April is Earth Month and each of us plays a role in conserving our planet’s natural resources. Fortunately, we can start with something as simple as a trip to the grocery store. Here are some practical tips from Socket to make your next grocery run a green and fun one!
Green Grocery Steps:
1. Assemble a Green Grocery Kit: Did you know that in the U.S. alone, we use 380 billion plastic bags and wraps yearly, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to create?(i) Avoiding the plastic bags from the store reduces pollution and saves money. Additionally, plastic pollution costs citizens in the taxes they pay for of the litter removal costs. These costs can total in the millions of dollars annually for cities such as Nashville.(ii) A solution is to purchase, repurpose, or create reusable bags/containers like those pictured.
2. Support your local farmer’s market. Shopping local cuts down on many different types of waste, such as transportation resulting in greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps your money in your community. The Nashville Farmer’s Market is the city’s largest local market and is open year-round and the spring season is just kicking off.
3. Shop with the Green Grocery Shopping Route in mind: When shopping, consider the route you take when you walk around placing food in your bag or buggie. For example, focus on selecting fresh fruits and vegetables which have the lowest environmental impact, and they are healthy for you too. Remember that minor imperfections and blemishes don’t render produce inedible. By not shying away from imperfections, you can help reduce the approximate 133 billion pounds of food wasted in America annually.iii Fresh foods are also not packaged, therefore minimizing the amount of waste. Avoid and decrease your selections of highly processed or packaged items. Use your own containers to contain non-refrigerated fruits and veggies, as well as baked goods. As you can see, the weight of such containers is negligible.
Apples in a reusable plastic container versus plastic bag. Onions weigh the same in plastic as (clean) old pantyhose.
4. Try to buy only what you will consume before your next return to the store. In the United States, food waste is estimated between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This food waste is the single largest component going to municipal landfills helping make them the third largest source of methane in the U.S.iv Nearly 400 lbs. of food is wasted by the average American family each year!v
5. Get ready for a Green Grocery Checkout: Place bags and containers on the grocery belt and marvel as they whirl through the process and return to your shopping cart. Rehearse your checkout mantra that explains a peculiar looking shopping cart: “Just saving the Earth a little plastic.”
6. If you have forgotten your bags, ask a store attendant for a cardboard box. Often grocers have boxes that they will gladly provide.
Now that you have a Green Grocery Game Plan, get out there and enjoy the seasonal bounty of your favorite market knowing you’ve shopped sustainably too!
i Anderson, Marcia. (March 6, 2014). Confronting Plastic Pollution One Bag at a Time. EPA. Retrieved from: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/tag/plastic-bags/
ii MidAtlantic Solid Waste Consultants. (2009) Litter in America: Fact Sheet – Costs of Littering. Keeping America Beautiful. Retrieved from: https://www.kab.org/resources/end-littering
v Sahagun, Louis. (August 28, 2013). Report unveils hidden costs of litter cleanup for Californians. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/28/science/la-sci-sn-litter-hidden-costs20130827
Can you remember the last time you saw a dark night sky, full of stars and planets, in vivid detail? For many of us living in the world’s cities, the answer may be “no” or “never.” When we think of pollution, we don’t often think of the lights that line our streets and illuminate our buildings. This week is International Dark Sky Week, so let’s dive into some related questions: what is light pollution, what are its effects, and how can we manage it?
Light pollution is “light from cities, vehicles, etc., that makes it difficult to see things in the sky (such as stars) at night.”[i] Too much nighttime light can disrupt bird migrations and sea turtle hatchings, cause glare and accidents for motorists and pedestrians, and disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep cycles and produce hormones that protect us from disease. Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.[ii] From a sustainability perspective, excessive or unshielded lights waste both energy and money.
Image credit: I.D.A.[iii]
The good news about light pollution, in contrast to many other forms of pollution, is that it is immediately reversible. With smart lighting design and turning off unnecessary lights, we can darken our skies and return to a vista full of stars. Here are some tips on reducing light pollution from the International Dark Sky Association:
To minimize the harmful effects of light pollution, lighting should
· Only be on when needed
· Only light the area that needs it
· Be no brighter than necessary
· Minimize blue light emissions
· Be fully shielded (pointing downward)[iv]
Metro’s Historic Courthouse Dark for Earth Hour 2018
Here at the Department of General Services, we do our part to reduce light pollution and eliminate wasted energy. The Department manages nearly 100 city buildings. In each, we strive to ensure that building lighting follows an occupancy schedule and that only necessary lights are on at any given time. Our 21 LEED® certified buildings have automated lighting systems that ensure lights turn on and off at set times. Most of the Department’s buildings are not occupied at night, which means their non-essential lights are turned off to reduce light pollution and save energy.
By being aware of light pollution and the simple, commonsense actions we can all take to reduce it, together we can begin to reclaim Nashville’s night sky.
Our health and the health of our planet are inextricably intertwined. When we take a walk in the woods or gaze at a natural scene, our stress levels decrease, and our mental health improves. When temperatures and humidity exceed certain thresholds, incidence of heatstroke and heat exhaustion skyrocket. When we consume fresh, whole foods and pure water, our physical health and energy improve. When air quality is compromised by pollution, cases of asthma flare up.
This first week in April is “National Public Health Week.” What better time to reflect on the close connections between sustaining ourselves and our planet? This year, the American Public Health Association is focusing one day of National Public Health Week specifically on environmental health.
APHA’s goals around environmental health include:
Reduce our collective carbon emissions footprint. Transition to renewable energies. Protect our natural resources and use evidence-based policy to protect our air, water and food. Support environmental health efforts that monitor our communities for risks and develop health-promoting interventions. Call for transportation planning that promotes walking, biking and public transit — it not only reduces climate-related emissions, but helps us all stay physically active.
Learn more about the importance of environmental health, and what you can do at http://www.nphw.org/nphw-2018/environmental-health.
The Metro Nashville Department of General Services’ Division of Sustainability and Socket, Nashville’s Sustainability Outlet work to make Metro buildings, grounds, and operations harmonious with our visitors’ and employees’ health and the environment. Our electric and alternative fuel vehicles, 21 LEED® certified buildings, and efforts to inspire sustainable practices at the office and home all support people’s health and the wellbeing of the planet.
Richard H. Fulton Campus, managed by Department of General Services
Ultimately, the saying “what goes around, comes around” proves true. By ensuring that our everyday actions are respectful of the world around us, by being conservative with our natural resources, and by treating the planet with kindness, we are helping build better health and wellness for all people.
Join Socket at the annual Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival on April 14th in Public Square Park. Learn more at http://www.nashvillecherryblossomfestival.org/.
Whether you celebrated Punxsutawney Phil’s findings this year or not, it is likely that Nashville will face a bit more freezing weather. In preparation, the Department of General Services Division of Sustainability wishes to remind employees and residents about best practices for de-icing (the process of removing snow and/or ice from a surface). Safety is the most important consideration for de-icing and snow clearing efforts, but it is important to remember that de-icing materials impact more than the snow or ice they melt. How and when we use these materials is essential to the health of our environment.
The most effective de-icing agents have chemical formulas containing chloride and acetate. Salt (NaCl) is the most common. But others, such as magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and potassium acetate (CH3CO2K) are common examples too. Unfortunately, these extraordinary “melters” have negative effects on the environment. Some of these negative effects include preventing plants from absorbing moisture, leaching heavy metals, and creating algae blooms. Although researchers continue to pursue a completely safe alternative to those formulas containing chloride and acetate, none yet exists. Brands that advertise eco-friendly products often still contain large proportions of chloride or acetate; or, these brands are not effective at temperatures below freezing!
So what CAN you do?
1. Wear Proper Shoes
Boots with a solid toe and bottom tread will help increase your grip on icy surfaces.
2. Shovel First
Shovel snow early and often; then decide whether to use a de-icing agent. If you must use a de-icer, your shoveling will not have been in vain. De-icers work best on thin layers of precipitation.
3. Don’t Over-apply
Use just enough. A general rule is 2 lbs. of de-icer for every 500 sq. ft. One pound of de-icer is approximately one heaping 12 oz. coffee mug.
4. Place Carefully
Apply materials only where needed and keep de-icing materials away from plants and foliage.
5. Clean up and Reuse
Sweep up left over salt and store it properly for reuse. This saves money and keeps unused product from washing into streams and rivers, where it can negatively impact the aquatic ecosystem.
Material for this blog was compiled from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ 2010 report, Road Salt: Moving Toward the Solution. Follow the link to the report below for further reading: http://www.caryinstitute.org/sites/default/files/public/reprints/report_road_salt_2010.pdf
Blog author, Mr. Jake Rachels, is an intern with the Division of Sustainability.
The ultimate mission of the Department of Metro General Services is to provide beautiful, healthy, safe, sustainable, functional and long lasting public buildings and spaces. Specifically, General Services’ Sustainability Division integrates sustainable practices throughout the department’s projects and operations with the goal to reduce energy, waste, carbon and greenhouse gas emissions while also educating Metro employees and the Nashville community about sustainability.
Want to spend a day outside protecting native plants and keeping our Greenways and waterways beautiful?
The Cumberland River Compact, Socket, and Greenways for Nashville need your help on the Cumberland River Greenway to pull out invasive plants and clear space for native plants. Come out to make a difference in our biodiversity, to learn about the importance of native ecosystems, and to have some fun.
Your help is needed to pull out invasive weeds along the Cumberland River Greenway with hand tools. Please wear pants and heavy, durable shoes. Bring water, and any clippers, loppers, or other weeding tools you might have, and we will supply other tools. SIGN UP HERE.
Weed Wrangle®, is a one-day, citywide, volunteer effort to help rescue our public parks and green spaces from invasive species through hands-on removal of especially harmful trees, vines and flowering plants.
Nashville’s Earth Day Festival April 21, 2018
11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Nashville’s Earth Day Festival is a free, family friendly event with live entertainment through out the day celebrated each year in April. Socket will have a table, so come by and say hello. Mark your calendar for April 21 to enjoy music, food, education, and fun!
Winter is definitely here, but the days and hours we can spend outdoors in daylight are growing by minutes each day. With Spring just around the corner, now is the time to get familiar with the enjoyable outdoor spaces Nashville offers its residents and guests. It may seem hard to find nature in an urban setting, but in addition to its city parks, Nashville boasts almost 90 miles of paved greenways that connect people and activities throughout the city. It’s time to take a second look at your greenways!