My podcast guest this week, Nate Liebenberg, from South Africa reminded me how important our recycling efforts can be. They make an impact on so many lifeforms especially those in the ocean where the effects of our use of throwaway plastics are not so readily visible. So I am reposting the efforts two University of Connecticut students contributed to creating zero plastic waste on a college campus.
Students at the University of Connecticut are making a difference one issue at a time. Over this past year, the PIRG chapter volunteers got plastic bags banned from dining services. It’s all part of UConn PIRG’s zero waste campaign. Can we make a difference by decreasing plastic bag usage? These students, 2 of whom are my podcast guests this week and next, said yes. They researched the issue, offered education, got students and faculty to sign petitions, and basically got the job done. I’m proud of them for their efforts, their enthusiasm, and their willingness to create change, one that promotes sustainability and takes care of the earth for the future.
However, I wondered about the facts around our use of plastic bags today? So, I decided to look into the issue more deeply. It’s simply astounding. And I feel saddened to think we have waited so long to take action over a serious problem that has shown us the error of our ways so graphically. Why are we taking so long to make a difference for us and all species?
Let’s look at the UK: Anna Schavorion who writes in Forbes magazine:
England’s single-plastic bag use before 2015
“The use of plastic bags in England’s supermarkets was out of control in 2014. More than 7.6 billion carrier bags were handed out to customers that year and that figure had been on the rise for the previous four years.
England was the last country in the U.K. to introduce a charge for single-use plastic bags. Wales was the first to do so, in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. All saw plastic bag use decreased by 70-80% year-on-year.”
That translates into a huge decrease in personal usage of plastic bags which means a huge decrease in production. Let’s look at more facts:
- Ireland alone reduced plastic bag consumption by 1 Billion bags between 2001 and 2011 by imposing a bag tax of $.37
- We use 1 trillion plastic bags worldwide, a product that consumes resources, contributions to species deaths, adds to pollution.
- The European Union is beginning to get behind promoting a decrease in plastic bags due to the great harm seen in our oceans and other waterways.
- Plastic bags contribute to malaria in Kenya.
- Camels and other animals such as cows and sheep die from plastic bag ingestion.
- “100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found. Approximately 1 million sea birds also die from plastic. A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate.”
- “There are 5 ocean gyres in the world where plastic gathers due to the current circulation. These gyres contain millions of pieces of plastic and our wildlife feed in these grounds.”
- According to National Geographic: 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the ocean every year from coastal regions. That’s the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world. And 40% of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded.
- How does the US rate in recycling plastics? We recycle 9% compared to Europe at 30%. Here in the Us, we throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually. That’s about 307 bags per person.
- If a ton of plastic bottles is recycled, the energy that is saved is the same as the amount of energy used yearly by a two-person household.
What can we do? A lot. Simply stop using plastic bags, straws and be mindful of packaging. Got your bags in the car and forgot to bring them in? I do that too. But, one student reminded me to reverse bag: put all items into your cart, take to your car and bag them there. When I only have one or two items I tell the cashier that “zero waste is coming. No thanks, I don’t need a bag.”
Got any great ideas for zero waste? Let me know. Thanks. Judith
Sustainable, edible landscaping is a hot topic today from at least four perspectives:
- Are we providing food in a way that builds soil for future generations?
- What will that food availability look like?
- What are the consequences of pesticide contamination in our food supply,
- Finally, what are the consequences of over-developed land-use practices?
We are rethinking land use. While turning a lawn into meadow is a favorite topic of mine there are a plethora of ideas flooding our internet channels on how to do just that: create sustainable landscapes that serve vital purposes for the planet and ourselves and other species.
Sustain, in its simplest form, means “to give support to or relief to.” Sustainability, in landscaping, contains in its core, principles, efforts, and practices that enhance water and soil conservation, rebuilding wildlife habitat and prevention of further land degradation and provide food.
Fact: land degradation jeopardizes biodiversity. Doug Tallamy, in Bringing Nature Home, reminds us that 4000+ species are in danger today.
Fact: World forest cover continues to decline at an alarming rate.
Fact: Communities in the western part of the US face severe water restrictions due to intense development. Overdevelopment and the use of showy botanicals, often not native to the region, decrease food, water, and shelter for many species and I include humans in that mix.
The desertification of the planet (over 1/3 of our planet has been turned into the desert) creates food shortage problems.
The good news is “more than two billion hectares of land worldwide offer opportunities for restoration through forest and landscape restoration.” Calamity, hardship, trials often create the soil for innovation and that is happening today in the use of land. For example: while city rooftops have been known to contain gardens, designers, architects, and engineers are looking at ways to convert flat building box store rooftops into gardens that produce the food they can sell. Front lawns are being turned into diverse landscapes that can produce food.
We are only limited by our imaginations. It seems to me there is a renaissance occurring planet-wide. Renaissance implies a renewal of life, vigor, interest, a rebirth, a revival. My podcast guest this week, Bettylou Sandy reminds us that our front lawns can be transformed into pleasant gardens with food. Start with one idea and section at a time. Get to know your land through the seasons and weather conditions specific to your area. This knowledge base will lead to your success.
Pinterest abounds in ideas, great visuals that take us to great articles.
What are your ideas? Have you changed your backyard into a more diverse landscape? Share your ideas, share your pictures. I would love to hear from you. Happy Gardening.
Description: I love folks who make the best use of their land spaces, incorporating trees, shrubs, flowers that increase habitat, and also food. My guest this week is one fantastic gardener who does just that. Michael Judd is the author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist: How to have a yard and eat it too. Join us for an engaging and practical discussion about creating mulch, adding small fruit trees, plant diversity, and more.
About My guest: Michael Judd, the author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, has worked with agro-ecological and whole-system designs throughout the Americas for nearly two decades, focusing on applying permaculture and ecological design. His projects increase local food security and community health in both tropical and temperate growing regions. He is the founder of Ecologia, Edible & Ecological Landscape Design, and Project Bona Fide, an international non-profit supporting agro-ecology research.
Transcript: Michael Judd
When I moved into my first home many years ago, I wanted to get involved in the town. Someone, I don’t remember who mentioned that the town had an environmental committee. Intrigued, I wondered what the town envisioned for itself environmentally. I had an interest in recycling, practical ecological applications to preserve water, land and air.
It was no coincidence that around the same time, I subscribed to a magazine titled: Garbage. (Need I say more?) This magazine sought to discuss the latest trends in gathering garbage, storing trash, and how to dispose of the leftovers that could contain toxic materials.
One article, in particular, caught my attention and I remember the broad outlines of the story today which as you will see is pertinent to today’s discussion on wetlands.
A town in California needed a new water treatment plan maybe a sewage treatment plant. The estimate for a new facility was around $52 million dollars, costly for any town at that time., mid-1980’s. So, other options were investigated.
For significantly less money, between $2-5 million, folks realized that the landscape of the town and the surrounding area contained miles of marshland. They could develop a waterway system that kept the wetlands intact and at the same time collect purified water at the end of the line. Somehow, folks back then had the vision to realize that at least seven miles of marshland can filter and recharge water. My podcast guest this week, Gail Reynolds, reminded me of this story as I thought about the different types of wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide.
Basically, wetlands catch water from the surrounding areas, usually runoff from lawns and agricultural land uses. They capture nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides to name a few. These components deposit into the sediment at the bottom of the wetland. Then plants can absorb these elements and convert them into plant matter. When this happens in the summertime, wetlands prevent contamination downstream.
“Wetlands are superb at purifying polluted water, replenishing aquifers and harbouring wildlife. But they are almost always terrible places to build houses. Only about 5 percent of the land area in the continental United States is composed of wetlands. But these transitional zones—neither completely dry nor entirely liquid—are enormously valuable, especially when it comes to controlling floods. Wetlands act like natural sponges on the landscape, absorbing and then gradually releasing storm waters and lessening flood damage.” John Mossbarger, La Jolla CA, in Scientific American also adds this: “Wetlands serve as primary habitat for thousands of wildlife species—from ducks to beavers to insects—and form an important ecosystem link between land and water. They also play a key role in maintaining water quality, as they filter out agricultural nutrients and absorb sediments so that municipal water supplies don’t have to. On and near shorelines, wetlands provide a natural buffer against storm surges and rising floodwaters, helping to disperse and absorb excess water before it can damage life and property.”
It’s estimated we have destroyed about 85% of our wetlands in this country. Wetlands: habitat for plants, animals, insects, offer water filtration and purification services, perfectly set up to manage flood areas. They provide invaluable ecosystem services and are precious.
The good news is that we are taking some measures to preserve what we have and what’s left.
What can you do? If you have wet areas on the property, learn how to manage them that preserves them. And, I just learned that there is World Wetland Day. This year its Feb 2nd. They have a great interactive website and educational materials available for you to use to promote awareness in your community.
When out on hikes or walking in your neighbourhoods, keep an eye out for marshy areas. Keep in mind how limited they are today and how precious their ecosystems are in today’s landscapes.
Description: Gail is a plant scientist who loves bogs. Bogs are often austere landscapes, acidic, filled with peat moss and other mosses, not usually treed. She takes us through a not so well known landscape filled with levels of plant life and why they are invaluable. Join us for a fascinating journey into bogs where Gail highlights some plants that could be used in the wet areas on your property. At the very least, Gail opens our eyes to the variety of species that are found here, ones we can look for on future hikes.
About My Guest: Gail Kalison Reynolds, Middlesex County UConn Master Gardener coordinator, retired from
a long career as an Information Security professional. She holds a B.S. in biology from Yale College and a Master of Forest Science degree from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In addition, she holds five information security certifications. Gail is a long-time natural resource and Yale alumni volunteer, including Chair of the Haddam Conservation Commission, Officer of the Haddam Land Trust, member of the Lower Connecticut Land Trust Exchange, Haddam Plan of Conservation and Development committee member, Salmon Rivercommittee member, Connecticut Botanical Society board member, Executive Board member of the Yale Science and Engineering Association, Yale student mentor, and Yale alumni interviewer of prospective undergraduate students.
Gail is currently the State Coordinator for the UConn Master Gardener Compost Program.
Dear Family and Friends,
Its been a while since I posted any podcast interviews or blogs. The past six months have been challenging. I recently lost my mother, 94 yrs, at the end of October. As her primary caretaker, I chose to be with her during her decline and then to say good-bye to her with family and friends. The holidays and the new year quickly followed.
Today I’m excited to tell you that I am resuming my podcast series Holistic Nature of Us. I enjoy interviewing and have spoken with so many folks across our country and Canada dedicated to finding solutions to the problems we face today. They have truly inspired me to keep going, to find more voices that support our holistic nature and the world around us.
I’ve got a great line-up that begins next week.
Agneta Borstein, a professional astrologer, returns. She offers her insights and wisdom for 2020 and begins my new season.
One of my favorite podcast guests Doug Tallamy, who also happens to be one of my most listened to podcast interviews, returns. He talks about his new book, Nature Best Hope just released this month and available on Amazon.
Where are we at environmentally? What’s happening in bogs, our wetlands? How does sound vibration heal us?
A theme I keep hearing over and over is one of Hope. How can we take action today so we grow hope for a sustainable future? I hope you will tune in again, and take some small action in your daily life to make a difference. Pick an area that speaks to you and do one thing to support it. One of my elders said this: “pick a local organization to get involved in, go to the meetings, participate and contribute. Pick one global organization to support even if it’s just a few dollars here and there.” (Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf)
Every action we take makes a difference.
We hope you will keep your comments coming. Are these interviews helpful? What topics would be important to explore? What organizations would you like to hear from?
I can only thank you from my heart for all your support, comments and kindnesses. Wishing all of you a prosperous, healthy, 2020.