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Our Environment

Saving Water in the Yard

Often you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone! That can really be true with water. Taken for granted when it is plentiful, its importance is truly appreciated in the garden once it becomes scarce.

Water Conservation

If you find yourself in a drought, there are some things you can do to help conserve water and make the best use of what you have available.

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This year, my school has had the theme of water. We have studied the water cycle, learned about water resources and most recently, read about water pollution. I used to picture water pollution as a pretty simple phenomenon. I thought most of it was industrial pollution dumped into the waterways where it would kill fish, aquatic plants and hurt the ecosystem. It turns out that the issue is more complex than that; there are many causes of water pollution and they all contribute to environmental degradation in different ways. One of the things I didn't understand about water pollution was how much it can change the local environment. I always thought of water pollution as poisoning the water, but some sorts of pollution actually encourage plant growth. For example, farm runoff enriches the water with minerals, causing algae and other plants to grow. These algae, in turn, limit the amount of sunlight that can penetrate through the water and reduce the oxygen levels, killing fish. By helping some organisms grow, the pollution damages other organisms that are native to the waterways. Another thing I didn't realize about water pollution was how much of it is passive. For example, in my community all of the storm sewers drain directly into the river. When it rains, water washes litter, oil from cars and even sewage into the storm sewers, causing them to pollute rivers. Just by virtue of living near this sort of sewer system, we are contributing to water pollution. I've also learned how much we can do about water pollution by being active in our neighbourhoods and communities. Our class has recently done a volunteer program where we go around, labelling storm sewers with helpful signs. The Signs tell people not to dump oil and other hazardous household chemicals into the storm drains. Many people don't realize that there is a difference between storm drains and the sewers that carry waste away from your house. By educating people about these differences, our class helps to cut down on the amount of untreated pollution that is dumped directly into the rivers. Next week, we are going to learn more about water pollution and how to fight it by volunteering with a river cleanup. Our class is taking a trip to a river where we will pick up trash from the shores and shallows. We're actually starting at a beach near to my house, which means I'll be able to enjoy a cleaner beach thanks to our volunteer crew. It's nice to be able to simultaneously help the community and help myself!

The demise of the Amazon rain forest is just a breath away At 2.6 million square miles, the South America's Amazon rain forest is a little less than the size of the United States. It is fringed by Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, but 70% is within Brazil. The Amazon River slices it from west to east where it flows into the Atlantic. Situated on the equator, the doldrums, it has an average annual precipitation of 50 to 260 inches a year, the highest and most extensive in the world (only a small area in Africa competes). The tropical rains pour abundantly, but the trees release moisture that returns as rain and provides nearly half of the rainforest's water needs. Emitting significant amounts of oxygen that animals require for their own metabolism, the Amazon rain forest is a blessing to all life, including humans, or so you would think. Although the indigenous people living there have treated the forest with reverence, modern, civilized people have come to destroy it for their profit. Today, the Amazon rain forest is under attack. Once it was entirely rain forest, with mahogany it's most coveted tree. Its trees, as well as the plants that are used as pharmaceuticals, are what first attracted corporations, the principle enemy of the Amazon rain forest. With its wealth of timber and global demand, the rain forest offered irresistible profits to logging companies. From the 1970s to the present day, 20 percent of rain forest trees have been felled by power chain saws. Twenty years from now, another 20 percent may suffer the same fate. When that feat is accomplished, the rain forest may not produce enough rain from its own moisture and the remaining flora could die from the ensuing drought. Even with its high rainfall levels, the trees are not secure. Drought has occurred in the Amazon Basin. It did in 2005. With global warming changing weather patterns, another drought is likely again. Without the rain, the Amazon Basin could become the largest tinderbox in the world. A mere forty years ago the rain forest was standing tall, despite occasional wildfires that were unable to prevail beneath the plentiful rain. With the reduction of rain, the trees are now more at risk. While half of the fires were started unintentionally, the other half are fully intentional; burning trees is the easiest way to clear land to use for planting. Because a new predator, the farmer, has joined the loggers, particularly the soy farmers and cattlemen, vast tracts are being burned. So extensive is the burning, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by these fires has made the Amazon Basin a major source of greenhouse gases and an accelerator to global warming. Once a source of the oxygen, the Amazon Basin is starting to choke the animal kingdom. With its limited resources, the government of Brazil is attempting to put the brakes on this horrendous free fall. Laws protect millions of acres of [...]

Something that is not really new, but may be new to you, is to collect rainwater for later use. People have been capturing and using rainwater for a long time, but today you can find systems that are more complex and useful than ever before. Most people use barrels to gather rainwater, but you can buy all types of neat systems now that can save more water and also make things much easier once it has been set up. The reason why you may want to consider looking into rainwater collection systems is because water is short in many areas of the world. If you live where you are not getting enough rainfall, or if you are under drought conditions, you know that there are many things that you should not be doing, including watering your lawn, garden, washing your cars or even the exterior of your home. These things are wasteful when there is a shortage of water for people, animals and farming needs. Rainwater can fix all that - when you get it. It can also help with overall water conservation even if things are fine in your area. You can use the water you gather in rainwater collection systems to water your grass, garden and for any other use you may have. It may not be the best for drinking unless you have a good and approved filtration system. However, these allow you to use water for things (even swimming pools) when you are otherwise forbidden due to drought conditions. The rain can water your lawn, but if you can collect it, you can use it when a few days or even weeks have passed and your lawn is turning brown. Use it for whatever you wish as long as it is safe. You can use barrels for rainwater collection if you wish. You can have them under your eaves and gutters so that they catch what would normally run away into the ground or even out into the street. However, nowadays you can find more sophisticated units that have a bladder to which you would attach a hose that can be turned on and off. These can be as big or as little as you wish. Get the size you can afford and what you have space for. Some are made to fit under porches and decks to stay out of sight. Rainwater collection systems can be found in some home improvement or garden supply stores, or you can look online to see what you would like to have. You can even try to find some that are made from recycled material if you are into being kind to your world and immediate environment. These systems are not a steady source of water, but they can be a great way to store what falls from the sky for when you need it the most or saving water.

What is Meant by Ethical Lawn and Garden Supplies? If you want to feel good about what you eat and about what you are walking on, organic lawn and garden products should be things that you can feel good about. At times they don't work quite as well and may cost a little more, but you won't think twice about putting your child down to crawl through the grass when you know it is chemical free. Not only are you doing yourself a favour, you are protecting your small part of the earth. If more and more people do that, there may be hope for turning things around after all. Ethical or green lawn and garden items would be products that do not harm the environment. You won't want to eat them, but they are natural things that are not chemically processed. Think of it as organic gardening and lawn care. If you choose vegetables and fruit at the store that are organic, it would be a natural choice for you to use ethical products to care for your lawn and to grow vegetables that you are going to eat and feed to your family. Things won't be as perfect as they seem to be with other products, but you don't worry about chemical poisons this way. If you love your lawn and garden, you probably take a lot of time caring for them so that they are healthy and growing. You may also use a few different things to help your grass stay greener; to keep weeds out of both your grass and your garden, and you may also use pesticides if you are growing vegetables in your garden. The problem with some of these things is that they are great for keeping things looking good, but they may not be so good or the environment or for the health of your family. Think about green or ethical things that you can use instead. Everyone will feel better if you do. First, think of fertilizer as it used to be. In the past, the best fertilizer was animal waste. Farmers still use this method with great results. Waste is absorbed back into the earth and is full of great stuff that makes plants grow big and strong. The problem can be the smell. Look for organic fertilizer in your local home stores. Check the labels to be sure that all of the ingredients in these lawn and garden products are indeed natural and things that you feel comfortable using in your garden. Remember to wash all things well that you are going to eat, as you normally would. When it comes to pesticides, you probably use these lawn and garden products for a very good reason. Pests can destroy your lawn and can wipe out a garden on a bad year. You can get organic products that can help you with this and you won't have to worry about what you are putting into the earth and into your [...]