Eastern Missouri Group E-Newsletter
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The Urban Agriculture Committee of Eastern Missouri Group seeks to fill niches in the food security and local organic gardening efforts of other organizations in the St. Louis metro area.
One such niche is a "backyard organic food swap" in Pine Lawn, where one of our members lives. This 1st-tier suburb of St. Louis City lies directly between I-70 and Natural Bridge Road. We have applied for one of national Sierra Club's $500 mini-grants to do soil sampling to determine if this community's soil is free from toxic elements, and if so, what kinds of soil amendments are needed. If initial tests show the soil isn't safe, remaining funds would be used to build raised beds.
We invite you to "join our committee" via the on-line Activist Network to show your support, comment on-line about our activities, and/or give us advice. Read about us here.
Member Sheila Pryor will be our Committee's consultant on the project in Pine Lawn. Sheila is an experienced backyard organic gardener despite her young age. In November Sheila received an award for promoting community relationships. The award was bestowed by EarthDance, an organic farming enterprise that teaches interns how to grow and market organic fruits and vegetables.
For the past 3 months, 9 of our core committee members have also been volunteering approximately every other Tuesday morning with the gardening curriculum at Gateway Math, Science and Technology Elementary School in St. Louis where a 10th member of our core committee teaches pre-school.
We invite you to join us. Please contact Committee Chair Ginger Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org for dates, times and directions.
Our "meeting" on December 21st will be at a different location and possibly a different time from our normal 10:00 a.m. start time.
2010 EMG Trail Committee Report
- At the national Trails Day Event over 150 hikers and campers stopped by our trail side tables and attended the campfire program.
- We performed two trail maintenance outings at Hawn State Park putting in over 100 volunteer hours.
- The fall work week was at the Pioneer Forest. We put in over 350 hours to re-route one mile of the Ozark Trail and did maintenance on another mile of trail.
- We tabled at the North Face Store and at a Boy Scout Jamboree earlier in the year.
- We are working on the planning of the Current River Trail, which will start after the first of the year.
- We hosted the September general meeting. Alice Vaughn talked about hiking in Missouri State Parks.
- We applied for and Received a $2000 grant for trail tools from the LAD Foundation.
Biodiversity Includes Native Bees
Wildlife managers such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife departments are increasingly developing adaptation plans, which include the impacts of climate change on a species, habitat or an ecosystem.
Unfortunately, not all U.S. states are including climate change impacts in their plans so it is important that the Sierra Club and other organizations advocate for climate change adaptation planning. The process of writing an adaptation plan almost always includes steps to re-examine the outcomes of actions and includes a need for monitoring what is happening to the target species or habitat.
One of the well-accepted basic principles of adaptation planning is that maintaining biodiversity is important if we expect an ecosystem or habitat to continue its functions or to bounce back from the impacts of climate change.
The decline of honey bees and the agricultural and economic loss due to their decline is well known so it was good to hear Jennifer Hopwood of the Xerces Society report in her speech last week that local native bees are more effective pollinators for some or our food plants such as apples, cherries, blueberries and squash. It was also interesting to hear that they forage earlier and later in the day, and in cold and wet weather -- when honey bees remain in their hive. But native bees are also in decline.
Protecting local native bees is both an agricultural problem and an important part of maintaining the biodiversity of pollinators. But, it may be almost as easy to encourage native bees in our yards or gardens as it is to include the better known pollinators that we already enjoy such as butterflies and hummingbirds.
There were a number of amazing facts that Jennifer Hopwood presented in her talk about pollinators at the St. Louis Zoo last week. Just in North American there are about 4000 species of native bees. 70% of our native bees make their nests in bare ground. The other 30% make their nests in cavities such as old beetle nests in tree cavities or dead wood. In addition, most of our native bees live solitary lives! Bumble bees and a few species of sweat bees are the ones who form colonies.
The Xerces Society suggests that protecting and providing habitat is the best way we can help pollinators. They suggest following 3 simple steps. The first step is to grow a diversity of native plants with various colors and bloom times. The 2nd step is to leave open sandy ground or brush piles and tree stumps for nesting sites. You can also build nesting sites by drilling holes in blocks of wood or making (or buying) bundles of hollow plant stems.
The 3rd step—you know this one—is to quit using pesticides. But also, quit using herbicides. By using herbicides you reduce plant diversity such as some wildflowers which may be weedy but still provide pollen and nectar for native bees. Examples of such plants include dandelions, violets and clover.
As bees decline we are learning a lot about them. For instance, recently a study in California found that during hybrid sunflower production when wild bees were present as well as the honey bees, honey bees increased their pollination efficiency up to 5 times that of studies without native bees present. The conclusion was that the presence of wild bees caused honey bees to move more frequently and visit more flowers.
Habitats which have good plant diversity are also high in pollinator diversity such as old meadows and overgrown pastureland. Undeveloped riparian vegetation such as in the protected floodplains of the upper Mississippi River is excellent habitat for pollinators. Suggestions for improving riparian habitat in urban areas are use of public greenspaces and rain gardens. Non-native invasive species can decrease the value of such open spaces for native pollinators.
The Three Steps Fact Sheet
Please contact me if you have questions about this article: Becky Denney, Becky.Denney@Sierraclub.org, 314-645-3394
Reduce your Carbon Footprint at Home with the
Energize Missouri Homes - Homeowner Upgrades and Geothermal Program
If you have ever considered a geothermal heating/cooling system, now is the time to install one.
For a limited time, until January 2012, or until the $ 7 million is used, you can receive 50% off, up to $10,000 for a geothermal unit for your home. Under this program, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will provide rebates to owner-occupants of single-family homes to receive energy audits, implement whole-house energy saving measures identified in the audits and install geothermal systems.
Geothermal heating/cooling uses the thermal energy of the ground to provide residential space conditioning and/or domestic water heating. During the winter, fluid is circulated through pipes in the ground, draws heat stored in the earth and carries it into the residence. In the summer, the system reverses, takes heat from the building and deposits it to the cooler ground. Reduction in heating costs is estimated to be up to 70% and up to 50% for cooling costs.
No fossil fuels are used to generate heating or cooling.
The first step is to schedule an energy audit with an Energize Missouri Homes qualified auditor. Click here for the Missouri Certified Home Energy Auditor Directory.
Your energy audit will be eligible for a $500 rebate. The auditor recommends energy efficiency improvements for your home then you decide how to proceed -- more efficient heating cooling systems, insulation, or geothermal unit. The rebate money is reserved in your name and you then have 6 months to use the funds. You can also apply for the 30% federal tax credit.
For more information:
• Homeowner Upgrades and Geothermal Program Guidelines
• Homeowner Information Kit
Join the Sierra Club Activist Network!
First you have to join as in any social networking site but then you have access the web tools to work on environmental projects that you choose. You don't have to be a Sierra Club member to join or to set up a team or project, but it is a great way for a member to see what volunteers are working on across the country.
Recently, several of us set up teams regarding St. Louis activities. Once you login you can look for the MO-MS Confluence Team. This team is a way to continue the work that Gloria Broderick, Ginger Harris, Caroline Pufalt and others started with other St. Louis organizations to defend the floodplain at the confluence and the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area.
You can check out our team or other teams. Once you join -- you can do most of the things a webmaster does on a website. You can create and edit web pages, upload files, manage projects, collaborate on documents, blog, and develop resource libraries for your team.
Try it out!
How Can Americans Save Energy?
Recently the American Council for an American Energy-Efficient Economy published an online book of articles and studies about the way people are using energy. An important study in the ebook is called "Saving Energy is a Value Shared by All Americans." This was done in the fall of 2008 and gauged Americans feelings about global warming as well as their interest and efforts to save energy. There were such important differences in Americans over their feelings about global warming that the study found we could be divided into 6 different groups. The extremes were the 18% of those that are alarmed over global warming to the 7% who are dismissive at the other end of the scale.
But the study also found that there were actions in common that Americans in all 6 groups want to take to save energy. The most popular actions were to buy a more efficient water heater, air conditioner, or furnace, and insulate the attic and caulk and use weather-stripping. A large number of all 6 groups said they would like to purchase a car that averages over 30 mpg or better.
While a significant number wanted to change their lighting to use CFLs these numbers were high in the 2 groups who believed most strongly in global warming and much lower in the groups that were "Dismissive" and "Doubtful" about global warming. The authors believe this is because CFLs are the "iconic" symbol for fighting global warming. So, those Americans who might support energy efficiency actions rejected CFLs due to their distrust of a global warming symbol.
Across the 6 groups Americans felt they were doing as much as they could to conserve energy. In other words, they were turning off the lights when they left a room and turning down the furnace as much as possible. There is evidence to show that we can do more of these "energy conservation" acts, such as wearing warmer clothing during our normal waking hours, but they will have to become social norms.
While conservation habits are important, energy efficiency programs that consist of 1 time actions such as installing attic insulation or a more efficient furnace save more emissions than many conservation habits that must be repeated constantly The barriers to installing new equipment were the cost and the idea that the old equipment was working -- "I don’t need a new one yet." Other barriers that were more common for the groups who weren't concerned with global warming were not knowing how to take the action (install insulation, for instance) or lack of time.
We can change our energy use by changing ourbehaviors such as: using equipment and techniques in buildings that are more efficient and changing our transportation choices. Even in this study most Americans believe that such changes would improve the quality of their lives. We have opportunities to save energy and emit less carbon along with benefiting ourselves and our nation -- is this a message we can share with our neighbors and public officials?
For more information about the ACEEE book and the Yale Center/George Mason University study itself, contact Becky Denney, Becky.Denney@Sierraclub.org, 314-645-3394. The complete title of the article is: Saving Energy Is A Value Shared by All Americans: Results of a Global Warming Audience Segmentation Analysis.
Visit the Eastern Missouri Group website for more information about outings, activities and issues.