Category Archives: Farms
Many solid waste companies and municipal landfills have the situation well in hand; do you?
Birds, mammals, and reptiles can be injured or killed by the trash we throw away. The magnitude of the problem is growing every day, especially because some types of litter do not readily disintegrate and therefore remain in the environment as a threat for decades. To help protect wildlife and natural habitats, local cleanup campaigns and recycling plans are now being implemented.
The Litter Problem
The amount of litter that ends up spoiling the beauty of the natural environment is not surprising considering the amount of waste we produce. Glass bottles, plastic packaging, tin cans, newspaper, cardboard, and other types of garbage litter urban and rural landscapes everywhere. According to Wildlife Fact File, about 160 million tons of trash is thrown away every year in the U.S. or approximately three and a half pounds per person each day. Paper products alone account for over 40 percent of this garbage. Sometimes the wind blows trash from overloaded garbage cans and litters the environment. Naturally litter can last for a long time depending on the disintegration of the garbage. For example aluminum cans do not disintegrate, and some plastics take decades to break down.
How Litter Threatens Wildlife
Litter can be very harmful to wildlife. Discarded fishing lines can trap the legs, wings, or neck of waterfowl such as swans or moorhens. A fishhook may get stuck in a bird’s throat. Water birds suffer lead poisoning when they accidentally swallow small lead fishing weights. Broken glass can cut the feet of foxes, coyotes, or badgers, and unbroken bottles present a hazard to various small animals. Lizards often crawl inside bottles or cans to bask warm interior, to seek protection or search for food; but they may find it difficult to squeeze out again and can die of overheating. Small mammals in search of food often get their heads caught in the openings of jars. Replacing lids on bottles and jars before discarding can help prevent animals from becoming entrapped. Birds, fish, and mammals may be ensnared by plastic six-pack holders. This can be prevented this by cutting up the plastic rings so that they do not become traps.
Animals That Use Litter
Litter may appear to be helpful to wildlife. At night in some urban areas, foxes look for garbage on the streets. Often they feed on chicken bones, pieces of hamburger, and other leftovers from fast-food meals. During the day pigeons take over from foxes, these birds often flap around a food-laden garbage can of peck crumbs on the pavement. Gulls are well-known scavengers. These birds have greatly increased their number by feeding on thrown-away food. Inland, they gather in flocks over garbage dumps, where they eat even the filthiest scraps.
Human food is not necessarily good for wild animals. Deer, for instance, love bread and sweets. These purified grain products may form gummy masses in the stomachs of ruminants and interfere with digestion. Deer may actually die from ingesting too much food with a flour base. Discarded food can also become contaminated with microorganisms that cause food poisoning. More likely, however, the wild animals will become accustomed to free handouts and be unprepared to hunt for themselves if the source of human food is cut off.
How the Waste Industry is Protecting Animals
There was a time when many animals fell victims to discarded trash in municipal dumps. In addition to the waste itself, wildlife was threatened by heavy equipment workers who did not understand how their actions could threaten a fragile ecosystem. Animals were often struck by trucks or crushed by heavy machinery. Some became entrapped in trenches, open pits or pipes. While dumps still exist in some remote locations, most are being replaced by sanitary landfills.
The evolution of sanitary and secure landfills was accompanied by environmental planning that provided protection for wildlife and guaranteed that the land would be reclaimed for future wildlife inhabitants. Some methods of protection seem to be standard procedures at most landfills and many facilities have some pet project designed to provide for the safety and continued survival of some special creature.
Butterfield Station in Phoenix, Arizona serves as a good example of what precautions are normally taken at Waste Management Inc. (WMI) owned and operated landfills. The landfill is securely fenced to exclude many animals. Strict speed limits are enforced to protect animals from being hit. At the close of every day, all refuse is covered with a six inch covering of soil to keep animals from being injured by the debris. All truck beds and other such containers are covered with tarps to keep animals out. Domestic animals are not permitted in the landfill. Any escaped debris is collected from roadways and along the perimeter of the landfill on an on-going basis. Small waste containers are provided with animal proof lids to keep wild animals from getting to the waste. Many Waste Management facilities provide special roll-off containers for small towns and villages to use during community clean-up events.
It is common for landfills to have pet projects to protect individual species that are of particular concern. Kirby Canyon Recycling and Disposal Facility in Morgan Hill, CA with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, City of San Jose, researchers from Stanford University and consulting biologists have embarked upon a conservation plan to increase and maintain the population of the endangered Bay Checkerspot Butterfly. Approximately two hundred and fifty acres have been set aside for the checkerspot, which was nearing extinction in 1985. The Kirby Canyon Conservation Agreement, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1996, provides for: the setting aside of land; establishment of a trust fund for studies of the butterfly; management of cattle grazing to ensure appropriate balance of plant resources; habitat restoration and enhancement; and ongoing scientific monitoring of the Bay Checkerspot population. In addition, Kirby Canyon has set aside marshland for the preservation of the endangered Red Legged Frog.
Altamont Landfill and Resource Recovery Facility in Livermore, CA has implemented a special program to protect the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox. The protection program includes many projects to protect the San Joaquin Kit Fox. Exclusion zones are placed around dens. Limited disturbance of areas adjacent to construction and storage areas must be maintained. Escape ramps are constructed in all holes or trenches greater than 2 feet deep, and sides must have a slope no greater than 45 degrees. Pipes with a diameter of four inches or greater must be inspected for kit foxes before being buried, capped or moved. Vehicles observe a 20 M.P.H. speed limit except on county, state or federal roads. Staff and visitors are instructed not to harass any Kit Fox or other unidentified fox in the vicinity of the landfill. Feeding of wildlife is not permitted. Off road traffic is prohibited. General precautions that are followed at all landfills are observed at Altamont.
The Kettleman Hills Facility in Kettleman City, CA also has protection programs for the San Joaquin Kit Fox, Giant Kangaroo Rat, the Blunt Nosed Leopard Lizard, the San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel, and two state species of concern, the Burrowing Owls and badgers.
Landfills have made great strides in protecting wildlife. But everybody must become involved in protecting wildlife from household waste. Recycling reduces the litter problem. Improvements in package construction can reduce unnecessary waste and make them less harmful to wildlife. Proper disposal methods can help to keep litter that we accumulate from becoming a death trap to wild animals. If people learn to respect the environment and are aware of the threat trash poses to wildlife, they will be less likely to litter.
What You Can Do!
There are many things that your clubs, science classes and families can do to help protect animals from being injured by trash. Below are some ideas.
- Look at the products your family uses. Is there a lot of extra packaging that is not needed? Tell the company by letter, phone or e-mail. They have offices set up to handle such concerns. Don’t buy from companies who refuse to reduce unnecessary packaging.
- Check the trash that your family discards. Does your trash get placed in an animal proof container? That will help protect animals. It is still wise to check each item that you discard. What packages could injure animals? Cut up or tie plastic bags and six pack holders into knots to prevent injury to small animals. Remove can tops completely. Seal food in leak proof bags. Put lids on bottles and jars, or plug holes before disposing of them.
- Get involved with community cleanup projects such as Earth Day
- Better yet, make community clean up a routine. If you see trash in a field or along a road, pick it up (wear gloves or some other hand protection).
- Teach others about the need for protecting animals from trash.
Key Ingredients for Great Compost
One of the great aspects of composting is that the key ingredients are often things that you’d be tempted to throw away. So, with just a little effort, you can contribute less to the trash stream (good for the environment) and make great compost (good for your garden).
Compost is created when you provide the right mixture of key ingredients for the millions of microorganisms that do the dirty work. These microorganisms will eat, multiply, and convert raw materials to compost as long as the environment is right. The environment doesn’t have to be absolutely “perfect,” so you don’t need to be a microbiologist or chemist to have successful compost. You need to provide: food, water, and air.
The water and air are easy. The food is a little more complex. Food for your little micro friends consists of two classes of materials, simply referred to as “Greens” and “Browns.” Green materials are high in nitrogen, while brown materials are high in carbon. The green materials provide protein for the micro bugs, while the brown materials provide energy.
Typical green materials are:
- Fresh (green) Grass clippings
- Fresh manure (horse, chicken, rabbit, cow)
- Kitchen scraps (fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags)
- Green leaves
- Leftover fruits from the garden
Typical brown materials include:
- Brown, dry leaves
- Dried grass
- Cornstalks (shredded)
- Sawdust (in moderation; see below)
Just like us, the little microorganisms need a balanced diet, along with water and air. Too much, or too little of any ingredient significantly reduces their productivity. It is hard to have too much of the brown category. As noted earlier, leaves in the forest decompose without significant quantities of “green” components (although animal droppings do contribute to the green part of the mix) – but, the decomposition takes a little longer.
Too much green is usually the problem. A pile of kitchen garbage will never become useful compost; it simply becomes a smelly pile of garbage. Landfills are not composting sites. Most municipal composting operations begin with the huge quantities of dry leaves that are collected each fall.
A good mix of browns and greens also helps the pile maintain the right amount of moisture and air. A pile that is 100% grass clippings, for example, will quickly become a matted, soggy mess, with too much moisture and too little air. It will decompose, quickly at first, but then stall. Mix in some dry leaves, and you’ll have a significantly more efficient mixture. The dry leave help maintain air pockets within the pile and also provide a more balanced diet for the bacteria and fungi that cause the decomposition.
For more information about composting or to learn more about our Trash Knight garbage system, please visit www.trashknight.com.
Tips for when, where & how to use compost:
Soil Building – Compost is the single best additive for good, even great, garden soil. It improves tilth, fertility, water retention for sandy soils, water drainage for clay soils, and improves your soil’s disease fighting characteristics. Add compost in spring and fall, and till it in.
Garden Fertilizer – Compost can be used throughout the season as a garden fertilizer. Simply side dress vegetables and flowers for a slow-release food source and improved disease prevention.
Lawn Feeding – Screened compost (compost that has been sifted to collect the smaller particles) can be applied as a lawn fertilizer throughout the season. It will provide a wonderful slow-release food as well as assist in lawn disease prevention. And, given that the nutrients aren’t as concentrated as in chemical lawn foods, you’ll avoid the stripes that can easily occur when incorrectly applying chemicals. You’ll avoid chemical run-off, and you’ll save money. Your lawn will be alive, with earthworms (natures aerators) and beneficial microbes.
Compost vs. Mulch – Mulch is any material that is applied to the garden’s surface to prevent weed germination and to reduce water evaporation. Compost will help build the soil, and it will help retain moisture; but, it won’t do a lot to prevent weeds. It’s an ideal growing medium; so, weeds are likely to be very comfortable in it. Use shredded leaves for mulch, or a combination of shredded leaves and lawn clippings. The combination of lawn clipping and shredded leaves creates an attractive mulch that won’t blow away (as leaves alone tend to do) and allows water penetration (as grass clippings alone tend to matt and repel water).
Potting Mix (seed starting, potted plants) – Compost can be used to create a very good seed starting mix, or it can be added to potting soil to create a nutrient-rich mixture. Most commercial potting mix is made from Canadian peat moss, which is virtually void of nutrients, so the addition of good compost provides a real boost. “hot” compost, which has been produced at higher temperatures, is less likely to contain a lot of weed seeds. However, some of the fungi in compost may contribute to “damping off” of seedlings when compost is used for seed starting. To be safe, you should consider “sterilizing” the compost before using it as a potting mix. You can sterilize compost by microwaving it, baking it in an oven, or pouring boiling water over it. Of the three methods, the boiling water treatment is the neatest and cleanest. Simply put the compost in a large flower pot and soak it with boiling water from a teapot or saucepan.
For more information about composting or to learn more about our Trash Knight garbage system, please visit www.trashknight.com.
Q. What can the TRASH KNIGHT do for me?
A. The main use of the TRASH KNIGHT has always been to keep animals out of residential garbage, but it does other things as well.
1. The rolling and towable models are an excellent mobility aid for older folks or a simple convenience for anybody who doesn’t want to make multiple trips to the curb lugging heavy trash cans. Your garbage can be taken out on ‘trash night’ (the night before your trash service comes), to avoid having to take it out before dawn on ‘trash day’ for fear of animal intrusion.
2. The TRASH KNIGHT can get your garbage cans out of the garage. Tired of that odor when you go to get in your car?
3. The TRASH KNIGHT opens your cans for you. No more prying unsanitary lids off. Taking the garbage out is now ‘touchless’. Germaphobes rejoice!
4. Reduce your trash can expense. The Rubbermaid BRUTEtm trash can is an extremely tough commercial grade product. They are expensive, but last a very long time, and the Trash Man can’t throw the lids when they are attached to the unit. In fact, my trash man likes the fact that he never has to pick up my trash so much that he has agreed to gently place my cans back in my TRASH KNIGHT rather than tossing them on the ground.
5. The TRASH KNIGHT can be used for storage of animal feed of almost any type. From rabbits to horses, one of our models can simplify feeding time and ensure varmint proof storage.
For more information about the Trash Knight garbage system, please visit www.trashknight.com.
A month of Earth Day inspired posts…visit http://act.earthday.org to make your pledge!
Planting a garden at a school or at home is recognized universally as one of the best ways to teach children of every age the life sciences, to inspire a greater desire for whole foods and generally to reconnect them with Nature.
Since 2007, Earth Day Network has helped green over 100 schools, including many school gardens.
How to start (Information from http://urbanext.illinois.edu/firstgarden/)
Part of gardening is making a list of what you will need. Are there tools you need to get? Will you borrow or buy them? What seeds and plants do you want? Make a list of the items you need. Check whether you have them or need to get them. Then you can figure how much money you will need to plant a garden. Click here for a printable PDF version.
Not everybody starts planting all on the same day. If you live in Northern California you might start planting some time in March or April. But if you live in Florida or Southern California you might be able to plant things all year round. So, what guides us in knowing when it’s safe to start planting certain plants? The clue is called climate zones and it is based on frost-free dates for the area of the country or state where you live.
There is a frost-free date in the spring that tells you when it’s safe to start planting tender vegetables or plants that do not like frost. There is also a first-frost date for fall that tells you when it’s going to get too cold for a lot of things to grow well. The number of days between these two is called the growing season.
Some plants really like the cold and do well. Other plants are real warm weather lovers and don’t even like a slight chill. With more experience, you’ll soon get to know which plants like it cold and which ones like it warm.
To find out the frost-free dates for your part of the country or state, visit a library, garden center or Extension office and look up or ask about the frost-free dates in your area. You may also see large maps with bright colors and numbers from 1 – 11 on them. These are hardiness zone maps. You’ll see that zone 1 is the coldest (shortest growing season) up to zone 11 (longest growing season).
Another thing to keep in mind is that a date on the calendar does not always give you the green light to start gardening. Don’t forget to always get to know your soil up close and personal by giving it the squeeze test. This will tell you when you can work your soil safely.
- Get Ready for Gardening! (suddenlyfrugal.com)
- Planning And Planting Your Spring Garden – Planning For Your Fall Garden (survivalfarm.wordpress.com)
- Gardening by the Numbers (blogher.com)
- Earth Day NetWork (ynative77.wordpress.com)