Daniel Dinkin’s Volunteer Experience

As someone who initially moved to the triangle area to attend UNC Chapel Hill, I found that I didn’t have time to get as involved with the community as I wanted due to school. However, I was always motivated to volunteer, both to meet people who share the same interest as I and to be part of a bigger cause. I volunteered with several organizations in Chapel Hill but I was still looking to get involved with an environmentally focused nonprofit.Once I learned of Keep Durham Beautiful, I decided to check out some of the volunteer events and I was happily surprised.

Daniel unloading tires at the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive

My first volunteer event was the ReUse Rodeo where I served as a greeter who handed out goody bags filled with resources and tax return forms. This event encouraged locals to donate used clothing, books etc. I learned that there are many community organizations and non-profits who can utilize donations. This was also the first time I met the KDB personnel, Britt Huggins and Monica Ospina, who were extremely welcoming and immediately made me feel like I was part of the family. Their warm welcome, compounded with the cause that Keep Durham supported and the things I was learning fueled my interest to volunteer at other events as well.

My second volunteer experience was at the Durham Earth Day Festival, which brought awareness to the issues of sustainable resources and cleanliness of the environment. I was a Waste Warrior where I was at a station with three bins: trash, compost and recycling. I directed festival goers to dispose of their waste accordingly. While volunteering, I connected with another volunteer who was a former soccer player at UNC and works for a compost organization. She opened my eyes about the importance of compost and how integral it was to keep a clean environment. I was also surprised to learn that most of the things we consider trash can be easily composted.

The third event I was a part of was I love Durham Limpio- which consisted of working with Latino’s and non-Latino’s to remove litter in areas around Durham. We collected approximately 2,000 lbs. of litter. It was interesting to see how much of the litter we gathered were recyclables.

The last event I was part of was the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive. There I met other volunteers, Ian and Anna, as well as an individual who worked with the Durham Public Health Department. He informed me that standing water in tires is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, which was often asymptomatic and can be sexually transmitted. I also learned about the closed landfill that was nearby and how costly it was to maintain and treat trash.

Through my volunteer experience with Keep Durham Beautiful I have learned so much about the environment and not only how to keep Durham beautiful but how to also make conscious decisions in my own household. I found myself figuring out how to compost some materials from my trash and how to properly recycle. I learned of this organization through a friend, who is part of the YNPN mailing list and it’s hard to say if I would have known of it otherwise.

Celebrate Earth Month with Keep Durham Beautiful!

Earth Day is fast-approaching. Do you know how you’re celebrating? Consider joining Keep Durham Beautiful for one or more of our events this month!

April 22, 8am-2pm: Gather up your unwanted household goods for Durham’s first annual ReUse Rodeo! On Saturday, April 22nd, we will be accepting gently used books, clothing, furniture, working electronics, household appliances, cookware, tools, craft supplies, and more, to be donated to area non-profits and distributed back into the community. A complete list can be found on the event page. Paper shredding and e-recycling will also be available. Clear up your household clutter, help the earth, and give your gently used items a new life! The event will be held in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Lakewood at 2050 Chapel Hill Road. Want to help out at the inaugural Reuse Rodeo? Sign up to volunteer!

April 23, 12pm-5pm: Join us for Durham’s Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 23rd! Participants will enjoy green activities and demos, learn about sustainable practices and products at the Sustainability Expo and Earth Day Market, enjoy great music and food, and much more! The festival will take place at Durham Central Park at 501 Foster Street. To learn more, visit the event page. Interested in helping out? We are looking for waste warriors to help with recycling and composting at the event. Sign up to volunteer today!

April 27, 8am-2pm: The Community Appearance and Litter Index is a quantitative assessment used across the nation to gauge roadside litter levels. Volunteers from the community receive training and then drive set routes in Durham to conduct a visual inspection of litter levels and help identify future clean-up sites. Sign up with your friends and help us make Durham a cleaner community! Breakfast and lunch are available for all volunteers. More information is available on the event page.

April 29, 9am-1pm: We are bringing I Love Durham Limpio back! We are teaming up with Durham community partners to do an extensive litter cleanup with ALL members of the community. The purpose of this volunteer opportunity is for Durham community members to join forces by giving back to their community while learning about the environment and the resources Durham offers. We’d love for you to join us on April 29th from 9am-1pm! Don’t forget to bring your old shower heads to be traded in for NEW water efficient ones. Please visit the I Love Durham Limpio event page to view more information.

Get Your Hands Dirty For Spring

The birds will start chirping and the bees will start buzzing soon! It’s time for us to go outdoors and start working on our gardens. If you are new to gardening and are planning to start your own veggie garden, we have some tips for you:

  • Your garden should receive a minimum of 6 hours of sun per day, 8-10 hours is ideal
  • Your garden should be located near your house (this will make you use it!)
  • Your soil should be fertile and easy to till. Loose, well-drained loam are preferable; sandy and clay soils are fine as long as you add organic matter 
  • Avoid soggy soils that remain wet after it rains
  • Your garden needs 1″ of water/week. Please water in addition to rain
  • Your garden should have good air drainage- should be on high ground
  • and the FUN part-plan what type of veggies you want to grow
  • Start planting after the LAST frost date- April 13th 
  • Be prepared to dedicate half an hour of work per day to your garden

If a veggie garden isn’t your thing, you can plant a flower garden. Keep in mind to plant native species. Native species are accustomed to the soil, climate, and water conditions of their habitat. They will also require less maintenance than non-natives and will attract native species!

For a list of native flowers, ferns, grasses, rushes, and sedges visit the North Carolina Botanical Garden at UNC 

For more information on gardening, please visit NC State Cooperative Extension  site. 

East Durham Children Help Pollinators while Learning about Food Production

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Keep Durham Beautiful AmeriCorps Member, Monica Ospina, teaching 3rd graders at Spring Valley Elementary School about the important role pollinators play in our food production.

This fall, Keep Durham Beautiful partnered with East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) to educate East Durham 4th and 5th graders about the importance of pollinators. These young students are enrolled in the East Durham Youth Health Leadership Council (YLC) Program.

The purpose of EDCI’s Youth Health Leadership Council Program is to inspire, educate, and empower youth to become advocates for health and wellness within their community. The program provides training and leadership development opportunities for East Durham children. The training that is provided for the youth empowers them to lead the design and implementation of a community-based health intervention project, with the following core topics: leadership development, nutrition and healthy eating, health disparities, and physical activity.

One topic that interested EDCI was the connection between pollinators and food. At Keep Durham Beautiful, we found this to be an excellent opportunity to educate these young leaders about the relationship between pollinators and our current food system. Pollinators help plants to reproduce by carrying pollen from one plant to the other. It’s crucial to understand the process of how a berry becomes a berry (just to name a beloved fruit) and the key role pollinators play in that process.Experts calculate that pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 mouthfuls of drink or food that Americans consume.
The children learned that populations of pollinators, in particular bees, have been in decline in recent years due to pesticide use and habitat loss. However, as gloomy as that may be, we wanted to remind the kids that they play a vital role in helping to protect our pollen-loving friends! The youngsters learned that they can help raise awareness, advocate for pollinator-friendly gardens and habitat preservation, and decrease our use of pesticides.

To make the lesson hands-on, we planted pollinator-friendly seeds in Sub Irrigated Planters (SIP’s) also known as “self-watering plants.” The SIP’s were created with recycled 16 oz. water bottles that were collected from the City of Durham’s General Services Department. We also gave the kids extra pollinator friendly seeds, so that they can plant more at home. They were excited to help plant the seeds and advocate for pollinators.

Once the kids finish all of their training they will design and implement a project of their choice, if they decide to plant a pollinator garden in their school or community, Keep Durham Beautiful will be excited to guide them through the process.

More information on how to create your own SIP: http://www.brooklynseedcompany.com/how-to-make-a-plastic-bottle-sip/

Field Trip: Where Does Our Recycling Go?

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On Wednesday, November 16th, twenty-one of us took a trip to North Raleigh to visit the Sonoco Recycling Center. It was a great experience for us to learn about what happens to our recycling after being picked up by the truck.

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It all starts here at the transfer station. This location in Durham is where both recycling and garbage trucks come deposit what they picked up from our curbs. Their contents are dumped into trailers and hauled to their perspective locations.

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The machine pictured is responsible for sorting all our recyclables. It is called the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). The feed all the recycling into the MRF where the sorting begins.

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We all had a lot of questions for our tour guide Cesar. He answered a lot of misconceptions about what happens to our recycling and surprised us with how the market of recyclables works. He explained how the materials went through the system, were sorted, and then shipped to other locations and made into packaging for products we use every day.

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All our recyclables heading up the conveyor belt to get sorted!

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This belt separates the paper products from the glass, aluminum and plastics. Then they are sent to the respective locations to be bailed and prepped for shipment.

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Here workers are doing a quality control check get any debris or garbage that may till be mixed in with the aluminum.

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Here are all our recyclables bailed and ready to be shipped out to other locations to be remade into new packaging. As you can see this place is a very busy facility that works 24/7 to sort out our waste and keep it from landfills.

We want to thank Sonoco and their employees for being such great hosts. We all learned a lot from the visit. Thanks to Oscar Lyons and Patricia Fossum of Durham Sold Waste Management. Oscar got us to and from the locations safely, and Patricia showed us around the Durham transfer site. Also, thank you to Chelsea Arey of Wake Solid Waste Management for helping to coordinate the visit.

 

10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Trees

thankful-tree-giveaway-2016Durham residents are encouraged to register for a free tree as part of the Give Thanks: 2016 Keep Durham Beautiful Tree Giveaway and Food Drive

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s not too early to start reflecting on things we are thankful for. From providing the clean air and oxygen we appreciate during our outdoor fall activities to producing apples for that delicious apple crisp our neighbor makes– trees should be added to your list of things to give thanks for this November. While there are many reasons to be thankful for trees, here our 10 of our favorite motivations for planting, caring for, and protecting Durham’s trees:

10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Trees:

  1. Trees reduce violence: Studies have shown that barren neighborhoods and homes have a greater incidence of violence than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear.
  2. Trees conserve energy: Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. Reducing the energy demand for cooling saves money and reducescarbon dioxide and other pollution emissions.
  3. Trees cool the streets and the city: Trees cool a city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.Trees bring diverse groups of people together: Tree plantings provide an opportunity for community involvement and empowerment that improves the quality of life in our neighborhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event.
  4. Trees provide oxygen: In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
  5. Trees provide economic benefits: The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding neighborhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent. Similar benefits are seen in business districts; studies show that the more trees and landscaping a business district has, the more business will flow in.
  6. Trees combat the greenhouse effect: Trees absorb CO2, a major greenhouse gas, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.
  7. Trees clean the air: Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
  8. Trees help prevent soil erosion and water pollution: Trees reduce and slow runoff, holding soil in place and helping filter water naturally.
  9. Trees provide food: An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on a small urban lot. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food and habitat for birds and wildlife.

Help spread the love for trees:

Help spread the love for trees by joining us for our Give Thanks: 2016 Keep Durham Beautiful Tree Giveaway. Thanks to a generous donation from Alliance for Community Trees, Keep Durham Beautiful will be handing out 300 trees for Durham City and County residents this fall. To learn more about the tree species available and giveaway pre-registration, visit: www.keepdurhambeautiful.org/treegiveaway2016

Food Day and Pollinators

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We support Food Day held on October 24th because it helps to raise awareness on our current food system and promotes healthier diets. When I think of a healthy diet, I think of scrumptious vegetables and sweet juicy fruits along with sustainable farming practices. Sustainable farming practices take into account environmental preservation and limit the use of pesticides, which pollute the environment and are responsible for the decline in pollinator populations.

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Pollinators play an integral role in our food system and we can thank them because they help provide 1 out of 3 bites of food we consume each day. In the US more than 150 crops are dependent on pollinators; this includes most fruits and grain crops.

Flowers have evolved an ingenious way to reproduce by attracting pollinators to carry their pollen. Pollinators are attracted to flowers due to their scent, vivid colors, or their sweet nectar. Once the pollinator lands on one flower it gets covered in pollen and then carries it to the next flower to pollinate it. After the flower has been pollinated fruits containing seeds are formed, these fruits will be picked by farmers and end up in our markets where you and I will enjoy them.

So, on Food Day, let’s eat healthier and support sustainable practices in our food system, for pollinators’ sake!

 

To learn more about pollinators:

http://keepdurhambeautiful.org/programs/healthybeehealthyme/

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You and Your Child Get Better With Nature

Part of being an adult is having a busy life. There is work, social, and family obligations that keep most of us racing around like we are on a java-fueled bender. When we finally get a moment to relax, we typically pull out our phones to find out how our friends are coping with their equally busy lives. So it is not surprising that our children, who learn through mimicry, tend to do the same things with their electronics. So as adults we need to make an effort to teach our children better habits.

Family Using Electronics on Sofa

Family Using Electronics on Sofa

Science shows that both children and adults benefit greatly from spending time outside. Research has shown repeatedly that time spend outside leads to better health, improved cognitive ability, increased focus, and decreased levels of stress and anxiety. All these benefits can be gained just by ditching the cell phones and tablets for a family walk in the woods. There are also other ways it helps with your child’s development, such as free play.

Those of us that grew up before the Internet was everywhere will be familiar with the concept of free play. Essentially, free play was all the times you went out with your siblings or friends and made up games to play. Studies have found that free play is disappearing from children’s lives and being replaced with structured activities. The problem is that with all these structured activities, children are not learning how to be self-starters. In 2014 the University of Colorado conducted a study that found that kids who spent more time in free play had higher levels of executive function, or the ability to organize, plan, and achieve goals.

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Other studies have found that people (children included) who experience a sense of awe by viewing vast open landscapes are able to think more creatively. Researchers believe looking down from a mountaintop or over a vast expanse opens the brain up to seeing problems from new and different angles. This along with correlating research that shows that unplugging from technology and hiking through nature enhances higher order thinking.

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Finally, there are the therapeutic aspects of time spent in nature. According to a 2010 University of Essex study, five minutes of exercise in nature is just as effective as medication for some mental health issues. This new idea of using nature for therapy is called Ecotherapy and it is gaining a lot of traction. Outdoor activities are now being prescribed to veterans to help treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also, regular exercise is a great tool to lower anxiety levels in people.

For more information see:

http://www.takeachildoutside.org/

Rain gardens are a kind of Superhero garden!

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A rain garden is not your typical garden but rather a kind of “Superhero” garden. To all the gardeners that may be shocked by my claim, please allow me to explain myself. Rain gardens are composed of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers that are planted on a small depression on a slope. These superhero gardens are beneficial to us and wildlife in many ways. The main tasks of these gardens are to temporarily capture and soak rainwater runoff that flows from roofs, lawns, and driveways. If you’re thinking” but all gardens do that!” the answer is: yes and no. The reason is that traditional gardens are not planted in a “bowl-shaped” area but planted in a flat area. On this flat area, some water filters into the soil but MOST of the water runs off until it reaches a lake, river, stream, or storm water drain. During its journey, runoff picks up pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, dirt, oil, garbage, etc. Those pollutants will eventually reach and negatively affect our sources of drinking water and recreational areas. But with the help of our Superhero- Rain Garden the water will be captured and filter most of the pollutants. By collecting water in the “bowl-shaped” area, rain gardens also protect against flooding and erosion by minimizing the surge of water that rushes to a body of water after a storm. You can plant native plants that are accustomed to excess water in your rain garden. The added benefit of planting native is that these plants will help attract native species and reduce the amount of time spent in maintaining your garden. If you are trying to save the bees, butterflies and other friends the Superhero- Rain Garden will save them all along with enhancing the quality of our drinking water.

We have an upcoming volunteer opportunity to participate in planting a rain garden- Let’s Create a Superhero with Keep Durham Beautiful- Rain Garden Planting at Watts Montessori Elementary School on October 9, 2016 from 2:00 pm- 5:00pm.

 

Biography of Durham’s Finest Tree* No. 3: White Ash (Fraxinus Americana)

By: Wendy Diaz

A White Ash tree in Parkwood is the 2015 Durham’s Finest Trees¹ winner in the ‘large category’ for its species.  On March 6, 2016, four Durham trees located across the city and county were recognized for their size and significance during Durham’s Arbor Day ceremony at the Museum of Life and Science.  The White Ash (Fraxinus Americana) is located near the corner of Timmons Drive and McCormick Road in the Parkwood Neighborhood of South Durham.

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Description

It has a trunk circumference of 123 inches and it is at least 90 feet in height with an average canopy spread of 85 feet.  The white ash dominates the overstory of this small woodland and towers over understory hardwoods that surround it in this dense forest situated along a small tributary to Northeast Creek.  In fact, the height of the Parkwood Ash is close to the current North Carolina Champion Tree of the same species located in Forsyth County (height 100 feet, circumference 206 inches and 102 feet crown spread)¹.

The White Ash is the only southeast native of four ash species that is not a wetland species:  Green Ash-Fraxinus pennsylvanica; Carolina Ash- F. caroliniana; Pumpkin Ash-F. profunda².  A noteworthy characteristic of mature White Ash trees is the diamond-shaped ridging of the gray bark³.  On the west side of the Parkwood White Ash trunk is an area of the ridging that has been worn smooth; most probably from a large animal rubbing on the bark of the lower tree trunk who needed a good scratch.  An interesting bit of trivia for the Durham baseball fans out there—White Ash wood is used for the Louisville Slugger baseball bats.  Ash trees also support at least 150 pollinator species of moths and butterflies including the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail².

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History

The tree is located in the undeveloped natural area of the Parkwood subdivision, which up until its development in the early 1960’s was a very remote wooded area of Durham County4.  The first home was occupied in August, 19604 and the grand opening of the nearby Parkwood Shopping Center occurred on December 11, 19625).  The award-winning Parkwood neighborhood was linked to the development of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) to provide housing for RTP employees and Parkwood HOA was one of the first homeowners associations formed in North Carolina on September 25th, 19606.

A Serious Threat to Ash Trees

This grand old occupant of Southern Durham County is in danger of the southerly migration of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) from northern states.  The tiny iridescent green EAB, is a native of Asia, and was first discovered in southeastern Michigan in 2002.  It has taken just over a decade to reach North Carolina in 2013 by way of Virginia3.  Typically, the EAB will kill an ash tree within 3 to 5 years after the tree is infested3. It has already killed almost every ash tree species in Ontario and Quebec, Canada and is present in most states east of the Mississippi River.2  Female EABs lay eggs in bark crevasses and when the tiny larvae hatch they chew through the outer bark and then the inner bark.  The EAB bores into the sapwood and feeds on this tissue under the bark resulting in the tree loosing its ability to transfer food and water between the roots and leaves2.  The feeding larvae disrupt the transport systems of the tree by creating winding tunnels (galleries) in the sapwood2.  This time of year in late spring, the EAB has begun to emerge from the ash wood as a mature beetle and will feed on the leaves and reproduce.  To track the pest, The City of Durham is placing sticky traps at known stands of ash7.  These traps mimic the attractive scent that the distressed ash trees emit that is irresistible to the EAB.  If the presence of EAB is confirmed then the City of Durham is eligible to receive parasitoid wasps from the N.C Forest Service, which will eat the EAB larvae and slow the spread of EAB.  In 2014, the pest was found in Durham County but has not been trapped within the city limits, yet7.

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The Parkwood White Ash may well be a rarity in our county, if it survives.  It is no longer recommended that ash trees be planted as shade or street trees in our North American cities.  Unlike in the Northeast, Ash trees were rarely planted as street trees in Durham and it is estimated that only six per cent of Durham trees are ash and most are located in floodplains and along streams7.  Please protect the Parkwood White Ash and our existing ash trees by remembering to only use local firewood.  This will prevent unintentional transport of these pests to other stands and please report dying ash trees (initially the top of crown thins and partially dies) to the North Carolina Forest Service: http://www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/fh_eabfaq.htm.

Photo Credits: Wendy Diaz

References:

  1. http://ncforestservice.gov/Urban/big_species_results.asp
  2. Invasive Exotic Insects Threatening Our Native Forests, Emerald Ash Borer in North Carolina by Catherine Bollinger  North Carolina Botanical Garden Conservation Gardener Magazine; Spring & Summer 2016
  3. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=282936&isprofile=1&basic=White%20Ash
  4. http://www.newsobserver.com/living/livcolumnsblogs/pasttimes/article27115885.html)
  5. http://www.opendurham.org
  6. http://www.parkwoodnc.org
  7. Durham Now Monitoring for New Invasive Tree Pest, by Alex Johnson, Urban Forestry Manager, General Services Department, City of Durham. Herald-Sun Newspaper, Sunday, May 8, 2016

* Durham’s Finest Trees program recognizes significant trees in Durham County, promotes discovery and ability to identify trees, and helps preserve the best examples of specific tree species, particularly native and those trees well adapted to Durham County. The program also promotes awareness of trees in our community and hopes to catalog fine examples of magnificent specimens of trees due to their size, setting, historical importance, or significant feature.

Durham naturalists and tree lovers of all ages are invited to submit their nominations for significant trees in Durham County now through October 1, 2016. Trees on private or public property can be nominated in each of the three categories: largest, historical, or meritorious. Preference will be given to native North Carolina tree species. Non-native trees may be considered if they are of a species, subspecies, variety or cultivar proven to be relatively long-lived and well adapted to North Carolina. Winning trees will be recognized on Arbor Day 2017. Please read the official rules before submitting a nomination.

Originally published by the Durham Master Gardeners Extension

Biography of Durham’s Finest Tree* No. 3: White Ash (Fraxinus Americana)