Green Infrastructure

Hello everyone!

Recently, my Environmental Senior Seminar course has been focusing on implementing Green Infrastructure in Reading. I’d like to take a moment to inform you of how important this topic is and how these projects are useful/beneficial in a number of settings.

What is Green Infrastructure? It is a cost effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provide many community benefits (EPA). It also treats stormwater at its source while being environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial.

Why is it important? 

1)Education: Installing these features educates the community about pollution, natural functions of local habitat, restoration, and Sustainability!!

2)Resolve Runoff/Pollution:

Stormwater runoff is major cause of water pollution in urban areas. When it rains, water runs down impervious surfaces (streets, buildings, lots) and cannot soak into the ground as it should. Stormwater is drained through gutters, storm sewers, and other engineered collection systems only to be discharged into nearby water bodies. Stormwater runoff collects trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants from the urban landscape. Higher flows resulting from heavy rains can cause erosion and flooding in urban streams- damaging habitat, property, and infrastructure (EPA).

Example: Hurricane Harvey brought severe flooding to Houston this past Fall because there weren’t enough natural wetlands to manage and delay flood events.

What are types of Green Infrastructure?

1)Bioswales:

Literally a swale, sloped divot, stuffed with native plantings with a rock layer underneath to aid with absorbance of rain water. These are designed, deeper than rain gardens, to accept large amounts of runoff from impervious surfaces (Soils).

Suburban:

Image result for bioswale

vs.

Urban

Image result for bioswale

2)Rain Gardens:

This is kind of like a bioswale, but is localized in a smaller or residential area, accepting smaller amounts of stormwater runoff. This too is planted with native species to support native pollinators (Soils).

For fellow Albrightians reading this, there’s a rain garden located in the Albright Garden. In fact, this was a project to catch rain water run off from spouting on the surrounding buildings!

Image result for rain garden

3)Green Alleyways:

Those dingy, lonesome alleyways you walk past? Yep, flip those into community spaces with adequate lighting for safety, permeable pavement to absorb water (instead of allowing runoff), and plants- cause why not.

Image result for green alleyways

 

4) Green Roofs: 

I’m certain you’ve seen these and I hoped you’ve planned it for your future home too. This is a fine opportunity to make use of neglected space. Green Roofs support vegetation and the community can enjoy it too. It also provides a proven return on investment for building owners. This feature is still up and coming in the U.S. but has been long established in Europe! (Green Roofs)

Image result for green roof

 

Please consider how these features might fit into your life or community!

Until next time,

Gina

 

 

 

Works Cited:

“About Green Roofs.” Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, greenroofs.org/about-green-roofs/.
“What Is Green Infrastructure?” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 14 Aug. 2017, http://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/what-green-infrastructure.
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Small but mighty

So here you are going your part by reducing your personal carbon footprint. You turn of the sink when you brush your teeth and take short showers, recycle, turn off lights, and have a nice collection of reusable water bottles and travel mugs. You did your research on environmental issues and despite your best efforts, global environmental problems still occur. You’re doing your best but all you can think of is, “now what?”

I can relate. You want to do more. You want a change and you crave to actually be the change! Here are some ways that you can do more, but before we get into it, we need to address that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ and that amazing things take time to accomplish. This is a key mindset because when it comes to trying to save the planet, it takes a group effort.

 

Lets get fired up! 

Firstly, use that passion to write/call your elected officials and vote to keep the ones that are environmentally conscious in and the others out. This is key if you want to have  an impact on something that you can’t control yourself. After you do it yourself, encourage your friends to join you. Remember, strength in numbers!

Light it up! 

If you want people to join you in doing little things to take care of the environment, perhaps hold educational events! This is easiest if you spend a lot of time in a school setting, but you can potentially do little things in the office as well! Find some time to gather people together in a fun environment and you can make it as simple as holding a conversation to as fun and large scale as having a green themed field day. It honestly depends on what it will take to get your audience’s attention. One reason why some people aren’t actively conscious of their carbon footprint is because they either don’t know they are doing harm or are unsure how to properly live eco-friendly. The best part of educating those around you is that they are likely to tell what they’ve learned to their friends and so on! All you and maybe a small team of people need to be is the spark that lights a fire.

Play dirty! 

One thing that takes hard work and effort but is extremely rewarding is taking part in community clean-ups. If there is none going on in your area, feel free to start one yourself! You might have to notify your city hall and local police though just for safety and reassurance. If you would prefer to join one: clean-ups happen all of the time! You would just need to do a simple google search or pick up a paper and look in the local activities section. Personally, I find the best place to start would be looking at your county’s conservation district, local parks, or Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

A lot of these events are in the form of trash pick-ups, like what the Wiconisco Creek Conservation (if you are in the region, totally check them out on Facebook!) did a couple weeks ago where they dedicated a Sunday to picking up trash to promote their waters. Some can also be in the form of beach cleanups as well!

Eyes on the money! 

A lot of local agencies need to raise money in order to get their equipment they need to help restore environments and grassroots fundraise to build their organization up to get attention from government officials. Some rescue places, such as Appalachian Wildlife, need supplies donated (Appalachian Wildlife needs cleaned discarded mascara wands to clean the parasitic insects out of animals’ fur). Hold fundraising events and donate to environmental organizations!

 

It takes a lot of time and patience in helping the environment, but it also takes lots of people working together. It is also important to take time to yourself with this and remember that you are one person. We are all small but mighty all working together for our Mother Earth!

Keeping it green,

V.

This is the main lesson I’ve learned with my time in the Albright Sustainability House, and I wouldn’t trade these lessons for the world. If you would like to see me continuously blog, I am hoping to start a .wix page with the same name once this busy semester is over! Hope to see you there one day. It will be slow at first but please join me on my journey to being more environmentally conscious with my Environmental Science Major, Evolutionary Studies Minor, and (coming soon) Marine and Aquatic Science Minor as well as working to bring Albright’s E.C.O. club up and magnificent.

Let’s talk about . . . plastic

 

I just arrived back to campus from spring break, I went to the stunning Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This was an amazing get away, but I could not help but see the many forms of plastic on the ground as my view of paradise started to fade. Being a person who felt very inclined to want to pick up every piece and spend my vacation doing that I was very bothered seeing this. I started thinking about home where I live where I do not see this much trash. I started to think about why it was on the ground, could this be a more populated area? But, enough is enough, it does not matter how many people were in that area, the fact of the matter is that people are not respecting the environment around them.

I was still able to enjoy my vacation, but I reached a breaking point when a red solo cup graced my calf in the ocean. I ripped it out of the water and took it to my towel to later put it in the recycling. I know, it was spring break, college students everywhere were drinking, but what happened that they could not recycle a red solo cup? I started walking back to the water and my mind was flooded with documentaries that I have watched of deformed animals, dead whales, and the garbage patch island. Sea turtles with straws in their nose, dead birds with stomachs full of bottle caps, it doesn’t end. Plastic is affecting so many other organisms than people, and most people do not see this.

Some of the most common places where can you find plastic

  • Bottles
  • Plastic bags
  • Toothpaste
  • Many beauty products containers
  • Feminine products
  • Pens, and led pencils

Of course, any average person uses at least one of these a day, and if you do not I applaud you! Although some people may not be able to avoid all of these on an every day basis, it does not hut to try a new thing to avoid others.

  • Bottles – there are many forms of bottles that people can be using that they do not need to be using. You can use reusable bottles that can be metal, glass, and even plastic (the reusable ones will last a long time). It is very important to take into consideration how many bottles or cups a person could be throughout their day. It’s very easy to use a reusable water bottle when being a college student or working in a workplace. Although it may not always be accessible to a person where they are occupied at the moment, you can always buy a water jug!
  • Plastic bags – plastic bags are one of the most plentiful objects I see littered around. As Katy Perry says they are drifting through the air. Even on my college campus, where you do not see trash much, I will always see a plastic bag somewhere on a branch. This is a very easy thing to avoid, you can buy reusable shopping bags and take them everywhere with you. There are many different types of reusable bags, and you can get them in different styles. The reusable bag I use has chickens all over it.  I know some stores will give discounts if you bring a bag to use.
  • Toothpaste – sometimes toothpaste will have plastic in it, these are used to clean your teeth but may not always be good. A major brand with plastic beads in it is crest. This is very easy to avoid as a person can just buy a different brand without micro beads. Although micro beads can be found in toothpaste they also can be found in exfoliating scrubs for your face. There are many face washes that a person can get without the unnatural plastic micro beads. As well as more natural face washes there are natural exfoliates like crushed almonds, charcoal, and sugar.
  • Many beauty products containers – These are plastic and often don’t contain much product. A way this can be avoided is buy a product in the largest size container you can find. Or, you can keep the containers and make new products. My roommate, Veronica, who you may have read some of her articles, makes many products for herself including scrubs and makeups. Lush is a place where if you use all a product you can take the containers back and they offer some deals for recycling. Also, over the winter break I took old deodorant containers and made a new bug repellent deodorant with essential oils.
  • Feminine products – now if you are a male you can clearly skip this part, unless you would like to relay this information to the ladies in your life. Tampons come in small plastic containers, unless you get the ones that you insert. Which is a great way to avoid plastic, but still there is the health worry about TSS. A great product that not many people know about is called a menstrual cup, a popular brand of this is called the diva cup. It is a small silicone cup that can be used for up to 12 hours and reused many times! I can attest to this product, I have been using for about five months and it works great! Read into it if you’re interested in saving the environment and using products better for your health!
  • Pens, and pencils – often these products are plastic and very cheap plastic due to them being disposable. But there are ways around this, although most pens are plastic, often you can buy refills for them instead of buying new pens. It’s the same with led pencils, you can buy led to replace them. If you buy more expensive products they will last longer than the cheaper ones.

 

The above products I mentioned can be used in a person’s everyday life and can be easily avoidable. There are many more things a person can do or use to prevent unnecessary plastic use. Here are some ideas!

  • Of course, recycle. But, recycle properly, clean the containers out and take the labels off. Do not put your recycling out in a trash bag, they are not recyclable and can be easily mistaken for trash
  • Do not buy the plastic sheets to cover tables that can be used once, invest in cloths (at my house we buy cheap bed sheets), and reuse them.
  • Recycle old electronics
  • Instead of k cups, get the reusable ones
  • Get toothbrushes that will be more durable, or electric ones that the cap is replaced. There also is a toothbrush called the bamboo brush, which is extremely environmentally friendly! Also, use biodegradable floss!
  • Re-use containers such as containers you get juice in (you could start making your own natural juice)!

If you have any questions about ways you can further a more eco-friendly lifestyle please contact me at victoria.labar001@albright.edu, I would love to chat!

Sustainability – What can you do?

I’ve lived in the sustainability house for a semester, but the real question is, what is sustainability? Many of my house mates, including myself, have posted numerous blogs and our readers may not know what they mean, apart from what they read. It is very important to be sustainable and there are many things an average person can do, even if you don’t live in an eco-house like I do.

Sure, there are simple things like turn your lights off, or turn the water off when you are brushing your teeth. This is what you are told in elementary school, but this article will go more in depth as to what you can do to help the environment. When you do good things, you start to feel good.

Water consumption

Take into consideration the water consumption that you and may not even know you use. There are many things that you could be doing that could be causing water loss or unnecessary water damage/ usage.

  • Eating meat, particularly steak can be extremely damaging and have a high amount of water intake. Although you may think it is just meat, a person needs to also consider many other animal products.
  • http://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Report-48-WaterFootprint-AnimalProducts-Vol1.pdf  << This link will take readers into a report that was completed to show the water consumption behind agriculture, and just why it takes a large amount of water for meat and animal products to be produced.
  • On page 26, there are bar graphs that sum the water usage up to see what foods you can try and avoid, if you do not want to start avoiding these foods just yet, you can look to see which practice it more sustainable to consume them. When looking further into this article on page 29, a person can see more foods that are damaging with water including nuts.
  • When looking at this data I am hoping that a person can conclude that cutting some animal products out of their diet can help conserve water on top of other efforts like showering for shorter periods of time, being conscious of what toilet they are using, or even making sure you have a full load for dish washing and laundry. There are many more uses for water that I have not covered here, like fruits, nuts, and vegetables (asparagus). It would be worth anybody’s time to investigate water consumption of the foods they eat.

Another great thing a person can do for the environment is compost!

  • Composting is a great way to recycle organic matter that a person would otherwise be throwing away in the trash. At the Albright Eco House, composting is the act of breaking down browns like cardboard or paper and breaking down greens like vegetables, eggshells, and fruit. Both batches are then thrown together into one batch and they will eventually make a soil rich in nutrients found in fertilizers.
  • You may be thinking, but I don’t have a garden, and neither do any of my friends. Which is okay, you do not need a garden to compost. There are many things within a community that people can be unaware of.
  • This hyperlink will take you to all the composting places (located in U.S.A) close to you that sell compost. https://compostingcouncil.org/compostmap/My reason for giving this is because although certain individuals may not be able to compost, you can still set aside things to be composted. Many of these places a person can call and see if they will take donations, or they can find a local college/schooling system that might be composting. Before I moved into the Albright College Eco house I would always set aside potato peelings from the holidays, or leftover vegetables to set aside and give to house members.

Another thing a person can do to help the environment around them is thrift shopping! I get it, there will be nothing like the newest fashion, but usually you can find many things you are looking for used. If you do not like to shop thrifty, there are also many brands that are substantially better for the environment.

  • http://www.wri.org/blog/2017/07/apparel-industrys-environmental-impact-6-graphics
  • this hyperlink in an article that goes into detail the reasoning behind why buying new clothing is not always good for the environment. It could be wasteful with water consumption, and cause water pollution.
  • Being thrifty is good on your bank account, and often on style. I know many fashion majors here who will head to plato’s closet or goodwill and find many unique clothing choices for their style. You never know what type of clothing is waiting on the rack if you do not go out.

Apart from cleaning your diet, composting and thrift shopping, there are many ways an average person can make their life more sustainable. A huge flaw that someone can work on is their use of plastics and if these plastics are recycled.

  • Straws are very wasteful and take a prolonged period to break down, it is best to say no to a straw and bring reusable ones.
  • Reusable water bottles (glass, plastic, etc) are becoming more popular. It is very easy to buy water bottles with filters in them, or easily fill up at a water fountain.
  • Instead of using plastic bags at stores, a person can bring reusable bags, and some stores may offer a discount for a person who does this. The reason it is so important is because plastic bags are very light and can blow away easily, polluting many places.
  • When having a family picnic, usually people buy cheap and easy plastic sheets to cover the picnic tables, this is not sustainable at all. These large plastic sheets can easily find themselves polluting many different habitats, most importantly, oceans.

There are many other practices a person could do to improve the condition of the environment around them

  • carpool
  • walk to places close by
  • pick up trash when they see it
  • focus on short showers
  • ride bike to work certain days of the week
  • use air conditioning less and open more windows
  • most importantly, make other people aware and influence them to make good decisions

I am hoping this article can either open eyes of people who were unaware, change actions, an educate. Like I said before when you start doing good things, you start feeling good.

Until next time,

Victoria

Spring Cleaning!

As we experience warmer weather and begin to break out those shorts, sunnies, and sundresses, we tend to go throughout our old stuff in the process. Here are some tips to make your spring cleaning a bit more environmentally friendly!

Grab your friends!

Friends help make the work go faster, for sure! But sometimes they might find your trash their treasure. Instead of taking all of your old stuff to the trash, give salvageable things away to your pals!

Sort, sort, sort!

I get it, you don’t wanna do extra, but its RecycleMania! Make a game out of it! Sort the plastics with the little recycling symbol on them and carry them to the nearest recycling bin! You can clean you your space without causing more clutter in the environment.

Give it and potentially get it

Clothes don’t fit your fashion anymore? Donate them or take them in to thrift stores to get money back! Wether it be your heart or your wallet, you feel a little fuller afterwards.

Repurpose!

Get a little crafty and creative with that old jug of Arizona iced tea and make a cute pot for your new succulent garden.

 

Make it yours and keep it green!

vereecofriendly

 

Let’s Take Action!

Earlier this week I was mindlessly scrolling along on facebook, as most people do until I came across a post that made really made me think. This particular post was shared by one of my friends and it read, “When are we gonna stop pretending it’s regular people’s fault the planet’s dying because they won’t go vegan or take 5 minute showers and start actually blaming corporations that produce astronomical pollution and dump toxic waste directly into the mouths of great whales…”

At first, I agreed with the post initially. Yes, why don’t we blame these big corporations? Why don’t we do something about it? Why doesn’t human civilization as a whole DO something? Until I remembered something. Change starts one person at a time! We all like to talk about change and how great and wonderful it would be, especially regarding our current climate crisis. Although I can honestly say that I don’t see many people doing anything to make this change happen!

Here, we have a post wanting to place all of the blame on “big corporations” and not the “regular people” for our climate crisis. We can’t just take an issue such as climate change and place the blame on someone else, we are all the problem! America is one of the most wasteful countries regarding water (and did you know, if you take a 5 minute shower you save TEN gallons of water?), that really starts to add up! Going vegan also helps the planet in numerous ways: It conserves water (Think of all the water it takes to produce meat), It protects soil (less erosion from cattle grazing), it clears the air, it conserves energy, and its healthy!

Now, I’m not saying that everyone has to go vegan or that you must start taking five minute showers. The point is, change starts on a small scale. So if that means going vegan, taking shorter showers, walking to the recycling bin that’s just a little bit further than the garbage can, or even bringing your own bag to the grocery store, then take action! Why should we point fingers at who did what when we can start bettering the Earth we share one step at a time? We need to start being responsible for our own actions and start taking action. It may be surprising what us “regular” people can do!

Until next time,

Anna

Are We Too Proud to Change?

Ah, the industrial revolution! A time of innovation and boomtowns. A time for a chance to make it big with mining. Parts of Berks County and Schuylkill County actually played a a major role in Pennsylvania’s mining industry, particularly with coal. Victoria and I actually come from the Coal Cracker Region in Schuylkill County. A proud region with coal flowing through our veins (pun intended). I come from Minersville, which was a hotspot for coal mining in the 1800s, but now it is a small town that has retail that took mining’s place of being the leading industry, with just a dwindling 2.5% of workers still involved with the mining industry, stated by the 2000 census.

These small mining towns seem to hold on to their deep history rather than evolve with the rest of our ever-changing world. Throughout the years, scientists found that burning this important energy source is actually too good to be true, like most things, and actually produces carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Due to the negative affect these carbon emissions have on the environment and the public, the Clean Air Act came into play during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency. Ever since, there has been movements to find better energy sources and to take care of the environment; now we can utilize renewable energy sources like: wind, solar, geothermal, hydro-electric, tidal, and even biomass to create electricity for us! Plus, a lot of could provide energy for free instead of having to spend money for actually retrieving the fossil fuels and spending more to clean and process it for consumers over and over again.

For some reason, if you were to ask about twenty random people on the street in Schuylkill County, and ask if he or she thinks we should switch to renewable energy, some would most likely say, “sure, but we already are producing coal and that works just fine. It has been fine for years.” I believe this is because the average citizen who doesn’t normally pay attention to the carbon levels in the atmosphere simply because they do not need to in their daily lives, such as someone like me who has a strong interest in the environment and is literally trying to have a career in it. However, I do think it is possible if you were to take those same people and physically show them the impacts the coal industry had on our creeks (we are known for our orange ‘criks’) and explain to them what was implemented to clean our streams and prevent the seemingly ever-flowing abandon mine drainage water from getting into our main watersheds. I’m positive that if they could see the damage the mines had done to our waters, they could then begin to imagine what damage the mines can do to our atmosphere.

I am proud to call Schuylkill County my home and I will never disregard our history and our working families, but I do think that we need to shift our attitude of associating pride with current coal production to pride with being innovative and creating strong healthy communities.

Environmentally yours,

Veronica Rutecky