Fairfax Ninth Grader Places Second in Well-Timed Science Experiment

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 20, 2021 by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is very excited to report that Julia Victor, a ninth grader at W.T. Woodson High in Fairfax, Va, placed second in her unique and timely science experiment, which is part of the build up to the annual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. We’ve been following Julia’s progress since October 2020 as she’s made her way through this intricate labyrinth of competing in a science fair during a global pandemic with schools closed and students distance learning. Julia was determined to find out which NoVA natives store the most carbon, and whether shrubs can stores as much carbon as trees, so she decided to conduct her own science experiment to discover the answer. We were impressed with Julia’s original idea that ties so closely with the international greenup movement, that of planting lots of trees and nature to restore our habitat. Julia has taken it to a new level, though. She challenges us to be strategic about what we plant as we all strive to find more ways to store more carbon to reduce global warming.

Meanwhile, President Biden, on behalf of the United States of America, officially reentered the 2015 Paris Agreementyesterday, Friday February 19, 2021. The ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement is to become carbon neutral. Carbon neutrality will be accomplished through the global framework established within the Paris Agreement — an international treaty on climate change signed by more than 196 countries. The Paris Agreement outlines a combination of aggressively cutting carbon emissions on one side of the coin, while simultaneously boosting carbon sequestration on the other. Substantially increasing carbon sequestration will be accomplished most notably by a significant increase in soil health as well as the restoration of our habitat, particularly trees and shrubs… and as Julia has proven with her science experiment, the right native trees and shrubs make a difference. 

What’s the heart of the matter? The hard truth is that in order for us to hit the targets outlined for the US in the Paris Agreement, we each have to do our own little bit, by lowering our individual and household carbon footprint, as well as by storing more carbon in our yards (ie, planting more trees, shrubs, flowers and ground cover, and improving soil health through the diversification of the species we plant, as well as composting and biochar). To make this simple, the easiest way to process our individual contribution in reaching the US target, is by living a sustainable lifestyle and planting smart.

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The Paris Agreement measures the contribution each country is making in its effort to curb global warming. It checks to see if countries are doing their “fair share.” The expectation is that large countries like the United States, one of the largest contributors to global warming, will reach the highest level of effort, that of “Role Model.” Currently, the United States is ranked at the very bottom, Critically Insufficient. The following are the Paris Agreement levels of contribution:

  • Role Model
  • 1.5° Paris Agreement Compatible
  • 2° Compatible
  • Insufficient
  • Highly Insufficient
  • Critically Insufficient

The term “role model” is what immediately comes to mind when I think of Julia and her science experiment. Julia’s findings highlight that quality matters, especially when available land to plant is constrained. Although, if possible, a high quantity of high quality plants, sure would help the US make up for lost time. (Click here to read the details of Julia’s experiment.)

I asked Julia if she would be so kind to walk us through the science fair process. In her own words:

“The virtual science fair included only students from my school as a preliminary level. It was all grades, so most of the participants were older than me. There were 7 categories ranging from micro-biology to computer science. I was in the environmental science category and placed second. Environmental science was the largest category with around 25 students in it. The top three projects in each category move on to the regional fair. The school-wide science fair was set up so each student could present their pre-recorded video to three judges and then answer questions. As it started, it became clear that coordinating around110 students and all the judges would be difficult. The links for the judging rooms were broken and it was too much for the coordinators to fix. Eventually, they gave up on the judging rooms, and the judges reviewed the projects and videos by themselves. Overall, the setbacks didn’t affect the quality of the science fair too greatly.” 

Ninth grader, Julia Victor’s 25 seedlings planted and tested to find out which NoVa native species stores the most carbon.

Now that you’ve placed second, Julia, what’s the next round all about

“The next round will be very similar to the school-wide science fair, except it will be better coordinated. It uses an online program made for science fairs and programs like this. It has the same process as my school’s fair. It has a video presentation stage and then a synchronous time for questions. The fair will include all of Fairfax County Public Schools so it will cover much of Northern Virginia. I’m not sure the exact number of students participating, but I know there will be hundreds of them. Due to the virtual setting, the fair is not hosted by a specific school, but by the school district. There are many different types of awards at the regional fair. Depending on the award, students may move to the state-wide science fair, or even straight to the international science fair (Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair).”

And the winners are…

We have our work cut up for us that’s for sure. Biden committed to being at net-zero no later than 2050. But many of our allies have been working at a brisk pace these last 4 years while we’ve been slumped on the sidelines. Our allies have submitted new pledges that will hopefully bring out the best in the US as we reach higher and rush faster. Julia’s experiment gives us a new lens to use. Let’s be smarter about what we put in the ground, so we can build that all important ladder to pull ourselves out of this hole we jumped into back in 2017 when we exited the Paris Agreement.

  • EU has now pledged to cut emissions from the 1990 level by 55 percent by 2030. Insufficient.
  • UK is striving for a 68 percent reduction from the 1990 level by 2030. Insufficient.
  • Canada has pledged to come in at 30 percent below 2005 level by 2030. Insufficient.
  • Costa Rica and Bhutan are both ranked highest on the main list. Compatible.

Congratulations, Julia! Best of luck in the next round.

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A Sustainability Journey | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff; introduction and closing by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Spending the past nine months in Canada during Covid, all in on sustainability immersion, taught me a lot. In fact, I’ve completely reinvented myself in such a short period of time. The most startling aspect of my metamorphosis was understanding how easy it is to live sustainably when everyone in a given community is doing so. Stronger together. My bud, Canadian sustainability guru Pamela Scaiff, is the master of sustainability and has been my supreme guide for the past four months. I’m thrilled that she agreed to share her wisdom with all of us.

The heart of the matter. The Guardian reported back in 2015, that adopting to the circular economy lifestyle of refuse-reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle-rot (a few more buzz words will be added soon, I’m sure) will reduce carbon emissions by 71 percent by the year 2030. This seems absolutely mind-blowing after a year of intense, sustained wildfires, horrific freeze-outs in warm weather states, and endless flooding up and down the East Coast. Seeing 71 percent cut in carbon emissions in black and white a few years ago, published on a highly regarded news site, stopped me in my tracks and inspired me to jump into this new world. 

How do we all transition to a sustainable life? Pamela Scaiff shares her notes so we can follow along the same simple and easy trail of transformation.

PAMELA SCAIFF: Somewhere along the way, I transitioned from Eco Warrior to just me getting on with life and loving it. I have spent the last 35 years transitioning to sustainable living… a fancy phrase that means that my family and I have been developing habits that have reduced our contribution to pollution.  

Cleaning windows with paper towels to using rags and newspapers.

Blowing my nose with paper tissues to using handkerchiefs.

Drying my clothes in the dryer to hanging them up to dry.

Cleaning with a variety of chemicals to cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and murphy’s oil.

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Buying food to growing some of it.

Not noticing packaging to reducing the packaging I buy.

Buying plastic bags to using reusable bags.

Buying plastic reusable bags to buying natural fibre reusable bags.

Pulling weeds to cultivating them.

Putting out a full bin of recycling garbage to celebrating when there was nothing to put out!

Using disposable menstrual products to discovering the joy of the Diva cup… and then hitting menopause!

Buying strawberries all year long to enjoying them seasonally. 

Housing a food morgue, otherwise known as my freezer, to managing the contents so they got used.

Combing through malls to abandoning them for the consignment and second hand shops so I could get better clothes!

Buying stuff to sharing stuff.

Buying stuff to trading stuff.

Buying food wrapped in plastic to making the bread, yogourt, and cottage cheese from scratch just to avoid the garbage. 

Wrapping gifts in gift paper to presenting them in pretty scarves. 

Buying gifts of stuff to giving experiences. 

Using my dollars for products that were designed for the dump to participating in the closed loop economy.

Drinking coffee in a disposable cup to bringing my own cup to the coffee shop.

Loving a huge mug of tea to savouring a small cup of a fine brew.

Buying Easter chocolate rabbits to making them — to reduce the impact on the environment. 

Thinking about buying disposable diapers to choosing cloth instead.

Tripping over too many plastic bottles in the shower to eliminating plastic in the shower.

Hating garbage day to celebrating it.

Dealing with kids who were anxious about the future to watching kids embrace transition to sustainable living.

Composting in my garden to vermicomposting in the house.

Buying all my plants at a garden centre to sourcing them from a variety of people… and seeds.

Looking at my black thumb to wondering how it became green. 

But the biggest transition was realizing that each little thing I changed along this journey of 35 years, eventually faded into the background and just became a habit that I no longer think about. Each little habit took effort and mindfulness and commitment at first.  Then, without me noticing, there was no excitement or discipline to continue.  I just do things differently because I have been doing them for years, now. Not every transition has been sustained or successful.  However, most have!  My most important take-away is that perfection is not the goal.  Everyone transitions differently. 

My family embraced transition, but one day I was told:  Mum, if you dare transition away from toilet paper, you will have gone too far.  (Secretly this is a plan for the future, but for now, don’t tell them.)

Remember learning to ride a bike?  Do you remember how much you wanted to do it but you fell off and got lots of bruises? And how about the adrenalin of pedalling like a maniac and not falling off for the first time?  Oh, and hopping on the bike to go to school or go see friends because it was easier than walking?  At some point, riding a bike just became something you did naturally.  

Transitioning to sustainable living is like learning to ride a bike — it takes work and boy is the adrenalin rush fun!  Eventually, each little habit will feel as natural as riding a bike. 

Thank you, Pamela! That was excellent. We look forward to learning more of your secrets so we can Build Back Better and reach the targeted 71 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. 

Next Steps

  • Pick one or two easy daily habits to begin with to build your confidence in how easy sustainable living is.
  • Refusing paper towels is one of the suer quick transitions. You can save a lot of money. One roll of bamboo lasts a year.
  • Saving kitchen scraps in compost bins is also a simple way to become an overachiever and feel great about sustainable life.
  • Gifts wrapped in scarfs is another basic that saves so much money, you feel incentivized to transition quickly.
  • Be sure to pass along Pamela’s tips to your neighborhood friends. When you’re surrounded by others doing the same thing, it creates positive, forceful energy that gets you from point A to B that much faster.

Be sure to check back each Thursday for more on how to Build Back Better with sustainable living.

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Don’t Drink Poisonous Water | The Shocking Hack

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 12, 2020 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

Drinking poisonous water leads to cancer and other things that will kill you. Everyone knows that, but what if you do not know you are drinking water contaminated with poison? Surely such a thing cannot happen. Laws and regulations exist, and the government protects people. Unless the government knew about the poisonous water and covered it up for decades. If you doubt this, then ask the possibly one-million people who drank the poisonous water surrounding the Camp LeJeune superfund site. Or at least you can ask the ones who were not killed.

Heart of the Matter. The Camp LeJeune superfund site is the worst water contamination site in United States history, and it has poisoned an estimated one million people. While water contamination cases become rather wonky with many jargony terms thrown around, from the 1950s through at least 1985, the water in and surrounding Camp LeJune tested between 240 and 3,400 times over what is permitted by safety standards. In fact, a 1980 handwritten report that showed the water was heavily contaminated was sent to Marine command at the base. They ignored it. 

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From that flowed a comedy of errors, lies, and conveniently omitted facts. For example, a 1984 report found the contamination rate to be 38 per billion, but it was really 380 parts per billion. Apparently, zeroes do not matter to the government when it suits them. While there were a dizzying number of chemicals involved, benzyne, one of the worst, which causes myeloid leukemia, was omitted altogether from a 1994 report. Quite frankly, the matter was not fully addressed legislatively until President Obama signed a 2012 law that allowed victims of the poisoning to recover their medical expenses. A federal court previously blocked many of the cases as barred by the statute of limitations, and it also halted the North Carolina General Assembly’s effort to extend the statute of limitations. 

How does this impact you personally? What if you live somewhere else far away from North Carolina? Why should you care? Ever read the book A Civil Action or seen the movie? That was a water contamination case that occurred in Massachusetts decades ago where people were poisoned and died. In other words, it can happen to anyone because we all need water, which is vulnerable to pollution. 

Just look at the so-called “water hack” that occurred in Florida earlier this week where a hacker broke into economical (cheap) remote software used to manage the local water supply. This is still being sorted out, but it shows how vulnerable the water system is and how cheap infrastructure endangers everyone in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

What can you do about this? Camp LeJeune’s water contamination rate of 380 parts per billion happened, but that does not mean it has to happen again. But it will continue to happen if people ignore the problem and stay ignorant. Read about the environment. Join groups dedicated to protecting the environment. Refuse to purchase products and services from businesses that do not use environmentally safe procedures and practices. Most importantly, vote for candidates who will help pass legislation that protects drinking water and the environment in general.

Next Steps

  • Read a book about water contamination (A Civil Action is a good one to start);
  • Learn about companies and nonprofits (especially those who advocate for planting trees) that are environmentally friendly;
  • Pay attention to stories and news about the environment; 
  • Only vote for people who value laws and regulations that protect the environment;
  • If something doesn’t look or taste right with your own tap water, report it to your town or county water facility immediately.

Water should not be poisonous, but some of it is. That does not mean, however, all water must be toxic. People can make a difference, and they must before it is too late.

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Bruce, My Pet Worm | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 3, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Pamela Scaiff 

Some people fall easily into the “dog people” category, some into the “cat people” one. If you are not either of those, you may be a “worm person.” Even if you love dogs and cats, you might be surprised to discover the advantages of worms for your lifestyle and your garden. Though not cuddly, worms make great pets. They don’t smell, they are clean, and they don’t have to be fed every day (or even every week). Worms don’t disturb the neighbours. They have a symbiotic relationship with insects. Worms don’t need pet sitters when you go away for a month. Even if you don’t need a new pet, the advantages of worms are worth investigating.

Friend or Slimy Bug? 

According to Pamela Scaiff, a Canadian sustainability expert, worms are both the perfect pets and partners in growing an eco-friendly garden. Pamela, who’s been living a sustainable life since 2010, recognizes the value and fun of raising worms. (She calls her worms Bruce, after the “Monty Python” philosophers sketch where all the professors are called Bruce.) Worms are a natural way to fertilize plants and aerate the soil without harming the ecosystem. Because living sustainably, in harmony with nature, is our goal, worms are the way to go. 

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What are the benefits of worms?

The principle advantage of worms is the natural fertilizer created by worm castings. Pamela calls this “the uppity word for worm poop.” This “black gold” yields nutrients that create strong and healthy plants and provides a viable alternative to harmful chemicals. At the same time, worms aerate the soil, allowing the roots of your plants to easily absorb the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. A secondary advantage, according to Pamela, is that worms are fascinating. From starting the bin, to adding the worms, to harvesting the casings, the journey is engaging and fruitful. 

Check out worms’ other benefits:

  • Increased soil nutrition from worm castings rich in nitrogen and adding four times the phosphorous that’s normally found in soil
  • Improved drainage and water storage, helping  alleviate drought and extreme heat conditions
  • Water infiltrates the soil more easily
  • Plant roots often descend lower and reach more water and nutrients
  • Improved soil structure
  • Improved productivity

How can I get started? Following simple guidelines will help you create and maintain healthy worm bins. Pamela began with a very small collection of Red Wiggler worms and worm cocoons and has had great success. She created an expert list of steps to get you started:

Location. First, decide where you are going to keep the bin – indoors or out. If you live in a cold environment, indoors is best. (Be selective about what you add to it, though, to avoid odors.)

The Container. Get a ratty old Rubbermaid tote — not the big kind, but the smaller one. Red Wigglers are surface dwellers, which means they are happiest just below the surface, not down deep. Drill air and drainage holes all over the tote, including the lid. (Pamela’s worms don’t escape because they don’t like light and also her bin is not toxic – so far). 

The Habitat Ingredients. Pamela recommends the following generally agreed upon ingredients for your bin:  

Browns: To keep your bin balanced, absorb liquid, and cool, you need bedding (carbon). Pamela uses shredded newspaper, egg cartons, coconut coir, manure, and more.

Greens: Add food scraps (they don’t have to be green). But be mindful about what you use. Brassicas like broccoli and kale cause odors. Acidic food such as onions and citrus upset the worms. 

Grit: Grit helps worms digest. Some (but not all) possibilities include sand, used coffee grounds (no longer acidic), and ground eggshells (they can’t use the shells otherwise.)

Water: Pamela advises, “Goldilocks style: too much and the bin goes anaerobic, starts to smell, and all kinds of bugs flourish. Not enough and your worm castings dry out and become useless.”

Compost: Add a handful of compost to inject helpful bacteria into your bin and get it working.

Worms: Many different varieties of worms will work. Pamela prefers red wigglers. Earthworms are an option, but they are not as productive as the red wigglers. They also escape more often.

Feeding your Worms

Pamela feeds her worms 2 – 4 times a month, and only when there is no food or almost no food left. You may need to adjust the time period as your worms grow. Be careful not to overfeed them, or it will be too much to process before it gets smelly or hot.

Here is Pamela’s formula, in her own words: 

Bedding: I rip up newspaper and egg cartons.

Greens:  Apparently, the worms love avocados and bananas. So, I chop up banana peels, gleefully much the brown bits of avocados… and freeze them. The freezing helps speed up the decomposition by breaking membranes. Only at this stage will the worms be able to eat them. I have added science experiments from the fridge.. mouldy berries, for example, but nothing cooked and no meat. 

Grit:  I mix into the food a handful of used coffee grounds and ground egg shells. I got an old coffee grinder off my local buy nothing group, so I grind shells as I collect them. 

Water:  This took me some time to figure out – how to feel the right amount of water. But the next day, I lift the lid.  If I suddenly see lots of white bugs or worms climbing the sides, I keep the lid off and let it air out. I often have a large piece of paper over the castings. 

More Worm Wisdom 

To fluff or not to fluff – there is some debate. Pamela fluffs her bin about once a month. Not only because it is fun, but also because it allows her to see if the bin is too wet or too dry and to check for uneaten food and changes in the population. 

Don’t worry about the worms overpopulating. According to Pamela, worms self-regulate. They stop reproducing if there are too many of them, if it’s too dry or too wet, or if there is not enough food. If the conditions are right, they can double their population in 60 days. 

You might notice other bugs in your bin. Don’t overthink this! A healthy bin is an entire ecosystem. Pamela explains, “The worms need other bugs that are also decomposers to start the process. Basically, the other bugs and bacteria are food processors for worms.” Pamela was vigilant in identifying the bugs, so as to avoid a bug problem in the house, but, in the end, they were all so happy that they got to stay!

You may wonder how to harvest the castings without losing the worms. Pamela has two suggestions: Feed only one side of the bin for a month; the worms will all migrate to that side. Alternatively, put a basket in the middle and only place the food there; the worms will hang out with the food while you gather the castings. Be careful! Castings and cocoons look remarkably alike.

Next Steps

  • Have fun setting up your bin.
  • Buy, find, or trade for worms.
  • Dump the worms on top of the habitat and watch them immediately start burrowing.  
  • Watch your worms grow.
  • Harvest the “black gold” add to your plants – indoors or outside.
  • Share extra worms with like minded gardeners.
  • Read up on how to shrink your carbon footprint

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Build Back Better | Elevated Beds for Higher Productivity and Nutrient Dense Food!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 2, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Stephen Santangelo

Sustainable farming methods form one of many paths toward reversing climate change. Through informed decision-making and perseverance, every person can increase their sustainability factor and make a positive change for the planet. Shrinking our collective carbon footprint begins with each individual making conscious choices to achieve balance and harmony with the planet. Elevated beds for growing fruits and vegetables is one step in this direction.

Why Elevated Beds?

According to sustainability expert Stephen Santangelo, there are vast benefits to this type of farming. Stephen relies on science-based resources to inform his decisions as he creates rich, healthy soil that increases the nutrients in his crops and adds beneficial carbon to nature. These advantages might spur you on to switch to elevated bed farming, especially if you are growing food for family sustainability rather than monoculture development.

According to Stephen, advantages include:

  • pH balancing
  • Promoting beneficial bacteria & fungi for rapid microbiotic growth
  • Balancing minerals
  • Developing plant hormones & enzymes
  • Cover crop specificity
  • Mulching for nitrogen/carbon ratio
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Wondering where to start?

The research Stephen has conducted and his experience are valuable to those who want to follow his lead into the world of raised bed farming. When Stephen and his wife, Lori, began farming as a lifestyle choice, like most of us, they planted straight into the ground. They soon discovered that the clay earth and slate in the soil was not favorable for producing a wide variety of crops or providing high nutritional values. Stephen explains that clay locks up many of the needed minerals essential for productive crops. This interferes with beneficial bacteria and fungi from doing their jobs. 

In raised bed gardens, you can solve this problem by using healthy soil. Stephen explains, “In just one gram of the best garden soil are millions of living and vibrant organisms all creating a balanced micro-cosmos.” The microbes metabolize nutrients which are then carried to the roots and fed to the fruit. If the soil contains clay and slate, water can’t be absorbed, which causes root foods to rot. Having lots of healthy microbes helps aerate the soil, fight disease, and gets rid of the need to till the soil.

Mineral balance is critical to the success of your raised bed garden. Stephen and Lori found that the soil in their geographical location lacks selenium and magnesium, both of which are needed for proper growth of plants. This creates problems for other minerals. The minerals work together to grow healthy crops. Elevated beds make it easier to achieve just the right balance of minerals. There are a range of mineral tests available for purchase. Decide if you need to know all of the minerals or just the most common ones. 

pH balancing is another consideration. One of the benefits of elevated beds is that you can control the pH balance of each crop. Balancing the pH is critical to plant growth and it is also good for the soil. Stephen says it beautifully. “Soil is a living world of many intricate life forms to sustain numerous living organisms.” You can buy inexpensive pH tests to do yourself or find local resources such as agricultural extension offices or colleges. 

Disease and weed control are also important factors to consider with elevated beds. Stephen warns that factors such as high humidity, rain, and extreme temperature changes increase the chances of disease. One important weapon to fight disease is having the right balance of minerals and pH. Secondly, Stephen recommends placing elevated beds far enough apart to prevent harmful bacteria and fungi from hopping from one bed to another. As organic farmers, Stephen and Lori, do not use chemicals to thwart harmful agents. Not only do chemicals kill the harmful agents, they destroy the helpful ones, as well. Organic farming practices preserve the soil and contribute to the overall health of the crops and the planet.

What difference will you make?

Your choice to engage in sustainable farming practices is a gigantic step towards shrinking your carbon footprint. Stephen and Lori have become 97-98% food sustainable through developing an awareness of soil fertility. They have set the example for us! Stephen’s insight on soil health is the foundation of sound, productive agriculture that we can all practice. A healthy global ecosystem in which thoughtful agriculture and land-use practices cool the planet, are all part of what even a single family can achieve. Using science-based research and time tested practices, we can move toward a more earth-friendly and productive approach to farming. In Stephen’s words, “Dedication and a sincere approach to farming are factors which encourage biological diversity, creating a living ecosystem for our flora and fauna to flourish in harmony.” 

Next Steps

Balance and harmony are themes that resonate throughout the sustainable farming process. With this in mind, consider how you can add balance to your life by living even more sustainably:

  • Create a raised bed garden to begin producing your own food
  • Reduce waste by creating compost from your kitchen scraps and add it to your raised bed garden
  • Access scientific research (via text resources or podcasts) to increase your understanding and awareness of our carbon footprint
  • Share your sustainable farming practices with friends

Be sure to check back for the next Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide with Stephen Santangelo and other sustainability experts.

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Winter Activities for Kids | Climate Change

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 31, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

It’s cold out there! You might be wondering about how to keep the kids busy, active, and productive. While remaining tucked away in the warm, cozy house, you can occupy them as they get ready to be Climate Superheroes! The hope of spring can inspire everyone to dig in and prepare for the near future, a future made better because you are helping fight climate change.

What’s the heart of the matter?

Climate change demands our attention now, and the new administration is on board. Discussing his executive actions on climate change, President Biden confirmed his commitment. “It’s about coming to the moment to deal with this maximum threat that is now facing us, climate change, with a greater sense of urgency.” Every person is needed in the fight, adults as well as children. Utilizing fun, creative activities, we can guide the younger generation to a great appreciation of trees, plants, and soil. 

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How does this impact you personally?

Engaging children in climate activities early on will help them internalize the message that they can make a difference in the world. Composting is one activity that allows children to get their hands dirty, literally. From placing food scraps in a jar to turning over compost in a barrel, each step draws youngsters into the process. If you are short on outdoor space, consider gathering food scraps for the community. Your town may have a drop off spot nearby. Composting is more than just a way to keep the kids busy during frosty winter days; it also educates them about the importance of cultivating soil so that it can store more carbon.

Some quick facts:

  • Adding compost to the lifeless dirt transforms it into microbe-filled soil, which stores a giant amount of carbon.
  • Not only does compost increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil, it boosts the nourishment of plants that feed off the soil, enabling the plants to store that much more carbon.
  • Now more than ever, the soil needs more microbes, especially if the US is to be the climate role model for the world, as Mr. Biden hopes. 
  • One of the main goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is soil health. Increasing carbon storage in the soil is the way to achieve this. As countries around the world strive to reach the target carbon neutrality goals set forth in the agreement, composting becomes even more important. The only way to hit our targets is if every household composts.
  • Remember: compost nourishes plants and prevents pests.
  • Compost can be donated to your community for fertilizing common areas.

What can you do about this? 

Start by talking about composting as you make a salad or chop vegetables for soup. Specific elements of compost are right at hand! Reading age-appropriate books about the life of plants, from seed to fruit, will grab the attention of some children. Helpful videos are also available, if your children aren’t maxed-out on screen time. 

Hands-on activities make time fly. Building a climate change project using long-forgotten resources in the attic or garage can lead to a meaningful learning experience for your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Primary age children could write and illustrate a book explaining composting. (Your compost jar provides a helpful visual aid.) 
  • Challenge your eight to twelve-year olds to create a game board about composting and its benefits for the climate. Game pieces can be made of card-board or even repurposed barrettes, action-figures, thimbles and who knows what? 
  • Young writers can compose a poem or song about composting. 
  • Budding scientists can keep a record of what goes into the compost bin, carefully observing the color, texture, and smell over time. 
  • Young teens might make a documentary explaining the importance of composting in the fight against climate change. 

These types of projects challenge young people to use 21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration and they might have fun along the way!

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Next steps

  • Start gathering your veggie, fruit and other food waste for composting
  • Investigate compost collection methods in your area
  • Find high-interest resources to engage your child (See below)
  • Plan an activity your child will find fun and engaging

Resources

Climate Change for Kids website:

Start Learning

NASA website for kids:

The Greenhouse Effect: Keeping the Balance

VideoWhy all life depends on plants (3:06):

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/videos/spectacular-science/#/1019900995730

Video about composting for young children (5:00):

Composting for Kids With Peppa Pig

SciShow Kids video for kids 8+ (5:00)

Make the Most of Compost!


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Superfund “Timebombs” Threaten to Explode

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 29, 2020 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

All organic life requires air, water, a place to exist, and a food source. But all of these things must be clean or there cannot be life, at least not long term. Throughout the United States, thousands of ticking environmental “timebombs” called Superfund sites are ready to explode. The poisons and other pollutants contained in these sites threaten all organic life in the United States and throughout the Earth. 

Heart of the Matter. Superfund sites number about 4,000 and were created by federal legislation in 1980. Congress set up a trust fund to finance the cleanup of these hazardous sites; the fund used to be financed by a tax on petroleum, but Congress let the tax expire twenty-five years ago. The sites are deemed so contaminated that they require long term responses to clean up these messes. And they are not self-contained. Hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels, increased precipitation, and wildfires spread their pollution, and they pose serious problems to 945 sites according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study from 2019. 

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember those we lost to covid, thanks to the generosity of ranch owner Byron Richard. Get involved and leave your mark on the world by becoming a junior sponsor. CLICK to learn more.

How does this impact you personally? The Trump administration ignored many of these sites and cut funding for the continued cleanup, which caused the sites to further deteriorate. Incoming Biden Administration Climate Change Czar Gina McCarthy certainly has her work cut out for her

Everyone should care about Superfund sites. On July 19, 2018, in Libby, California, a wildfire broke out and burned an asbestos site, which could have released millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the groundwater and air if the fire had not been contained. It served as a cautionary tale, and it emphasizes the risk posed by Superfund sites that run along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast. All of these sites are vulnerable to floods, wildfires, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other climate change associated risks. And the risks will only increase with climate change. 

What can you do about this? The sites differ in their severity as well as the types of pollution, but people can do one key thing to improve the environment: plant trees. Although trees are vulnerable to pollution and are often destroyed by the toxins in the Superfund sites, trees are also part of the solution because they can help expel many of the harmful pollutants by producing healthier byproducts. In 2017, one study showed using bioaugmentation (certain kinds of bacteria) protected poplar trees and allowed them to suck up polluted groundwater and expel it in the form of healthier byproducts.

 In other words, the trees cleaned up the site more cheaply and in a more beneficial way for the environment. 

Next Steps

These are complex problems, but there are things we can all do to make it better:

  • Recognize that this is a problem that affects everyone
  • Plant trees
  • Learn more about solutions such as bioaugmentation
  • Learn about how people pose risks to the environment, and what you can do to minimize both your “carbon footprint” and other risks you pose individually
  • Most importantly, call your Congressperson or Senator and tell them you are terrified about the climate’s impact on the Superfund sites. If enough people call, they will listen

Yes, there are absolutely timebombs out there (just ask the residents of Flynt, Michigan), but this does not mean we must fail to act and do things to improve the situation. If we do not, then the world will be uninhabitable, perhaps in our lifetime, but more than likely in our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lifetimes. 

Order now so you’ll receive in time for spring! Takes about 3-4 weeks to arrive.

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Composting | A Major Climate Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 25, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Perspective is everything. Composting can seem like a daunting task or a simple way to make our soil much more healthy. The benefits of composting for the climate and the environment may persuade you to get on board, to learn something new, and to contribute to a growing movement to give back.

What’s the heart of the matter? The wisdom of composting goes back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, and soil cultivation has been in practice ever since. The Founding Fathers realized the importance of renewing the soil of their farms and gardens. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams (among others) treasured the land for its abundance and permanence; fields were not something to be used and abandoned. Because tobacco had depleted the soil of many estates by the late 1700s, Washington began planting crops that could anchor the American agricultural economy. To replenish the soil for wheat fields and orchards, he experimented with manure, Potomac mud, and fish remains. In the end, Washington operated five farms in Virginia and was one of the most successful farmers of his time. 

How does this impact you personally? Composting is a practical way to improve the health of the soil and reduce our carbon footprint. Over the centuries, the basic principles of composting have remained consistent and have yielded the same predictable outcomes for sustaining our planet. The knowledge and tools are at our fingertips. Using the wisdom garnered over the ages, we have the chance, without too much difficulty, to create a thriving environment and help planet Earth.

Composting:

  • adds microbes to dirt and soil, enabling it to store loads of carbon that thwarts climate change.
  • reduces methane-producing waste in landfills
  • creates vibrant soil that supports the ecosystem
  • retains water in the soil, reducing the need to irrigate
  • promotes disease-free plant growth

What can you do about this? Whether you live in a noisy urban neighborhood or on a quiet rural road, composting is possible. To keep it simple, deliver your food scraps to your community compost collection site. (See the list of Virginia composting facilities at the end of this article.) Or, find a compost company that picks up your food scraps. Check to see how the company uses the compost, and find out if they return compost to you. Make your own compost by following simple daily guidelines. (Click here to see a short how-to video.) You can make a difference for your family, your community, and the planet. Remember the Founding Fathers: The success of the new nation hinged on its fruitful harvests. Did they ever imagine how critical their organic practices would be for the health of the planet?

Next steps:

  • Begin saving food scraps in a compost bag in your refrigerator, a cool garage or in a clamped container.
  • Gather both green materials (fruits, vegetables, tea, egg shells, coffee grounds) and brown (newspapers, egg cartons, twigs, and dried grass). 
  • Avoid oils, dairy, meat, and bread.
  • Decide if you will create the compost yourself or donate your scraps to your community, or
  • Find the most eco-friendly company to pick up your scraps and use them to benefit soil health.

Virginia Composting Facilities by Area

References:

“Benefits of Compost.” U.S. Composting Council, http://www.compostingcouncil.org/. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

Simon, Julia. “How to Start Composting.” NPR, 2021, http://www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home.


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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.

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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!

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