Great American Campout This Saturday

Join the Great American Campout this weekend by camping in the great outdoors. Whether it’s in your own back yard or at a state park, sleeping under the stars has many benefits.

Join the Great American Campout this weekend by camping in the great outdoors. Whether it’s in your own back yard or at a state park, sleeping under the stars has many benefits.

Saturday, June 24, join the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in the great outdoors by participating in the Great American Campout. A day outdoors is beneficial to physical and mental health and more. You can experience these benefits whether you camp in your own backyard or visit a national park and pitch a tent to spend the night in a beautiful natural setting. Besides, the more we know about the natural world the more likely we are to take actions to conserve and protect it. It’s a win-win for us and the planet.

Visit the National Wildlife Federation’s website, www.nwf.org/Great-American-Campout.aspx, to take the pledge to go camping this year. By taking the pledge you’ll be entered to win an RV or a weeklong stay at a Jellystone Park of your choice. Your campout can be listed as private or public. Public campouts are listed at the NWF site and are great ways to meet other outdoor enthusiasts.

This year, you can also help wildlife directly with your pledge. If the NWF receives at least 150,000 pledges they will plant 5,000 native trees for the Trees for Wildlife program. These trees will help restore habitat spaces providing food and shelter for wildlife.

Camping can be a lot of fun, especially with family and friends in tow. There are so many styles of camping now that you’re sure to find a location to please even the most demanding member of your group. If you’re really adventurous you could choose primitive camping which is basically staying at a place with no running water, electricity, or bathroom facilities. You typically camp at a remote location and provide everything for yourself. Consider the physical ability of your companions while choosing a site since many require you to park then hike in.

You also may go to the other extreme and try “glamping” (glamourous camping), which provides all the basic comforts from home in an outdoor setting. In this case, you might stay in a yurt, teepee, treehouse, cabin, RV or other variation of a basic living space that usually includes comfortable beds and other small luxuries. Some glamping locations offer a village atmosphere with multiple units in a central area, while others are single isolated cabins offering extra peace and quiet. Glamping is more expensive than primitive camping with rates similar to the cost of a hotel night.

To find a camping spot near you visit the Georgia State Parks website, www.gastateparks.org, or America’s State Parks at www.stateparks.org. Other websites that may help you plan a campout are Hipcamp, www.hipcamp.com, Go Camping America, www.gocampingamerica.com, Mobile RVing, www.mobilerving.com, and Glamping, www.glamping.com.

Prepare for your campout by learning about the amenities available at the camping site and pack accordingly. No matter where you’re going it’s helpful to think about these five areas: Shelter, Food Preparation, Clothing, Personal (Hygiene), and Fun Extras. Shelter, for example, may include packing items like a tent, sleeping bag, camping chairs, and a flashlight with extra batteries. The personal category may include items like a first aid kit, prescription medications, bug spray, and toilet paper.

Keep in mind that not all camping sites will have trash cans nearby and that you are expected to carry out what you carry in. Always take trash bags with you to collect trash at your campsite and remove it when you leave. Food preparation is probably the area that in the end will result in the most amount waste. To reduce the amount of waste during your camping trip take as many reusable items as possible. For example, instead of paper plates and plastic utensils that will be used once then thrown away, take reusable plates and silverware that can be washed and used again.

Don’t forget to have fun out there! You can pack board games, playing cards, glow sticks, a radio, field guides, and binoculars. Bird watching, observing wildlife, cooking a meal over a campfire, exploring, or making a nature bracelet are just a few of the activities you can enjoy with the family. Young children may benefit by making a nature journal to write about and draw their observations while outside.

No matter what, remember to relax, enjoy your time outdoors, and remember that we are all part of the natural world.

Pollinators Play Key Role

One of every three bites of food we take depend on the work of pollinators like the honey bee. In the US, it’s estimated that the work of pollinating by honey bees, native regional bees, and other insects is valued at $20 billion annually.

One of every three bites of food we take depend on the work of pollinators like the honey bee. In the US, it’s estimated that the work of pollinating by honey bees, native regional bees, and other insects is valued at $20 billion annually.

The monarch butterfly is one of the many butterflies that help pollinate flowering plants. We can help improve conditions for pollinators by planting plants native to our region, especially those that can provide nectar and food for larva.

The monarch butterfly is one of the many butterflies that help pollinate flowering plants. We can help improve conditions for pollinators by planting plants native to our region, especially those that can provide nectar and food for larva.

The second week of June has been designated as Pollinator Week bringing attention to the benefits of pollinators.   

The second week of June has been designated as Pollinator Week bringing attention to the benefits of pollinators.   

During the month of June, I’ve enjoyed snacking on sweet chunks of cool watermelon. Pollinator Week, which will be taking place next week, reminds us that watermelons are here thanks to the indispensable work of pollinators. Insects and mammals like butterflies, bees, bats, and birds are responsible for pollinating over 1,000 plants worldwide that are grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines. Pollinators are often keystone species that our eco-system just can’t do without.

 

Some of the foods produced with the help of pollinators include apples, strawberries, blueberries, chocolate, melons, peaches, figs, tomatoes, coffee, vanilla, pumpkins, and almonds. On average, one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is delivered to us by pollinators. According to the Pollinator Partnership, “In the U.S., the annual benefit of managed honey bees to consumers is estimated at nearly $20 billion. The services provided by native pollinators contribute to the productivity of crops as well as to the survival and reproduction of many native plants.”

 

Even though pollinators play a key role in the food chain, they are not without their challenges. Honey bees, for example, have been suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder – the sudden die-off of honey bee colonies. This has resulted in the loss of 50% to 90% of managed honey bee colonies in U.S. beekeeping operations during the last decade. The causes of the disorder are not conclusive but could include chemical residues in the hive, pathogens or parasites, and stress from outer sources.

 

Monarch butterflies have experienced a similar decline, up to 90% in the last decade. Since Monarch butterflies rely exclusively on milkweed plants to lay their eggs, the loss of habitat has been a huge issue. Habitats may change due to overdevelopment of land, insecticide and herbicide use, and drought. Since Monarchs butterflies migrate another issue is the breakup of the habitat and consistent sources of food along their travel route which spans 3,000 miles.

 

Thankfully, there is a lot we can do to support pollinators during Pollinator Week and beyond. For one, we can reduce our impact on the environment by reducing pollution of land, air, and water. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use, and using only products that are safe for pollinators can also help maintain the health of all kinds of pollinator species. Probably one the best actions we can take is restoring habitat spaces in our own backyard.

 

The Pollinator Partnership invites us to plant for pollinators by creating “pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes.” To help us do so they provide free planting guides on their website, www.pollinator.org, with step by step instructions for growing a pollinator-friendly garden. The one for our region is the Southeastern Mixed Forest Province.

Monarchs Across Georgia, at www.monarchsacrossga.org, also provides similar planting guides specific to the state.

 

Begin by designing your garden so there are flowering plants available from spring to fall. Choose a diverse range of plants, trees, and shrubs native to the region which are typically more resilient and are non-invasive. Plants that are pollinator friendly include trees like the Redbud, and Persimmon; and perennials flowers like Eastern Swamp Milkweed, Wild Petunia, Lobed Coreopsis; and vines like Passion Flower. Several of the plants like milkweed and golden aster do double duty by being both a food source and a host plant.

 

If you want to attract a particular pollinator, like butterflies, choose flowering plants that are bright in the red and purple color range. Also, include host plants where they can lay eggs, and the larva can eat. Bumblebees are attracted to lavender, impatiens, and flowering tomato plants. Once the food and host plants are taken care of you can add a water source and even a nesting box. The more habitat spaces are restored, the better off pollinators will be.

 

Tips for a Greener Car

Help conserve water and keep pollutants out of streams by taking your car through an automatic carwash which has a direct connection to the water treatment plant. 

Help conserve water and keep pollutants out of streams by taking your car through an automatic carwash which has a direct connection to the water treatment plant. 

When thinking about actions that can help us be more green or eco-friendly planting a tree or recycling a plastic water bottle may come to mind. Both are common and relatively easy ways to help the planet and create a healthier environment. But, surprisingly our cars can be greener too. Here are several eco-friendly actions for vehicle owners that don’t require the purchase of an electric car.

 

Wash your car at a professional automatic car wash facility that has a connection to a water treatment plant. Dirty water is captured without getting into storm drains which are designed to capture rainwater and lead it to local streams and creeks. Also, the automatic facilities tend to have high-pressure, water efficient equipment designed to waste less water.

 

If you prefer to wash your car at home, skip the water hose and use a bucket with soap and water instead. This will help keep the amount of water your using down to a minimum. Discard dirty water in the toilet or sink which are connected to a water treatment plant. Avoid washing the car on the driveway. Soapy water running off the car can get mixed with chemicals, oil, and gas which may eventually end up going down a storm drain connected to a stream.

 

Avoid creating more waste by drying your car from the top down with reusable chamois or cotton towels instead of disposable paper towels. If you use a spray cleaner for the interior or exterior of the car don’t forget to recycle the bottle when it’s empty. Plastic bottles with spray pumps are accepted for recycling in our community along with water bottles, milk jugs, and other plastic bottles and jugs for household products. 

 

Increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and decrease air pollution as a result when you lighten the load. Lighter loads use less gas, saving you money over time. Remember, your vehicle is not a permanent storage area. It’s time to remove the car seat your child outgrew a year ago and finally, take out the set of tennis rackets you haven’t used all spring. Removing a rarely used roof rack also helps improve fuel efficiency.

 

Properly inflated tires can also help conserve fuel. Check tire pressure monthly to ensure that they are inflated to the range suggested in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Most cars have a sticker on the inside of the driver’s side door indicating the appropriate range. Properly inflated tires also last longer which means your tires won’t end up being discarded too soon. When the time comes to buy new tires, make sure your used tires get recycled.

 

The retailer where you purchase the tires typically collects old tires for recycling. Tire rubber can be used to make new welcome mats, rail road ties, portable speed bumps, and even weightlifting plates. If you have used tires at home that need to be recycled, you can drop them off at one of four convenience centers or transfer stations in Whitfield County. For tires up to 22 inches in diameter, there is a fee of $2.00 per tire with no rim, or $3.00 per tire for those with a rim. For a location near you visit www.dwswa.org or call 706-277-2545.

 

The same convenience centers (where residents can drop off household garbage and recyclables) also accept used car batteries and used motor oil. There is no charge to drop off these items however, there is a limit of 5 gallons of used motor oil accepted per visit, per day. Car batteries include all types of lead-acid batteries such as those for vehicles, ATVs, golf carts, and emergency lighting. Both the batteries and motor oil are recycled into other products that you can find at local automotive stores.

 

Carpooling often is probably the quickest way to turn your car into a green machine. Transporting family, friends, or co-workers to a shared destination in just one vehicle can save gas money, and wear and tear on multiple vehicles. Taking public transpiration when possible also offers similar benefits.

 

If you plan to consistently carpool to work or church with a group set up a predetermined route and schedule, a method for reimbursing driving expenses, and rules for what the carpool will be for and what topics can be discussed. For example, the group agrees to only go from the agreed pickup location to the drop off site, and not stop for personal errands. Or the group may agree to not talk about politics or sensitive personal issues.

National Trails Day

National Trails Day...

Spend the day exploring local trails, or visit an event near you, to enjoy some of the health benefits hiking offers.  

Spending time outdoors has many benefits - improving physical health, mental clarity, creativity, and connecting people with nature. Walking a trail while enjoying brisk air, dancing green leaves, brightly colored flowers, and listening to birds singing is something people of all ages can enjoy. Thanks to the National Park Service, local parks, and recreation departments, and other contributors there are thousands of miles of trails across the country.

 

The Appalachian Trail, for example, is 2,190 miles long and spans from Maine to Georgia. And, a little closer to home, Dalton State College hosts 3 miles of trails in their Roadrunner Trail System, which is open to the community. Some trails are exclusively for walking, while others allow bicycles like the Raising Woods Mountain Bike Park with seven courses to choose from. Besides being outdoor experiences, trail systems have something in common – they need volunteers to help maintain them in great condition.

 

And that’s where National Trails Day comes in. The first Saturday of June thousands of volunteers lend a hand to improve and maintain trails, and scores of visitors connect with trails as they go on their own personal adventures. National Trails Day is hosted by the American Hiking Society (www.americanhiking.org), an organization that promotes and protects foot trails, their surrounding natural areas, and the hiking experience. They state, “By coordinating a wide array of trail activities on a single day, National Trails Day attracts new trail users and helps connect existing trail enthusiasts with local clubs and organizations with the hopes of creating trail advocates and stewards.”

 

National Trails Day activities vary by location. Some may offer guided hikes, children’s activities, or trail maintenance and stewardship opportunities for only the most experienced hikers. Participants can expect to pay a park admission fee or parking fee depending on the location, but may or may not have to pay for the additional activities. To find an event near you visit americanhiking.org, click on National Trails Day, then choose Find An Event. Events featured for our area include one at Fort Mountain in Chatsworth which is hosting a kid-friendly event Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. The Emery Creek trail, also in Chatsworth, will be undergoing maintenance which requires that volunteers pre-register.

 

If you don’t participate at an official event site you can still celebrate National Trails Day by simply enjoying a walk or hike on a local trail. There are plenty of options in our area including the Pinhoti, Disney, Mt. Rachel, and Dug Gap trails. When you visit plan ahead and prepare. Consider the type of terrain, weather conditions, and difficulty of the trail and dress accordingly. Footwear is especially important. For short walks, a lightweight tennis shoe may work, but for longer hikes trail or hiking shoes are recommended.

 

While you’re there practice the Leave No Trace ethic to reduce the impact you have on the environment. For example, when on a trail with multiple people, walk in single file along narrow footpaths and avoid taking shortcuts. Staying on the marked trails helps limit the amount of damage to the path and the surrounding environment. Be respectful to other visitors and wildlife too by keeping noises and talking low at a nonintrusive level.

 

Taking water and snacks with you is also a great idea, especially for longer visits. Wrappers, bottles, and biodegradable waste like banana peels, however, should not be left on the trail. Always carry out what you take into an outdoor area whether it’s a park, trail, or campground. Plan ahead by taking a plastic shopping bag folded so it fits in a back pocket, or carry a reusable bag just for waste. While on the trail pick up waste left behind by others to help maintain the area clean, healthy and safe for local wildlife and other visitors.

 

National Trails Day reminds us that trails and national parks are good for the environment, and for economic growth. According to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, outdoor recreation is responsible for 6.5 million jobs and contributes $730 billion to the national economy (based on a 2006 study). That means that 1 in 20 employed Americans works in some form with the outdoor recreation industry. The American Hiking Society adds, “It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans use trails every year. While some of these trails might be local, millions of Americans are driving long distances to get to a trailhead. All of these trips require expenditures on gas, food, lodging, and sometimes souvenirs that also boost the local economy.”

(The 2017 numbers for the outdoor recreation economy are 7.1 million jobs and $887 in consumer spending. Here is a link to their new report https://outdoorindustry.org/advocacy/. )

Improving Summer Road Trips

Riding a bicycle or walking at your vacation destination is one way to improve summer vacations. Cycling reduces fuel costs and air pollution, helping both your wallet and the planet.    

Riding a bicycle or walking at your vacation destination is one way to improve summer vacations. Cycling reduces fuel costs and air pollution, helping both your wallet and the planet.  

 

As the school year wraps up many families are anxiously awaiting summer vacation. Whether you go on a day trip or long road trip, there are many ways to improve summer road trips – both for your wallet and the planet. Minor changes in how you prepare, and small tweaks to what you do while you’re travelling, can add up to a more positive experience.

 

No matter where and how long you plan to travel be sure to pack light. Decreasing the weight of the load for vehicles typically improves fuel efficiency and can save on fuel costs in the long run. Pack light by only taking the most essential items with you. Before you go pull out the calendar and note the activities you’ll be doing each day, then check the weather forecast and pack accordingly.

 

Avoid packing “just in case” items that will only add to the bulk of your load. If you end up needing an umbrella for example you can purchase it, or in some cases borrow it from the hotel where you’re staying. Instead of hauling large recreational equipment find out if you can rent or borrow it at your destination too. Planning ahead and being prepared for every possible circumstance only adds the weight of your load.

 

Select clothing from the same color family which can be mixed to create several outfits. Neutrals like black and tan, black and white, or blue and gray can look flattering and still allow for flexibility. Two bottoms, two to three pairs of shoes, and four to six tops should be sufficient for a week-long trip. Don’t be afraid to reuse some of the clothing, hand washing it or getting laundry service. Packing clothes in reusable packing cubes instead of plastic bags can help reduce waste and save room in your luggage.  

 

If you have a pickup truck or a vehicle with a luggage rack secure your load to keep roads clean and safe. Before you get on the road inspect your vehicle to make sure loads are secured, covered, and properly tied down. Using a tarp or cargo netting to cover and secure items can be more effective than using straps alone. When you stop for fuel take the opportunity to check the load again to ensure that nothing has come undone while you were driving. Ask yourself if you would feel safe driving behind your vehicle.

 

Avoid littering the roads by keeping a trash bag inside your vehicle. Litter, trash in the wrong place, is preventable. Stash your trash then throw it away when you get to a rest area or final destination. Many rest areas now have recycling bins too, so be sure to look for signage indicating what can be recycled at each stop. Most will have bins for plastic bottles and aluminum beverage cans. Keep in mind that not all communities recycle the same things, follow directions on signage closely.

 

One way to reduce the amount of trash you may accumulate in your vehicle is to pack food and snacks in reusable containers that don’t need to be thrown away after just one use. Reduce the amount of trash you’re making during your trip by using reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic water bottles. Reusable shopping bags are an excellent alternative to plastic bags that can also do double duty by helping you carry everything from books and magazines to souvenirs.

 

While at your travel destination choose to support the community by eating locally grown foods. Whether you dine at a special restaurant or go shopping at a farmer’s market, locally sourced or locally grown foods travels a shorter distance compared to many foods sold in a grocery store. Less distance equals less fuel wasted and less pollution. Locally grown also means you’ll experience more of the local flavor that makes that particular destination unique.

 

At your vacation spot, choose to walk or ride a bicycle instead of driving. Both options are much more environmentally friendly, can cost less, and are a boost to your health. Riding a bicycle or simply walking gives you a much different perspective than quickly driving around the area. Take the opportunity to enjoy the sights, and you may discover a new favorite eatery or attraction you didn’t expect to find.

 

Liz Swafford is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority.  Contact her at 706-278-5001, or e-mail lswafford@dwswa.org.