Build Back Better | Our Personal Lives

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 22, 2021 by Noreen Wise

It’s a brand new day, filled with so much hope. We have a new administration, expressing a multitude of positive and inspirational words of wisdom and transformative goals, as well as outlining the steps forward that will lead us toward the achievement of these goals. It all begins with each of us participating. 

The importance of participation in our democratic form of government—of the people, by the people, for the people — cannot be overemphasized. It should be one of the main takeaways of the very dark, oppressive and traumatic last four years that we’ve just survived. Majority participation is what led to a successful outcome. Let’s absorb and wrap our minds around this reality. We must promise to never forget that participation is everything in a democracy as we enter these green fields of hope.

Build back better. We’ve heard this message repeatedly for the last nine months. But, how about if we do more than just build our economy back better. How about if we build our lives back better too. This means trying to regain our physical and mental footing, which will result in us being that much healthier, happier and stronger.

Gallant Gold Media’s Hill Report is very excited to announce the Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide, a weekly article featuring tips provided by sustainable living guru, Stephen Santangelo. Stephen will share the how to’s of lowering our carbon footprints and improving our own health and happiness. It’s highly probable that Stephen’s insightful knowledge will also provide us with that many more economic opportunities. Sustainable living saves participants a lot of money.

Stephen and his wife Lori, launched into the all-in sustainable lifestyle scene by making the bold decision to relocate from Southern California to Kentucky. Stephen explained that the price of land in Kentucky for farming was that much less expensive than Southern California. In fact, the California price for the same amount of land was prohibitive. 

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember all those we lost to Covid. Ponderosa Pines Ranch forest. All thanks to ranch owner Byron Richard!

What is sustainable living? Sustainable living is a circular economy lifestyle with a goal of zero waste that includes all the common buzzwords that flood Instagram, and other social media platforms daily. A series of small, seemingly insignificant daily choices and habits, that collectively, if we all participate, will lower carbon emissions dramatically. Additionally, these same small, daily choices will restore our environment, reduce global warming, and reverse climate change. This includes everyday decisions such as:

  • Reusable shopping bags 
  • Reusable drink containers, especially when stopping at Starbucks
  • Reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle
  • Composting kitchen scraps 
  • Applying the compost to our soil
  • Growing our own food as much as possible, ie herbs, fruits and vegetables
  • LED bulbs
  • Shorter showers
  • Run full loads of laundry
  • Air dry laundry
  • Renewable energy
  • Regifting
  • Bamboo paper towels that can be washed and dried quickly, one roll can last an entire year
  • And so much more

Stephen and Lori are overachievers on many of these levels, particularly food sustainability. Stephen explains that they’ve always been health conscience and raised their children that way. They’re now 97-98 percent food sustainable, and never eat out. This is mind boggling. The photos of their gardens are an amazing example of what appears to be relatively achievable for all of us. Such an inspiration. Stephen assured me that healthy soil is a big deal and he’ll provide tips in the upcoming weeks. His farming schedule is as follows, in his own words: 

  • From April – October, 4-12 hours per day.
  • From November – March, virtually none…
  • …the soil has been prepared and fed in late October, and the microbes do the rest. 

How does this benefit you personally? Not only does sustainable living restore the environment, improve our quality of life, and lower our carbon footprints — which again, if we all participate, will dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and thus reverse climate change — Stephen enthusiastically explains that there are numerous additional personal benefits. These benefits have significantly improved Stephen and Lori’s well-being, most notably health and fitness. After suffering through a year of Covid, isn’t that what we all want? To be healthier. Thankfully, Stephen has agreed to share his wonderful health and fitness tips in the upcoming articles. 

Stephen and Lori have become so connected to the earth through farming, that Stephen digs extensively into the scientific research side of things. In fact, Stephen emphasized at the very beginning, that he’s all about science, and that all of his habits and routines have been acquired through intense investigating. His scientific research list is 32 sources long. Stephen’s knowledge is so deep and broad that writing this brief pilot article was daunting. 

The next steps:

  • Stephen advises that the very first thing we need to do is admit that we have to make lifestyle changes.
  • Additionally, Stephen points out that there’s science behind sustainable living lifestyle choices, especially as they pertain to farming, nature, health and exercise and it’s important that we take the time to read up and do the necessary research. Science based podcasts can be very informative as well.
  • Print the above sustainable living list and check off each item daily until each becomes habit.

Be sure to check back next Thursday for the next Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide with Stephen Santangelo.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Nation That Destroys Its Soil Destroys Itself — FDR

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 18, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Soil and dirt are not the same thing, according to geologist and author David R. Montgomery. Dark brown soil is life, teaming with microbes that are the engineers of all the nature that flourishes above ground. Microbe rich soil contains major amounts of carbon and moisture. Soil is the very thing that sustains our existence on the planet. 

Much paler dirt on the other hand is lifeless, containing little or no microbes, carbon or moisture, making it very difficult for plants to grow on their own. There is nothing that holds the dirt together, which often results in the wind sweeping the dirt away, creating heaps along fence lines and structure walls. 

David Montgomery warns readers in his book, Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, that soil degradation is what destroys civilizations. The Great Dustbowl of the 1930’s was a result of a decade of soil degradation brought on by plowing during the 1920’s which removed the nutrient rich topsoil, released all the stored carbon into the air, and left behind nothing but dirt in its wake.

What’s the heart of the matter? Soil, rich in microbes, can store major amounts of carbon. Nearly 70 percent of the carbon sequestered in a forest is stashed in the soil. Plants push the carbon they absorb down to the roots where it is released into the soil and safely trapped, reducing the atmospheric carbon level. The higher our atmospheric carbon level, the more the globe heats up. 

How does this impact you personally? Global warming impacts all of us negatively. The warmer weather often results in droughts which impacts agriculture, decreasing our food supply. This is occurring at the same time the global population is rising, creating a greater demand for food. Global warming causes the climate around the globe to change. It has melted glaciers, which in turn has increased the water levels of our oceans, lakes and rivers. Property values along shorelines have plummeted in many areas. Additionally, coastal homeowners are now finding it very difficult to get insurance for their homes and property. The wildfires out West have destroyed millions of acres of forests and billions of mature trees which has exasperated the climate crisis creating catastrophic climate blowback. According to David R. Montgomery, the United States has already lost 50 percent of soil’s organic matter, leaving behind dirt in its place.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember all those we lost to Covid. Ponderosa Pines Ranch forest. All thanks to ranch owner Byron Richard!

How can you fix this? Every household in the United States must compost. Composting kitchen scraps is an imperative for restoring our soil. Compost is filled with the vital microbes that are essential for soil health. Local grocery stores now have biodegradable compost bags. These kitchen scrap compost bags can be safely stored in your refrigerator if you don’t have an outdoor compost bin with a snap clip lid that will keep wildlife out of your compost. The majority of developed countries in the world have mandatory composting with curbside pickup once a week, but not the U.S. unfortunately. Private compost pick-up companies are popping up in the majority of US cities. Additionally, many U.S. towns now have compost drop-off sites. 

The next steps:

  • place kitchen scraps into a small kitchen bag instead of the sink or garbage
  • store in refrigerator if you don’t have an outside bin with snap lid
  • drop off at town compost site once a week or call to have a private company pickup your compost
  • Voila! So easy. You’ve just helped save our existence on earth.

We can do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Gift Worth Waiting For | Exciting Eco Projects For Students While Distance Learning

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 19, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. A. Ed

Wandering through a wooded park or along a shady path, it’s easy to miss what’s right before our eyes. How often do we consider the gifts before us, planted long ago? The cool breeze and fresh fragrance are momentary experiences that began with the planting of seeds. No matter how the trees, shrubs, and understory got there, whether through nature or a particular person, you and I are the beneficiaries.

Thomas Jefferson understood this. His legacy of Monticello lies not only in its Neoclassical architecture but in its lush landscape. As a matter of course, school children learn the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Yet how often are they given the opportunity to uncover Jefferson’s other significant gift, the carbon-fighting greenery flourishing at Monticello and Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia? His plans for Monticello included vegetable gardens, a vineyard, two orchards, and an 18-acre ornamental forest. Trees planted as early as the mid-19th Century still adorn the Academical Village at UVA. This life-giving vegetation continues to fight the greenhouse gasses humans add to the environment. Jefferson and other forward-thinking botanists gave us gifts centuries before we recognized them. We can pass on their legacy by teaching our children about the gift of trees – what we have received and how we can give.

This land was once James Monroe’s cornfield. But Thomas Jefferson bought it and said, “Let there be trees!”

Benefits of Trees

  • Trees clean the air by trapping particulates on their leaves and branches.
  • Trees help prevent water pollution by collecting rainwater on their bark and leaves and depositing it in the ground below.
  • Trees provide economic opportunities for small businesses that provide food to local markets.
  • Exposure to trees helps relieve mental fatigue.

     Jefferson’s story and his gardens offer valuable lessons for young people. Planting a tree, caring for a sapling, waiting for growth all require patience and hard work. What better way to learn these important life skills? Planting trees with children engages them physically and gives them purposeful time outdoors. Watching and waiting for the first green sign of life teaches youngsters that growth takes time, just like their own development. The tree will need nurturing and thoughtful care including some hands on, “Let’s get messy” work. To generate interest in tree planting, you can begin with age-appropriate literature about trees and their care. Adolescents may be energized to learn about the difference trees make in the fight against global warming, or they may want to plant their tree to support a friend going through a difficult time. So, take a moment to enjoy a refreshing breeze and appreciate the clean scent of a forest. Then make a plan for the gift you will give, a gift someone is waiting for.

“Let there be trees,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Ways to Give Back

  • Plant a tree or shrub in your yard (and post a photo on social media)
  • Add Virginia Creeper to cover a fence
  • Learn more about trees and spread the word

Resources for Parents

Books:

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-10)

Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words by Brandon Walden (ages 6-12)

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia (ages 8-12)

Websites:

Informative video for parents and kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVvZLyZAIg

Tree Activities for Kids: https://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/tree-activities-for-kids.html

Benefits of trees: https://canopy.org/tree-info/benefits-of-trees/urban-trees-and-climate-change/,

https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits


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Fairfax Ninth Grader Reveals NoVa Native Carbon Storage Champions

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 18, 2020 by Noreen Wise

The planet will keep revolving around the sun, no matter how destructive and irresponsible humans are. But we humans won’t. Humans are mammals. Mammals rely on our habitat to survive. And mammals eventually become extinct when our habitat disappears. Eighty mammals have gone extinct in the past five centuries.

Humans have escalated the destruction of our habitat for several centuries now. Leveling billions of trees. Replacing nature with concrete. We began waking up at the turn of the millennium. Al Gore traveled the globe with his megaphone, beating the drum, challenging us with his Inconvenient Truth. But did we rush into action, planting billions of trees and shrubs to restore our habitat?

No, sadly, we did not.

And now we have to face the fallout. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. A jarring reminder that haunts us as we finally begin racing to save our habitat by infusing as much nature into our local communities as possible, implementing an agenda to quickly catch up to a level we would already be at if we’d begun the campaign back at the turn of the millennium as Al Gore suggested.

The interesting phenomenon that nature graciously reminds us of, is that it can’t be rushed. We can’t force a tree to grow dramatically faster than it is predisposed to grow. With this reality staring us in the face, it’s imperative that we turn to shrubs to help with carbon storage, providing oxygen, filtering pollutants, stabilizing soil, increasing property values, and providing shade all while the young trees continue their upward climb.

At the end of October, Gallant Gold Media’s Hill Report ran a story about a W. T. Woodson High School ninth grader in Fairfax, Virginia, Julia Victor, and her science experiment for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair . Julia was determined to find out if shrubs can hold as much carbon as trees. Today we are very eager to share Julia’s findings.

Julia’s original hypothesis: I am hypothesizing that the holly tree will grow to be the largest and will absorb the most carbon. I also think that shrubs might not be far behind. I am hoping to be able to come to the conclusion that shrubs and smaller plants are just as important to reversing climate change as large trees. 

The steps that Julia initially planned to implement to test her hypothesis:

  1. Remove the soil and weigh each plant. Record each plant’s bare root weight (without soil).
  2. If plants are not the same weight, trim each plant until they are approximately equal.
  3. Plant each plant in its new container with 1 gallon of soil each. Label each container with the plant species.
  4. Water each plant with 1 cup of water each. 
  5. Set up each plant’s light to a 12-hour timer to simulate the sun.
  6. Water each plant regularly with its recommended amount of water.
  7. After 25 days, remove all the soil from the bare roots from each plant and weigh.

The NoVa native species that Julia used in her experiment:

  • American Holly 
  • Strawberry bush
  • Spicebush
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Black Chokeberry

I sent Julia a list of follow up questions, but its best to let her explain her findings in her own words.

First question: Julia, were you able to follow her exact procedure. She replied:

I followed my original procedure except for step two. Some of the plants had very different starting weights so I would have to trim the plants quite a bit. If I had trimmed them all to be the same weight, some plants would have very little leaf coverage which would affect their ability to absorb carbon. That step was originally included to make conclusions easier for me, but I didn’t want to alter my results even though it would make it easier. 

What was the most challenging part of the experiment?

The most challenging part of the process was weighing the plants at the beginning and end of the experiment. I took three measurements for each plant, which led to 150 measurements. The process of unplanting, bare-rooting, weighing, and replanting took all day, but I was excited to start my experiment and to see my results. 

What were your findings?

The species all reacted differently to the same conditions. Some plants showed a surprising amount of change over only 24 days, but others lost leaves and lost weight. Even within species, each plant had variance. I started the experiment expecting that each plant would be different and be able to process carbon differently. Using a t-test, I determined that on average, plants that started out larger (30+ grams) grew substantially more than the smaller plants. This is consistent with research I did before starting my experiment. The larger plants were in a different stage of life and can sequester more carbon. 

Which species stored the most carbon?

On average the American Holly sequestered the most carbon, but the individual plant that gained the most weight was a Black Chokeberry. Not all plants gained weight due to leaves falling and certain plants entering their winter stage, but on average every species gained weight. Some species gained less weight because they had more intense winter stages or because the species processes carbon slower. By looking at the data, I can say that the shrubs are important to carbon sequestration. The trees (American Hollies) did absorb more carbon than the shrubs, but Black Chokeberry was very close behind. 

Will you be planting any nature this spring?

This spring, I will be planting all 25 shrubs that were in my experiment at my school. I originally planned to plant them in my yard, but many of them will grow to be fairly large and my yard does not have enough space. My science teacher was happy to plant them at Woodson.


Julia’s work and her findings are significant. I’m cheering this exciting outcome and personally look forward to planting black chokeberry this spring. I can’t wait to promote planting NoVa native trees and shrubs as well. Gallant Gold Media will be sending Julia’s work to Al Gore to see what he has to say about a young Fairfax, Virginia ninth grader taking action to address an Inconvenient Truth. Stay tuned for more information.

Thank you, Julia Victor! Northern Virginia, and I’m sure the entire state of Virginia, appreciates your hard work for our betterment.

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Chopping Down Trees Creates Legal Liability

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 16, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Trees provide everything from oxygen to habitats for animals, yet they are chopped down with impunity. The damage to the environment is incalculable. To put it into perspective, however, half the number of trees exist now than those in existence when humans first evolved; fifteen billion trees are cut down annually; and ten percent of climate change is attributable to chopping down trees. Environmental carnage aside, legal liability and criminal liability exist for cutting down trees that do not belong to the harvester.

The legal terms most closely associated with cutting down and removing trees that do not belong to the harvester are “timber trespass” (mistakenly harvesting trees from another’s property) and “timber theft” (stealing trees from someone’s property). Timber trespass deals more with the civil end whereas timber theft can involve civil and criminal penalties. It varies from state to state. Nevertheless, lawsuits are filed for large sums of money over taking timber that does not belong to the harvester. 

In South Carolina, as of 2016 one-hundred cases per year are investigated and pursued with a value of between $500,000 and $600,000. A man in North Carolina illegally cut timber near Asheville, the value of the trees owned by a conservancy assessed at $1,000, but the mill rights to the timber of $25,000-$30,000. 

Illegal tree harvesting tends to be less of a problem in North Carolina, which has a larger population, than it is in Maine, which has a smaller population and vast swaths of uninhabited forests. Maine has over one-thousand complaints of timber theft each year.

The damage to the environment cannot be separated from the legal issues that arise from stealing trees, which are property, but they are far more than that to every living thing. In the most basic sense, illegal harvest of trees contributes to the problem of deforestation:

Over half the world’s land-based plants and animals live in forests, and three quarters of the world’s birds live in and around forests. It does not take a science PhD or intricate knowledge of environmental science or ecology to understand that the more trees that are cut, the more environmental problems that will follow.  

And it is a problem all over the world from the rainforests in South America to the United States to even Ireland:

All of it is interconnected, and every time a tree is cut down (regardless if it is replaced), the owner of the tree is impacted as is the rest of the planet. While planting new trees can certainly mitigate the problem, it cannot recapture what is lost every time a tree is cut down. Sadly, the only way to stop harvesting of trees may be filing lawsuits because people and corporations tend to respond the most when their money is on the line. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Glass Packaging Curbs Plastic Waste | Boycott Plastic Packaging

Washington (GGM) Analysis |December 12, 2020 by Noreen Wise

My obsession with glass packaging is based on the fact that we as individuals and families can easily make a difference in curbing plastic waste through our product choices. We saw during the 2020 presidential election, the power that 80 million people acting in unison hold, and the positive influence it has on society. Let’s keep going and use this same force to unleash significant action on climate action. All that’s required is that we’re more aware of what brands we select and how our selections impact the decision making at each corporation.

First, let’s be clear, there will always be a standard 30% of the public who will never care and will refuse to change their habits, not matter how much proof is provided. So we can’t worry about this. They’ll be forced to adapt when corporations stuck in the past go out of business.

But for the rest of us, the facts are compelling. And if we are to safeguard our children’s futures, it’s imperative that we change our daily and weekly habits appropriately.

Condiments really are a game changer
  • The hotel industry has done a remarkable job of ditching all the tiny plastic bottled of incidentals and switching to giant dispensers in the showers. As soon as Bonvoy Marriott announced their decision, the majority of hotels immediately followed suit. Imagine how quickly the plastic nightmare would end, if Heinz did the same. Condiments and soda are two plastic heavy hitters. Coke has responded. Coke, Sprite and Fanta, along with a handful of other familiar soda brands, are sold in both glass and plastic in super markets. But Heinz refuses to compromise. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing across the board, all Heinz-Kraft products are only sold in plastic.
  • According to Mashed, Heinz sells 650 million (plastic) bottles of ketchup per year, 1,000 bottles per minute. The tip of the Heinz plastic iceberg though may be the 11 billion packets of ketchup that Thrillist asserts Heinz sells per year. If Heinz would simply do what’s best for the public and for the planet, there would be an immediate and dramatic reduction in plastic waste.
  • National Geographic stunned the world in early 2020 by announcing that only 9% of plastic is recycled.
  • The majority of spaghetti sauce brands are sold in glass bottles, possibly 95%. BBQ sauce is at nearly 85% sold in glass, with the only two significant plastic holdouts are Heinz and Kraft.
  • So many new everyday essential products have debuted in 2020 minus the plastic packaging: laundry detergent sheets, toothpaste tablets, shampoo & conditioner bars.

Interestingly, spaghetti sauce sold in glass is priced lower than Heinz Ketchup sold in plastic. What gives? This makes no sense.

There doesn’t appear to be any data supporting Keinz’s stubborn refusal to adapt to the climate crisis. There’s just one way left to motivate Heinz to do the right thing… boycott Heinz!

I found organic Red Duck Ketchup, a brand new ketchup that’s positively delicious. I love finding a reason to enjoy it every single day.

Boycotts are the American way. They work. Corporations respond to consumer demand that hits them in their wallets. It’s the upside of capitalism.~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Let’s Rush to Win One Eco Battle | Commit To Zero Waste 2021

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 6, 2020 by Noreen Wise

It’s exciting to think about all the ways we can rush forward on the climate front in 2021, with John Kerry as the US Climate Envoy, and our 46th President, Joe Biden promising to rejoin the Paris Agreement on the day he’s inaugurated, January 20, 2021.

Let’s nail the waste scene as soon as possible. It’s not complicated. It just takes focus.

I look forward to 2021 super jazzed to be living a circular economy life. I took the leap year ago, and was pumped to have it nearly perfected by December 2019, which is when I successfully managed a zero waste month. I felt like I’d won an olympic gold medal, not to mention the excitement of having extra money in my pocket the way Wall Street geniuses always do.

Waste is something we can all manage on our own without being forced by laws. We just wake up one morning (this morning hopefully) and say, “I’m in!” And voila, we’re three quarters of the way there.

A zero waste life is about setting up a defined circular economy zone in our households where we can easily breakdown everything we consume so that it can quickly be turned around for multiple uses. The goal is:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle & Upcycle

Refuse is a big deal. We have the power to motivate businesses to do the right thing very effectively by refusing to buy certain products that create waste. For example, back at the beginning of October 2019, I made the decision to never buy ketchup packaged in plastic again. This was very difficult, because Heinz has cornered the market and there were no glass alternatives. I called Heinz, but Heinz refuses to sell ketchup packaged in glass in the US the way they used to. So I made the bold decision to switch to BBQ sauce, 85 percent of which is packaged in glass.

HillReport2-6-2020

•A month later, Red Duck created a brand new product, ketchup in glass. It’s delicious, so much healthier. And it’s organic too. Thank you, Red Duck! A responsive American corporation meeting consumer demand.

•Additionally, I now use the recyclable paper towels made from bamboo that can be washed a hundred times. They dry on the counter so quickly. This has dramatically reduced our household waste.

•In 2020, wonderful new eco-products have been rolled out, shunning the standard plastic packaging and using paper instead: toothpaste tablets, laundry detergent sheets, shampoo and conditioner bars, and more.

•I recently purchased my first vegan leather tote bag, handmade from cork in Portugal. Vegan leather is a massive new industry. No more animal cruelty.

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We must all transition to these new basics. We hold all the power in this climate crisis. By wielding our money in the right direction, we can preserve our children’s future.

Composting kitchen scraps is a very big deal. Our oceans are stuffed with carbon and can’t handle one more ounce. We lost billions of trees in 2020 as a result of the infernos out West. We suddenly find ourselves at a staggering loss in the ability to sequester the carbon we emit in the US. Soil holds 70 percent of the carbon stored in forests. We must rush to plant tons of green —trees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers — as well as fill the soil with compost from home kitchen scraps in the hopes that we can move the needle at twice the speed we’d otherwise be able to do. This is life or death. It’s an imperative.

US household kitchens should have multiple bins just like in Canada and the EU:

  • Composting for food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Paper recycling
  • Plastic recycling
  • Glass recycling or reuse for storage containers, drinking glasses, vases, etc
  • Aluminum recycling

Once this is all set up, you’ll soon find that you have no garbage. It’s startling. A year ago, on New Years Eve 2019, I lifted the lid and my garbage bin was completely empty.

We’ve got this. Let’s rush!~

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Trees for Love | 247 Seedlings Planted to Remember Those We’ve Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 7, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is excited to share the wonderful news that 247 free redbud and button bush seedlings were distributed to Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents to plant in remembrance of those lost to Covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings, which Gallant Gold Media distributed through George Mason University’s parking Lot P on Saturday, October 24, 2020. The Fairfax Tree Commission was the essential liaison that made this all possible, enabling the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting these various organizations. 

It takes a village.

Apparently, the Trees for Love campaign is the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia during 2020. The Burke Centre Conservancy was the largest group of planters, distributing 146 Fairfax ReLeaf free seedlings to their Clusters and residences. The rest of the redbud and button bush seedlings were claimed by Northern Virginia residents, many of whom were moved by friends and family who’d been lost to covid and were searching to find a meaningful way to honor their memory.

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Burke Centre Conservancy are big tree planters, here’s a photo from 2019

One such resident was Dawn Zimmerman. Dawn, a Virginia State licensed professional counselor, operating her solo practice Imago Dei Counseling in Fairfax City, attributes her love of nature and gardening and the outdoors to her grandfather, a midwest farmer, as well as spending her childhood in Thailand. Although born in metro Washington DC, Dawn’s father was a State Department Foreign Service Officer. From a young age Dawn seems to have become well-acquainted with the understanding of how important it is to connect with others in our community and let them know we care, especially during a crisis.

Whether it’s Dawn’s close connection to the State Department, her career as a counselor, or her passion for nature, Dawn felt compelled to enrich Northern Virginia with multiple Virginia Native redbuds and button bushes to honor the five family and friends she’s lost to Covid. Dawn wanted us to know more than just their names though, she was eager to share their stories.

Ron Ontko: Dawn’s honorary uncle, passed away from Covid related complications on April 2, 2020 in Hendersonville, NC. He was 89 years old. Ron and his wife Carol, met in Wisconsin, and after college, while in a young couples group at Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, DC,  became good friends with Dawn’s parents. The two couples went on to become lifelong friends. Ron was an avid photographer and devoted ‘Skins fan, but his career was spent in public service. After graduating high school, Ron served in the United States Air Force, before he returned to school. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Wisconsin and then his master’s degree in international law from George Washington University. From there, Ron worked for the NSA, the United States Senate, and the US State Department, which is quite a remarkable resume. Ron Ontko was a Freemason and a Shiner, participating in fundraising for numerous children’s charities. He is survived by his wife Carol of 62 years, as well as his son, Andrew, and daughter, Julie.

Jack “Zeke” Zimmerman: Zeke is Dawn’s uncle, who was lost to Covid related pneumonia on October 21, 2020 at aged 86 in Frederick, MD. Survived by wife Lynn, sons Steve (Andrea) and grandsons Eric and Mark of Memphis, TN; Paul of Wilmington, DE and was predeceased by son John, Silver Spring, MD.  Also survived by Mary Lee Zimmerman, the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

The following is a loving tribute written by Zeke’s grandson, Mark Zimmerman:
Zeke Zimmerman was known to many as the “Godfather of DC Metropolitan Area Sandlot Basketball.”  GrandJack lived his life around basketball. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and fielded basketball teams. He formed teams from players that he would recruit from across the country. Around 1950, having teams with multiple races was unprecedented. My grandfather did not judge a player based on his skin color, but on his basketball ability. Jack was known as Zeke Zimmerman in the D.C. area. He formed a team called “Zeke’s All-Stars.” This was the first team that had both black and white players in the D.C. area. Because my grandfather did not judge a player based on his race, many black basketball players were able to go to college for basketball or even the NBA. A couple of years ago, he gave me a jersey from the 1950 Zeke’s All-Stars team. This jersey is a symbol of my family’s value of inclusion. It did not matter which race wore this specific jersey. The only thing that mattered was that my grandfather saw talent in that young man, and he wanted to help. My family still holds the values of inclusion and equality in our everyday lives, as we do not judge people based on their skin tone, but on their personality.

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Redbud and button bush seedlings planted to remember Zeke Zimerman and Ron Ontko

The following is a State Department obituary with a few extra details provided by Dawn:
Patrick “David” Husar, 67, died May 9, in Arlington, VA. David was born in Lorain, Ohio located on Lake Erie and 30 miles West of Cleveland. At University of Kentucky, where David majored in history, one of his professors encouraged him to consider a career with the Foreign Service. Joining in 1976, Husar served as a consular officer at posts in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines before transitioning to Civil Service. He retired in 2016 and enjoyed long walks around the Washington area, was an avid reader, and was dedicated to his faith. He is survived by his wife, Jonahlyn; a brother Michael; and extended family in the Philippines.

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Button bush seedling planted to remember David Husar

Daniel Lee: Spending a few minutes on Google images to view the architectural designs that Daniel Lee graced upon all of us here in the United States, is sure to inspire. And inspiration is certainly the impulse Mr. Lee appears to have been striving for when he graduated from the Mississippi School of Architecture in 1981 and began his career in classical architecture as an intern with Allen Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is one of the premier classical architects of the twenty-first century. The son of Protestant missionaries, Mr. Lee’s love of classical architecture sprung from his childhood in Paris, France, surrounded by neoclassical landmarks erected during the reign of Louis XIV and that continued all the way through Louis XVI. Many of us here in Virginia are endowed with an inherent appreciation for classical architecture, which dates back to the founding of our most historic cities. So it’s with great sadness that we lost Mr. Lee to Covid on August 17, 2020, at age 64. Mr. Lee is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leonor Lee, his two sons, Stephen and Christopher, and two daughters, Susanne and Katherine.

Redbud seedling planted to remember Daniel Lee

There’s an additional friend of the family. In Dawn’s own words:
Pat Purcell died from Covid related complications on May 11th, 2020 in Fairfax, VA. Pat resided in the same Senior living community as my mom and was the elderly mother of Ann Lawrence, a friend of my parents from their local Lutheran Church. Mom and Pat became friends but lived on different floors and in different areas of the building. Interestingly, Pat was actually a member of a local Baptist Church but was adopted by the Lutheran pastor, Rev Sandy Kessinger who made regular visits to their Continuing Care Community. 

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Redbud seedlings planted to remember Pat Purcell

Dawn spent 10 years working at the State Department before starting her counseling firm. After buying her townhouse, she became involved with her HOA replanting project, which she finds life affirming. During the first five years she hand-dug holes, which is quite a feat, and planted five trees, as well as a slew of shrubs and perennials. Dawn was sidelined from her gardening last year following two minor car accidents which required physical therapy. But thankfully, she returned with all her passion and began removing hundreds of “small, weedy Rose of Sharon saplings and bush honeysuckle” that were rapidly spreading in the HOA areas. She’d learned about the importance of growing Virginia Natives and was determined to correct the situation.

Dawn’s Virginia Native Trees for Love redbud and buttonbush seedlings are planted in three HOA areas in Dawn’s Northern Virginia townhouse community. Dawn received a note from one family member who expressed, “That’s perfect; thank you. Not just words but heartfelt, tears flowing, gratitude.”

When I asked Dawn for one final thought on the importance of planting trees, she responded with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Fracking May Decide Pennsylvania

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 4, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are locked in a tight battle for the presidency, which may come down to Pennsylvania. Big coal and facking employ many people in Pennsylvania, and, understandably, fracking is a huge issue. All the votes have been cast and are being counted, but the Pennsylvania race (and possibly the presidency) may come down to the issue of fracking. The two candidates’ positions are more similar than you may think.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique for extracting oil and natural gas by firing pressurized liquid into the Earth’s crust. Trump has long supported the practice and has even signed an Executive Order to protect fracking. Biden’s position has been to say he will not ban fracking, but that he will look towards alternative fuel sources, perhaps in an effort to win key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio (which he appears to have lost). One indication of how important this issue is in Pennsylvania can be gleaned from Vice Presidential Kamala Harris’s October 6, 2020 tweet:

While Biden and Harris must appeal to the Green New Deal part of the Democratic Party, they must also win key states such as Pennsylvania, which rely heavily on fracking. To what extent this is just politics, remains to be seen, but, given what appears to be a Repulican Senate, legislation to ban or limit fracking does not appear possible. This means this dangerous practice will continue. 

According to an article from Euronews, fracking poses a number of environmental hazards:

  • Methane leaks occur frequently to the tune of one million tons in Pennsylvania per year. The industry only reported 64,000 tons.
  • Methane and other gasses released through fracking are a problem because they trap twenty-five more times heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
  • Fracking pollutes the groundwater supply, which can cause cancer.

From a legal standpoint, the pollution issues pose millions in liability for companies that are not careful. Quite frankly, even if these companies are careful, the risk is quite high. Although not the result of fracking, Flynt, Michigan is a cautionary tale as to what happens when drinking water is contaminated. 

Fracking does supply jobs, upwards of ten million nationally, but, if Biden wins, his energy plan will likely aim to rejoin the Paris Agreement. It is unclear whether fracking as it stands in the United States would violate or otherwise cause problems with the agreement.

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Biden has said he opposes fracking on public lands, but it is unclear what exactly this means. Even if Biden were to oppose fracking altogether, it is unlikely he could get a bill limiting or banning it  to pass the Senate due to the Republican majority. 

Fracking’s future remains uncertain in the United States, but it does appear it is not going anywhere anytime soon even after the votes are counted and a victor declared. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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How Much Carbon Do Bushes Absorb? This Ninth Grader Plans To Find Out

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 30, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Do bushes sequester carbon too? Is planting more shrubs as important as planting more trees in helping to lower atmospheric carbon levels and reverse global warming?

One student at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia is determined to find out. Ninth grader Julia Victor has accepted the challenge to conduct her own science experiment for the upcoming Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair and is busy mapping out the procedure she will follow to test how much carbon five species of Northern Virginia natives can absorb in comparison to one another. 

The Regeneron ISEF has a wide range of categories, 21 in all, that 1800 participating students are selecting from. As a nature lover, Earth and Environmental Sciences was Julia’s top choice, which she quickly narrowed down to climate change. Julia asked herself questions about which NoVa natives might absorb the most carbon. She then spent time researching, and eventually arrived at her hypothesis: “I am hypothesizing that the holly tree will grow to be the largest and will absorb the most carbon. I also think that shrubs might not be far behind. I am hoping to be able to come to the conclusion that shrubs and smaller plants are just as important to reversing climate change as large trees.”

Julia will be implementing the following steps to test her hypothesis. All the plants will be kept in open containers.

  1. Remove the soil and weigh each plant. Record each plant’s bare root weight (without soil).
  2. If plants are not the same weight, trim each plant until they are approximately equal.
  3. Plant each plant in its new container with 1 gallon of soil each. Label each container with the plant species.
  4. Water each plant with 1 cup of water each. 
  5. Set up each plant’s light to a 12-hour timer to simulate the sun.
  6. Water each plant regularly with its recommended amount of water.
  7. After 25 days, remove all the soil from the bare roots from each plant and weigh.

An important science experiment like this one is challenging enough without there being an extra layer of difficulty. But, Julia isn’t daunted by the complications during the fall season. Julia explained, that there are far less species available for her to choose from this late in the year. Many NoVa natives are nearly dormant, so there’s far less photosynthesis, which means very little, if any, carbon absorption. But Julia persevered and unearthed several standouts she can rely on:

  • American Holly 
  • Strawberry bush
  • Spicebush
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Black Chokeberry

We’ll be checking back with Julia in December to learn about the conclusions she drew once she completes her experiment, weighs each plant, and is able to identify the winning species that sequestered the most carbon. Julia will be managing a total of 25 small plants for her project.

This is a lot of extra work during a very challenging global pandemic. Julia began her freshman year with virtual learning, and appears to be very excited about having something she feels passionately about, nature and science, to keep her mind preoccupied in the midst of a health crisis. “This is my first time participating in the Regeneron ISEF and I’m excited to see everyone’s projects, especially during covid-19.”

I asked Julia how she keeps from feeling intimidated by such a challenging, high level competition. Her response was one that we could all apply to our own lives.

“These days, it’s very easy to get intimidated by projects and big assignments. I found that if I don’t think about it as an assignment, but rather as something I enjoy, then it becomes much easier to do get motivated by my curiosity.”

Nature is an exciting and therapeutic ally to help combat our daily challenges during covid. A major destresser, thanks to its beauty and healing scents, as well as the chemicals it emits that we humans respond to by releasing our own positive chemicals—serotonin for example. Nature is very responsive to human interaction, both positively and negatively. Humans and nature are connected through a symbiotic relationship. What we give is what we get. We see this with climate change of course, but it’s equally as powerful on the positive side of the coin. Nature nurtures. It comforts. Heals. Inspires. Supports. Motivates. Hanging out with nature makes us physically and emotionally stronger. It’s time to recognize this fact and act on it. Planting millions of trees and shrubs and flowers and all types of nature is an investment that pays us back exponentially. So, let’s get planting! If it’s too cold where you are right now, you can plant a seedling indoors in a container and leave inside until spring. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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