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Becoming a Healthy, Green Society

Posted on April 7, 2014 by | Comments Off

shutterstock_70004710_WEBAlthough the United States accounts for less than 4.5% of the world’s population, Americans are responsible for generating nearly a third of all waste in the world! The good news is that there is a strong movement in America to raise awareness regarding the effects of littering, the benefits of recycling and the importance of removing toxic chemicals from consumer products.

The effects of pollution on the environment are far reaching, and they affect drinking water, air quality, water quality and our overall quality of life. Yet more and more companies, government entities and individuals are taking steps to reduce pollution and waste. Among these steps are environmental education programs, community recycling programs, innovative uses for recyclable materials, the availability of green consumer products, and tax breaks for sustainable energies and conservation efforts. Clearly, much more work needs to be done to take the green movement into every home, but the tools and information are available for those who choose to go green.

When it comes to water pollution, plastic bottles and litter are only part of the problem. Developing countries dispose of 80% of their sewage directly into the world’s water supply. Living in the United States, with its federal and local regulations governing the disposal of municipal sewage and waste, it may be difficult to believe that many countries in the world are dumping and pumping their sewage directly into nearby waterways. Take that into consideration if you ever find yourself taking a swim in the lovely Mediterranean Sea.

As far as air pollution is concerned, federal regulations have helped to considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both factories and automobiles. And while greenhouse gases receive plenty of attention, 2.2 billion pounds of insecticides are still released into the air every year. These pesticides contain over 100 ingredients that can cause birth defects, cancer, and other serious health conditions.

In many ways, the key to a cleaner, healthier environment lies in the hands of the average American citizen. The fact is, no matter what the local, state, or federal governments do to support a cleaner environment, the American people must be willing to do their part for these policies and programs to make a difference. After all, it is people who are responsible for millions of plastic bottles and other pieces of litter being discarded on the ground, entering river, lakes, and oceans and threatening the overall health and vibrancy of our communities.

While it might be embarrassing for Americans to know that they are responsible for a third of all worldwide waste, perhaps this eye-opening fact will help change their behavior.  For those already on-board with the green lifestyle, they can feel good about the fact that the United States is making a strong effort to promote sustainable living through its various programs and initiatives. Of course, there is still a long way to go, but knowing the facts about recycling, conserving water, and purchasing green products are all crucial steps in the right direction.

Posted in: Going Green

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Is Your Yard a Threat?

Posted on April 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

WetlandIn a recent presentation by the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, I learned that some yards are more likely to pollute waterways. While it is important that EVERY homeowner in Hampton Roads includes stormwater management practices into their landscape plan, some yards are a bigger threat than others. Read on to find out if YOUR yard makes the ‘more likely to pollute’ list:

  • Overusing fertilizer – Applying too much fertilizer coats your lawn with nitrogen and phosphorous, increasing the odds those chemicals will runoff into waterways after the next rainy day. Soil testing is a foolproof way to find out how much fertilizer your lawn really needs.
  • Areas of new grass – Grass that is less than 3 years old has weak and shallow roots that soak up less rainwater. Help roots get stronger by keeping grass heights at 3 inches or higher when mowing.
  • Steep slopes – Yards with slopes of 15 percent or more don’t give rain time to seep into soil, producing lots of stormwater runoff. But slopped yards are a great opportunity for rain gardens which capture stormwater runoff and help filter pollution.
  • Exposed soil – Bare areas of dirt provide little opportunity for rainwater to soak into the ground and may even add more pollution in the form of sediments like grit, sand, and dirt. For an easy fix, seed bare spots with grass seed or plant plants that are more likely to thrive in harsher conditions.
  • Overwatering lawns – If your yard is already soaked with water, it won’t have room for the extra water when it falls from the sky. Watch this great video from the Virginia Cooperative Extension to learn how to water the right way.
  • Soils that are shallow/compacted – Yards with shallow or compacted soil can’t absorb much water. This includes yards with a high water table (within 3 feet of the surface). Soil amendments, compost and lots of plants can help reduce stormwater runoff in these types of yards.
  • Within 300 feet of a waterway – Waterfront yards don’t provide much time to stop runoff before it flows into waterways. It’s so important that waterfront property owners use a variety of stormwater management practices to prevent pollution and slow down runoff.
  • Athletic fields and golf courses – To keep golf courses and athletic fields green, facilities often use extra fertilizer and water. But there are alternatives – like the strategies outlined in the Environmental Best Management Practices for Virginia’s Golf Courses from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

For everything you need to know on having the greenest yard in town, check out the askHRgreen Your Yard resources.

Posted in: Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Being a Better Neighbor

Posted on March 31, 2014 by | Comments Off

neighborhoodOwning a home is not just a privilege, it is also an important responsibility. As soon as you purchase a property you will be responsible for that land, its impact on the environment and your contribution to a vibrant neighborhood. You’ll start having to manage your own carbon footprint and you’ll become part of a defined community – thus giving you a lot of new important duties that you’ll need to keep on top of. There will be lots of opportunities for you to be more conscientious and to do your part for your community.

Not sure how owning a property puts you in such a position of responsibility? Then read on and we’ll look at some examples of things you can do to be either a more conscientious neighbor.

Appearance

The first thing to think about here is the appearance of your property. While it’s not critical for your home to be extravagant, it is important to keep your home looking presentable on the outside. Home appearance can affect home values in your entire neighborhood. To be a good neighbor, make sure your grass is cut, put in mulched flowerbeds and trees, keep your paint relatively fresh and pickup litter and trash.

Reduce Waste

It’s also important to think about the way you are running your home and the effect that might be having on the environment and ecosystem. One major area here to think about of course is the way you use energy around the home. Are you using too much electricity? Or too much water? And are your appliances as efficient as they possibly could be? Every home creates a lot of waste as you dispose of wrappers, boxes, cartons and more. It’s important to think about waste management – not only how you can reduce the amount of waste you’re creating in the first place, but also how you can better dispose of that waste through your municipal recycling program.

Scoop the Poop

This one easy step couldn’t be more important. Having someone’s pet do their ‘business’ in your yard is one of the most common neighborhood disputes. Not only is it unsightly, messy and potentially harmful to pets and children, it’s also bad for the environment. When rain falls, it travels across our lawns and sidewalks and into storm drains where it is discharged, untreated, into nearby waterways.  That stormwater picks up a lot of things along the way – including any poop that was not scooped! Do your part to keep your community and waterways clean by always scooping the poop.

There are so many ways to be a more conscientious homeowner, but these are just a few ideas to get you started. What’s most important is to recognize that owning a home is a responsibility and take it seriously.

Leslie Kramer, is a freelance blogger with Custom Benchtops who uses blogging as a platform to share home improvement and green living tips.

Posted in: Beautification, Going Green, Household tips

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Four Eco-Friendly Tips for Washing Your Car

Posted on March 26, 2014 by | Comments Off

carwashLots of Americans love to keep their cars clean, especially if they have a classic that they are proud to own and show off. Because of that, some eight million cars are washed at car washes every day and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans spend a whopping $5.8 billion at car washes each year. While that might help keep neighborhoods looking nice, washing cars can make waterways not so nice. Fortunately, there are lots of great green car care tips for car owners who want to keep their ride sparkling without damaging waterways.

Go Professional

Commercial car wash facilities are greener than you might think! Commercial car washes send dirty water into the sanitary sewer system not the storm drains. This prevents the road muck from your undercarriage from polluting local waterways. And while you might think that commercial car washes use a lot of water, many actually recycle some of the wash water for reuse. So save yourself the work and go for a professional cleaning in the name of being green.

Prep

Blasting the hose as hard as you can at bugs and debris that build up on your car might be the easiest way to get it ready for soap. Heck, it might even be kind of fun. However, it wastes water and is unnecessary. By scraping away bugs or dirt clumps beforehand, you will be able to wash your car without using as much water, making a little bit of prep work a great green car care idea.

Check Your Soap

Car washing soap comes in all different varieties. Choose one that is biodegradable, phosphate-free and water-based.  Doing so will prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment and polluting soil and waterways.

Get Off the Driveway

Runoff from washing cars is a significant cause of water pollution and is relatively easy to minimize. By moving your car to a natural permeable surface (grass, dirt, or gravel), runoff will soak into the ground and natural microbes will act as a filter to remove some of the compounds from the wash water. This helps reduce the amount of dangerous pollutants that enter storm drains and flow to local rivers and streams.

Dry Wash

Though sponges, buckets, and hoses are part of the tradition of cleaning cars, you don’t always need them. There are a number of great waterless car wash products that are eco-friendly and help you go green.

In a perfect world, cars would never get dirty and drivers would never have to worry about taking the time out of their day to wash off dirt and grime. But, the world isn’t perfect, and washing the car is a regular chore for many Americans. Thankfully, there are lots of helpful green car care tips that allow drivers to keep their car clean without wasting water or harming the environment.

Posted in: Outdoor tips, Using water wisely, Waterways

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Litter Enforcement Awareness Comes to Norfolk

Posted on March 25, 2014 by | Comments Off

KNBLogoIn an effort to better prevent litter, Keep Norfolk Beautiful (KNB) is implementing the Litter Enforcement Awareness Month (LEAM) initiative throughout April 2014. The initiative is embedded in KNB’s annual Great American Cleanup Program, and has shown successful throughout Northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland for four years.  What’s the goal? Glad you asked! The initiative is poised to educate the public about current laws on littering, solid waste accumulation and illegal dumping, while also tracking the violations and sharing outcomes with Norfolk’s community.

Did you know that excessive litter is not just an eyesore; it also contributes to poor aesthetics for your neighborhood, a decrease in community pride, a decline in property value, and contributes to nuisance flooding due to clogged storm drains. Additionally, littering is illegal, covered under Chapter 14.5, Environmental Offenses of the Norfolk City code.  Any person violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a class one misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of not more than $2,500 per day and/or up to one year in jail.

As KNB serves to create a culture of environmental sustainability in Norfolk, we encourage you to volunteer with us! Your assistance is needed as we strive toward cleaner, safer and healthier neighborhoods in Norfolk. We welcome your ideas, as litter prevention affects Norfolk’s economic, environmental and social well-being.

To conclude this year’s LEAM initiative, KNB will host Keep Norfolk Beautiful Day, Saturday, May 3rd. Individuals and groups are invited to conduct litter cleanups throughout Norfolk.   Additionally, residents are encouraged to take their unwanted household goods, recyclable items, and electronics to KNB’s e-cycling event at 1176 Pineridge Road . You and your neighborhood should join us! Visit us online for more details about Keep Norfolk Beautiful Day.

And for other Great American Cleanup events going on throughout Hampton Roads, check out the event listing on askHRgreen.org.

Guest blog post submitted by Lisa Renee Jennings, Clean Community Coordinator with Keep Norfolk Beautiful.

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!

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