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7 Spring Cleaning Goals

Spring is here and it’s time to get your house cleaned out from the winter! These goals will have you on your way in no time.

Eco-Friendly spring cleaning tips and goals, Goodwill

Have no fear, Spring is here! That means time to open up those windows, put away winter boots and start Spring Cleaning. Having goals when you start cleaning is the smartest way to get cleaning. Here are some great goals to help get your cleaning done right.

Spring Cleaning Goals

  1. Put all winter clothing away.
  2. Don’t forget the windows.
  3. Baseboards matter.
  4. Rotate seasonal tools.
  5. Move all rugs and clean under them.
  6. Power wash all the things.
  7. Donate 10+ things to Goodwill.

All these goals are easy. Make sure you clean things that you don’t clean during your weekly clean ups and may even forget during deep cleans. You can even use these tips to help get your cleaning done faster. When you are gathering stuff to donate to Goodwill, remember the more you donate, the more you help your community.

Eco-Friendly spring cleaning tips and goals, Goodwill

Learn More About Goodwill

If you are not sure where your local Goodwill is, you can use the Goodwill Locator App available for Android and iOS devices and at http://www.goodwill.org/ (click “Explore Our Map” on the homepage). Simply input the items you’re donating to calculate the number of hours of career counseling, on-the-job training, résumé preparation, financial planning classes, and other services you’ve helped provide people facing challenges finding employment. When jobs thrive, communities thrive.

Goodwill’s career centers, training programs and staffing operations give people the resources, skills and confidence that changes thousands of lives each year.


Thanks to the programs and support services made possible by donations of clothes and household items, Goodwill helped place more than 312,000 people in jobs in the United States and Canada in 2015 – that’s one person finding a job every 23 seconds of every business day.

What goals do you have for Spring Cleaning?

Test Your Environmental Literacy

The EPA has compiled a simple test of environmental literacy. See how you do. (Answers are at the end of the post.)

  1. There are many different types of animals and plants, and they live in many different types of environments. What word is used to describe this idea: multiplicity, biodiversity, socio-economics, or evolution?
  2. Which of the following is a renewable resource: oil, iron ore, trees, or coal?
  3. Which of the following household materials is considered hazardous waste: plastic packaging, glass, batteries, or spoiled food?
  4. What is the most common major cause of pollution of streams, rivers and oceans?
  5. Most electricity in the U.S. is generated from what source?
  6. What is the primary environmental benefit of wetland areas?
  7. Having ozone in the earth’s upper atmosphere protects us from what?
  8. What is the current solution to the disposal of most nuclear waste in the United States?
  9. What is the largest source of carbon monoxide in the U.S.?
  10. What is the most common reason animal species become extinct?
  11. What is the name of the primary federal agency that works to protect the environment?
  12. Where does most household garbage eventually end up once it leaves the home?

If you didn’t answer most of the questions correctly, you are not alone. In a 2001 study by The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, fewer than 2/3’s of American adults answered half the questions correctly

More than 66% failed.


Yet, the same study found that 95% of the public supports environmental education.

Why is environmental education important?

dustbowl

I suspect more damage has been done to the environment by ignorance than by malice. Not too long ago DDT, asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, and lead paint were considered safe and useful. Slash and burn farming is still widely practiced. And remember the phrase, “the rain will follow the plow.” This 1881 slogan encouraged people to plow up vast sections of the semi-arid prairie. But rains did not follow the plow. Droughts occurred, as they always have and always will. And before long, the Dust Bowl was born.

 

We know better now. Or do we?

66% failed.

What we can learn from nature.

By studying nature, we learn its two patterns of organization are the web and the cycle, not domination by any one species, even man. Predator-prey cycles are a powerful example of what happens when one species dominates.

The study of living systems is the study of relationships, patterns, cause and effect. It tests assumptions and reveals unintended consequences. By increasing our environmental literacy, we come to appreciate the power of seemingly small variables such as rainfall, soil composition, wind currents, temperatures, migration patterns, advantageous and disadvantageous adaptations, and luck.

And one of these variables is man whose disruptions of natural systems affect society in the form of erosion, floods, desertification, contamination, and disease.

Environmental literacy has been shown to be beneficial to both the students and the community. Since most environmental education involves hands-on experiences such as planting gardens, restoring waterways, and caring for injured wildlife, people are making a difference. The learning is deeper, more meaningful.

And studies have shown that as people gain environmental literacy they increasingly adopt pro-environmental behaviors such as energy conservation, recycling, and eco-conscious buying choices. They understand that even small actions make a difference to the web and cycles of our living systems.

Interested in knowing more? Many resources are online. For example:

http://www.ecoliteracy.org/

http://classroomearth.org/

http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/program/environmental-literacy-guides/?ar_a=1

http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/02/27/energy-ecology/eco-classrooms-teaching-environmental-literacy-in-schools/

Environmental pressures will increase.

Our children will face tougher environmental challenges than we do. Increasing population and political conflict will cause shortages of food and water. Climate change will impact agriculture and trade. Rising oceans will flood cities. Green and sustainable practices will be accused of harming our ability to compete in the global economy. Environmental educators will be accused of teaching children “junk” science. (For a tooth-jarring rant against environmental education, see http://www.redstate.com/dhorowitz3/2011/06/22/its-official-you-must-be-an-eco-socialist-to-graduate-in-maryland/). The problems will be complex, and the solutions will involve tradeoffs, conflict, and compromise.

Our children are going to inherit the environmental mess of prior generations. Let’s give them some tools for dealing with it, starting with environmental literacy.

Answers:

  1. Biodiversity
  2. Trees
  3. Batteries
  4. Surface water running off yards, streets, paved lots and farm fields
  5. By burning coal, oil and wood
  6. To help purify water before it enters lakes, streams, rivers and oceans
  7. Harmful, cancer-causing sunlight
  8. Store and monitor the waste at the plant
  9. Motor Vehicles
  10. Loss of habitat
  11. Environmental Protection Agency
  12. Landfills

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Photo credit- NOAA George E. Marsh Album


About the Author

Helen Sedwick, author of COYOTE WINDS, a young adult novel set on the prairie in the years leading up to the Dust Bowl. Visit her web site, Facebook page, blog, and feel free to send her emails at helen@helensedwick.com

 

 

How an Event About Plastic Changed Me

plasticfreeWhen I learned that Beth Terry, blogger, activist, and author of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, was coming to speak at a BookSmart Tulsa event earlier this month, my first impression was curiosity. I hadn’t heard of her before, but my interest piqued and I delved into her book and her blog, My Plastic-Free Life, and discovered that she is a true environmental hero. Here is someone who walks her talk and is sharing with the world everything she knows. Her journey is inspiring. But I really didn’t expect to be changed. I was a good little environmentalist, after all. I tried to avoid inordinate amounts of packaging, I recycled, I did my part. I was excited; I knew her plastic free message was one that people needed to hear, but I didn’t know I would be revolutionized.

Then, to top it all off, I found out a few days before the event that one of our local heroes was to co-present with Ms. Terry—Green Oklahoma’s own Lisa Sharp. Lisa and I had been corresponding via email for a few weeks prior, discussing our mutual desire to provide strong voices for Oklahoma’s environmental movement and brainstorming those possibilities. At that time, I knew little of her story. I only knew she was the editor-in-chief and creator of the eco-conscious website Green Oklahoma, and that I could learn a lot from how she’s managed it. The fact that she would also be speaking at this event, that I’d possibly even have a chance to meet this native Ada girl, whose efforts thus far had so impressed me, seemed like a strong touch of kismet.

I arrived at the University of Tulsa’s Allen Chapman Activity Center minutes before Beth Terry was scheduled to speak. It was a cold and rainy night, and I worried this would affect the turnout. Not allaying my fears in the least, I found a good parking spot and jumped a few puddles before climbing the concrete steps to the event hall. The place looked virtually empty. There were still a few tables occupied on the lower level, the remnants of some hands-on activities given earlier in the evening by Make: Tulsa on alternative uses for plastics and how they can be upcycled before they are recycled. These dedicated crafters and designers were happily chit-chatting away with each other, and each table was in various stages of disarray, telling me someone must’ve been here to make all this mess.


I walked up the steps leading to the presentation rooms alone. The upper landing was like the aftermath of a convention—the lights are on but almost everyone has gone home. A few people manned yet another table, this one stocked with copies of Beth Terry’s book. I looked expectantly at the closed doors across from the table, and the book table’s occupants nodded encouragingly. I walked in.

I was buoyed by the sight. The place wasn’t packed. What could I expect on a stormy Tuesday night? But there were people. A good double handful of people, enough to make a decent representation of Tulsa, and to pass along whatever they might learn tonight to the greater population. That is how it works, I’ve found. All it takes is just a few, and if the information catches, it spreads like so many dry summer wildfires.

Beth started talking with the energy of a girl perhaps half her age, and the ease of a catch-up conversation with an old friend. She told us a little about her life—she has no kids, she is married, and they have cats which they dearly love. She was an accountant. And she stumbled upon her mission to rid her life of plastic when she happened to learn about the plight of the Laysan albatross on Midway Island.

She showed us the picture. I’d seen it before, and I understood her pain. It was an image of a Laysan albatross chick who had died of malnutrition, and whose carcass showed the culprit—a gut so full of plastic trash, everything from intact bottle caps to plastic washers, that it literally had no room for actual food. The mother albatrosses see pieces of floating plastic in the ocean, mistake it for food, and bring it back to the island to feed their young. I knew this. I had heard the story before. But it never hurts to have a refresher course.

I should take that back. It does hurt. It hurts a lot. It hurts your heart and your conscience and your logical mind. As well it should. This is our mess, after all.

And then she said something else about Midway Island… something I might have known but had since forgotten. This island, halfway between California and Japan (most likely how it got its name), is thousands, and I mean thousands, of miles away from civilization of any kind. The island is totally secluded. This is how far our reach, how vast our destruction. All from the simple act of throwing it away. Because, as Beth Terry will tell you, as she learned in her own shock-to-the-system painful lesson, there is no such thing as away.

From this moment, Beth started analyzing her life and how she could make a difference. She set out to determine just how much plastic she threw away on a regular basis and how much of that could be cut back. She was very analytical with it all. She knew that, in order to get the real data she needed, she would have to be dispassionate. So she created charts and graphs. She kept track of all her plastic waste, changing nothing at first, just so she would know, with eyes wide open, what her impact on the planet had been. And then she started cutting back.

This part of the lecture was the fun part, the solutions. Because we need solutions, if we are to realize the kind of destruction for which we are responsible and not go mad with guilt. We need to be able to stop what we’re doing and to do something to fix the problem. Guilt solves nothing, past the initial shock to wake us up to our own shortcomings.

She talked about recycling and its advantages and pitfalls. We Tulsans were feeling pretty proud at this point, because our city had recently started a comprehensive curbside recycling program. City officials told us all the plastics were now recyclable, everything from 1s to 7s. Milk jugs? Toss it in. Bottle caps? They’d take those. Styrofoam? We were good to go. This was our dream come true. Finally, we were on the map of cities who offered all-encompassing, user-friendly curbside recycling for every resident within city limits. Even I, an apartment dweller, had been taking advantage of it, sending all my odd plastics and other recyclables to my boyfriend’s house for curbside pickup. (This has the added advantage of getting him to be more diligent with his own recycling efforts.)

And then Beth Terry dropped the bomb. She makes it a habit, when she comes to speak in different towns along her way, to contact the local recyclers to see how they run their operation. She contacted ours. And was told flat out that only the traditional numbers 1 and 2 plastics are actually being recycled. A big machine scans all of them and can sort out the recyclables from the rest. And what about the rest? Plastics numbered 3 – 7 are incinerated. You could almost hear the jaws of the entire audience drop. You could hear several shocked gasps and involuntary what’s puncture the air.

Now, she said, she was reassured that all this plastic burning was generating energy for the city’s use. But you could sense this concept didn’t hold much water for the listening audience. How could burning plastic be good for our environment? Wouldn’t there be toxic fumes and smoke from such a process? No one in the room knew for sure.

However, recycling is still important, when the items are recycled, and this was the point where she gave Lisa Sharp the floor.

Lisa, I quickly learned, was directly involved in implementing a curbside recycling program in her own home town of Ada. I was impressed. Environmental responsibility is eyed with a certain amount of suspicion in our Red state, and it must have been an almost Herculean task to get such a concept to pass muster in a small town like Ada, where views are likely to be even less progressive than those in Oklahoma’s larger cities. It took Tulsa a long time to get a program even remotely comprehensive, in Tulsa, the state’s second largest city.

From there I learned that Lisa, this brave, young, soft-spoken woman, who must have had one heck of a great upbringing, has been working on changing the practices of the local concrete plant, who has been fined multiple times by the EPA for emissions violations over the past several years. She told [us] of friends being diagnosed with cancer and respiratory problems. And she spoke of the difficulty in working against the prevailing attitude of the town—leave the cement plant alone, they’re one of our biggest employers. This is what happens when a big corporation takes advantage of a small town. The town becomes dependent on the company for its livelihood, and then the company can, almost literally, get away with murder. Sometimes public resistance to holding the town’s primary breadwinner accountable seems insurmountable, even when there is clear evidence the alternative is killing them.

The two, Beth and Lisa, segued into more upbeat conversation—companies Beth has convinced to find plastic-free packaging alternatives, the story of Lisa telling Beth about a glass reusable straw from the company GlassDharma, and a multitude of plastic alternatives Beth has found along her journey. For all the discouraging and even terrifying facts revealed in our time with these two veteran environmentalists, there was a lot of hope and a lot of laughter. My fellow Tulsans asked insightful questions and even shared some of their own solutions for things we can do here at home to reduce our plastic waste.

I came home at the end of the evening to a stack beside my sink of “reusable” plastic Quik Trip cups. I noticed all the countless food items I buy—even the local organic ones—all wrapped or contained in plastic, much of it non-recyclable. And of course, everything I do throw away is wrapped up in a big plastic bag, only to be sent off to a landfill, where the wind can carry what doesn’t simply sit there out to sea.

I also thought about our shiny new curbside recycling program. I don’t know how I feel about this “plastic to energy” concept. It seems there’s a lot of room for error there, and it is going to take some in depth research to truly understand what is happening to the trash in this town. But I’m glad Beth came. I’m glad she told us. Our recycling program is still young, and there may yet be something we can do to keep it honest. At least I know I am not alone with this newfound information. There is power in numbers, and there is now a big handful of Tulsans ready to spread the word and make a change.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


About the Author

akh-profile
Angela Bushong is an office grunt by day, mad word-slinger by night. An avid tree-hugger and lover of all life forms, she is known to write on any number of topics from sustainable living to how best to avoid becoming a slave to your cat. She also authors the blog, The Green Country Guardian. When not writing to save the planet, she can be found in the confines of her Tulsa apartment mothering, reading, fire-escape gardening, rebelling against our corrupt food system from the front lines of her tiny kitchen, and fighting for equal rights with her own resident cats. Negotiations are ongoing.

How to Have a Waste-Free Party

Many of us are trying to cut down on or eliminate the waste of disposable products. Some do so to save money, some for environmental reasons, and some for both. I’m in that last category. I’d rather spend my grocery money on organic produce, good coffee, chocolate and wine than on paper towels or plastic wrap.

Over the past few years I’ve done really well. I never buy plastic wrap or baggies anymore. I’ve had a roll of Seventh Generation paper towels way up in the cupboard for a few years and I buy perhaps one roll of foil every year or two.

But what about parties, you might ask? Don’t you have to use disposable plates, cups and napkins? Well, not really. Now, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t buy cute plates and napkins that match your kid’s birthday party theme. I don’t have little kids anymore so I’m going to just by-pass that potentially controversial topic. What I’m referring to are adult parties. Even though adults aren’t likely to throw a party with a cartoon theme, most still end up buying disposable plates, cups and napkins. I used to, as well.

Here is how I got away from having to purchase disposable party ware. My first purchase was quite a few years ago when I was still shopping at Walmart. We were having a party and would be serving dessert and coffee. I really detest styrofoam and didn’t have enough coffee cups so I bought 16 matching clear glass dessert plates and coffee mugs. They were not very expensive but clear glass looks nice even if it’s cheap. We’ve used these many times since.


wastefree

Our next purchase was two dozen wine glasses from the dollar store. We were having a large party and even if I weren’t opposed to disposables, who likes drinking wine from plastic cups? Yuck. But I certainly didn’t want to risk breaking our expensive wine glasses – and we didn’t have enough anyway – so for a buck a piece we had plenty for our party. Over time we’ve had a few break but because they were only a dollar it’s no big deal and I can easily replace them. Each time it happens I’m glad I can tell my embarrassed guest that I bought it at the dollar store and not to worry about it.

We also have plenty of silverware. Several years ago we were still using the set I bought for my hope chest when I was in high school despite the fact that we were down to only 4 or 5 spoons. (What the heck happens to spoons??) After about 25 years of marriage we decided we deserved a new set. We have a store here in town which sells all manner of stuff which they’ve bought in truck loads from department stores and such. They had some nice quality silverware for an exceptionally good price. I was just going to buy one set which was a service for 8 but fortunately my smart husband encouraged me to buy two sets. I put one set in the silverware drawer and put the other away. Whenever we have a party I pull out the extra set.

I have 16 large dinner plates which I’ve used for parties when I served food which needed plates but I was lacking enough bowls when we recently had a party to celebrate Mardi Gras. I was making gumbo and that needs to be served in a bowl. Initially I was going to have my husband go borrow some from our church but he decided to check the dollar store first. He was able to buy 20 plain white bowls for a dollar each so we have now added those to our party supplies.

The one item for which I still resorted to disposables was napkins and we did so at our last large party. We use cloth napkins ourselves but didn’t have enough for big parties. Plus I found that guests are often reluctant to use our cute cloth napkins with roosters on them, or the pretty red and white check napkins. Then one evening when we were out to dinner at our favorite local Italian restaurant, I noticed the napkins. They were black. Stains don’t show on black. Perhaps our guests wouldn’t be as reluctant to use them. So I did a bit of online shopping and found some large, all cotton, black napkins. I bought one set of 6 so I could see if I liked them. This was fairly recently and yes, I like them quite well. Of course, being 100% cotton they do need to be ironed but I was already in the habit of ironing our other cloth napkins so that’s not an issue for me. However, I do understand that many don’t like to iron so a no-iron fabric is certainly another option. I’ll be ordering a couple more sets soon.

At some point I’d like to buy 16 plain white or glass dinner plates. Something a little smaller than our regular dishes which would coordinate with the white bowls and glass dessert plates we currently have. I’ll keep my eye out for some.

You don’t have to buy all of these things at once. I’ve been adding to our party stock for several years now. If you stick to something plain (like clear glass and white like I’m doing) it shouldn’t be difficult to add to your collection slowly. They don’t have to be exactly the same. In fact, you could also take the opposite route and collect unique, one-of-a-kind dishes for a quirky, eclectic look. In addition to discount and dollar stores, check out your local antique, junk and thrift stores.

Another idea is to borrow some of these items. One of my close friends has glass dessert plates and mugs similar to mine. In fact, seeing them at her house is what gave me the idea to buy mine. Between the two of us we have a LOT of these so if either of us has a larger party we can borrow additional ones. Many years ago our local grocery store had one of those deals going where you could buy individual pieces of inexpensive china with points from shopping. My mom, aunt and I all did this and at one time, between the three of us, we had enough plates for our very large holiday family dinners. If you have a relative or close friend nearby who doesn’t mind sharing, perhaps you could each purchase several pieces with the idea that you can borrow from one another for parties.

Now, I’ll bet you’re thinking, “That’s all fine and dandy but someone is going to have wash all those party dishes”. And you’re right. That is the downside. But I haven’t found that to be enough of an issue for me to go back to disposables. Most of the time at least a few of my guests will take it upon themselves to rinse and stack plates. You could set out a large bowl with hot, soapy water for silverware. Personally, I’m happy if people just bring their dishes to the kitchen. We have a dishwasher, although I do hand wash the wine glasses. But even doing them all by hand isn’t a big deal if you approach it right. I generally try to make sure everything is rinsed and stacked, food put away and counters wiped down before I go to bed. If it’s a late party, that’s all I do and then I tackle the dishes in the morning. Sometimes my husband is around to help and we chat about the party and how much fun we had. If I’m doing it alone, I put on some good music and sing along while cleaning up. It rarely takes more than 15-20 minutes even after a large gathering and I consider that a small price to pay in order to not have a huge bag of trash to take out.

With a little creativity and forethought you can easily avoid wasteful, expensive disposable items for most parties. It’s easier on the wallet, better for the planet and honestly, wouldn’t you rather eat from real dishes?

Do you have tips for having a waste-free party? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page


deannapiercy

 

 

Deanna Piercy is a hippie married to a pirate, trying to live green in a red state. She blogs at The Well-Groomed HippieTea With Dee and Dee’s Kitchen.

 

 

 

ECOpass: A New Program to Help Oklahomans

It’s summertime.  Time to go outdoors and enjoy nature!  During this time of year it’s easy to recognize the natural blessings we have in abundance in Oklahoma.  From our rivers to our lakes, from our forests to the expansive prairies, Oklahoma is home to some of the most precious natural resources in the United States, in fact, with the exception of California, no other state in the Union has as many distinct eco-regions as Oklahoma.  With all of this natural beauty to enjoy, however, it’s easy to take it for granted.

While we are outside, we need to remember how important it is to care for the earth around us.  While we have a lot to be thankful for, we also have several natural resource challenges that we need to address.  We still suffer from erosion of the soil from our farm lands and pastures; we have numerous water quality issues that need to be addressed on our rivers and streams; we have critical wildlife habitat in need of improvement and protection and we have the ever increasing challenge of our changing climate.

With all of these issues to address, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.   With such large scale problems it often seems that the efforts of one individual can do little to affect the whole.  It’s easy to think, “Well it’s all well and good to recycle and conserve water and such, but what good are you really doing in the grand scheme of things?  It’s kind of like spitting in the ocean.”


The good news is that there is more that you can do!   Oklahoma now has a unique, one of a kind program that allows folks who want to do more to help the environment connect with individuals who are willing to undertake major practices on their land.  Launched this spring, the ECOpass program administered by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) lets individuals purchase “an acre of conservation” for as little as five dollars per acre.  The funds raised through these purchases then go to farmers, ranchers and other landowners who are doing things to protect the environment on their land.  Practices like taking highly erodible land out of crop production and putting back to grass or converting from conventional tilled crop production to no-till farming or fencing off the riparian areas next to streams and rivers on their property—practices designed to reduce soil erosion, increase wildlife habitat, sequester carbon in the soil and reduce run-off of nutrients and bacteria into our water.  These practices are verified by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and are done to USDA Natural Resource Conservation specifications so you can be sure if you put money toward this work, it is happening on the ground.

You may be wondering, “What do I get out of all this if I buy an acre or more of conservation?”  The answer is plenty!  The practices that you will be helping with have been shown to reduce pollutants like phosphorus and nitrates from our water at levels as high as 60% to 70% in parts of Oklahoma. In fact, because of these practices, Oklahoma was ranked number one among all the states last year in reduction in nutrients from our surface water by the EPA.  These practices also reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by “sequestering” carbon through photosynthesis—on average 40 acres can offset your car emissions for one year.  These practices greatly reduce soil erosion, reduce the amount of diesel farmers use to grow crops and provide improved habitat for wildlife.  Quite a return on your investment!

If you are interested you can find out more on this program by going to ecopassok.com or by contacting OACD at 405-699-2087.

We need to do all we can to help protect our natural resources—we feel that the ECOpass can help.

What do you think of ECOpass? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.


About the Author


Clay Pope received a Bachelors Degree in Agriculture Communications from Oklahoma State University. Mr. Pope is currently the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Mr. Pope also served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1994 through 2004, where he served as the Chairman of the Agriculture and International Trade Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, as Chairman of the Oklahoma House Revenue and Taxation Committee, as Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma House Agriculture Committee and Vice Chairman of the House County and Municipal Government Committee. Mr. Pope is also a member of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals and is a Research Fellow with the Cookson Institute. He is a farmer and rancher from near Loyal, Oklahoma.

 

Oklahoma’s Energy Future Forum

Saturday, October 29, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign hosted the Oklahoma’s Energy Future Forum at the Oklahoma State University Campus in Oklahoma City.   There were 75 guests in attendance at the forum to learn about and discuss the opportunities and resources available in Oklahoma to develop a statewide energy plan that will create jobs, clean up the environment, and protect the health of Oklahoma residents.

Mary Anne Hitt, National Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, was the keynote speaker of the forum and kicked off the event by introducing the Beyond Coal Campaign and addressing the many  problems associated with the dirty energy source.  Hitt discussed that in order to be successful and effective in moving toward a clean energy future, action must happen at the state level.  She said, “There are a few states that can be massive clean energy leaders and Oklahoma is one of them.”

Following Mary Ann Hitt’s speech was a panel of other energy experts that expressed their thoughts and ideas about the future of energy production in Oklahoma.  The panel included Michael Ming, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy, Jim Roth, attorney with Phillips Murrah Law Firm, Rob Janssen with Kelson Energy, Chris Knapp with Apex Wind Energy, Phillip Teel with Clean Line Energy Partners..  Michael Ming was the first panelist to speak and he started off with a thought provoking analogy, which had the audience look back on the progress, or lack thereof in energy production.  This analogy illustrated what would happen if Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Graham Bell were to come back and see their inventions in their present day form.  If Bell were to see our cell phones, many of which resemble mini-computers, he would probably have no idea what it was or even that it had developed from his original invention.  On the other hand, Franklin would easily be able to recognize our modern day electricity because it has hardly changed from his original invention.


The common theme amongst many of the panelists was that Oklahoma has the ability to become the leader in the movement towards cleaner energy.  Oklahoma has long been a leader in energy and has the resources necessary to move away from a dependence on coal fired power plants.  Jim Roth stated in reference to wind and natural gas “when it comes to new sources of energy, we should use our native blessings.”  Whether or not you think wind is a blessing, it is a sure fact that Oklahoma has enough of it that can and should be used to our advantage.

After the panel concluded, there was time for questions and discussion with the audience.  Participants broke for lunch provided by the Sierra Club and continued conversation about the energy future of Oklahoma. Following lunch, the attendees relocated to two smaller breakout sessions.  One group discussed clean energy policies while the other discussed the grassroots movement to transition away from coal and what they thought the campaign should do in order inform others about the problems and dangers of coal powered energy.  The clean energy policy discussion was led by Bud Scott with Oklahoma Progress, PLLC and Montelle Clark with the Oklahoma Sustainability Network.  The main topics discussed were incentives and tax exemptions for individuals or companies that use clean energy.  The group also covered ways of lowering individuals’ consumption levels, including in-home displayed monitoring and pre-paid metering.  The main consensus in the other group, which focused more on achieving campaign goals rather than policy, was that in order for more people to get involved, there needs to be a greater awareness of the problems and dangers of dirty energy.  One way that the Beyond Coal Campaign is attempting to do this is by encouraging people to host mercury teach-ins for their friends and family.   If you want to find out how to host one of these teach-ins email whitney.pearson@sierraclub.org

Although Oklahoma’s Energy Future Forum took place early Saturday morning, there were still 75 dedicated individuals including public officials, energy experts, industry representatives, advocates, and interested Oklahomans eager to gather in order to learn about and discuss the solutions of moving Oklahoma beyond coal toward a clean energy future.  This forum was one of many exhibits of the continuously growing popularity of the topic of future energy production in the state.  The Governor’s Energy Conference is a similar event that will be held Wednesday November 9, 2011 at the Cox Business Center in downtown Oklahoma City.  These discussions are timely as the Environmental Protection Agency will be finalizing two new regulations by the end of the year (a regional haze plan and a mercury and air toxics safeguard) that will require utilities to decide whether to invest in cleaning up their coal plants or retiring them.

 


About the Author

Laura Tucker is a human relations student at the University of Oklahoma and an intern for the Sierra Club.

Holes in the Law the Size of Caves

The Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer underlies an area of approximately 530 square miles in south central Oklahoma and provides the drinking water to more than 40,000 people in cities such as Ada, Sulphur, Tishomingo, and Durant. The Arbuckle-Simpson is a karst aquifer which means that the movement and storage of water occurs primarily in joints, faults, and solution channels of carbonate rocks such as limestone and dolomite.

Because much of the water is stored in fractures, it responds relatively quickly to groundwater withdrawals and can carry pollutants long distances in relatively short amounts of time. This makes karst aquifers especially sensitive to human activities.

Karst aquifers are extremely complex hydrogeologic systems, often exhibiting a polygonal network of multiple groundwater basins with subterranean channels stacked and criss-crossing one another with a combination of horizontal, inclined, and vertical flow paths.


In 2008, a 5 year state and federal hydrology study was completed that was to determine the maximum annual yield of groundwater that could be pumped from the aquifer without impacting the springs and streams. The study was limited both in time and in funding, limiting the scientists and the area that could be studied. To come up with a number that was reasonable within the time and money allocated, the scientists were forced to collect general information about the aquifer and come up with ONE number based on the aquifer recharge average.

However, there is no single number of the average annual rainfall that can be effectively applied to the aquifer as a whole. This is because some groundwater basins may recharge at 17 inches of the average 40 inches of rainfall, where as others may recharge at less than 3 inches. This means that if 40 inches of rain falls on the ground surface, only 3 inches is what percolates into the aquifer and the other 37 inches leaves as overland flow.

From the recharge average a number is to be set that is the equal proportionate share that is to be divided equally among the owners of water rights based on surface acreage over the aquifer. Traditionally the state has allowed landowners to pump 2 acre feet of water per acre of land; but the new law, which will be applied only to landowners overlying the aquifer, is likely to reduce this number from 2 acre feet to about 2 acre inches.

The problem with this is that the city of Ada who gets surface water from Byrds Mill Spring, pumps from wells in the Arbuckle-Simpson to offset spring water use in dry spells. To meet the demand for pumping after the law takes effect, the city would be required to purchase additional groundwater rights overlying the aquifer. Because of this a special exception was made that water rights could be purchased anywhere across the aquifer to supplement the pumping for a specific well. However, the city of Ada is not the only entity that needs to buy additional water rights to supplement pumping after the law takes effect. Several mining companies across the aquifer are aiming to mine to depths far below the elevation of the watertable and to do this requires the removal of water to mine deeper.

Mines in one groundwater basin that recharges at less than 3 inches are able to purchase additional groundwater rights from elsewhere over the aquifer and then able to pump well beyond the basins recharge potential, ultimately drying up springs and streams.

The Arbuckle Karst Conservancy is well aware of this problem and has spent hundreds of hours collecting data from individuals wells and springs to create standard models to show what is normal flow for specific springs. Within the aquifer is a complex network of caves that host a variety of unique and rare organisms that are dependent on the groundwater and continual flow of nutrients. The Arbuckle Karst Conservancy works closely with the Arbuckle Mountains Grotto to explore these caves and survey the fauna within them. Any changes that occur in groundwater reduction or disappearance of organisms, the Arbuckle Karst Conservancy will be able to provide information to the landowners effected that shows the historical data and the present reduction in water and or biodiversity. This data can be compared with the anthropogenic activities and possibly linked to show that the anthropogenic activities are responsible for the change in the subsurface. The Arbuckle Karst Conservancy does not have the power to change the law, but they are able use hard science to show that the law is imperfect and protect innocent landowners by providing the tools for successful legal action against unsustainable industries.

More information about the Arbuckle Karst Conservancy can be found at http://www.arbucklekarst.org


About the Author

Kevin Blackwood is a Geology student at the University of Oklahoma and an Environmental Health Science and Geography student at East Central University in Ada. He is the director of the Arbuckle Karst Conservancy and past president of the Arbuckle Mountains Grotto. He has served on the Board of Directors for CPASA (Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer) since 2008, and has 3 published peer reviewed articles on Karst Hydrogeology. His research has led to the discovery of nearly 1,000 caves that are part of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer and the discovery of new and rare species of stygobitic and troglobitic fauna.

 

Photo Credits: All photos are property of the Arbuckle Karst Conservancy and the photographers that took the photographs. Do not use without permission.

Three Cheers for the EPA!

 

With glasses raised and the taps flowing, members of the Oklahoma Sierra Club, local leaders, and Oklahoma City residents converged on McNellies Pub on a Tuesday night. They came

together to show their appreciation for the Environmental Protection Agency and more specifically, the recent actions the agency has taken to clean up our air and water. Those in attendance also signed petitions to tell the EPA and President Obama that they want strong final rules that will truly make a difference. Acting on both the federal and state level, the EPA has four major actions in the works that have the potential to significantly reduce pollution related illness and the healthcare expenses that accompany them.

Three of these actions will set new air quality standards at the national level. These will reduce the amount of ozone, soot, and toxins that are emitted by the burning of fossil fuels. They are as follows:

  • Smog/Ozone Rule– Ozone is a highly reactive compound that is responsible for thousands of cases of bronchitis, asthma and heart attacks each year. This rule aims to change the current limit for ozone in the atmosphere from 84 parts per billion to 60-70 parts per billion. With the passage of this rule, an estimated 12,000 premature deaths will be prevented, as well as a savings of some $13-100 billion in healthcare expenses.
  • Soot Rule– Soot or fine particulate matter, is a combination of metals, chemicals and acid droplets emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels. An estimated 9,700 hospitalizations and 20,000 heart attacks are attributed to soot pollution. The purposed rule will lower the current soot standard, significantly reducing the fine particulate matter in our air and saving an annual $100 billion in healthcare cost.
  • Air Toxics Safeguard– Thousands of tons of toxic substances such as mercury, arsenic, lead, dioxin and acid gases are emitted into the atmosphere by the combustion of fossil fuels. These toxins lead a wide variety of health problems including, cancer, birth defects, asthma and reduced fertility. The passage of this rule will reduce the emissions of these toxins, making way for a cleaner, safer future.

The fourth major EPA action is taking place right here in our state. According to the Clean Air Act, individual states are responsible for making sure they meet regional haze requirements set by the EPA. These requirements limit the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, improving visibility and more importantly improving human health. Oklahoma’s State Implementation Plan, aimed at reducing pollution from the states three oldest coal-fired power plants, failed to meet these federal requirements. In response, the EPA has purposed a Federal Implementation Plan that has the prospect of bringing our state out of the “coal age” and into a clean energy future. Whitney Pearson, the Oklahoma field organizer for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, stated it best when she said, “We applaud the EPA for taking steps to reduce pollution from power plants in Oklahoma. This is a much needed step to protect the health of Oklahomans. Now it’s time for Oklahomans to examine whether coal-fired generation makes sense for a state with so much wind potential.”

There are a variety of ways that you can take action. First, I encourage each person that reads this article to take the next step and sign the online Stop Polluters Petition (Editor’s note: this website is currently not working). This is the fastest way you can express your concern for cleaner air and water. If you want to be more involved, you can make use of the public comment period and submit your thoughts directly to the EPA. The last and most important action you can take, is your personal presence at the EPA’s hearing for the review of the Federal Implementation Plan for Oklahoma. This will be taking place on Wednesday, April 13th in Oklahoma City. This is your opportunity to speak directly to the people of the EPA and let them know we want a clean energy future, no more coal.

It’s an exciting time for environmental progress. With the proposal of these new rules we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives and health of the people of Oklahoma as well as the nation. Now more than ever, the EPA needs the support of the citizens that it protects to help get the purposed rules approved and implemented. I hope that each of you will do your part to help move us into a cleaner, safer, and sustainable future.

 


About the Author

Matthew Weis is a student at the University of Oklahoma and an intern for the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club.
Photo Credits: melalouise

Trap the Grease Oklahoma!

Did you know that when fatty and greasy foods are washed down the drain, the fat and grease in the food can build up in the sewer lines, just like in your arteries?

As fat and grease builds up, it create blockages and cause raw sewage back out of the sewer system. Raw sewage can end up in people’s homes, backyards, businesses, and our waterways creating environmental and public health hazards.
High levels of harmful bacteria and other pollutants can make some Oklahoma rivers, lakes, and streams unusable for swimming, boating, or fishing.
Fats, Oils, and Grease, aka FOG, isn’t a well known environmental issue, but it is an issue in which everyone contributes. Most people think, “I don’t cook bacon or fry anything, so it’s not my problem”. Well…the problem isn’t just bacon grease or fried foods; it’s anything with a fat content like: ranch dressing, alfredo sauce, olive oil, and even ice cream.
The city of Tulsa encourage residents to follow these simple steps to keep fats, oils, and grease out of the sewer system.

Tips for Taking Care of Grease

  1. Collect meat drippings in a sealable container and dispose of in the trash.
  2. Scrape any leftover food scraps into the compost or trash; limit the use of your garbage disposal.
  3. Before washing, wipe grease residues like oily or creamy sauces from utensils, plates, pots, and pans into the trash.
  4. If available, like in Tulsa, recycle all waste liquid cooking or frying oils at a recycling station.

Remember, the sewer system needs a no-fat diet. Prevent costly plumbing problems and protect our waterways- Trap the Grease Oklahoma! For more information on visit: www.TraptheGreaseTulsa.com

 



About the Author

Kristi Shreve is an environmental compliance specialist with the City of Tulsa’s Public Works department that specializes in pollution prevention practices for wastewater issues.

Takeout Without the Waste

It takes approximately 20 seconds to put our food into take out containers. Convenient? No, actually extremely inconvenient. The packaging can remain in our landfills forever, causing continued damage to us and our world. The American population tosses out enough paper bags and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. Wouldn’t it be better to fill our stomachs and not our landfills?

Since restaurants add so much to our waste-line (read as waist-line too!), and we frequent them regularly, help your restaurant help you reduce your waste (and it will be great for all of us too!).

Here are 10 easy things for restaurants to do that will, in the end, be great for our health, wallet and the world!

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Takeout Waste

  1. Join TakeOutWithOut the campaign to reduce restaurant waste. It’s free, helpful and will fill you up with some great ideas and free downloads
  2. Use reusables instead of disposables for everything possible. That’s your job – yes, people might stare, but remember, you are a trendsetter and it’ll soon catch on – just like reusable water bottles have over the past years.
  3. Encourage restaurants to use compostable, safe options for their required disposables. We get that restaurants don’t want to give takeout patrons a cloth napkin, but no need for them to use virgin paper all bleached and processed.
  4. Reduce the amount of packaging to what is only absolutely necessary. No double bagging please. If you aren’t going to use them, don’t take a handful of ketchup packets, soy sauces, straws or cutlery. Supply and demand. If you are taking your takeout meal home, we’re hoping you have cutlery there.
  5. Suggest they sell smart & safe solutions (reusables) such as bottles, containers, straws, bags, etc. Imagine seeing an amazing container or a reusable bag, it might inspire you. You may buy one or more. The restaurant will make money while encouraging new habits and creating awareness. If they offer an incentive to keep bringing the container back, you’ll be a more loyal customer. The restaurant will have less of a need for disposables, saving them money, and saving our precious resources. Win, win win!
  6. Encourage them to incent their customers to bring/use reusables by offering a discount or something for free (they should be able to afford it – see #5 above). Who doesn’t love getting supersized? Wouldn’t you bring your own mug if you were getting more? Or bring your own bag if you were able to get something for free because of it?
  7. Recycle and compost on site. This is an easy one. In Toronto, we are already sorting everything at home into compost, recycling and garbage. It should be happening everywhere else in the city also.
  8. Suggest donating surplus food to a community meal service or directly to those in need. Random acts of kindness rock our world!
  9. Applaud them! Change comes from without. Tell them how great they are and send customers their way because of all the good they are doing.
  10. Let them know to pass this on to others and encourage them to be TOWO champions. They will want to inspire others just like you’ve inspired them!

Together we can change the outrageous amount of unnecessary waste we create everyday as well as drastically reduce it. Don’t’ forget, we are the customers, and aren’t we always right? Your power lies in your wallet and your voice matters. That’s got to be worth trying for!

 


About the Author
Lisa Borden is an eco-advocate and mother of three, whose business is a direct reflection of her commitment to better, more responsible living. She is a dedicated workaholic, admitting that it takes a lot of time and effort to change the world, especially in her non-preachy, fun, engaging and inspiring ways. Lisa consults, writes, engages the media, runs private workshops, and enjoys speaking to large and small groups. Her full-service marketing firm, Borden Communications + Design Inc. is based in Toronto, Canada and takes great pride in being an ethical business providing exceptional ideas.