Linda Rudd (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the contributor for the Green Tips. If you have any tips to suggest, please email them to Linda.
2023 Monthly Green Tips from the Green Sanctuary Committee:
My backyards have always been ecosystems of weeds, including the mowed weeds that constitute my “lawn.” However, if you want a more cultured lawn while keeping your backyard wildlife safe, it’s important to look for nontoxic ways to discourage the weeds. Here are some tips for getting a healthy lawn: grow the right grass for your area (a bit of research is necessary); mow with a sharp blade that cuts without tearing the grass; encourage deep roots with adequate watering; don’t cut your grass extremely short because this stresses the plants and removes clover that is beneficial to bees; do a soil test to determine the right type and amount of fertilizer; and deal with weeds quickly. Pulling weeds by hand is the most environmentally friendly approach, but it’s essential to pay constant attention. With a good foundation, you can have a lovely lawn without the application of potentially damaging chemicals.
You’re sleeping peacefully on a spring night, and suddenly you’re awakened by a noise on your back deck. Could it be a raccoon, an opossum, or a bear!?! Or you’re enjoying a cup of afternoon tea while watching the beautiful birds at your backyard feeder and laughing at the antics of your squirrels. These are the delights of encouraging wildlife in your backyard. Even in town, you can make your backyard wildlife friendly. Select native berry-bearing shrubs; plant pollinator-friendly flowering plants and a few native trees; leave dead and dying trees (ones that don’t threaten your house!) – these provide food for wood-boring insects and the woodpeckers who eat them; provide water in a small pond or birdbath, and, please, keep it clean; provide food such as corn, peanuts, and birdseed at ground level. With a few amendments, your backyard can become an enjoyable wildlife sanctuary – beneficial for both the wildlife and for you!
Often when I go into the supermarket, I look in the paper goods aisle for environmentally sustainable toilet paper. It can be hard to find, but with a little sleuthing you can come up with some viable alternatives to the tree-hungry brands featured in your average grocery store. I’ve used Seventh generation (100% recycled) for years; it’s available in many health food stores or can be ordered directly from the company. Green Forest is a brand that’s sometimes available locally, too. Who Gives A Crap (the real name!) has a reputation as a great product by mail-order, again 100% recycled paper. Some folks like the bamboo alternative, and there are companies that give back by providing sanitary facilities overseas. When you consider that 27,000 trees are cut down every day to make toilet paper, it’s well worth considering some alternatives!
Fishing in both salt- and freshwater is an important industry and pastime in coastal North Carolina. As I mentioned last month, fishers traditionally use lead sinkers, but lead has negative health effects when lost or discarded sinkers are ingested by animals. It turns out that the greatest danger of lead fishing sinkers is not to the fish, but to aquatic birds, who eat the smaller type of sinkers along with sand to use as grit in their gizzards. Unfortunately, alternatives to lead sinkers, such as those made from tin, steel, ceramic, and tungsten-nickel alloy, can cost several times as much as lead sinkers. Please consider if the extra expense might be a good investment in making our coast a healthier place for all living things. An alternative sport-fishing approach is catch-and-release angling, an increasingly common environmentally friendly practice. However, use of traditional barbed fishhooks makes it difficult, if not impossible, to release a fish without damage. Barbless fishhooks are comparable in price to barbed ones and are safer for both fish and fisherfolk, while upping the challenge of landing a catch. If you enjoy fishing, why not join the ranks of environmentally conscious fishers!
Traditionally, hunters have used lead shot and fishers lead sinkers, but, as we already know, lead has been shown to have negative health effects on most living things. According to a 2007 journal article in summaries of Wildlife Research Findings 2007 for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “The impacts of lead shot on wildlife include decreased survival, poor body condition, behavioral changes, and impaired reproduction.” The health of deer can be similarly affected by lead poisoning, but of greater concern to many people is the impact of lead-contaminated venison consumption by people, who can develop a wide range of negative health effects. Denmark, The Netherlands, Australia, and the state of California (in 2013) have banned the use of lead shot. In the US, use of lead shot in hunting waterfowl was banned in 1987, but lead fishing sinkers and lead bullets are still used in other applications. Recent attempts to ban lead ammunition on federal lands nationwide have been unsuccessful. It’s not such a simple problem; use of alternative ammunition, such as steel and copper bullets, can damage gun barrels, and alternatives are more expensive than lead. If you’re a hunter or fishing enthusiast, it pays to do your research and try to find alternatives to lead, for yourself and for the animals and birds who share our planet.
Happy New Year! I have lots of ideas for Green Tips for 2023, but I’d also like to hear your thoughts. What daily activities and situations would you like to make more earth friendly? What ”unfriendly” products would you like me to research, to see if we can find better alternatives? Here are a few of my ideas for the coming year: forest nontoxic weed killers; best light bulbs – forest-friendly toilet paper; CF, LED, or incandescent; the eco-conscious beachgoer; electric boat motors; and environmentally friendly hunting and fishing. Now it’s your turn! Email me with your ideas —and thanks! email@example.com .
2022 Monthly Green Tips from the Green Sanctuary Committee:
Commercially available cleaning products can be pretty harsh on our environment and sometimes on our family’s health. There are other options, though, that can still give you a clean, yet green, home. In many cases, that involves returning to some of the products our grandparents used to clean – baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice, for example. It’s not really necessary to disinfect every surface in our homes – in fact, exposure to household microbes can help our immune systems stay strong! Books and websites on green cleaning abound; a comprehensive book I’ve found is Green Cleaning by Mary Findley and Linda Formichelli.
A nice website is https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/non-toxic-home-cleaning/.
Part of reducing our environmental footprints concerns the packaging we use for the products we buy – from food to household necessities to toys to clothing. Making better choices to reduce packaging can be a challenge, but you’ll find over time that choices are out there, if you consider packaging with every single purchase you make. The most recyclable/reusable food containers, for example, are steel cans, followed by glass. Instead of buying coffee in multi-layered, hard-to-recycle bags, you can often find it in steel cans in the grocery store. Being a packaging savvy consumer can reap big dividends to help protect our precious earth.
You can make a tasty dinner of salmon or shrimp kabobs, or a nice swordfish steak with a side of roasted veggies. But how do you know if your seafood is sustainably sourced? It can be challenging to make good choices for both dinner and the planet, but things are improving. These days, for example, line-caught sustainably harvested canned tuna is available and labelled in most grocery stores; you just have to spend a little time perusing the aisle. The Monterey Bay Aquarium periodically publishes lists of the most sustainable seafood choices ( https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/act-for-the-ocean/sustainable-seafood/what-you-can-do ), and of course, buying local seafood is always a great choice for freshness and sustainability — we’re lucky to have that option here on the Carolina coast!
It’s so disheartening to walk along the shoreline of Beaufort or Morehead City harbor and see oil slicks polluting the water. There’s also the “hidden” pollution of human waste discharged or accidentally spilled from boats. Many boat owners these days are finding ways to reduce pollutants spilled into the bay. Carefully and legally pumping out waste tanks at the marina is the best choice for a cleaner harbor. Older, cheaper, and lighter boat engines were always 2-stroke and churned out oily exhaust. Most new marine engines are 4-stroke, like a car engine. They’re heavier and more expensive, but they have emission controls and are less polluting. Small electric engines are nonpolluting and silent, but we discovered recently that they have a limited range – let’s just say there was rowing involved! Of course, rowing or paddling is the least polluting choice of all.
Water conservation issues are often in the news. Some modern human activities use copious amounts of precious water. Agriculture and irrigation account for 70% of fresh water withdrawal worldwide; industry accounts for 19%, and municipal, including household use, 11%. So what can we as consumers do to help reduce water use? Given that agriculture represents such a large chunk, it pays to research ways we can contribute, such as buying from local farmers using conservation methods such as no-till and drip irrigation. Eating more vegetarian meals can also help, since, for example, 1,847 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef (https://www.denverwater.org/tap/whats-beef-water). In contrast, one pound of corn or potatoes requires about 100 gallons of water. For more stats and some suggestions, visit https://foodprint.org/issues/the-water-footprint-of-food/#.
Laundry. It’s a mundane topic, but one all of us deal with on an almost daily basis. There are many environmental impacts of washing and drying our clothing and linens. Traditional laundry detergents contain chemical surfactants and carcinogens, which are toxic to aquatic life; many containers for detergents also create microplastics and, for larger containers, the usual plastics disposal problem. (https://www.greenmatters.com/p/detergent-environmental-effects). Typical clothes dryers use 3,000 watts of energy per hour; they’re one of the most energy hungry appliances. Better choices exist: make your own soap using 1 cup each Borax and Arm & Hammer super washing soda, plus 1 bar finely shredded Fels-Naptha Soap (available at hardware stores). Dry your clothes outside; in our climate there are many days with wind plus sun – the perfect drying combination, and your sheets will smell wonderful!
Ah, summer! Lazy days on the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, are a favorite part of many folks’ vacation plans. As a child in the 1950s, I remember when sunscreen was a blob of pure zinc oxide smeared on my nose! We have many more sunscreen choices these days, but not all of them are ocean friendly. How to choose? The first rule is to avoid products containing oxybenzone or octinoxate; they can harm coral reefs as well as possibly raising cancer risk. Beyond that, check out the Environmental Working Group annual sunscreen ratings at https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/.
May and June are traditional months for weddings – a joyous time to celebrate the creation of a new family! Unfortunately, the excessive trappings of a 21st-century American wedding can create an environmental burden. From paper goods to discarded catered food to party favors to use of fossil fuels in destination weddings, there are many potential negative impacts. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, if you factor in the environmental cost as you plan your special event. A simple ceremony with locally grown flowers can be just as lovely and memorable as an elaborate affair, and vintage wedding gowns can be beautifully elegant. A food bank could be the recipient of leftover catered food. For more ideas, check out websites such as https://greenweddingshoes.com/10-ways-to-plan-an-eco-friendly-wedding/.
If you’re a gardener, you’ve been dreaming of and planning your 2022 garden for the past few weeks. Even if you don’t have a large garden patch, you can help the migratory birds, wildlife, and insects around us survive and reproduce as they try to deal with climate changes. Check out these websites for inspiration:
http://www.ecosystemgardening.com/top-10-herbaceous-plants-to-attract-wildlife-to-your-ecosystem-garden.html or https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/wildlife-friendly-plants/. The suggested native plants can be a beautiful addition to your living space, and you can feel good about helping the animals. Even a window box of the right plants can be beneficial! With a little more space, youcan include vegetables in an organic, sustainable “victory garden” for your family – a win/win for you and the critters with whom we share this precious planet. Your wildlife-friendly garden could be a small victory over climate change. For information on sustainable gardening practices, check out https://tataandhoward.com/10-tips-for-a-low-maintenance-eco-friendly-backyard/.
Does it feel as if you’re constantly pumping fuel into your car or truck? Not surprisingly, American drivers on average use 656 gallons of gas per person per year! Perhaps it’s time to make better choices about how we get around, but it’s difficult when you live out in the country, as many of us in Carteret County do. I feel fortunate to live in Beaufort, where we can walk or bike to so many destinations. If you’re more car-dependent, consider carpooling and consolidating trips as much as possible. I’ve also seen small busses around Beaufort and Morehead City; that’s another good option for some trips. With thoughtful planning, many of us can reduce the number of times we hop in the car, and our planet will be the beneficiary!
Drive down your street on trash or recycling collection day, and you’re likely to see huge bins overflowing with refuse in plastic bags. It’s a complex problem. Part of the solution could be to adopt a near-zero-waste lifestyle – and it truly is a lifestyle change! Recycling, while a good thing, is not really the answer. From reducing the trash you generate to composting degradable household trash to finding creative ways to reuse items, zero waste can be a rewarding process, and it’s easier than you might think. Want to learn more, including tips and techniques? UCF will sponsor a Zero Waste Seminar later this spring when we can meet in person – watch for information in a future Coastline
You may recall that last April’s Green Tip encouraged you to consider Arcadia for your home energy needs. In our area, that means wind power. Many of us have questions about the environmental impacts of wind turbines – they can have a negative effect on birds, bats, and whales. I came across some good news recently, though. According to a December 16, 2021, professional journal article in Oceanography, oceanic wind turbines have become a substrate for coral reefs, positively affecting biodiversity and fish populations in the area. If you’d like to read an abstract of the article, visit https://tos.org/oceanography/article/offshore-wind-farm-artificial-reefs-affect-ecosystem-structure-and-functioning-a-synthesis. The photo is of a reef on a wind turbine support off the coast of Belgium.
and sleep with an extra blanket. Have a safe and happy new year!