The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve would like to thank everyone that came out on Saturday, February 8th, 2014, the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve to support our first ever Tree Giveaway for the community of Pinson. This very special event was part of a statewide effort, lead by the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Arbor Day Foundation, to help communities impacted by the 2011 tornadoes. During our tree-age (triage, get it?) 1,500 trees were given away by the Friends of Turkey Creek volunteer group. Also, on-hand to answer any tree care questions during the event, were horticulture experts from the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Jefferson County Storm Water Authority.
Trees provide many very important ecological services for our society, such as clean air, clean water, erosion control, and of course general beautification. Unfortunately, sever weather, and development contributes to the loss of many trees and the services they provide us, every year. We hope that these trees will help make our community a cleaner, greener place.
There are still a few trees left, if you are interested in one of these trees or have any questions about caring for your trees, please feel free to email TCNP at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 205.680.4116.
This event would not have been possible without the help of volunteers from the Friends of Turkey Creek that worked hard all morning to label and pass out trees. If you would like to learn more about how you can support the Friends of Turkey Creek, please visit their Facebook page!
The start of a new year often inspires us to get rid of clutter and organize our living space. Sometimes we even become motivated enough to tackle what’s stacked in the garage, stuffed under the kitchen sink, or gathering dust in the pantry. Often that includes a collection of old household products that we no longer need. Before tossing these unwanted items into the trash, first take a look at what your collection includes.
Many products like drain openers, automotive fluids, adhesives, batteries, oil based paint, solvents, and cleaners containing bleach are considered to be household hazardous waste (HHW) because they contain corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive ingredients. It is unsafe when these items are discarded with regular household trash, since some can emit harmful fumes or create a dangerous reaction if mixed with other chemicals. And any of these products spilled on the ground can harm water quality in local creeks and streams when washed by rain into the nearest storm drain. That’s why HHW requires special handling by a facility which accepts these items.
Some local municipalities offer opportunities for residents to drop off HHW. If you live in an unincorporated area, the Alabama Environmental Center (AEC) website (aeconline.org/recycling) is a great resource for locating facilities which accept specific types of HHW. One of those facilities is Mercedes Benz U.S. International (205-507-3300) in Vance which accepts HHW from the public at its Plant 2 on the third Friday of each month from 5 am – 8 am and 1 pm – 6 pm.
Certainly there are some household tasks that require specialized products for which there is no substitute. When purchasing this type of product, try to buy just enough for the job to eliminate leftovers. But in many cases, you can choose a less toxic approach to handle most household cleaning jobs. Items found in your kitchen or bathroom easily can be used to make safe, inexpensive cleaners. They are better for your family’s health and the environment, and they help reduce the need to purchase more toxic products.
There are many tips and recipes available online for making your own cleaning products. Here are just a few: Want to make your windows sparkle? Mix a few tablespoons of white vinegar with water in a spray bottle, lightly spray the glass, and wipe dry with newspaper or a microfiber cloth. Need to scrub the sink or tub? A few sprinkles of baking soda or salt on a damp sponge should do the trick. Add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to remove stains and mildew. Time to disinfect the counter? Heat 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar to 150º and carefully pour into a spray bottle. Spray the warm vinegar on the counter, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe dry. Got pesky streaks on the mirror? Equal amounts of white vinegar, distilled water, and alcohol sprayed on the mirror and wiped clean with a microfiber cloth will give your reflection perfection in no time. Fingerprints on the furniture? A few drops of olive oil and white vinegar rubbed onto furniture with a soft cloth can make wood shine. Want more? A good place to start is GreenerChoices.org.
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
According to the EPA, recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials which otherwise would be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products, thereby conserving raw materials, lowering energy consumption, curtailing littering, and reducing impact on landfills.
Recycling is not a 20th century idea. The first documented recycling program began in 1031 when Japan required that documents and other used paper be recycled. Various forms of recycling came and went over the ensuing centuries, but it wasn’t until the all-aluminum beverage can was introduced in the late 1950s that recycling gained traction in America. Today, many US communities advocate and provide recycling opportunities for residents.
Pinson’s community recycling trailer located at City Hall
So how are we doing? At 4.6 pounds of trash per day for every American, we generate much more trash than we recycle. The EPA estimates that while 75% of America’s trash is recyclable, we only recycle about 30%. So it makes sense that our country’s biggest export is . . . trash! China, our biggest customer, buys the material we throw away, reprocesses it, and sells it back to US manufacturers. And then we buy new stuff, throw it away, sell our trash to China . . . you get the idea.
While there are many domestic companies which process recycled materials, companies in countries with low labor costs and lax environmental laws have been the major producers of cheap recycled plastic resin. But China recently passed ‘Green Fence’ restrictions which prohibit its import of plastics #3 – #7. This could mean that here in the US, many more plastics will be headed for landfills.
When we do recycle, are these recycled materials used to make more of the same products? The answer is . . . it depends.
According to the Container Recycling Institute, US consumers use 70 million plastic water bottles per day; 60 million of these are discarded as trash. The International Bottled Water Association reports that manufacturers currently are using just 50% recycled plastic in their containers.
Some materials are downcycled to produce entirely different products with less value and recycling potential than the original product. Many plastics and some paper fall into this category. Some materials are upcycled to make products with more value than the original product such as countertops made from glass containers and fabrics made from plastic bottles.
upcycled glass counter tops
Ecycling recovers usable materials from discarded electronics such as plastic, metal and wire, and valuable elements such as gold, silver, palladium, and copper which all can be reprocessed for use in new electronic components. Ecycling also properly handles toxic materials found in electronic devices such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic which can leach from landfills and pollute groundwater. According to the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, US consumers discarded 3.4 million tons of electronics in 2011 but recycled less than 25%.
It’s even possible to reduce the need for recycling by choosing products which either can be reused or decrease the amount of waste generated. Precycling is making those choices which have some degree of sustainability or upfront waste reduction such as purchasing reusable rather than single use or disposable products; buying food, cleaning products, and other consumables in bulk to reduce packaging waste; or choosing items that can be repaired or refurbished rather than discarded.
Reducing the amount of waste we generate means less litter, trash and hazardous materials carried by rain into waterways. Less energy used for manufacturing and transportation means less particulate air pollution deposited in surface waterways. Putting a little effort into choosing wisely, reducing waste, reusing materials, recycling whenever possible, and conserving natural resources can have a big impact on improving our future on planet earth.
Speaking of Recycling . . .
Just in Time for the Holidays – It makes sense to de-clutter your living space before the coming weeks filled with family gatherings and house guests. Consider some alternatives for getting rid of unwanted items that are not in good enough shape for donation. There may be a better choice for them than the landfill! Check out the Alabama Environmental Center’s (AEC) Recycle Alabama website for the lowdown on most things recyclable. The site makes it easy to find out what AEC accepts, any material-specific guidelines, and other vendors which accept these materials. AEC is one of the few collection sites in Alabama that accepts glass containers and textiles (yep, even your old t-shirts, undies and shoes).
Tree Recycling –When the ornaments come off, a live Christmas tree is just some mulch waiting to happen. Find a tree recycling location near you.
Recycling Trailers – Recycling just got closer to home with drop off trailers placed in Jefferson County locations which do not have access to other recycling opportunities. Find a recycling trailer near you.
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
Years ago, I had a boss who used to remind the staff that the word ‘assume’ tells the story of what happens when you think people understand what you’re trying to communicate, but you don’t take the time to make sure. I won’t go into details, but you probably get the idea. While many of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve’s blog readers have a good understanding of stormwater, polluted runoff, and pollution prevention, it’s sometimes a good thing to go back to the basics – and not assume!
Here in Jefferson County, we have more than 4,200 miles of waterways. Even though that seems like a lot, water doesn’t remain in one place – it constantly goes through cycles of precipitation, infiltration, evaporation, and condensation. And as it goes through these cycles, it winds up in oceans, rivers, creeks, streams, polar icecaps, underground aquifers, clouds, and living things (about 60% of an average adult is water). No matter where it is located, the total amount of water on earth – about 326 million trillion gallons – never changes. But only about 1% of that total is easily accessible fresh water. In the meantime, the world’s population of 7.087 billion continues to grow and place greater demands on water resources. That’s why it is in our best interest to conserve and protect the water that we do have.
Here’s where stormwater comes in. Stormwater is another name for rain and other types of precipitation. Stormwater is valuable and essential because it recharges ground water and feeds surface waterways. But as our population and developed areas have increased, so has the potential for stormwater to become polluted.
Most pollution found in surface waterways comes from people going about their everyday activities. Activities like that bag of weed and feed you spread on your lawn right before it rained. That little oil drip from your car that you keep meaning to get fixed. The ‘presents’ Fido leaves in your yard that you never seem to get around to removing. These are just a few examples, but all of these little potential pollutants can really add up when you consider that there are about 660,000 people living in Jefferson County.
Stormwater picks up these common substances from the ground, paved areas, and other surfaces, and carries them into the storm drainage system. The storm drainage system is a series of inlets, pipes, gutters and ditches which carry water – and anything mixed with or carried by it – away from streets and other paved areas. This system empties untreated stormwater into the nearest creek or stream. Stormwater that carries pollution is called polluted runoff.
The good news is that we could reduce the amount of polluted runoff in Jefferson County if each of us would make a few changes to prevent its causes.
JeffCo H2O will not assume! We will keep bringing you helpful information, ideas, resources and opportunities with the goal that we each will commit to doing our part to improve water quality here in Jefferson County.
Mark Your Calendar!
National Rivers Month
Celebrate our water resources by cleaning up a waterway near you!
World Environment Day
This year’s theme is Think Eat Save to encourage people to reduce food waste and food loss. It is estimated that 30% of food purchased in the US is thrown away. Consequently, half of the water used to produce food that is discarded also goes to waste.
World Oceans DayThe emphasis for 2013 is Together We Have the Power to Protect the Ocean. Even though we live a few hours away from the coast, all of our waterways eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Something to think about when you are fishing or swimming in the Gulf!
Mild to Wild in < 24 Hours!
Lunch & Learn Seminar, 11:30 – 12:30, Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Find out how to travel with sustainability in mind to some of Alabama’s most beautiful destinations. Jay Grantland, Alabama Eco Adventures. Free. Refreshments will be served.
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management