As you start to think about your summer garden, it very important to incorporate native plants into your plan.
Native plants provide more food for birds and beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees where non-native or invasive plants do not. More specifically, because native trees and shrubs have evolved with the local wildlife, they harbor more insects or yield more berries and fruit than non-native plants. For example, a native oak tree may have as many as 534 different species of moths and butterflies on its bark where an introduced species like Bradford pear or crepe myrtle has almost none.
When headed out to your local garden store this spring, it is important to know the difference between native plants and those that are non-native or invasive.
For help in telling the difference, The National Audubon Society’s Native Plants Database is a great place to start! The database will tell you what plants to buy and which birds those plants will support, but it will also show you where you can buy them.
If your garden center has no native plants, ask them to stock them! The birds and the bees will thank you.
Protect the Oysters
Long Island is home to a thriving oyster farming business, with many programs in place to sustain this important industry. We can do our part by supporting local growers, and the grants and leases that fund them. Or, the simplest way we can help? Eat more oysters!
As part of our Natural Climate Solutions series, we’re highlighting an important bivalve with a disproportionately large impact on the natural environment – the oyster.
Oysters are filter feeders, removing particles (along with biotoxins, chemical contaminants, bacteria and more) from the water through their natural feeding process. One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons per day! This means cleaner, higher-clarity water, clearing the way for sunlight and a healthy environment to benefit entire ecosystems.
Oysters also play an important role in minimizing the impacts of climate change. They absorb and sequester excess carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the water around them, incorporating it into their shells and tissue as they grow. Shellfish beds also stabilize sediments along the shoreline, helping to protect it from erosion caused by heavy storms and coastal flooding.
Protect Our Water Resources
Tuesday, March 22 was World Water Day, and marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act (the primary federal law governing water pollution)! If you live on Long Island, water plays an extremely important role in your daily life. From the drinking water aquifer below our feet to our beautiful beaches and bays, water matters.
While we’ve made significant progress in cleaning up many of our rivers, bays and other vital water resources, we still face significant water quality and quantity challenges. Drinking water sources are threatened by pollution and overconsumption, and some of these threats are made worse by climate change (think rising temperatures which leads to increased water evaporation and more rain/floods which leads to higher amounts of runoff and chemical contamination).
Let’s celebrate World Water Day by doing something good to protect our water resources.
- Don’t Waste Water – We know Land Alliance members already turn off the water while brushing their teeth and don’t do half loads of laundry. Click Here for 9 More Water Saving Tips https://www.nrdc.org/stories/9-tricks-save-tons-water
- Keep Water Clean – In addition to replacing failing septic systems with new clean water technologies and not flushing prescriptions drugs (or other toxic chemicals) down the toilet, here are ten more things you can do to keep our waters clean. https://www.dec.ny.gov/public/43661.html
Plant a Native Tree
Their spring blossom will reward you year after year and you’ll be doing something important help to fight climate change.
We featured the concept of Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) as an important step in mitigating climate change. Research tells us that protecting and restoring our forests is the single largest nature-based climate opportunity we have.
Over the past 8,000 years, humans have cleared up to half of the forests on our planet. Cutting down or burning forests releases the carbon stored in their trees and soil. Alternatively, as forests grow, their trees take in carbon from the air and store it in wood, plant matter and under the soil. If not for forests, much of this carbon would remain in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas driving climate change.
In sum, trees are good for our climate. Protecting our existing forests and planting new forests (“reforestation”) are two very important strategies to help address climate change in the future.
Act Now: We need strong climate policies now!
Per the recently released report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is a “rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”
We’ve made progress, but we still have a long way to go. While we have built a foundation for meaningful action through various funding programs, this will deliver only a small fraction of what is needed to meet the United States’ goal of reaching 50% economy-wide emissions by 2030. More must be done to accelerate clean energy transitions, enable carbon management and drive down these emissions across the country.
We must all take a role in the momentum for climate action. If we miss the narrow window of opportunity to act, we may lose our chance to make big strides over the next decade. The science is clear: We need strong climate policies now!
Source: The Nature Conservancy. For more information, please visit https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-insights/perspectives/ipcc-report-climate-change/
Support Programs that Invest in Natural Climate Solutions
We talk often about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions from factories, cars and airplanes as an important step in mitigating climate change, but we must also support programs investing in “natural climate solutions”.
What are natural climate solutions? They are conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes and wetlands across the globe. New research led by The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions demonstrates that nature-based solutions can provide up to 37 percent of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperature increases under 2°C.
This includes forest protection and re-growth, wetland conservation, agricultural practices and ocean rehabilitation.
What you can do:
- Conserve your land.
- Improve soil health.
- Take care of your trees.
- Join a Land Trust to assist their conservation efforts.
- Volunteer to help with land stewardship
- Vote for candidates who support natural climate solutions.
Restore and Maintain Wildlife Habitat
The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a global movement to better understand how birds are doing. The Land Alliance held its first GBBC survey at our Shore Road Sanctuary on Sunday, February 20, 2022.
Did observers see more birds this year or fewer than in other years? While the results are yet to be announced, we do know that climate change presents a serious threat to the birds we love. The habitats that are important to birds (like forests and grasslands) are also critical to reducing greenhouse emissions given their ability to naturally store and sequester carbon. This means that maintaining and restoring these landscapes through incentives for management and conservation are important strategies in our collective challenge to stabilize climate change.
If you would like to create a brighter future for birds (and people), click here to sign the Audubon petition asking our elected officials to listen to science and work toward climate solutions. or copy and paste the url below in your browser.
Invest in Energy-efficient Appliances for a Greener Home, Environment – and Pocket
Since Energy Star products were first implemented nationally in 1987, efficiency standards for dozens of appliances have kept 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the air – roughly the same amount as the annual carbon pollution output of nearly 440 million cars. Most ES-certified products use 20 to 30 percent less energy than comparable products, without any loss in performance. The efficiency of many appliances has actually skyrocketed. For example, modern clothes washers use 68% less energy than those manufactured in 1990.
Buying energy-efficient products are the lowest-cost way to reduce emissions, lower your electric and gas bills, and decrease water use. The next time you replace any electricity- or gas-consuming appliance in your home, look for the star. Plus, it will send the message to manufacturers that energy efficiency is an important quality in all products.
Protect and Restore Local and National Wetlands.
They’re important ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity, climate mitigation, natural water quality improvement and more.
In honor of World Wetlands Day, we’re highlighting the importance of these invaluable ecosystems that host an immense variety of species, all of which rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding times.
Wetlands act as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface and groundwater, rain and snowmelt. Their highly developed root systems hold soil in place (reducing land erosion) while plants absorb and filter water pollutants, naturally improving our water quality. Wetlands also store carbon within the soil and their plant communities rather than releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, therefore moderating global climate conditions.
These are just a few small examples of how vital our wetlands are. A few big ways you can make a difference? Limit your use of chemical fertilizers, avoid planting invasive trees and flowers that flush out the natives, take caution around local wetland wildlife, conserve water and reduce pollution.
Make Your Voice Known and Participate in the Democratic Process.
A very impactful way we can make a difference in our fight to slow down climate change is to make sure our representatives are making good decisions and supporting environmental-friendly measures such as the ‘Build Back Better’ plan (with roughly $555 billion set aside for climate advocacy).
An easy place to start is with our own local governments – responsible for what we experience in our day-to-day life and within our community. Ask them to champion climate change policies and commit to working on solutions. Don’t be afraid to contact your legislators when they’re not. By doing so, you send a message that you care about the warming world.
We need elected officials that advocate for our planet, embrace environmental protection policies, and are actively working towards preparing communities for future environmental challenges. Typically, only 1 out of 5 eligible voters participate in local elections — so make your voice known, it has a significant impact!
Unplug Your Electronics Overnight to Save Energy – and Our Environment.
Even when not in use, many electronic devices, including televisions, microwaves, and printers, use standby power to save warm-up time. In the U.S., the total electricity consumed by idle electronics, referred to as phantom electricity, equals the annual output of 12 power plants.
Although it may not be obvious, there’s a direct connection between our energy use and the environment. When we consume less power, we reduce the amount of harmful power plants emissions like carbon dioxide; we conserve more of the earth’s natural resources like trees, oil, and fossil fuels (and the demand to harvest them); and protect land and ocean ecosystems that mining, logging and material extraction destroy.
So take this small step to unplug your reachable devices. Although your own energy saving adjustments may seem inconsequential, little strides become great leaps when multiplied by 7 billion.
Winterize Your Home to Save on Energy Use and Costs.
Improving the resilience of our buildings and homes matters to our health, environment, and economy. T he use of energy-efficient materials and other flexible, durable upgrades – including weatherizing your home or office – can reduce climate risks and costs.
Luckily, it’s easy to winterize with these seven sustainable tips:
- Trap warm air in and keep frigid air out with eco-friendly insulation products such as Icynene, Cellulose or Aerogel.
- Keep your fireplace flue’s closed when they’re not in use.
- Clean your HVAC filter. A dirty filter blocks airflow, forcing your system to run harder to heat your house.
- Seal cracks in windows and doors with a sustainable resource like natural latex which is biodegradable and recyclable.
- Install storm windows, they’re easy to use and an excellent way to cut energy costs
- Invest in a Smart Thermostat that learns your schedule and heating preferences. Another great way to lower energy use and monthly bills.
With the many new electronic gifts received over the holidays, remember to repurpose the old.
Reduce e-waste by donating used goods like computers, TV’s and cell phones. The world’s output of discarded electronic devices can reach up to 50 million metric tons per year. An interesting statistic – it takes 530 pounds of fossil fuel, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture just ONE computer and monitor! Alternatively, recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 average U.S. homes in a year.
Much of what is labeled as “e-waste” is actually very marketable for reuse or materials recovery. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals. We discard an astonishing $60 million worth of gold and silver every year with our thrown away phones. Start your year off ‘green’ and take a moment to find out how and where to donate your used electronics locally. #makeadifference #gogreen #northshorelongisland
Compost Food and Other Organic Materials
Composting food and other organic materials can be as beneficial and important in the fight against climate change as recycling our glass and plastics.
Composting is the process in which microbes convert food scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil. This in turn keeps carbon out of the atmosphere, reduces methane emissions from landfills and produces valuable, chemical-free fertilizer which can be used to grow your plants. It has been estimated that if composting levels worldwide increased, we could reduce emissions by 2.1 billion tons by 2050.
Composting requires three basic ingredients: browns (i.e. dead leaves), greens (i.e. vegetable & fruit waste) and water. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter. With these 3 ingredients, a composting bin, and a dry, shady spot near a water source, we can make a huge positive impact on the environment.
To learn more about how and what to compost at home, visit https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.
And if you’re not quite ready to create your own composting practice quite yet, many communities offer programs that will do it for you!
Support an economy of friends and neighbors and shop close-by this holiday season. Spread the word and build a community that thrives by thinking local first!
As we head into the holiday season, we’d like to highlight the benefits of shopping locally. As we know, there are great economic advantages to supporting local businesses. When we buy from our hometown stores, a significant portion of our money is cycled back through our own local economy. These small businesses are also owned by friends and neighbors who are invested and engaged in our community’s future.
But shopping locally holds many environmental benefits as well. Resident businesses often employ members of the community, which translates to shorter commutes, less highway congestion and less fuel consumption. They cut down on packing and shipping waste, and the need for large storage and packaging facilities. Buying locally grown foods reduces our carbon footprint created by overseas plane travel or long truck trips. It also supports land-owning farms, which in turn help to protect the habitats of local wildlife.
Reduce Food Waste
During the Thanksgiving Holiday, an estimated 40% of all the food produced in the US goes to waste. That’s about $408B worth. The biggest proportion, about 37%, happens in the home.
Once this discarded food goes to a landfill and decomposes, it produces methane – a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. It has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
Reducing food waste costs almost nothing but delivers massive financial and environmental benefits. Fresh water, energy, land, and labor are used to create, process, transport, store, market, and prepare that food. Do what you can to keep your food out of landfills so all those resources aren’t wasted.
Climate tip of the week – making small changes to minimize food waste can make a significant difference in curbing our emissions output.
What you can do:
- Plan ahead and buy only what you need. For turkey, one rule of thumb is one pound per person
- Be creative with leftovers. Season potato peelings and bake them into chips. Make breakfast fritters with leftover mashed potatoes. Extra rolls into bread pudding. Or delicious turkey chili with leftover meat.
- Use your wilting produce to make smoothies, jams, sauces, and soup stocks. Or freeze your produce and meat trimmings for later use. (A great resource is the FoodKeeper App, which provides guidance on storage)
- Donate extra cans or boxes of unused food or share leftovers with guests and community members.
- Compost your food scraps. Learn how with resources from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Or, look into local community compost or drop-off opportunities.
Commit to reducing your dependence on single-use plastics
Plastic is polluting our entire planet, from the beaches of Long Island to the deepest depths of our oceans. Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the seas from coastal nations. Every square mile of the earth’s ocean surface is affected. At current rates, plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in our waters by 2050.
Plastics do not biodegrade. They break down into small particles called microplastics which are virtually impossible to recover. Therefore, once a plastic is introduced into our ecosystem- it will stay there forever. From the tiniest plankton to the largest whales, plastic impacts nearly 700 oceanic species. Which, in turn, affects the food we eat (and the water we drink). On average, people ingest approximately 5 grams of plastic per week.
Plastic pollution is a people problem, which means people like us can help solve it. With production expected to double over the next ten years, we need to do our part in making sure this plastic waste never reaches our ocean.
What you can do:
- Opt for no straw at a restaurant or fast-food take-out
- Buy a reusable water bottle
- Pack your children’s lunch and snacks with reusable bags
- Spend one hour each month cleaning up plastic at your local beach
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Today is America Recycles Day! A national observance created to educate our country about the environmental and economic benefits of recycling, and the pressing need for us to step up recycling efforts and buy recycled products.
The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we recycle less than 30% of it! One of the largest issues we face is single-use plastic such as water bottles, candy wrappers and grocery bags. The US produces the most plastic waste per capita of any country – with a startling 91% of it ending up in landfills. Trash materials take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose, all the while releasing high levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
What you can do:
Let’s make a concerted effort today and every day going forward to improve our recycling habits. The first, most important step is knowing your local rules to avoid recyclable contamination (one wrong item can contaminate a whole bag of trash and deem it unusable). If we all make one small change today, we’ll collectively make a lasting difference for all our tomorrows!
Rather than disposing of your fall leaves, gather them around garden and tree beds as a natural, chemical-free form of mulch.
Did you know that soil has the potential to absorb enough carbon in one year to equal roughly 5% of annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions?
Fallen leaves are a substantial source of nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and Carbon. As they decompose, these essential nutrients are released into the soil. Soil structure is improved so that it can absorb more moisture during rains and provide nutrients to plants that promote deeper root growth.
Rather than disposing of your fall leaves, gather them around garden and tree beds as a natural, chemical-free form of mulch. Land management practices that build and protect soil or increase the amount of carbon (organic matter) stored in soil, are reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and thereby decreasing the effects of climate change.
Reduce the Amount of Electricity You Use.
Electricity is one of those things we cannot live without. Our lives are accustomed to light when we need it, watching the news, refrigerated food and much, much more. While the invention of electricity changed the way we live for the better, it’s not good for the planet. Twenty-nine percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from generating electricity.
What you can do:
- Turn off the lights in your home or office when you’re not using them.
- Replace light bulbs with LEDs or other low-energy bulbs.
- Remember to turn off appliances like your television and computer when you don’t need them
- Only use your heating and cooling systems when necessary.
These simple life changes will not only help save the planet but will also keep your energy bills down.
Help Improve the Air Quality in Your Community.
Reducing the amounts of smog, smoke, airborne chemicals like CO2 and other forms of harmful air pollution can dramatically enhance climate change mitigation. Once released into the atmosphere, harmful pollutants can take years and even decades to breakdown.
What you can do:
- Avoid excess idling of your automobile.
- Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
- Combine errands and reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
- Refuel your car in the evening when it’s cooler.
- Plant native trees on your property like red oaks, sugar maples, black tupelos and pitch pines. These trees will not only make your home more attractive but will absorb airborne chemicals and release oxygen.
Reduce waste by making your back-to-school preparations as earth-friendly as possible.
School is around the corner for many of our children. There are things you and your children can do together to help protect our planet.
Fact: According to a recent World Wildlife report, US school food waste totals about 530,000 tons a year.
What you can do:
- Consider reusing backpacks, old lunch boxes and partially filled notebooks and school supplies.
- Recycle or donate what you don’t want.
- Introduce more plant-based foods in your child’s lunches. Animal-based products carry a much higher carbon footprint than plant-based foods.
- Avoid packing lunches in single-use plastics. Instead, use reusable containers.
- Consider organizing a clothes swap. Children grow so quickly and many items, like last year’s blue blazer, were hardly ever worn.
Burn Fewer Fossil Fuels
Turning the table on climate change will not happen with one single action. Success will include lifestyle changes, permanently protecting more lands, forests, farms and coastal areas, and advancing energy conservation and clean energy technologies. This week, we are zooming in on cars and how they contribute to climate change. In 2019, the transportation industry was the largest producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. and accounted for approximately 29 percent of total GHG emissions.
What you can do:
- Walk or bike if you can.
- If you must drive, remember smaller cars use less gas.
- Trade-in your gas-guzzling vehicle for an electric vehicle (EV). They are the wave of the future. Just last week, the Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that includes funding for EV charging stations across the country. By 2030, energy researchers estimate that electric vehicles will make up over 20 percent of new car sales. In the next few decades countries like the UK are planning to ban the sale of gas-powered cars all together and many automakers, like General Motors, plan to become carbon neutral.
Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the most thorough study on climate change to date. This year alone floods have devastated countries like Germany and China, heat waves have killed hundreds of people across the U.S. and Canada, and wildfires have raged across the globe like the Dixie fire in California, which on Sunday became the state’s second largest wildfire in history and has burned nearly 500,000 acres. Since the beginning of the 19th century, humans have heated the Earth by approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit, largely by burning oil, gas and coal for energy. According to the study, this rise in the planet’s temperature is now irreversible…but there is still a short window of time where the world can come together to stop things from getting even worse.
Join us this week in our efforts to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change! Our tip of the week is: water conservation. Water usage is inextricably linked to energy and climate change. Energy, which is converted into greenhouse gas pollution, is used to pump, heat, distribute and treat water. Conserving water reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
What you can do:
- Consider taking shorter showers or taking baths.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, washing your hands, shaving and washing dishes.
- Check your toilet for leaks and stop using your toilet as a wastebasket.
- Run the dishwasher and washing machine on warm or cold and only when they’re full.
- Consider wearing clothing items more than once before washing.
- Use as little water as possible to boil food and reuse the water left after boiling.
- During a hot summer, consider watering your lawn every 2-3 days instead of every day and turn your sprinklers off when it rains.
Read the full Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report here: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Full_Report.pdf.
Consume and Waste Less Plastic
Did you know that permanently protecting land, better managing forests, and improving agricultural practices could provide as much as 33 percent of the solution to mitigating and abating climate change? There are small steps all of us take.
Plastics originate as fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases as they break down in the environment. Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution, and it is currently one of the most pressing environmental issues. Approximately eight million pieces of plastic find their way into the oceans every day. Plastic pollution is responsible for the death of millions and millions of animals each year from sea birds to whales to African elephants and Arabian camels. Ending plastic use is vital to the future health of our planet.
What you can do:
- Replace plastic products, especially single-use items like plastic bags, with environmentally friendly options.
- Decline using plastic straws at restaurants or sign up for a local cleanup – or both!
- Put plastic waste in the correct recycling container and
- Wear natural fabrics.
- Help educate others about plastic pollution.