Unity EarthCare Tip of the Month
- Leave the leaves
- Seriously – leaving the fallen leaves on the ground unraked may be the best option
- But it’s not an “all or nothing.” As long as the leaves cover less than about 50% of your lawn area, you can leave them be (some experts recommend no more than about 25%).
- Leaving at least some of the leaves in your yard has several advantages:
- When the leaves break down where they fall, they return essential nutrients to the grass and soil. It’s free fertilizer!
- Additionally, the coverage that the leaves provide preserves soil moisture and suppresses weeds.
- And the leaves can be friendly to wildlife. Birds and insects such as butterflies and moths depend on the fallen leaves. Pupa takes up residence in the leaves during the winter, so raking them up means you won’t enjoy the butterflies that come later. Birds also raid the leaf litter to find food for their babies.
- But, if the leaf coverage is over 50%, beware!
- If there are so many leaves that they smother your grass, there is a risk of forming a mildewy mush that will smother your grass and keep it from growing back strong the next spring.
- There’s also a chance of more turf damage from critters (voles, mice) in the spring.
- So what’s a homeowner to do?
- Use your mower to cut the leaves up into smaller pieces. The smaller the better for fertilizing.
- If you compost, it’s okay to rake some leaves to throw into your composter with the grass clippings.
- If your area has yard waste pickup, you can rake some leaves into those large paper bags.
- Please do not use a noisy leaf blower to relocate your leaves into the street, neighbor’s house, etc.
- And be sure to rake leaves off of driveways and sidewalks – wet leaves are a slippery hazard.
Wash your fruits and veggies more efficiently
Should you wash them?
- That’s a question many of us ask with a vegetable, herb or fruit – whether plucked from your garden or bought at a store. Is it so important to wash something that may look pristine? Isn’t it a waste of water? Let’s consider…
The experts say yes, wash your produce,
- If organically grown at home, there may be some residual dirt or other contaminants. And if you did happen to use chemicals (no judgments!), they need to be washed off.
- Store-bought produce (organic or not) absolutely should be washed.
- Food-borne illness is so often thought of as a scourge of meat and seafood, but some of the most recent outbreaks have been tied to produce – romaine lettuce, cucumbers, melons and more. Bacteria don’t discriminate.
Wash but don’t go overboard with the water.
- Generally, a 30-second rinse followed by a 15-minute soak, and a final rinse will help to get rid of pesticide residue on vegetables. That’s all you need.
- But consider that dampness encourages bacteria growth and therefore spoilage.
- Scrub with a brush and/or gently rub the produce with your hands, depending on what you’re cleaning. Water is sufficient, so don’t use soap or bleach or even commercially made produce washes.
- You could wash produce right before you use it.
- Alternatively, it’s fine to wash produce after purchase or bringing in from the garden. Just be sure to dry with a clean paper towel or dish towel.
Save on watering your vegetable garden
You’re probably picking those tomatoes, peppers and other late-season veggies. Vegetable gardening is rewarding, but it can be water-intensive. Here are some ideas to save on water for next year’s garden.
- Get rid of your sprinkler
- Much of the water you’re using is evaporating before it can soak into the ground, some even hits the ground. A sprinkler wets down leaves and make them vulnerable to molds, blights, and fungus.
- Consider adding mulch
- Spreading mulch is a good way to slow water evaporation.
- Mulch can help to keep down weeds (make sure your mulch is weed-seed free so as not to spread trouble. But even if a few weeds do come up, they’re usually easy to pull from mulch-covered soil.)
- Mulch can return organic materials to your soil.
- Add lots of compost to your soil
- We’ve explained compost and composting in past tips. The more organic matter in your soil, the more it will retain moisture.
- Soil quality is the key to growing.
- Follow these best watering practices
- Plant vegetables that use a lot of water close to each other. You can target your watering on the thirstiest plants.
- Water only when your plants need it.
- Water at the beginning of the day before the peak evaporation hours.
- Use a watering can. Of course, this is impractical for those with large gardens and will take more time even in a smaller garden. But it’s an amazing water saver, pinpointing the watering right to where you need it and in just the right amounts. Soaker hoses are another idea.
Save on Gas Money by Driving Lighter
Though starting to decline, gasoline prices remain high. We offer occasional tips to help you save on gas!
- The greater the weight of the vehicle, the more energy is needed
- For gasoline-powered vehicles, the lighter the load, the less gas you need.
- It’s no secret that smaller cars tend to get better as mileage than larger cars and the trucks or SUVs that many of us need for our lives.
- So, whatever unnecessary contents you may be hauling around without a need for them, will decrease your mileage and add to your final bill at the pump.
- Consider: An additional 100 pounds in your car can reduce gas mileage by up to 1%. The reduction is relative to the vehicle’s weight: smaller vehicles are more affected by increased weight than larger ones. For every 100 pounds in extra weight, plan on spending up to 3 cents more per gallon.
- Not on top
- It also matters where the weight is.
- As convenient as it may seem to haul cargo or vacation gear in a container anchored to the roof of your vehicle, unfortunately, this uses more gas than hauling the same weight in the trunk or hatch area.
- Those rooftop cargo boxes affect your car’s wind resistance, so you need to use more fuel to maintain your speed.
- A rooftop cargo box can reduce fuel economy by up to 25 percent when you’re driving on the interstate at 65 to 75 miles per hour.
- What’s the environmental connection?
- Although we’re focusing on saving you money, the less gas that needs to be extracted and refined, the better for all: decrease pollution and greenhouse gases that are driving climate change.
Use a Rain Barrel
- What is a rain barrel?
- A rain barrel is a manufactured container designed specifically to collect and disperse rainwater from a rooftop drainage system for later use on lawns, gardens and for other outdoor uses.
- A rain barrel may be constructed from plastic, ceramic, wood, stone or metal.
- Why use a rain barrel?
- A rain barrels allows you to use rainwater for some of your outdoor uses, and thus reduce the amount of water that must be pumped from our groundwater aquifers.
- Benefits from the use of rain barrels include reduced water bills, additional groundwater recharge, and general water conservation.
- It’s free water for use in your landscape.
- How do I get one?
- Some of our local environmental organizations sell them through annual sales. Some cities and towns do so too. Other sources include online retailers, local home and garden supply stores.
- The City of Crystal Lake doesn’t sell rain barrels but offers a one-time $25.00 water/sewer utility credit to water/sewer utility customers that purchase a rain barrel from a retailer located within the corporate limits of the City of Crystal Lake.
- Are there any disadvantages of rain barrels?
- If not installed correctly, it may attract mosquitoes and other waterborne diseases – install correctly!
- Storage limits – some homeowners start with one barrel and then later add additional barrels.
Celebrate the Summer Solstice
The 2022 summer solstice in the northern hemisphere will occur on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at 4:14am CDT.
- The summer solstice occurs when the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt toward the Sun, and is the day with the longest period of daylight and shortest night of the year. The Sun will be at its highest daily maximum elevation in the sky.
- People from cultures from all over the world have held summer solstice celebrations for thousands of years.
- Traditionally, people celebrated the return of the light, life, fertility, and the potential for a good harvest on the summer solstice.
Today people around the world still celebrate the arrival of summer with outdoor feasts, singing, dancing, and bonfires. Here are more ways to celebrate the summer solstice:
- Catch the sunrise at Stonehenge live on the English Heritage YouTube page.
- Create an altar anywhere, indoor or out. If it’s time to refresh your personal altar, this is a good time to do that. Use a fresh, brightly colored altar cloth. It’s traditional to decorate your Summer Solstice altar with an abundance of fresh flowers and a candle, preferably white, yellow or orange.
- The summer solstice is a great time to reflect on the past season and set goals for the season ahead. Grab a yoga mat and take a moment for yourself to relax and meditate. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you get started if you haven’t done meditation before.
- Gather with other people. The Summer Solstice is traditionally a time of being out in the world, being social, interacting with community.
- Put on some sunscreen and just go outdoors!
You can now bring Styrofoam (polystyrene) to USCW for recycling!
Your Unity Spiritual Center of Woodstock EarthCare team is pleased to announce that polystyrene (commonly known under a brand name, “Styrofoam”) is now added to the “hard to recycle” items that can be brought to the Center for recycling. This is in addition to the batteries, shoes and used printed inkjet cartridges that we have been recycling for some time.
- There is a large clear bin at the far end of the Fellowship room that is labeled for you to drop off your polystyrene.
- A few caveats:
- Items must be clean and dry, with no other materials (e.g., tape) attached.
- If you have any polystyrene contaminated or discolored by food or drink, unfortunately, that will need to go into the garbage.
- Packing “peanuts” are acceptable; please enclose these in a bag or box
- Flexible flat foam packing materials are not polystyrene and also cannot be accepted. Please save these for your future personal use, e.g., to wrap breakable items in your luggage.
- The Unity EarthCare team will periodically bring the accumulated polystyrene to a local drop-off site. The total accumulated polystyrene is then then to a company in Elgin that has special machinery that can break apart the polystyrene to a particle form. It is then sent to other companies to manufacture new polystyrene containers or shipping materials.
Use Your Dishwasher!
You wouldn’t think it, but using a dishwasher as opposed to washing dishes by hand actually saves water and energy in the long run.
- The most efficient modern dishwashers use between 4 and 6 gallons of water per cycle.
- In contrast, the average faucet can run as much as 2.5 gallons per minute, according to federal plumbing standards.
- When you save water, you save yourselves money!
- Wait – how can it save water to use the dishwasher?
- Assuming 2.5 gallons of water flow from your sink per minute, in five minutes of hand dish washing time with the hot water running, you will have used 12.5 gallons of water. That’s twice the amount of water used by a modern dishwasher.
- From an energy perspective, it takes about 6.63 kWh to heat a 40 gallon tank of water using your electric water heater3, so you are actually using more water to wash dishes by hand than you would if you were using the dishwasher.
- Add to this the need for the water to be hot – using energy from your hot water heater – and you’ve got quite a bit of waste on your hands.
Using Your Dishwasher for Maximum Efficiency
- First, make sure you have an efficient dishwasher. If your dishwasher is old or out of date, then chances are it’s using up too much water and energy.
- How old is too old? According to Energy Star, any dishwasher made before 1994 is a culprit.
- The next time you buy a replacement dishwasher, make sure that the machine is Energy Star certified.
Mark your calendar now for USCW’s annual Earth Day service. This year, it’s Sunday, April 24th
Celebrate the Vernal Equinox
On Sunday, March 20 at 10:33 am, Central Time, the Vernal Equinox occurs.
- The Vernal Equinox is also known as the “Spring Equinox.” Winter gives way to Spring here in the northern hemisphere.
- The equinox is the point in time that the sun crosses the celestial equator. It is an astronomical event that happens simultaneously across the globe but is converted to local time.
- Daytime and nighttime are of equal length, hence a time to observe balance.
- Springtime also represents the renewal of life and light.
Some ways to celebrate the vernal equinox include:
- Get outside and connect
- Plant new life
- Enjoy spring arts and crafts
- Decorate eggs
- Meditate and/or practice yoga
- Read books about spring
- Restore balance in the home
- Begin sometime new or establish a daily routine or rhythm
Mark your calendar now for USCW’s annual Earth Day service. This year on Sunday, April 24th
- Be careful with glitter
- As the old saying goes, all that glitter is not gold. And all that glitters is not green.
- We’re all familiar with glitter: Sparkly, shiny material that we use in craft projects, greeting cards, clothing, makeup and more.
- Glitter is plastic. And although glitter is less common in ocean waters than other plastics like microbeads, there is a growing recognition that glitter is a problem, too.
- Glitter is typically made from a type of dense plastic called polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — the same plastic used in most disposable water bottles.
- This plastic takes many years to biodegrade. In the meantime, glitter leaches out and finds its way into waterways. Whether in a river or an ocean, plastic glitter is harmful to wildlife.
- Fortunately, there are now some alternative glitter products available, made from plants rather than plastics. Some of the products biodegrade in the water. But some of them need composting to biodegrade, so even with alternative glitters, we need to watch our usage.
- Biodegradable glitter uses plant-derived regenerated eucalyptus cellulose.
Set your thermostat at this temperature: 68 degrees
- According to the US Department of Energy, it’s best to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the day during the winter season.
- Why 68?
- It’s on the lower end of comfortable indoor temperatures for some people, but there’s a good reason to keep your home cooler during winter.
- When your home is set to a lower temperature, it will lose heat more slowly than if the temperature were higher. In other words, keeping your home at a cooler indoor temperature will help it retain heat longer and reduce the amount of energy required to keep the house comfortable. As a result, you’ll save energy and money.
- Other ideas:
- For maximum efficiency, you could also consider designating 8 hours per day during which you turn the temperature down by between 7 and 10 degrees. By following this routine, you may be able to reduce your yearly energy costs by up to 10%.
- Many people have been shocked at the increase in their natural gas bills. Heating bills are increasing by as much as 54% for some households this winter. Changing your thermostat setting is a relatively easy way to reduce energy consumption and save money on heating bills.
Celebrate the Winter Solstice
- The 2021 winter solstice in the northern hemisphere will occur on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, at 9:59 am CST.
- Since prehistory, the winter solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures, and has been marked by festivals and rituals. It marked the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.
- Throughout history, societies across the world have held festivals and ceremonies marking winter solstice, the day of the “sun’s rebirth.”
- Another tradition that we still hear about today is Yule (or Yuletide).
- And Christianity celebrates the birth of Jesus on December 25, commemorating the bringing of the Christ light.
- Some ways to celebrate the winter solstice include:
- Create an altar with items that bring you joy and peace, and surround it with candles. Light the candles as a symbol of the sun’s ability to give us both life and light.
- Wake up early on the day of the winter solstice to watch the sunrise. Close your eyes, feel the sun’s warmth on your face. Observe how the sun lights up the world around you. Bring a journal and write down any thoughts that come to mind.
- Draw a winter solstice bath, adding citrus essential oils to symbolize the energy of the sun.