Learn, Grow, Engage

Last night was the premier launch of Engage Green, Team Green’s initiative to educate our listeners, Team Green members and the general Nashville community about simple ways to make your life greener. Engage Green was my brain child about two months ago and I am so proud to see it finally taking off, every First Tuesday of the month (except for in November, due to the election, when it is moved to the second Tuesday). This month’s topic was Water Conservation and Preventing Storm Water Pollution. What perfect timing too! Yesterday and today it has rained for the first time since September.

Here is a recap of what we learned:

The historic stereotype of large drain systems pouring neon green waste into rivers with a plant off in the distance are now obsolete. The major form of water pollution today is waste from private property including pet waste, vehicle fluids, garbage, and construction debris. This waste rests on top of impermeable surface area (does not absorb water, such as concrete and asphalt), floods our streets and yards, and is eventually pushed into our water sheds, rather than being naturally processed through the Earth’s filtration system (roots, dirt, rocks, and eventually making it to the ground water).

What is our solution? Councilwoman Evans explained that we can create permeable surface area on our private property. You can do this by replacing your impermeable driveways with crushed concrete, shredded tires (much like a running track), or other great options. We learned that the cost of crushed concrete compared to asphalt or regular concrete is minimal and lasts longer. The only maintenance it requires is to be “brushed” or cleaned with a leaf blower twice a year to remove sediment and other matter that clogs the surface. Metro Council is also implementing a fee per property (including government property, churches, houses, and commercial property) that will be added to our water bill based upon the estimated impermeable surface area we own. This fee can be lowered by creating more permeable surface area, including crushed concrete, rain gardens, rain barrels (rain water harvesting), green roofs, and more!

Margo Farnsworth also spoke about habits we can change in our daily lives to decrease the amount of water that we use. “It all goes back into the ground, right?” Wrong. It goes into the sewage system, which is pushed through miles of piping and eventually makes it’s way to a water processing plant, which uses electricity and chemicals to purify the water for reuse. By saving water on our end, we save energy and other costs on that end. Here are some tips she gave:

  1. When making coffee, only make as much as you know your household will consume. For example, I know that I will drink one cup and my roommate will drink one cup, so I only add 2.5 cups of water and a tablespoon or so (depending on how strong I want) of coffee grounds to my coffee maker. This will make exactly 2 coffee-cups full, and no extra coffee is dumped out.
  2. Hamburgers require a lot of water (I’m not sure why, though), so if Americans learn to curb their diets and consume smaller portions (go from a 1/4 pounder to wopper junior), we will save water.
  3. Turn the water off when brushing your teeth (duh!) and lathering your hands with soap. That water is not necessary to have on during the interim and will saves hundreds of gallons of water per year per individual.
  4. Most of our water use is actually put into the ground. Silly, huh, that we pay to water the ground that mother nature does on her own! Many individuals and companies water even when it’s raining! The best tip is to water your lawn or garden early in the morning or late at night and to use dip irrigation (soaker hoses, for example). Why? Because over half of the water used with sprinkler systems is absorbed into the air and never reaches the ground. Using a soaker hose, covered with mulch, ensures that the water only goes into the ground by the plants that you want watered, reduces the amount of water that is released per unit of time (because it drips out, rather than pours out), and the mulch prevents evaporation.

You can find more information about storm water pollution and ways to prevent it at Nashville.gov/stormwater.

We had about 15 people join us at Lipscomb University at their Institute for Sustainable Practice. Although Engage Green was a success for our first seminar (especially considering it was the same night as the debate at Belmont), there are things I definitely want to change for the next one. I had always invisioned these talks as a “How-To” discussion. I believe that many people get it. They understand that there is a problem; although they may not know exactly what the problems are, they get it and want to change. I want these discussions to be an opportunity for people in Nashville to come, learn an overview of the problem, and learn step-by-step how to make changes in their personal life. I want them to walk away with instructions in hand so that they can go home and make the changes over the weekend, and be confident in the process!

For this class, ideally we would have discussed the issue of storm water and the need for water conservation for about 20 minutes, then learned step by step how to create a rain garden, and how to install rain barrels, followed by a short discussion of simple things we can do daily (like the coffee advice above). Everyone would walk away with a handout including rain garden instructions and resources on one side, and rain barrel instructions and resources on the other. I will be sure to make the next seminars more hands on!

Our upcoming calendar will look a little something like this:

November 11th (Second Tuesday)
Location: Lipscomb University, Burton Building, Flex Learning room
Topic: Local Food Options and Composting
Learn about the benefits of local food and where to buy it. Also, learn a couple different ways to create your own composting system, especially with the holidays coming up. You’ll finally know what to do with all that left over food (when you just can’t eat anymore of it!)

December 2nd (First Tuesday)
Location: Lipscomb University, Burton Building, Flex Learning room
Topic: Energy Saving Options
Specifics TBA

January 6th (First Tuesday)
Location: Lipscomb University, Burton Building, Flex Learning room
Topic: Green Washing
If your new years resolution includes “Going Green,” you’ll need to know the difference between truely green products and what is simply advertised as green (known as Green Washing). Some products claim to be green because they are made of “all natural” ingredients, but these natural ingredients can still be harmful to you and your environment.

February 3rd (First Tuesday)
Location: Lipscomb University, Burton Building, Flex Learing room
Topic: TBA
Possibly we will discuss Green Building Options. Learn great spring remodling options that will preserve the environment and your money in the long run.

March 3rd (First Tuesday)
Location: Lipscomb University, Burton Building, Flex Learning room
Topic: TBA
Possibly we will discuss the topics missed during the storm water discussion, including step by step instructions how to create rain gardens, rain barrels, the benefits of trees, and other rain water conservation tips just before the “rainy season” hits.

If you have any topic suggestions, or are interested in presenting (all presentations must be non-political, and non-sales oriented), please contact me (kreed@tunedin.com). If you are interested in sponsoring an event (event sponsorship, product donation, food/beverage sponsorhip, or more) please contact Team Green Director, Laurel Creech (laurel@tunedin.com).


1 Response to “Learn, Grow, Engage”

  1. 1 Dimity October 8, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Good job Keeley! I’m excited to read more about this…maybe burgers take a lot of water because farming cows takes a lot of water? That’s my guess because I know beef farming sucks up a lot of other natural resources.

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