We love lakes, we love rivers and streams, and we love our oceans. March 22, is World Water Day. Clean water is a human right and should be available to every human being. Unfortunately, some of us have too much water, but many don’t have enough water, and the water they have is polluted. I am lucky to live in a place with lots of water, but it is a struggle to keep it clean. Many live with polluted wells and water from farm pollution. Why they have allowed farm run-off to pollute their wells is beyond me??? The farming industry has gotten away with polluting our water, and for some reason they now think they have that right. Where I live, farm run-off is the number one cause for the pollution of our water ways and ground water. Lack of regulation on agriculture can harm water resources when raising pork, beef and other livestock, along with sugar beets, corn and soy beans.
There are industrial cities like Houston, Texas, that allow industry to pollute air and water. Stronger regulation is needed to stop water and air pollution, but that is not happening in the United States anytime soon.
Agriculture and industry are major water pollutants, but so is plastic. As the spring flooding overflows the banks of creeks and rivers the winter trash is getting washed off the land, into our waterways, then into our oceans. With some personal responsibility we all can make a difference with our behavior to water.
On this World Water Day weekend I challenge you to go meatless, I challenge you to go plastic-free, and I challenge you to get outside and pick up trash.
Plastic lasts more than a lifetime! Humans have created 9 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and most of this plastic still exists on earth. Only 9 percent has been recycled, and 11 percent incinerated. That leaves much of the plastic ever produced floating around in our waterways, poisoning fish, or releasing chemicals in landfills. As citizens of this planet we should be doing everything we can to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
The PBS NewsHour is doing an interesting series on plastic this week. I hope you will watch. See below:
This summer I wished I could have given some of our rain to drought stricken North or South Dakota. Everyday on Lake Superior seemed to sprout a rain shower. When I read the water quality of Lake Superior wasn’t superior to other Great Lakes anymore, my first thought was of this summer’s rain. Because of the rainy summer, the lake level became very high, and this high water caused some of the soft lake banks to erode into the lake causing lake sediment. The streams running into the lake bring more sediment into the lake.
An unusual fact about Lake Superior: Many streams and rivers drain into the big lake, but only one river drains out of the lake, the St. Mary’s River, and that is regulated at Sault Ste. Marie. I know the water that flows out through the St. Mary’s River is complicated with many factors, but releasing more water from the lake could probably help water quality of Lake Superior. Read at St. Mary’s River.
We can all do better to protect the water quality this magnificent lake, and other lakes also.
Slowing down the water flow can help. Buffer strips of deep-rooted plants along streams and along the lake can reduce sediment run-off, and putting in rain gardens and rain barrels can also slow the water.
The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!
I would add a few more:
Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways. Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
Always pick up litter.
The water we have on earth is the only water we will ever have, we must take care of it!
Plastic came into being about 1950. It is lightweight and easy to make into many things. Unfortunately, plastic is awful for our wildlife and waterways. Both are choking on this ubiquitous plastic pollution.
What are microplastics? They are tiny pieces of plastic that come from our clothes, plastic litter, and synthetic fibers. Read or listen to the entire story at MPR.
At the present these plastic particles are too small to be strained out of our water treatment plants so they end up polluting our waterways, lakes and oceans. There is a new laundry bag you can purchase (see below) that will filter the microfiber when you wash your clothes.
I love this list from MPR:
5 things you can do to reduce microplastic pollution
Cut back on consuming single-use plastic products such as shopping bags, Starbucks cups and plastic utensils. Replace them with reusable items like travel mugs, silverware
and cloth bags.
Buy only facial scrubs, toothpaste and other personal care products made with natural exfoliants, such as oatmeal and salt.
Buy clothing made of organic or natural materials rather than synthetic fibers. Buy only what you need, and invest in higher-quality items so you don’t need to replace them as often.
Don’t wash your clothes as often, especially items made from synthetic fabrics like fleece jackets.
Invest in a mesh laundry bag, guppy friend, designed to capture shedding fibers during the washing cycle. Read about guppy friend here.
The substances that turn our lakes and rivers green each summer come from our lawns and yards. We think of leaves as waste, but to a lake they are food. The algae in lakes love leaves and fertilizers, and when we feed lakes too many chemicals and leaves, algal blooms turn our lakes and rivers green and smelly. Protecting water is everyone’s job What can you do? Simple–remember the land/water connection! What we do to the land we do to the water. Reduce chemicals, clean your streets when the leaves fall from the trees, and when you mow the grass clean your streets and sidewalks. Keep our lakes and rivers clean.
“The world around us,” she says, “we take it for granted. But if we pause a moment and look around, there’s so much beauty right in our own backyard. I want people to see that. I want people to realize this is not an ugly world.” Ellen Lentsch
This is an amazing story of a woman who climbed up the Red Wing, Minnesota bluffs, overlooking the Mississippi River, to take a sunrise picture everyday of 2016. Read the entire story and see her pictures here
“My vision is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature” Jane Goodall
It’s raining where I live. Do you ever wonder where all that rainwater goes? Our earth naturally manages rainwater, drainage, and wetlands, and it is able to naturally purify and clean our water. Unfortunately, we created an impossible situation with our concrete urbanization and all the chemicals we use. Instead of allowing the rain to fall and soak into the ground we get it away from our houses and buildings as fast as we can sending water rushing down our storm drains into our lakes and rivers. As this water cascades over concrete and asphalt it picks up chemicals, pollutants, trash, lawn clippings and leaves which wash into our lakes, rivers, and oceans.
This is a classic example if everyone were to do just a bit to give some of this natural cleaning back to the earth, it would make a big difference in our water quality.
No one wants a wet basement, so always keep water 10 feet from your house or apartment, but beyond the 10 feet you can do many water managements things with a few flexible downspout extensions which you can purchase at hardware stores.
Below is an excellent blog from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization on a very simple way to use some of the water running off your home, and making a big difference for water quality.
From the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization : “Your goal, as an eco-friendly house-dweller, is to soak as much of that water into the ground as possible. The soil will filter out the pollutants and the water will move downward until it reaches the water table. As a bonus, any plants, trees or other vegetation in the area will soak up a portion of the water to use as fuel.” Read the entire blog here.
The same thing can be accomplished on agricultural land that uses buffer strips of trees and deep-rooted plants along ponds and streams. These buffer strips absorb the chemicals! The Gulf of Mexico thanks you! Read at Gulf
This morning while walking around the lake by my house, I was sad to see plastic bottles bobbing around in the lake. The amazing thing is that those plastic bottles from a lake in land-locked Minnesota could end up in the Gulf of Mexico. 80% of marine litter originates from land. The Minnehaha Creek drains this lake into the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Plastic in a Minneapolis lake, could float the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, these plastic bottles and bags are a dangerous threat to marine life, and they are unpleasant to water recreation.
I am sure you know most of the ways to avoid plastic, but you might learn something from this list on reducing plastic use. The excellent list below is from the NRDC https://www.nrdc.org/:
“Plastic, of course, is uniquely problematic because it’s nonbiodegradable and therefore sticks around for a lot longer (like up to 1,000 years longer) than other forms of trash. And we’re not just talking about people dumping their garbage overboard. Around 80 percent of marine litter actually originates on land—either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows.
So the best thing we can do to protect our waterways is trying to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place. The good news? There are many small ways you can have a big impact. The NRDC has ten important ways to reduce your plastic footprint:
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.
2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.
3. Boycott microbeads.
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
4. Cook more.
Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.
5. Purchase items secondhand.
New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.
6. Recycle (duh).
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
7. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
8. Buy in bulk.
Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.
9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.
Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)
10. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.” NRDC
I would add one thing to the list. Never use Styrofoam! Some stores package fruits and vegetables on Styrofoam trays! Awful.
Finally, current status of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities from Friends of the Mississippi.
I know people get tired of my harping on plastic, but plastic is a serious world problem. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition the average shopper uses 500 plastic bags a year, and that is just bags, not all the other plastic products. This is not sustainable!
I love thinking of how my grandparents lived, and how it is different from today. I loved this post from One Green Planet about what we can learn from the past and from our grandparents. Read it here.
Below is a quote from One Green Planet which show how serious this plastic issue is!
“In the past 30 years alone, the amount of plastic produced worldwide has increased by 620 percent! On average, that equates to 300 million tons of plastic a year. Of this 300 million tons, about 8.8 million tons find their way into the world’s oceans where they are left to slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces – and by slowly, we mean over the course of 100 to 1,000 years. When you consider the huge volume that is added to the oceans every year and the fact that plastics never really “go away,” we find our oceans crowded with a massive soupy mixture of harmful plastic products. This sadly has a massive impact on the marine animals who call our oceans home. Around 700 marine species are in danger of extinction due to entanglement, ingestion or general pollution caused by our plastic trash.”
Our grandparents didn’t have the choices and variety we do. They cooked and ate hearty food on real dishes, but most important they conserved, reused, and didn’t throw everything away like we do today! I would stay with my grand parents for a week and we didn’t need to run to the store to buy buy buy. We used what we had.
What do you remember about how your grandparents did things?