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Bay Blog: rain barrel

May
24
2011

Eight things environmentalists do to help the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s staff is on a mission to restore the Bay and its rivers. Whether they work on water quality, education or oysters, everyone here is dedicated to helping the Chesapeake. But do they keep the Bay in mind when they aren’t behind their desk?

A few months ago, we sent our staff a quick survey asking them about the types of positive activities they do for the Bay when they’re not at work. Some results were typical, while others were very interesting! The following eight activities were the most popular:

1. Recycle

Is anyone surprised that recycling ranked as the number one thing Bay Program staff do to help the Bay? Recycling is one of the easiest things you can do for the environment.

One of the most common reasons why people don’t recycle is because their location does not offer recycling services. If you’re having trouble finding recycling services in your, enter your area code at Earth911 for a listing of drop-off locations near you.

2. Use little or no fertilizer on their lawn

You know you work with environmentalists when fertilizer use ranks near the top of the list! The average person may not realize that yard runoff containing fertilizer can be harmful to local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Fertilizer is full of nutrients, which fuel the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching bay grasses and rob the water of oxygen.

To learn more about Bay-friendly fertilizer use, visit Chesapeake Club.

3. Compost

A little more than half of respondents said they composted at home on a regular basis. Composting is a great way to save time, money and the Bay! When you compost things like kitchen scraps and leaves, you are not only creating your own free fertilizer, but you are reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfills. Old composters used to require a pitchfork to turn over the pile, but these have been replaced with easy-to-use bins with hand cranks.

To help you get started with composting, visit How to Compost.

4. Have a Bay license plate

If you live in or have driven through Maryland, you have probably noticed the iconic blue Chesapeake Bay license plate. What many people don’t know is that the proceeds from this “vanity plate” go to the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a non-profit that conducts restoration, education and community engagement activities throughout the Bay watershed. To date, the Trust has planted 220,648 native plants and trees, restored 65 acres of wetlands, oyster reefs and streamside buffers, and engaged 86,717 students.

If you live in Maryland, buying a Bay plate is one of the easiest things you can do to help the Chesapeake Bay. Visit the Bay Plate website to learn more.

5. Volunteer for restoration projects at least once a year

All the funding in the world for restoration projects will not help if there is no one to do the work! There are an overwhelming amount of opportunities to get involved with environmental organizations in our region. From planting trees to removing invasive species to building oyster reefs, there are activities for every interest. Volunteering is also a great way to get your kids outside and help them appreciate nature.

If you are interested in getting your family involved, the Baltimore Aquarium offers regular restoration events. You can also contact your local watershed organization for more information about opportunities near you.

6. Have a rain garden or a rain barrel

Rain barrels and rain gardens are important because they collect water from roofs, yards and paved surfaces that would otherwise flow into storm drains. Rain gardens and rain barrels are so important that some counties actually offer funding and tax breaks for implementing them. Check with your city environmental office to see if your area has a program.

To learn more about rain barrels and rain gardens, visit Rainscaping.org.

7. Pick up after their pets

It is common misconception that it’s safe to leave pet waste on the ground because some consider it a “natural fertilizer.” However, pet waste actually contains harmful nutrients and bacteria that can run off into local waterways. Some areas can be closed off to swimmers in summertime due to high bacteria levels from pet waste. Dog waste should be thrown away, flushed or put in a pet waste composter.

For more information about pet waste pollution, visit the Stormwater Center Pollution Prevention website.

8. Carpool to work

People tend not to carpool because they do not know if anyone else who works with them lives nearby. People also enjoy the freedom of being able to come and go as they please without having to worry about altering their schedule because of another carpool rider. However, carpooling can actually save you time and money. You will spend less on gas and vehicle maintenance, and you can take advantage of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

The best solution is to create a way for colleagues who are interested in carpooling to list where they live. Put it in a well-traveled place, such as a kitchen, front desk or break room.

After seeing what the “average environmentalist” does for the Chesapeake Bay, do you think you do the same? Or more? What activities do you do that help the Chesapeake?

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Apr
23
2010

Question of the Week: Where can I get a free rain barrel?

Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.

Recently, we’ve had several people ask us about rain barrels. They all want to know: “Where can I get a rain barrel for free? How can I make a rain barrel?” Quite often around this time of year, watershed organizations sponsor events with rain barrel giveaways or sales. After searching, we couldn’t find any resources for free rain barrels in the Bay watershed right now, but you may want to check with your local watershed group for more resources near where you live. It is possible that there are rain barrel giveaways going on that we don't know about! Rain barrel sales, however, are much easier to find. Ready-made rain barrels can be purchased from many different places. A few that are listed on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website include:

There are plenty of other places to find rain barrels, including smaller, local companies, like Rain Barrels of Annapolis, for example. Search on the Internet or ask around to find out where you can get a rain barrel in your area. As an alternative to spending the money on a pre-made rain barrel, you can opt to build your own for a fairly low price. Maryland DNR estimates that it costs about $15 to build a rain barrel using the following materials:

  • One 55-gallon drum
  • 3 1/2ft vinyl hose (3/4" DD x 5/8" ID)
  • One 4" diameter atrium grate
  • One ½" PVC male adapter (will be attached to bottom of rain barrel)
  • One 3" vinyl gutter elbow
  • Waterproof sealant (i.e. plumbers goop, silicone sealant, or PVC cement)
  • One 3/4" x ½" PVC male adapter (will be attached to end of hose and readily adapted to fit standard garden hose)
  • Teflon tape

Installing a rain barrel is great for the environment and the Bay because it diverts stormwater from storm drains, reducing polluted runoff from making its way into your local river and eventually the Bay. For more information about rain barrels and how to make them, visit: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/ed/rainbarrel.html Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!



Apr
22
2009

RainScaping Campaign Promotes Homeowner Involvement in Reducing Bay Pollution

A new campaign is urging Anne Arundel County, Md., residents to find “beautiful solutions to water pollution” by installing rain gardens, rain barrels and other methods of absorbing polluted runoff before it makes its way into the Bay.

The RainScaping Campaign, which kicked off this Earth Day, is a social marketing effort supported by more than 30 organizations throughout Maryland. The purpose of the campaign is to help reduce the fastest-growing source of pollution to the Bay: the dirt, oil, fertilizers and pesticides that run off residents’ lawns, decks and driveways when it rains.

Hundreds of years ago, the Chesapeake watershed was covered by vast swaths of forests, which slowly absorbed and filtered rain water before returning it to groundwater and nearby streams. RainScaping methods attempt to replicate the natural flow of water in today’s environment, in which much of those forests have been converted to cities, towns and subdivisions that are dominated by paved, hardened surfaces.

“Though we’ve lost a big piece of the natural forest, there are ways we can replicate it” through RainScaping techniques, said Jeff Horan with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, one of the campaign partners.

The campaign is centered around a website that contains detailed information about RainScaping, including directions on how to build a rain garden, lists and photos of plants native to the Chesapeake region, and where to order a rain barrel. The website also asks visitors to take the “RainScaping Challenge” by registering their RainScaping projects.

The rain gardens, native plants and permeable pavers promoted by the RainScaping campaign are on display at the Chesapeake Ecology Center in Annapolis. The site boasts 24 native demonstration gardens that absorb and filter polluted runoff while providing a colorful garden setting on the banks of College Creek, a tributary of the Bay.

To learn how you can RainScape to “slow it down, spread it out and soak it in,” visit RainScaping.org.



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