Every Month is Earth Month: Make a Start to Make a Difference
April is Earth Month in The Last Green Valley, and to honor the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, I wanted to give you some more ways you can celebrate and support the goals of Earth Day – not just this month, but throughout the year. There are many ways we can maintain the activism and spirit of Earth Day in our lives, all we have to do is start.
Water pollution of the late ’60s really brought focus to the environmental crisis leading up to the first Earth Day in 1970 for me. Jarring footage of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio literally catching on fire in June of 1969 sounded a clarion call to action for me and millions of others.
With passing of the Clean Water Act, new regulations were put in place successfully reducing pollution from entering rivers and lakes from point sources, which are identifiable sources like factories and wastewater treatment plants. Non-point sources of pollution are still a concern for clean water, even here in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, with this type of pollution coming from rainwater or snowmelt that gathers up pollutants from fields, roofs, parking lots, yards and streets before entering rivers.
Most every road has a system of storm drains that help move water off the road. In most locations, water from the storm drain system flows directly into streams and rivers.
With that in mind, here are 10 actions you can do to keep the bad stuff (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer and detergents) from entering our water systems. This list comes from the 2009 TLGV program Source to Sea: Connecting the Drops Through The Last Green Valley, 10 Ways to Prevent Water Pollution.
- Use lawn and garden fertilizers sparingly (choose slow release formulas) and sweep up driveways, sidewalks and gutters.
- Never dump anything down storm drains or in streams.
- Keep bare spots in your yard vegetated with grass and plants to prevent soil erosion that may run off during wet weather.
- Compost vegetable and yard waste.
- Use the least toxic pesticides available. Follow labels and learn how to prevent pest problems.
- Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces and consider a rain garden or rain barrel to capture runoff.
- Wash your car on the lawn or take it to a commercial carwash instead of washing it in the driveway where soap detergent will run off and into the storm drain.
- Check your car for leaks and recycle your motor oil.
- Pick up after your pet’s solid waste.
- Don’t attract waterfowl by feeding them.
- Have your septic tank pumped and your system inspected regularly.
Each of these simple actions can help keep our waterways clean. All we need to do is make a start to make a difference.
Along with these reminders that help keep our waterways clean there are actions each of us can consider in our own neighborhood. TLGV helps to sponsor and support cleanups within the 35 towns that comprise the National Heritage Corridor. Many of these are now postponed till later in the year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take action now.
On Earth Day I took a walk — not a forest ramble on a wooded trail — but a walk down the paved roads where I live. Instead of a backpack and binoculars I carried a bag. Instead of scanning the trees for birds I scanned the roadside for litter. There was plenty to be found for the bag and I’ll be back. If you feel like doing the same, we are running a little contest to entice you to clean up the litter in your area. Download our trash tracker, fill it out, keep track of your time and take photos. If you want, tag us on social media or post directly to our Facebook page too. To learn more about the contest visit our website TheLastGreenValley.org.
Friday was Arbor Day, the day each year when individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees. The holiday began in the late 19th century and is typically held on the last Friday of April. Late April is a good time of year to plant trees, though the date for Arbor Day can vary around the country and globe depending on climate and suitable planting season.
This year for Arbor Day I planted 3 winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata) along a stone wall that separates my yard from the back field. It is a native deciduous holly that produces brilliant red berries that persist during the winter months. The berries are an excellent food source for many of the bird species we have in our yard including bluebirds, robins, catbird, mockingbirds and cedar waxwings.
On Arbor Day I also transplanted a red oak tree sapling that has sprouted at the edge of the stone wall that lines part of our property. It was a well-formed young tree that had unfortunately sprouted in a location shaded by old sugar maples and with limited room for growth up so close to the wall. We have a large red oak tree in our yard with a decades old scar across the lower third of its trunk. The tree survived a recent defoliation of its life-giving leaves from gypsy moth caterpillars, but last summer was again in full green canopy carried by strong limbs. The sapling I transplanted is most likely from the old “lone” oak. I moved it to a spot where I can see it, after all, I do hope to someday sit in its shade.
Even though Earth month is almost over, let us aspire to care for and celebrate our natural world each and every day. We live in special place called The Last Green Valley. I hope you’ll join me and others to care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on. Let us make a start to make a difference.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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