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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
Recycle – YES! But to make a bigger and healthier impact on our environment, reduce and reuse first which keeps more stuff out of the landfill and reduces waste disposal costs. The challenge then becomes to reduce recycling as much as possible.
When making a purchase, consider how much of the container and packaging could be eliminated by reuse, and resist goods that have lots of extraneous packaging. Use reusable shopping bags, aluminum refillable drinking containers and bring your own container for leftovers. Say “no” to straws and Styrofoam and say “yes” to composting. Once produced, plastic and Syrofoam stay on the earth forever, so begin by being conscious of how much is used in the first place. Then, FINALLY, it’s time to recycle.
For one day or one afternoon or even one hour a week, don’t buy anything, don’t use any machines, don’t switch on anything electric, don’t cook, don’t answer your phone, and, in general, don’t use any resources. In other words, for this regular period, give yourself and the planet a break.
Every hour per week that you live no impact cuts your carbon emissions by 0.6 percent annually. Commit to four hours per week and that’s 2.4 percent. Do it for a whole day each week to cut your impact by 14.4 percent a year. See how it feels to switch “off” for a day, and you may just enjoy it, and at the same time, raise your awareness about the impact our actions have on our planet while making a positive contribution.
“Earth Overshoot Day” landed on August 13th in 2015 – “Global overshoot occurs when humanity’s annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas can provide—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption—exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year.”
Start a habit you’ll be proud to flaunt: remember your own bags every time you go to the store. It’s one simple way to go green in your daily life. And when people see you’re making the right choice, they’re more likely to do it, too.
Some paper & plastic statistics
- Each year the United States consumes 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil.
- The pulp and paper industry is the 2nd largest industrial user of energy in the U.S.
- More than 46,000 pieces of plastic contaminate each square mile of our oceans.
- Only 1% of plastic bags are recycled annually nationwide.
So the question is, paper or plastic? And the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County say the answer is neither. Instead – BYOB – bring your own bag.