Compost from food and yard waste.
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Environmental Education Week

Notes for you to consider about the environment

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This is National Environmental Education Week and our partners at Earth Gauge have a few reminders to help save you money and better enjoy the environment.

Energy Savings

Did you know energy use at schools across the United States costs an estimated $6 billion? Or that the typical U.S. household spends at least 2000 dollars per year on utility bills? Many newer technologies help us save energy at home and in schools and other buildings.

  •          A programmable thermostat allows you to turn on heating or air conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. Investing in a programmable thermostat can save up to ten percent per year on your electricity bills!
  •          Look for ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs – they use about 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last at least 6 times longer. They also produce about 75 less heat than traditional bulbs.
  •          Use energy management settings on computers, such as the sleep function, to save energy. Turn your laptop or desktop computer off when you're not using it.

Marvelous Migrants

Birds are on the move!  Migratory birds are traveling from their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central and South America to the U.S. and Canada, where they feast on abundant insects and plant foods during spring and summer.  How do they know when to leave and where to go?

Birds that migrate short distances – such as waterfowl that migrate within the U.S. – learn migration routes and from older individuals who are more experienced, usually family members.  Most long-distance migrants are genetically programmed to head in a specific direction for a specific distance.  A bird's first long-distance migration is completely genetically determined, but more experienced birds may incorporate information learned on past journeys – for example, they may use learned information to return an especially good breeding location in future years.

Viewer Tip: The spring migrants you will see depend on where you live, the time of year and weather conditions. Long-tailed duck and Horned Grebe will be moving between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. Look for these species on ponds, lakes and other bodies of water during stormy weather. You may hear Long-tailed duck calls as the birds are flying at night. Golden-crowned Kinglets and Winter Wrens can also be spotted throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest region.

The migrant bird forecasts for each region were developed using data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird program, along with weather information from NOAA. Weekly forecasts are available at ebird.org .

 

When it rains, it pours!

Rainfall records from the central United States confirm the old adage that "when it rains, it pours." While days with at least "moderately heavy" precipitation   ̶  precipitation totals exceeding  0.5 inches   ̶   account for only 25 percent of all days when it rains, more than 70 percent of the total rain volume falls during moderately heavy or heavier rainy days.

A region's climate is defined not only by temperature and precipitation totals, but also by the frequency, distribution and intensity of rainfall events. Understanding the potential climatic extremes of a given area, particularly the potential rainfall intensity, is important when designing infrastructure. Extreme rainfall events can overwhelm dams. Highways are designed to function during moderate rainfall events, but underpasses may flood during extreme events. 

Municipal water systems can only process so much water at once: when two inches of rainfall occur in a 24-hour period, the average treatment facility must discharge untreated sewage into local surface waters, which support wildlife and are likely upstream from other municipalities. Since the late 1940s, the frequency of days with precipitation totals over two inches has increased, with the frequency of days with over three inches almost doubling. The most extreme rainfall events, with totals over six inches, have increased by 40 percent.

Spring into Compost

Did you know that yard trimmings and food make up 27 percent of the waste going to landfills in the United States? Putting yard and food waste in a compost pile instead of a trash can lowers the load in our landfills and creates rich organic material that can enhance plant growth and reduce the need for fertilizers in your yard.

Viewer Tip: Instead of bagging up spring yard clippings and food waste, consider adding them to a backyard compost pile. Fruits and vegetables, egg shells, grass clippings, leaves and other yard trimmings can all head to the compost bin instead of the landfill. For tips on building your own compost pile or bin and a complete list of items that can be added to compost can be found here.

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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