Topic: Environmental Tips

To Burn or Not to Burn

Posted on November 19, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

You may relate the smell of burning leaves to the changing seasons, but the reality is that burning leaves introduces a lot of pollutants into the air that can be toxic and irritating to respiratory passages.  And because leaves are usually moist, they burn poorly and emit even higher levels of dangerous hydrocarbons.   For these reasons, many neighborhoods do not allow burning leaves or have specific guidelines.  (Check the county or your local township for specifics.)

A better option is to shred or mulch leaves with a lawn mower and leave them to fertilize the lawn. Fall is the best time to fertilize because ants and earthworms help incorporate the leaves into the soil.  That decaying matter feeds the beneficial microorganisms that keep soil healthy. Collect some of the mulched leaves in the mower bag and use them as mulch around the garden and landscape to suppress weeds, conserve moisture and maintain soil temperature.  Even better is to gather them with a rake and compost.

Just sayin’.

Autumn Leaves Are a Free Gift

Posted on November 16, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

If you can, try not to have them end up in trash bags or burn piles. Instead use them to help your garden grow. Composting is a great and easy way to use fallen leaves as organic fertilizer to create soil rich with minerals. So, where to start? You need to have nitrogenous ingredients like grass clippings as well as materials high in carbon, like your dry leaves.

Shredded leaves break down faster, so simply run over them with your lawn mower. Then throw all your leaves into your compost pile with grass clippings and mix well. Continue to mix, and cover the pile with a tarp through winter to seal the heat in and keep moisture out. Come spring it will be a dark brown color, and the original ingredients unrecognizable. At that point, you can dig that finished earthy smelling compost into your soil to help your garden grow. Thank you beautiful leaves.

Even easier – after shredding them with your lawnmower, spread them on your garden beds. Instant mulch, and they will compost themselves.

Need to burn or have your leaves collected? Contact your local township office or the county for all the dos and don’ts.

Fall Means Leaves!

Posted on November 2, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Each fall as homeowners tackle the job of raking leaves, clearing gardens, and cleaning yard debris, a lot of noise and pollution is created. In fact, one gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars!

Instead, choose hand-powered or electric tools over gas.  Rakes are effective, and cheaper than using a leaf blower. Plus, you get a chance to burn some extra calories! If you need a power tool for a hard to reach spot (like your roof, or in between shrubbery), try an electric leaf blower rather than a gasoline-powered one. Electric leaf blowers are usually quieter, more energy-efficient, and get the job done just as well as their high-powered counterparts.

Bats are a Big Deal

Posted on October 20, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Come October, many people start to think of bats as keeping company with witches and ghosts. But in reality, bats have a lot more to do with the foods of Halloween, like candy corn, than the spooky spirit of the holiday.

Bats provide important pest control services for many of our agricultural crops including one of Illinois’ most important crops, corn. A recent study funded by Bat Conservation International confirmed that bats play a significant role in combating corn crop pests, preventing more than $1 billion in crop damages worldwide every year.  Did you know that one little brown bat can eat 60 medium-sized moths or over 1000 mosquito-sized insects in one night?

Knowledge of how it all works together is important so we can encourage harmony and health in nature.  So this Halloween consider building a bat house or two, and hanging them at least 9 feet off the ground in a location that will get the morning sun.

Eco Friendly Bathroom Tips – or – Change Your Bathroom Habits

Posted on October 13, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

For fresh scents without chemical air fresheners, make your own spray in a a dark bottle from essential oils and water.

Use a washable shower curtain.  To clean simply toss into the washing machine with a cup of vinegar and some washing liquid or powder.  To get rid of tough scum, soak first with hot water and vinegar.  Vinegar is a natural mold killer especially when heated.

Use eco-friendly cloths made from natural fibers that are reusable, and invest in brushes and squeegees that are hard-wearing and can be used multiple times.

If you’re really serious about being environmentally conscious in your home, invest in a hand held steam cleaner, a chemical free way to remove built up grime without using harsh erosive products.

These tips help to reduce irritating chemicals in our home and on our skin.  Plus, they help to keep unnecessary packaging out of the waste stream.  They are just some small actions that add up over time.

How to Green Your Cup of Joe

Posted on October 7, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

In the US, 83% of adults drink coffee, averaging three cups a day, or 587 million cups.

To “green” your coffee drinking, ditch the disposable cups.  Opt for a reusable mug.  Bonus points if you choose a mug made of ceramic or stainless steel instead of plastic.

Next, buy coffee that carries the fair trade certification.  That means in return for providing good working conditions and just wages, producers get paid more, and when farmers get paid more they will produce less and that means more land is preserved.

Choose 100% Arabica beans, which are shade grown.  That means the coffee comes from plantations with the tree canopy and associated biodiversity still intact.

Finally, cheap coffee might be less expensive, but the same can’t be said of its effects on farmers and the environment, which often take the brunt of the cost in the form of exploitation and deforestation. Shoulder some of the financial burden, and avoid buying coffee from inexpensive sources.

Expose Children to Nature

Posted on September 28, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

One of the best ways to teach kids to be responsible stewards of the planet is to expose them to all nature has to offer.  Because of busy schedules, safety concerns, and changing demographics, most children can’t wander around forests and meadows the way they did a generation or two ago.  It may require advance planning, but let kids get a chance to hike on a trail, skip stones in a creek, or hunt for bugs and worms. You don’t need to spend lots of money or travel far; enjoy adventures like a backyard campout or a scavenger hunt whenever the weather warrants.

Jump in and learn a bit more by taking advantage of the many programs McHenry County organizations have to offer, and get ready to explore and learn about the unique natural beauty of our area.  Follow up with discoveries in your own neighborhood and get into the many parks and trails to search out and find the special characteristics and beauty of the prairies, waterways, animals and flora of our county and state.

Have fun, and enjoy the outdoors!

Butterflies: Not Just a Pretty Face

Posted on September 8, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Butterflies (and moths) are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems. Areas rich in butterflies are rich in other invertebrates (insects and worms) as well.  These collectively and in a wide variety provide a range of environmental benefits, including pollination and natural pest control.  They are also an important element of the food chain and are prey for birds and bats that help keep the balance in the animal world.

Butterflies are also widely used by ecologists as model organisms to study the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation, including climate change.  Even the smallest of animals can reveal how our habits influence the changes in  environmental world.

Food Waste: What to Do? Composting Still the Best

Posted on September 2, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

The global-warming virtues of composting were confirmed by none other than InSinkErator. They commissioned a study of sewage-treatment and food-waste-disposal methods and found that while some super-efficient sewage treatment plants eliminate greenhouse gas emissions while producing surplus energy, few systems beat composting—even when factoring in the emissions from hauling away and processing curbside compost.

However, if you can’t compost (vegetable, fruit and plant based waste) use the in-sink disposal. The amount of water needed to deal with in-sink disposal is negligible and controllable in the big scheme of things. The worst method is tossing food waste in the garbage.   Landfilling (which includes hauling) releases almost twice as much global-warming gas as treating sewage and six times more than composting.  U.S. residents dump 34.6 million tons of food waste annually into landfills, which accounts for almost one-fifth of all U.S. methane emissions.

Water Deserves Respect

Posted on August 25, 2015 by - Environmental Tips

Droughts aren’t usually supercharged disasters like the monster typhoon that just smashed the Philippines. And they don’t compare with Superstorm Sandy, which unstoppably flooded the East Coast last fall. Droughts are only noticeable in extreme cases such as in California. But think about it. Droughts don’t demolish buildings; they just cremate growing things.
Water is incredibly precious, and the Earth has only a fixed, limited amount of it. We can’t live without it. Literally.
Americans use about 100 gallons of fresh water per day at home. But millions of people in poorer countries survive on less than five gallons, and women in such places walk an average of 3.7 miles to fetch water. To put things in perspective, have that thought in your mind as the water flows from the spigot in your home.