Happy Earth Day! (Unless you’re reading from somewhere else, in which case, Happy Monday!)
I’m almost too tired to do much celebrating today. The combination of our semi-annual neighborhood clean-up on Saturday and over three hours of lawn maintenance on Sunday have me feeling a bit pooped.
I live in a nice, middle-class suburb, where most people take care of their lawns. Unfortunately we have a “cut-through” street that connects two busier thoroughfares, and some of those people see no problem in tossing trash out their car windows. Most residents pick up the transient trash that lands in their yards or gutters, and other folks (that’d be me) pick up for those who can’t or just plain don’t pick up quickly. (We have a lot of senior-types who aren’t able. The others are just slobs.)
Besides being ugly, the problem with trash in the gutters is that the first gully-washer rain we get sends the trash straight to a storm drain, where it will either block the drain so that rain water backs up and causes flooding, or it will empty into the system and wind up in the Mississippi River. Here’s a little look at what happens when a metropolitan area of over a million people doesn’t keep its storm drains clear of trash (video only lasts a minute or so):
Pitiful. That’s the only word for it: pitiful.
I’m marginally pleased to report that on this past Saturday, we found only a few bottles and cans in the neighborhood proper–the adjacent wooded lane we’ve adopted was another story entirely–but we did have a pretty big problem plaguing our streets: oak catkins, or as I call it, oak poop. Catkins are the male oak flower, and once they’ve done their pollen-y thing, they drop from the tree where the spring winds toss them about to collect in huge piles in the street. And where does this go? Straight to the storm drain.
On the left you see the oak poop. On the right, you see one of the drains I cleared on Saturday. This one was especially tough, because small branches had washed onto the top of the drain openings and then silt had come in on top of it to create a complete blockage. Think: suburban beaver dam. After I’d cleared the loose layer on top, I ran (literally!) back home for my small shovel and cleared the muck and yuck from the drain so that it will, you know, drain. We’re supposed to have thunderstorms tomorrow. I may go out to watch “my” drain do it’s thing.
I really don’t understand why so many people don’t seem to care. Still, I’m committed to “enlightening” my neighbors and have assembled some tips for ensuring our community’s trash doesn’t make it to the local river:
Tips for Being Good Storm Drain Guards
- When you see trash, pick it up.
- Secure the lids on trash cans and recycle bins, especially during windy times.
- Don’t blow lawn clippings or leaves into the street.
- Take your pet droppings to your trash can. Dropping them down the storm drain is NOT the solution. (I don’t like carrying around dog poo either, especially in the summer, but I’ll do it joyfully in the quest for a healthier planet.)
- Don’t use a storm drain for a dumping station for waste products. You might as well go ahead and drink it straight, because it’s going to end up in your water supply anyway.
- Since I’ve actually seen someone dumping used motor oil into a drain, another good tip is to keep the phone number of the appropriate reporting agency handy. (In Memphis, you can even report it online!)
Feel free to “enlighten” your community as well! And until they see the light, why not check out your nearest storm drain to make sure it’s clear?!
Today, I’m focusing on a different set of gutters: the ones on my house. With three poop-dropping oak trees in my yard, my gutters runneth over. Oh well, lots more functional exercise today! This might be my third 1000+ calories-burned day in a row!
What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day?