re definitely not like New Orleans with a “too much water” problem, right? 

Sadly, Hampton Roads IS facing a water crisis- it’s just invisible. The Potomac aquifer, eastern Virginia’s largest water supply, is being overused and is shrinking beneath our feet. Groundwater-using industries are facing increasing regulations and new water-using industries are being told not to move to the region. The compacting aquifer is also contributing to land subsidence, which in turn is increasing the area’s susceptibility to the negative impacts of sea level rise. Hampton Roads is the second largest population at risk for the negative impacts of sea level rise, right behind infamous New Orleans. It’s not a pretty picture. 

Engineers and scientists have turned “used” into “useful” at the SWIFT Pilot Facility in Seaford, Virginia.

Engineers and scientists have turned “used” into “useful” at the SWIFT Pilot Facility in Seaford, Virginia.

So what do we do? How do we combat such an extensive, multi-faceted issue? Do we build flood walls? Elevate our homes on stilts? Move? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and there are many individuals and organizations working on the problem. HRSD is one of those organizations, and it’s tackling the situation head-on with an initiative that not only addresses the shrinking Potomac aquifer and land subsidence, but one that will help achieve Chesapeake Bay restoration goals and support our economy at the same time.

HRSD currently discharges approximately 150 million gallons of highly treated water into the waterways of Hampton Roads each day. Rather than continuing to waste this valuable resource, the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT) would take the water that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James or York rivers and purify it through additional advanced water treatment to produce drinking-quality water. The purified water would then be treated to match the existing groundwater chemistry and added to the Potomac Aquifer. Hydraulic modeling suggests that this could reduce the effects of sea level rise by up to 25 percent and positively impact nearly the entire Potomac aquifer, as far north as Maryland and south beyond the North Carolina border.

With SWIFT, the York River would no longer regularly receive discharge from HRSD wastewater treatment plants.

With SWIFT, the York River would no longer regularly receive discharge from HRSD wastewater treatment plants.

SWIFT would also benefit the Chesapeake Bay. Replenishing groundwater with HRSD’s purified water would effectively eliminate more than 90 percent of HRSD’s discharge to local waters – reducing the total amount of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen reaching the Bay. And the homes and industries in eastern Virginia that currently remove approximately 155 million gallons of groundwater from the Potomac aquifer every day would have a renewable source of groundwater to rely upon rather than an increasingly restricted one. 

Extensive environmental and economic benefits aside, why is HRSD pursuing SWIFT in the first place?  Its mission is to treat wastewater effectively, not to produce drinking-quality water and add it to the ground. Increasing regulations play a part. HRSD is continuously making process-level upgrades to its thirteen wastewater treatment plants to remove more and more nutrients and other contaminants from the highly treated water it discharges. By leaping forward under the assumption that the increasingly stringent regulations will continue, the next logical step would be to purify its water to the point that it’s clean enough to drink. Subsequently dumping such a valuable resource back into surface waters that don’t need it when technology exists to use it in a way that is regionally beneficial…well that just doesn’t make sense.

HRSD’s SWIFT team toasts their successful production of purified water on September 15, 2016.

HRSD’s SWIFT team toasts their successful production of purified water on September 15, 2016.

Secondly, HRSD is pursuing SWIFT because it recognizes that it’s part of the big picture. Land subsidence, shrinking groundwater supplies and rising seas are problems that impact ALL Hampton Roads’ residents, not just a select few. They are not problems that will go away if they’re ignored, nor are they problems with easy solutions. HRSD’s mission may be treating wastewater, but its vision is that future generations will inherit clean waterways and be able to keep them clean. SWIFT boldly meets that vision by protecting the Chesapeake Bay,  securing future groundwater supplies, addressing land subsidence and helping the economy. Those are things I think we can all stand behind.

Blog contributed by Molly Bertsch, Community Educator at HRSD.

 

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Using water wisely, Waterways

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Is Your Child’s Car Seat Unsafe?

Posted on February 1, 2017 by | Comments Off

baby-617411_960_720Did you know that an old or broken safety seat could be putting a child in danger?

Car seats that are over 8 years old, expired, purchased  secondhand or involved in a car accident all pose safety risks for young children. Unknown wear and tear or other damage to these car seats makes them less effective in protecting your most precious cargo. To help keep our young children as safe as possible, Drive Safe Hampton Roads, along with Walmart, AAA Tidewater Virginia, DMV: Virginia Highway Safety Office, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, WVEC Channel 13,  Hoffman Beverage,  and Waste Management of Virginia, Inc. have teamed up to conduct the 28th Annual Old, Used, Borrowed and Abused Child Safety Seat Round-Up.  During the month of February, the public is invited to bring old, used or abused car seats to a participating drop-off location for a $5 reward and the good feeling of knowing that you are helping keep kids safe while protecting the environment.

If you have any questions about the Round-Up or traffic safety issues, please call 757-498-2562 or email dshr@drivesafehr.org.

Download the event flyer

Download a list of drop-off locations.

Posted in: Community events, Reduce reuse and recycle

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