Category: Eco

Make 2021 Better!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 16, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

You have set your intention for the new year: Make the world a better place. One way to do that is to plant a tree. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams made similar plans as they wandered the gardens of England in 1786. Jefferson and Adams, sometimes adversaries with opposing political views, joined together to investigate the worthiest of English gardens as they waited for trade negotiations to move forward in Europe. Appreciatively scouring the estates, these two Founding Fathers admired the winding paths and natural features of the most modern gardens. 

The Stowe garden appealed to Jefferson’s practical side. Known for both his head and his heart, Jefferson noted utilitarian features such as pastures and irrigation methods. While he appreciated the color and design of the garden, he seemed irritated by useless items like a solitary Corinthian arch. Adams was most likely in full agreement with Jefferson’s opinions about Stowe. Urban environments strained him; he was happy to escape London for the English countryside. Occupied for decades with government business, he longed to return to Peacefield, his farm in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. Adams enjoyed digging side by side with the hired workers and instructing them on the latest innovations in soil improvement. His correspondence during his retirement years is riddled with the virtues of manure. The English garden tour provided Jefferson and Adams plenty to dream about as they finished their trade negotiations and headed home, inspired to make their gardens and the new nation just a little better.

Maybe you’re inspired to follow through on that intention to make the world better. Your activism represents a decision to make a difference: The tree you plant contributes valuable oxygen to the atmosphere. Added bonus: When your neighbors see the results, they might plant a tree, too. Choosing the best tree to plant can be daunting, but resources abound. Reflecting on the purpose of the tree will help you decide: Do you want more shade in your yard? Are you looking for privacy? Do you have limited space? To see quick results, you may want to plant a fast-growing tree. 

Fast-Growing Trees in Virginia*

  • Hybrid Poplar
  • Weeping Willow
  • Quaking Aspen
  • October Red Glory Maple
  • Arborvitae Green Giant
  • River Birch
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Leyland Cypress
  • Paper Birch
  • Pin Oak

*As you plan, be sure to check to make sure the tree you choose is a Virginia native.

By planting a tree (or two), you are demonstrating the ideals that made our country strong: freedom, hard work, and perseverance. For men like Jefferson and Adams, gardens represented more than just beauty or status; the nurturing of crops, shrubs, and trees symbolized the cultivation of American ideals. Independence is evident in the natural style of early American gardens. The labor devoted to bringing life to their farms and gardens fostered the self-reliance for which America became famous. Experimenting with new methods of soil conservation and irrigation affirmed the idea of perseverance. The Founding Fathers were not afraid to get their hands dirty to achieve a higher goal. Planting your tree also serves a larger purpose – improving the health of the planet.

Helpful Resources:

Fairfax County Tree Basics Booklet | Public Works and Environmental Services

Gallant Gold Media

Tree Planting Information

Planting Trees from Seeds

References

“Notes of a Tour of English Gardens, [2–14 April] 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-09-02-0328.

Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. Knopf, 2011.


© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

Must Act Quickly to Restore Our Habitat | The Powerful Impact of Time Capsules

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 27, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Restoring our habitat is of the utmost importance. We must act swiftly to replant everything we’ve destroyed if we want to succeed at lowering atmospheric carbon levels. Interestingly, our Founding Fathers, as well as early American farmers, were equally concerned about preserving and maintaining our habitat. Sharing plants and seeds across the miles added vibrant diversity to our landscape. Each packet of seeds acted as a time capsule carrying the promise of a healthy future. 

Time capsules capture the imagination of people everywhere. The International Time Capsule Society estimates there to be between 10,000 and 15,000 time capsules worldwide. Even fictional time capsules have a place in modern culture. You may be familiar with the episode of “The Simpson’s” in which Principal Skinner’s prized container is contaminated by Bart’s partially eaten sandwich. Two current time capsules planted in Flushing Meadows, New York contain common items such as a hat, a fountain pen, and a pack of cigarettes, all meant to convey a sense of what life was like in the 20th Century. Seeds also made the list, showing just how important plants are to our survival. Carefully preserved wheat, corn, oats, and tobacco seeds, are just a few of these precious materials we are sharing with the future. One wonders: Are these seeds intended to be agricultural specimens or life-giving sources of food and oxygen for a world that could be struggling in 5,000 years?

If all goes well, the seeds sent forward into time will yield a bountiful harvest. Seeds certainly hold promise for the future. Consider the seeds shared in the 1700s between an American farmer and an English businessman. According to Andrea Wulf’s wonderful book, The Brother Gardeners (2010), the farmer, John Bartram, supplied American plants and seeds to Peter Collinson, in London. Over the course of 40 years, the relationship flourished, and New World trees and shrubs migrated across the Atlantic, adding oxygen-giving greenery to European gardens. The seeds acted as a time capsule joining two worlds and offered hope for a future full of essential vegetation.

Seeds help ensure the future of our planet.

  • Seed banks hold promise for our future, as they preserve endangered species and genetic diversity threatened by climate change.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, stores more than 980,000 seed samples from all over the world.
  • Organizations such as the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are working to restore decimated habitats and re-populate them with native seeds.

Be Part of the Solution

As days grow short and we wait patiently for the light of the new year, let’s consider what elements of the past are worth passing on to the future. Which seeds can we plant now that will strengthen our planet as it fights global warming? Plant a tree, add shrubs to your yard, cover a wall with Virginia Creeper. Share with others the value that a leafy green environment holds for our future. Create a time capsule that will make a difference!

Timely Tree Facts:

  • Most oak trees don’t grow acorns until they are at least 50 years old.
  • Conifers grow 3-5 feet per year in the first five years and can reach 90 feet by age 25.
  • One of the oldest trees in the world is a bristlecone pine named “Methusela” (4852 years old as of 2020).

Resources:

What to Plant in Winter: https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/what-to-plant-in-winter

Fast-growing trees in Virginia: https://timberworksva.com/fast-growing-trees-virginia/


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Miami Destined to Be Under Water

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 23, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

By 2100 the ocean will cover one-third of Miami. This means at least eight-hundred thousand people or one-third of the population will be displaced, making a large portion of the city uninhabitable. With this in mind, in 2019,  the State of Florida passed a law, which removed the requirement that a property owner obtain a permit before chopping down a tree. Now trees can be cut down with impunity. Miami’s sea level rose one foot from the early 1900s until 1993, and it rose five inches since 1993. It is only a matter of time before the whole city is flooded.

A September 29, 2020 article from Yale University’s School of the Environment argues Miami will eventually be swallowed by the ocean. The article attributes this to Miami’s location, the weather, climate change, and continued building and development in the Miami area.

The problem is exacerbated by Miami sitting atop a limestone aquifer, which allows sea water to seep in through the ground even before the rising sea levels overtake the city. This problem is exacerbated by the massive amount of multimillion dollar development done in Miami, primarily in the form of oceanfront highrises. Given the lack of tree planting, heavy buildings, and soft ground, it is a recipe for disaster. 

One effort to save Florida, and Miami in particular, is an initiative urging people to plant mangrove trees in their yards. Mangroves serve to hold the ground together, thus preventing erosion, but they also sop up water and other moisture. 

The world loses fifteen billion trees per year, and, since civilization began, forty-six percent of trees have been removed. To add a little context to this, Florida has seven billion trees. 

This is a complex problem, but the 2019 law removing the permitting requirement to cut down trees certainly hurt the situation in Miami. The law is called “Private Property Rights,” which is an absurd title because it makes the destruction of the environment a deprivation of liberty question. It is not, really, because the purpose of the original law was to preserve trees, and, ultimately, blunt the impact of climate change. Now, however, this will be more difficult. 

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 showed what happened to cities below sea level when the right kind of storm hits. Something like this will happen in Miami eventually, and Miami will be largely under water. 

From not wearing masks to cutting down trees that do not need to be removed, Americans have a self-destructive desire that likes to masquerade as “individual rights.” In a perverse way, this misguided notion of freedom will ultimately lead to the destruction of the environment in the United States with Miami being only one example in this ongoing literal and metaphorical flood. 


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Gift Worth Waiting For | Exciting Eco Projects For Students While Distance Learning

Washington (GGM) Analysis |December 19, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Wandering through a wooded park or along a shady path, it’s easy to miss what’s right before our eyes. How often do we consider the gifts before us, planted long ago? The cool breeze and fresh fragrance are momentary experiences that began with the planting of seeds. No matter how the trees, shrubs, and understory got there, whether through nature or a particular person, you and I are the beneficiaries. 

Thomas Jefferson understood this. His legacy of Monticello lies not only in its Neoclassical architecture but in its lush landscape. As a matter of course, school children learn the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Yet how often are they given the opportunity to uncover Jefferson’s other significant gift, the carbon-fighting greenery flourishing at Monticello and Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia? His plans for Monticello included vegetable gardens, a vineyard, two orchards, and an 18-acre ornamental forest. Trees planted as early as the mid-19th Century still adorn the Academical Village at UVA. This life-giving vegetation continues to fight the greenhouse gasses humans add to the environment. Jefferson and other forward-thinking botanists gave us gifts centuries before we recognized them. We can pass on their legacy by teaching our children about the gift of trees – what we have received and how we can give.

This land was once James Monroe’s cornfield. But Thomas Jefferson bought it and said, “Let there be trees!”

Benefits of Trees

  • Trees clean the air by trapping particulates on their leaves and branches.
  • Trees help prevent water pollution by collecting rainwater on their bark and leaves and depositing it in the ground below.
  • Trees provide economic opportunities for small businesses that provide food to local markets.
  • Exposure to trees helps relieve mental fatigue.

     Jefferson’s story and his gardens offer valuable lessons for young people. Planting a tree, caring for a sapling, waiting for growth all require patience and hard work. What better way to learn these important life skills? Planting trees with children engages them physically and gives them purposeful time outdoors. Watching and waiting for the first green sign of life teaches youngsters that growth takes time, just like their own development. The tree will need nurturing and thoughtful care including some hands on, “Let’s get messy” work. To generate interest in tree planting, you can begin with age-appropriate literature about trees and their care. Adolescents may be energized to learn about the difference trees make in the fight against global warming, or they may want to plant their tree to support a friend going through a difficult time. So, take a moment to enjoy a refreshing breeze and appreciate the clean scent of a forest. Then make a plan for the gift you will give, a gift someone is waiting for.

“Let there be trees,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Ways to Give Back

  • Plant a tree or shrub in your yard (and post a photo on social media)
  • Add Virginia Creeper to cover a fence
  • Learn more about trees and spread the word

Resources for Parents

Books:

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-10)

Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words by Brandon Walden (ages 6-12)

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia (ages 8-12)

Websites:

Informative video for parents and kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVvZLyZAIg

Tree Activities for Kids: https://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/tree-activities-for-kids.html

Benefits of trees: https://canopy.org/tree-info/benefits-of-trees/urban-trees-and-climate-change/,

https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Glass Packaging Curbs Plastic Waste | Boycott Plastic Packaging

Washington (GGM) Analysis |December 12, 2020 by Noreen Wise

My obsession with glass packaging is based on the fact that we as individuals and families can easily make a difference in curbing plastic waste through our product choices. We saw during the 2020 presidential election, the power that 80 million people acting in unison hold, and the positive influence it has on society. Let’s keep going and use this same force to unleash significant action on climate action. All that’s required is that we’re more aware of what brands we select and how our selections impact the decision making at each corporation.

First, let’s be clear, there will always be a standard 30% of the public who will never care and will refuse to change their habits, not matter how much proof is provided. So we can’t worry about this. They’ll be forced to adapt when corporations stuck in the past go out of business.

But for the rest of us, the facts are compelling. And if we are to safeguard our children’s futures, it’s imperative that we change our daily and weekly habits appropriately.

Condiments really are a game changer
  • The hotel industry has done a remarkable job of ditching all the tiny plastic bottled of incidentals and switching to giant dispensers in the showers. As soon as Bonvoy Marriott announced their decision, the majority of hotels immediately followed suit. Imagine how quickly the plastic nightmare would end, if Heinz did the same. Condiments and soda are two plastic heavy hitters. Coke has responded. Coke, Sprite and Fanta, along with a handful of other familiar soda brands, are sold in both glass and plastic in super markets. But Heinz refuses to compromise. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing across the board, all Heinz-Kraft products are only sold in plastic.
  • According to Mashed, Heinz sells 650 million (plastic) bottles of ketchup per year, 1,000 bottles per minute. The tip of the Heinz plastic iceberg though may be the 11 billion packets of ketchup that Thrillist asserts Heinz sells per year. If Heinz would simply do what’s best for the public and for the planet, there would be an immediate and dramatic reduction in plastic waste.
  • National Geographic stunned the world in early 2020 by announcing that only 9% of plastic is recycled.
  • The majority of spaghetti sauce brands are sold in glass bottles, possibly 95%. BBQ sauce is at nearly 85% sold in glass, with the only two significant plastic holdouts are Heinz and Kraft.
  • So many new everyday essential products have debuted in 2020 minus the plastic packaging: laundry detergent sheets, toothpaste tablets, shampoo & conditioner bars.

Interestingly, spaghetti sauce sold in glass is priced lower than Heinz Ketchup sold in plastic. What gives? This makes no sense.

There doesn’t appear to be any data supporting Keinz’s stubborn refusal to adapt to the climate crisis. There’s just one way left to motivate Heinz to do the right thing… boycott Heinz!

I found organic Red Duck Ketchup, a brand new ketchup that’s positively delicious. I love finding a reason to enjoy it every single day.

Boycotts are the American way. They work. Corporations respond to consumer demand that hits them in their wallets. It’s the upside of capitalism.~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Move Over Pumpkin Spice Lattes— Fall is Time to Change Up Your Family Garden

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 8, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

Creating a garden together helps families form long-lasting memories and allows each family member to explore the beautiful and bountiful side of Mother Nature. According to Reuters News, home gardening, seed sales, and community gardening have become very popular during the last few months. In an interview with Market Watch, Linda Look, owner of an Arkansas-based seed store, The Seed Guy, said that sales and demand were unprecedented this spring. “This year has been unique because of COVID-19,” she said.

Instagram- @itsthymetogarden 

Those of you who have started gardening and composting with your kids this spring and summer might be wondering how to continue these comforting and joyful family moments in the fall season. Don’t fear, September and October aren’t just for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. In fact, there are plenty of delicious foods that thrive as the temperature drops, and experts say that fall is the perfect time to start composting!

Top 5 Foods to Plant This September

  • Spinach 
  • Radishes
  • Carrots 
  • Kale
  • Snow Peas

Swapping out your cucumbers and tomatoes with these veggies and leafy greens will help you keep up the conservation conversation all through the fall season!

5 Steps to Make The Best Fall Compost Pile Ever

  • Collect your fall leaves
  • Collect the extras from your summer garden
  • Layer them with drying flowers, old tomato plants, & grass clippings
  • Reserve extra leaves in a separate pile & as a “brown layer” in between compostable kitchen food
  • Keep a tarp ready to protect your pile from getting soggy as the rain comes in 

Twitter- @Gaia_College

So as September rolls into October and you sip your beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte, don’t let the golden and orange leaves fool you. You don’t have to say goodbye to your family garden. Switch up your produce, and teach your kids how to make the perfect fall compost pile. You will make wonderful memories, and your kids- and Mother Nature- will thank you!

Come back every Tuesday for more Eco-Friendly Parenting tips!

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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How to Make an Eco-Friendly Hero Board With Your Kids!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 1, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

Most parents would like their children to become happy and healthy adults. As an eco-conscious parent, you are also aware of the need to provide a safe and viable environment for your children as they grow up. With this in mind, you have been recycling, upcycling, and teaching your children habits that reduce waste. You might be noticing that with talks of the climate crisis all around them, your children might be expressing feelings of being overwhelmed. Afterall, this is a massive issue, and it may leave your young one feeling like it is too big to tackle. Making a Hero Board composed of positive role models who are making headway in combating this crisis is an excellent way to assuage anxious feelings in your child.

Twitter- @FunWritings

First get out a dry erase board or a chalkboard and some chalk.  Next, give your child a list of five to ten people to research in a virtual scavenger hunt.  These people should all be worthy of being called a Hero for Mother Nature.  Ask your child to come up with an eco-friendly fact about each person on the list.  Once your child has discovered one thing that each of these individuals is doing for the environment, have a discussion with them.  Allow them to explain what they found out, and talk about which people are the most inspiring. Ask your child to pick their top three favorite people from the list, and give them some time to do some more research.  On the chalkboard, your child can draw an image of their top three heroes, write down inspirational quotes, and jot down some interesting things that those people are doing to improve the health of the environment. 

Here is a list of 10 people you can use to get this process rolling.

Lise King – Executive Director of United Nations Global Impact

Leonardo DiCaprio – Actor, producer, and activist

Greta Thunberg – Child activist and leader in climate change 

Jane Fonda – Actress and activist

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – United States Congresswoman 

Sean Mendes – Singer and environmentalist

Natalie Portman – Actress, Producer, and activist

Jane Goodall Research Scientist and activist

Bernie Sanders – Vermont Senator 

Dr. Gavin Schmidt– Climate Scientist at NASA

Instagram- @leonardodicaprio

For even more fun, use your driveway and some sidewalk chalk, instead of a chalkboard. This activity will give your child the chance to do a little research about all the positive things that are being done to help Mother Earth. It will give you a chance to bond with your child over this important issue. It will also encourage them on their journey, and remind them that they are not alone in their efforts to combat the climate crisis. 

Come back every Tuesday for more Eco-Friendly Parenting tips!

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Toronto Is Far Ahead of Majority of American Cities | Waste Management

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 27, 2020 by Noreen Wise

While quarantined in Toronto, Canada for 14 days — with only 4 days remaining, yay — I’ve been able to experience first hand how in sync Torontonians are with their advanced sustainability waste management processes. In less than two years, Toronto is on the brink of zero-waste.

Providing curbside pickup for kitchen scraps is the final step in closing the loop to create a circular economy. Twenty-two percent of all landfill waste is food waste, and thus preventable. Compostable food scraps is vitally important for strengthening soil nutrients in the gardens, parks and outlying farms that our American communities support.

On this city street here in downtown Toronto, there is a designated green bin on the sidewalk that’s contained inside a neat and tidy wooden fenced bin hub, that includes: a recycling bin, a garbage bin and a kitchen scraps bin. All the residents are onboard and drop off their kitchen scraps regularly. Kitchen scrap green bin pickup is every Friday morning, while garbage and recycling rotate every other Friday.

What I found so amazing about the bin hub on this Toronto city block, is that there is so little waste. One of the bins is a half-size bin. I’ve never seen a half-size waste bin in America, only overflowing jumbo-sized bins. This in itself is a snapshot of what our greatest challenge is. The American perception that our overflowing giant bins are normal and acceptable, while the rest of the world exists on the half-sized waste bin.

Stepping into this beautiful Canadian sustainability scene from America, feels like time travel, instantly arriving at what many climate focused communities are striving for. Toronto is already living America’s aspirations. Canadians make it look so easy. It basically is. Just do it, is all it takes. Why do so many in America believe, and make it appear, too difficult to conquer?

How long will it take America to close the loop and have kitchen scraps green bins on every street? Americans are quick at responding to prize offerings and rewards, perhaps the quickest in the world. Shouldn’t we move just as briskly to capture climate action rewards.

San Francisco began requiring mandatory composting back in 2009. And according to AZCentral, at the beginning of 2018, San Francisco had a landfill diversion rate of 80 percent, the highest in the country, with the goal of hitting 100 percent diversion rate by 2020. This is a sharp difference from Arizona’s 20 percent landfill diversion rate in 2018, and goal of 40 percent by 2020.

The bottomline is that the majority of countries in the industrialized world are lightyears ahead of America and on the waste management front. We can no longer rely on local, state and federal government to take the lead on these critical issues. We American citizens have to jump into the driver’s seat and just do it, just do what needs to be done so we can catch up and reverse global warming. Composting and strengthening our soil nutrient levels to maximize carbon absorption is an immediate next step for all American communities.

Lets GO! Just do it… TODAY.♻️

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Is Philadelphia an Eco-Action Model?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 19, 2020

The importance of nature as one of the vital solutions in lowering the global atmospheric carbon level has been documented. It’s now up to us to implement this strategy as quickly as possible. Yes, we must start sprinting so that we can not only save our children’s futures, but save their lives.

Eco-action, with multi-layer landscaping, green exterior walls and green roofs, has numerous benefits:

  • substantially increases carbon absorption if applied everywhere
  • lowers air pollution
  • improves mental health
  • beautifies city streets, public spaces, and neighborhoods
  • increases property values
  • is easy and inexpensive to execute
  • strengthens community ties

In search of an American city to serve as a model for other US cities, it was exhilarating to find major success in Philadelphia, PA, our nation’s birthplace. A very positive omen. A city we’re all closely connected with and that unites each of us through the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, that now shines like a beacon of hope and inspiration during this monumentally important climate action era.

It appears that the genius behind the landscaping of Independence National Historical Park is very aware of nature’s role in solving the global climate crisis. Green walls, green roofs and layers of nature are budding everywhere. Not only in Independence Mall, but across the historic district, ivy on brick is a consistent theme.

Do you see the liberty bell in the left window?

Nature’s role in solving the global climate crisis is tied to the fungal networks below the surface, threading through the soil, connecting all plants through their roots. The more nature, the more fungal networks. The more fungal networks, the richer the soil. The richer the soil the more carbon storage. Oh, and soil stores twice as much carbon as nature.

It’s very clear that we have what it takes to overcome the looming climate crisis challenge. All solutions are readily available and easy to implement. Our greatest nemesis is procrastination. We all need to commit to acting on these solutions immediately.

Let’s GO! TGIF. Let’s start this weekend, which begins in just a few hours. Happy planting. 🌳

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.