Monday, December 3, 2007

This is Serious. This is Local. Please Read.

This morning, I woke up to a report on NPR on The 2007 State of the Chesapeake Bay Report and the news was not good, folks. In fact, it was awful. Of the 13 measurements used to determine improvements in the Bay’s “health” none had improved and 3 had gotten worse than last year. The Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's watershed covers 64,299 square miles in the District of Columbia and part of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay.

Many of you have vacationed on the Bay, driven over it on the way to the shore, maybe even eaten crabs or oysters from it. But the Bay is in serious trouble. Serious. Trouble.


Growing urban development and suburban sprawl are adding to the pressures on the Bay. That means you. Yes, you. And here are some things that you absolutely must do ASAP to help save the Bay.

DRIVE LESS (already!). I know a yoga teacher who drives her SUV 6 blocks to teach class!! I know neighbors who drive to our local farmer’s market even though it is only a 15 minute walk. Don’t be like them. The Baltimore-Washington region has the nation's second worst traffic and ozone problems. Vehicle exhaust contributes more than one-third of all the nitrogen pollution entering the Bay from the air. Walk, carpool, take the metro, be strategic about your car use and combine trips. Get a bike – it will do wonders for your ass, I swear.

Reduce the transportation emissions from transporting your little goodies to your home. Yeah, so the Fedex guy is cute, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. Try to buy local produce. This is easier at other times of the year since most of the farmers’ markets in DC are open. However, the DuPont Farmer’s Market and Eastern Market are open year-round – both a minute from a metro stop. Even Whole Foods advertises “its commitment to local farmers” – if you don’t see local produce at your local Whole Foods, march straight up to the customer service desk and ask that they carry some. (PS – Read this great article from Slate about Whole Foods and Local farmers.)

. For God’s sake, are you really still using all that toxic, synthetic crap to clean your house? C’mon now - it is almost the year 2008. Many of these products contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine bleach, ammonia, petrochemicals, and VOC's – which often end up in the water supply, which ends up emptying into the Bay. There are plenty of natural cleaners out there to clean your home. If you are more thrifty (like me, your partially employed blogger) you can make your own from simple ingredients like Borax, baking soda and lemon juice. Find some recipes here.

By reducing your use of water, you help wastewater treatment plants function more effectively by reducing the volume they process. Take shorter showers and save that bath only for special occasions. (Check out the NAVY SHOWER directions here.) Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hands, or doing dishes in the sink (this is SO EASY, but many people – even me – forget to do it). Run your laundry and dishwasher ONLY when full. If you have one or two things to wash – do it by hand and hang them up to air dry – fluff for a few minutes in the dryer (if you MUST) to or just run an iron over it. Install a flush minimizer (buy it locally, within walking distance to a metro, at Greater Goods at 1626 U Street, Washington DC.) Or, you can always use the old California stand-by, the “Selective Flush”.

You see that trash on your street? Do you know what happens to it if no one picks it up? It doesn’t just magically disappear. It goes into the storm drain with the next rain and then goes directly into a local stream or river, which eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay. So those plastic bottles (that should really be in someone’s recycling bin) and foam containers end up in the Bay. And they do not decompose. Evah. They kill wildlife because animals eat them or become entangled in them. So pick up the trash on your block. Get together a group of neighbors and have a clean up day – serve cider and munchies. Wear cute hats. Flirt with your handsome neighbor. (And no, it is absolutely, positively not your fault that your neighbors are complete and total idiots that don’t know what a trash can is or how to use it. There, there. I relate. Seriously.)

For more on the Chesapeake Bay, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


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