Author Archives: ginawhitf

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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Our Water Morality

Hello again! My name is Regina Whitfield; I was a house member of the Sustainability House last year and have returned a final year!

Like last September, I have once more focused upon water and its’ use within our home. And, rather than blog about ways one can change or reduce water use, I will instead discuss water on a local and more relative level.

Over the summer, I had the unique opportunity to work at Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC). For those who don’t know, this is a leading, freshwater research facility located in Avondale, PA (along the PA-DE border). It was established in 1967,  when W.B. Dixon and Joann Stroud were urged by Ruth Patrick to dedicate an entire facility for the study of our water- this was around the time that Clean Water Act came into play.  Today, SWRC is shared by many scientists who work (live) to preserve our local waters. Departments include: Geochemistry, Education, Entomology, Restoration, etc.

Myself and peer students, from other colleges, spent our summer in the Entomology department! Here, we sorted through stream samples that had been collected from several sites, in the Delaware Basin watershed, during the spring. We viewed these samples under a dissecting microscope and picked out a minimum of 220 benthic macro-invertebrates (aka bugs that live under water). Certain species present within a sample were bio-indicators of a healthy water body (Mayfly, Ephemeroptera;  Stonefly, Plecoptera; Caddisfly, Trichoptera). After about 8 weeks, we crunched the numbers and presented our findings to the Stroud community.

Our findings were reflective of the restoration efforts Stroud had consistently worked for over the years. Some sites are consistently healthy, like the White Clay Creek, while other sites decreased significantly towards poor health. Because believe it or not, just because the Clean Water Act is in place, doesn’t mean that people know (or care).

For instance, SWRC is located around plenty of horse farms. These farms often have a small stream running through that cattle often muck up. The River Continuum Concept says that whatever happens upstream, affects everything down stream (or trophic relay). And sometimes it’s too much money to fix what is broken, but most times it’s the lack of education that could have prevented these situations entirely.

This is where departments like Restoration educate and collaborate with local farmers. Meanwhile, Education teaches children in grade school about the importance and aspects of water (which is fantastic, we should be teaching our youth)!

I’m very happy to have learned and worked at SWRC. It was incredible to see a group of people be involved with their community and be passionate in their mission for the protection of our waters.

I hope this discussion will help with our ideals concerning water. Because if it’s out of sight, it’s also definitely out of mind (consider how water comes out of the faucet and right down the drain). Perhaps we can take a moment to learn about local watershed(s) and hardcore restoration efforts (i.e. Schuylkill River), then when we pass by a stream or a river, we simply can’t ignore our impact.

Electricity Now

Hello valued readers,

My focus this month is about electricity reduction. We all know we should turn out the lights when we leave a room… Electricity isn’t only consumed when you turn something on or off, it’s also surging through the appliances and chargers we leave idle. So if you’d like to save more money, take that extra step to unplug the microwave or your phone charger after use.

Another point I’d like to address is our dependence upon electricity and the detriment it causes on our mental and physical health. We are becoming more aware of the impact our phones or televisions can have towards our sleep patterns. Doctors advise the latter to be turned off for about 30 minutes prior to rest. So if you are having problems going to bed at night or staying asleep, adjust your nightly habits accordingly.

Lastly, I must stress the use of natural lighting vs electricity… Use as much daylight as you can! Not only would you be saving money, you would undoubtedly be saving yourself a headache/migraine at the end of the day. As a student, I know how crippling florescent lights can be at exhausting periods of time. This is why I enjoy natural light (and remember Thoreau and Walden?).

Image result for thoreau quotes nature

Until next time,

R. Whitfield

Adjusting to Autumn

Hello everyone,

As Autumn has finally sunken in (notable given the changes/effects of weather patterns, shorter daylight hours, drop in temperatures) there are some changes that one may notice when adjusting to the change in season.

One of the main items addressed thus far in the Sustainability House is the concern for central heating and appropriate temperature(s) that would be energy efficient to support our mission. We found that 65 °F (auto), kept the house comfortable compared to outdoor temperatures. Additionally, 65 °F might not feel as snug in the morning, due to the increase in body temperature while asleep; keep faith, that the steady 65 is more efficient.

Feeling tired? As the daylight decreases with the setting of the season, your body lacks the vitamin D that is naturally supplemented by the sun- this causes you to feel groggy and fatigued. Drink your orange juice to help balance this change!

Fall is a gorgeous season, and a perfect opportunity to go outside and be active! It doesn’t have to be extreme cross country, merely walking about enjoying the crisp air and colorful foliage is beneficial to your well being.

-Gina

Every Drop Counts

Hello readers!

My name is Regina Whitfield, one of the Sustainability House members for the 2016-2017 academic year; majoring in Environmental Science.

My experience so far? Living in a sustainable fashion isn’t strange or impossible, it’s smart and mindful of our future generations. The one aspect I had feared before living here happened to be water limitations (ie 5 minute showers!). Now that I’ve adjusted to the time limit, I’ve found that a lot can be accomplished in 5 minutes! Thinking back on my 10-15 minute shower days, I’ve wasted so much water for the sake of merely taking my good old time. Luckily, I’ve found timed showers to be a breeze.

Another task involving water in every day life is laundry. A decent amount of water can be wasted if you don’t set the machine to the suit the load. Remember to wash your dirty laundry to the appropriate size and water temperature setting(s).

Irrefutably, some leave the bathroom sink faucet running whilst brushing their teeth.I can admit to doing the same. Fortunately, this was a habit I was able to break when I shared a bathroom with several other girls, dorm life. My tip to those who are still mesmerized by the running water, try focusing on other items in your surroundings and turn the water on only when you need to rinse or clean up.

The more conscious you become of your daily habits, the more money and resources you’ll be able to save! This is something college students should consider as they get places of their own. This in turn would support more financially stable and green minded young adults who can lead further generations towards a better future.

Until next time,

R. Whitfield