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June 8: World Oceans Day

In 2008 the United Nations proclaimed June 8 World Oceans Day. This year the theme is Our Oceans, Our Future. The conservation action focus isencouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future.”

According to the Oceanic Institute, oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water. With such great volume of water, how can litter be a problem?

We’ve all seen litter debris wash up on the beaches ruining the beach aesthetic and posing a potential health problem as beachcombers walk barefoot along the shore and toxins leach out of the litter. Some who have gone snorkeling or diving may have also encountered plastic bags, parts of fishing gear, plastic bottles, etc. below the surface of the ocean. And, of course, there are the entanglement problems: animals with plastic bags or plastic six pack holders wrapped around them. And ingestion situations: sea creatures with assorted garbage in their stomachs.

Particularly unbelievable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, described as a soupy collection of marine debris—mostly plastics – with estimates measuring it at anywhere from 270,000 square miles (about the size of Texas) to 5,800,000 square miles (more than one and a half times the size of the United States). Similar, though somewhat smaller, swatches of floating litter, primarily large plastic pieces and the small micro-plastics these break down into, exist in the other oceans as well.

And marine litter has permeated even to the deepest parts of the ocean. Dr. Lucy Woodall, a scientist at the University of Oxford, conducted two large-scale surveys of deep sea areas in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and found litter at all locations, despite the depth of the samples and the remoteness of the locations.

And this is just the visible litter. Dr. Woodall’s sampling of deep sea organisms found evidence of ingested fibers in every creature.

This summer, when you head to the beach, be sure to pack out what you bring in. Consider going the extra step and picking up any litter you see.

And remember that the litter problem actually begins miles away from the ocean: our waterways here in Fairfax County go into the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean.

Start with an effort to keep our waterways in Fairfax County free from litter. Contact Clean Fairfax if you have seen a trashy area you would like to clean up and need gloves and bags.

For more information about World Oceans Day go to http://www.worldoceansday.org/

Weed-free—Naturally!

Keeping our yards weed-free: It’s more than just a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and not have the ugliest yard in the neighborhood. I would argue that most suburban homeowners in our area strive to maintain a beautiful yard because it is a pleasure to come home to a blooming weed-free paradise after a day of inside work. In our moderate climate zone, we are blessed with a fairly long growing season and an ability to cultivate a large variety of plants. With this opportunity, however, comes responsibility.

I noted in a previous blog (Invasives=Plant Litter March 20, 2017) the importance of planting non-invasives, and, whenever possible, removing invasives. However, what to do about weeds is another aspect of suburban gardening that requires careful decision-making to reduce negative environmental impact.

According to the Plant Natural Research Center, “While most modern herbicides are designed to kill only plants and have little or no toxicity to humans, many still have extreme consequences in the environment, changing habitats in ways that affect insects and wildlife. These consequences extend to water courses where they may kill beneficial aquatic plants and fish.”

In addition, a Purdue University study of dogs from treated and untreated yards found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards, and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue found that certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer.

And there is some evidence that toxins in herbicides CAN affect humans. A case-controlled study published in March 1999 by Swedish scientists Lennart Hardell and Mikael Eriksson showed that non-hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is linked to exposure to a range of pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup often used to control poison ivy in this area. Relatively unknown prior to the 1940’s—about the time pesticides and herbicides came into more widespread use— NHL is now one of the most common types of cancer.

Fortunately, Earth 911 offers some excellent all-natural ideas on how to take care of weeds: http://earth911.com/home-garden/all-natural-weed-killer/?utm_source=New+Earth911+List+-+2015&utm_campaign=50dab42296-Tuesday+Emails+5.9.17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e8b4dc609-50dab42296-167852373

You may also decide that that “weed” in your garden is really quite beautiful and worth leaving alone. Make environmentally sustainable choices in your garden this year!

(Native Joe Pye Weed is popular with both bees and butterflies—and is technically not a weed : -)

Invasives = Plant “Litter”

Happy Spring! Start planning your non-invasive plantings now….

Like litter, invasive plants negatively impact the environment. Invasive plants, particularly ground cover like ivy and clematis, often have very little root structure and therefore when they cover large areas, fail to prevent erosion. Sediment then gets into our streams and creates poor water quality which impacts wildlife

Also, as their name suggests, invasive plants tend to “take over” areas. Invasive plants cause declines in native plants, including trees. They also can reduce both food and shelter for native animals, contributing to a decline in biodiversity. In fact, invasive plants are cited as a factor in Endangered Species Act listings!

 

Consider joining a local effort to remove invasive plants through Fairfax County’s Invasive Management Area (IMA) Volunteer Program:  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/resource-management/ima/
Convinced that natives are the way to go? Here are some upcoming native plant sales in the Northern Virginia area:  http://vnps.org/spring-2017-plant-sales/

WORLD WETLANDS DAY: FEBRUARY 2, 2017

Marshes. Swamps. Bogs. Outdoor areas that conjure up images of mud, smells of decaying plants, and pools of seemingly stagnant water. Not the type of outdoor area most people usually seek when going for a hike. But wetlands have been unfairly characterized.

February 2, 2017 is World Wetlands Day, and here in Fairfax County we actually have two public wetland areas, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and Huntley Meadows Park. Exploration of these two areas will quickly reveal that wetlands, the broad term used to describe land consisting of marshes or swamps also known as “saturated land,” have been given a bad rap.

The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.” The Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for worldwide cooperation on wetlands protection, calls wetlands “nature’s shock absorbers” for their ability to control flooding, buffer storms, filter pollutants and provide habitat. They are clearly a vital part of our ecosystem.

And precisely because of their wet nature (pardon the pun) they have an unusual diversity of life forms which makes exploring these areas especially rewarding.  According to the Defenders of Wildlife, more than one-third of the federally listed species on the Endangered Species Act rely directly, or indirectly, on wetlands for their survival.


Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve
is one of the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the Washington metropolitan area. Its 485 acres of tidal marsh, floodplain, and swamp forest can be explored by boat or on foot. Dyke Marsh is home to many species that can only survive in wetlands.  For more information, go to https:// www.nps.gov/gwmp/planyourvisit/dykemarsh.htm.

Huntley Meadows Park is 1,500 acres and claims to have some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area with a half-mile wetland boardwalk trail and an observation tower. For more information go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/huntley-meadows-park/.

Like many of the natural areas in densely populated Fairfax County, litter is a persistent problem in both these wetlands. The Friends of Dyke Marsh works to protect its natural beauty in cooperation with the National Park Service. The Friends of Huntley Meadows works with the Fairfax County Park Authority to sustain this important wildlife area.  Find out how you can support the Friends
of Dyke Marsh at https://www.fodm.org/ or Huntley Meadows at http://www.friendsofhuntleymeadows.org/index.html#.

 

Celebrate World Wetlands Day and take the time to explore these vital wetland treasures here in Fairfax County!

 

 

 

Environmental News Roundup – October 21, 2015

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Mom’s Organic Market Herndon Grand Reopening

Join us for the Grand Re-Opening of Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon, featuring local tastings, henna art and more.

Clean Fairfax is pleased to be in attendance at the grand re-opening of Mom’s Organic Market in Herndon, VA. There will be a Naked Lunch – an all organic eatery featuring soups, bowls and raw juices! Come by and do some grocery shopping, try the local tastings, henna art, and much more. 5% of Grand Re-Opening sales will be donated to Clean Fairfax.

If you would like to volunteer, please send an email to cfc@cleanfairfax.org. We could use a few extra pair of hands, and we have fun things planned throughout the day.

Friday October 23 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday Oct 24 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sunday October 25 12 p.m.-3 p.m.

Molly's Sketchbook: Back to School Lunch Bag

As Schools Buy More Local Food, Kids Throw Less Food In The Trash

As hungry children stand in line each day for lunch, many school districts across the country are making an effort to serve food that was grown locally. When there was an increase of local food being served, the children ate more healthy meals and threw less food in the trash. Washington, D.C. school districts has been promoting this effort. Other schools across the U.S. are also following this route as well.

Obligatory Selfie Avec Camera

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) Photography Competition

Do you love taking pictures, the environment, and wildlife? NVCT is holding a Second Annual Nearby Nature Photography Competition. Up to five photos can be submitted. The deadline is on midnight November 2, 2015. The winners will be announced in mid-November, and prizes will be from local businesses and organizations. Additionally, the winning photos will be included in the next edition of the Stewardship Connection, NVCT’s website, Facebook page, and other NVCT publications. More information can be found here.

Solar-Powered Glowing Bicycle Path In Netherlands Inspired By Van Gogh’s Starry Night

Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch artist and designer has created a stunning glowing bike bath. At night, it is illuminated by glowing pebbles and LEDs, which resembles Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night painting.

The path was created using glow-in-the-dark technology and solar-powered LEDs. The glowing path assists bicyclists stay on track when they ride on night. Similar beautiful environmental glowing paths are also in some parts of the U.K. This might be a new trend that catches on other parts of the world.

Conservation Assistance Program

Conservation Assistance Program

Funding Assistance for Conservation Work on Homeowner and Community Association Property

Have you ever thought about improving your community’s common lands by installing a rain garden to capture runoff, incorporating native meadow or tree and shrub species into your landscaping, or even installing porous pavers on a portion of your parking lot? Do you want to improve the energy efficiency of your community’s clubhouse or other shared building? These practices and more are now eligible for cost-share funding through the newly-launched Conservation Assistance Program (CAP).

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Visit the CAP webpage on the Conservation District’s website to learn more about eligible practices, funding levels, and who can apply. Applications are due by March 11th, so don’t delay!

For other updates, please consider subscribing to NVSWCD’s monthly watershed calendar. Email conservationdistrict@fairfaxcounty.gov to subscribe.