How Does Compost Collection Work? | Compost Crew

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 14, 2022, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; image credit, Compost Crew

Composting home kitchen scraps is essential. It’s one of the most critical climate actions we can take as we rush to keep global warming below 1.5ºC and avoid the much feared tipping point (that threatens to trigger runaway warming). In fact, composting is so vital to our survival as a human species, that if you’re not already composting, it’s imperative that you begin today. 

In John Doerr’s new book Speed & Scale, An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now, he explains that food waste is roughly 33% of all the food that’s produced, and is responsible for 2 billion tons (GtC) of CO2e each year, most of which is in the form of methane emitted from landfills. “Every pound of wasted food is a pound of wasted water and energy,” he asserts. In order to reach net-zero, Doerr outlined that we must decrease food waste from the current 33% of food produced to 10%.

In order to achieve this goal, composting should be mandatory in every state. But there’s more. Compost significantly increases soli health in the following ways:

  • boosts carbon drawdown substantially
  • increases soil water infiltration rate
  • keeps soil moist during high heat especially when dense biodiverse plants are grown on the surface to keep the soil protected
  • adds vital nutrients and microbes to the soil which increases the nutrient density of vegetables and fruits

“Compost is like a sponge that helps soil retail moisture.” 

Kiss the Ground, Netflix

Click here to learn more about what food scraps can and can’t be composted. 

There are 3 options for what to do with your compost each week once it’s collected:

1. Create your our own compost pile. Depending on what size yard you have, and how much time and patience you have are at your disposal, you may decide to set-up your own compost pile, or purchase and manage a compost bin. Bins are sold at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Amazon, and most big box stores. YouTube has a large number of “How To” videos that will guide you. Warning, there’s a bit of science and math involved. You’ll have to keep track of green and brown ratio, etc. And compost piles often attract wildlife that will have to be managed.

2. Compost Drop off. Most communities now have at least one compost drop-off location. Drop-off works well for a household of one, possibly two people, but families will likely prefer signing up for compost collection service.

3. Compost collection service. The Compost Crew provides weekly curbside pick-up throughout metro Washington DC. They are a great example of the evolution of the composting industry and a model for how the industry has taken off as millions of us rush to change our daily habits to minimize our impact on the environment and become more sustainable. Hopefully, laws will be passed soon requiring composting in all communities.

Below are the questions I asked Compost Crew’s Dan Israel, Senior VP, Sales & Marketing, in order to provide the public with insights into the how a composting collection service operates.

When did you start Compost Crew? Compost Crew was started in 2011.  Last year, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary and received proclamations from both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County.

In a few sentences can you explain how you got off the ground.  (How did you find funding?) The company was originally self-funded.  In 2018, Ben Parry purchased Compost Crew and became our CEO.  Last year, we raised additional funds for further expansion from several investors including Exelon’s Climate Change Investment Initiative (2c2i).

Who were your first customers? Compost Crew originally started by servicing homes in Montgomery County.  Over the years we have expanded geographically into the District of Columbia, Baltimore, Northern Virginia and much of the surrounding area.  We have also expanded to serve commercial customers like grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, senior living communities and property management firms.

How did the growth happen? We’re now in our 11th year.  There’s so much opportunity in front of us – the region produces 700,000 tons of food waste each year, and only a fraction of that is composted.  So, we expect to be able to keep growing.

Two states and DC are a unique arrangement. Different laws, different climate action plans, different levels of urgency. Which communities and which state have/has best existing legislation that supports composting?Maryland passed a law last year that will require large waste generators to compost their food waste, starting in 2023.  Ben (our CEO) spoke in front of both the House of Delegates and the Senate in support of this legislation.  Outside our region, California’s new composting bill requires all businesses and residents to compost their food waste – we want to work with DC, Maryland and Virginia to make that a reality in our region.

Do you plan to grow down to Fredericksburg and out to Gainesville or is your goal to have more customers sign up in your established area? We see plenty of opportunity to grow within our existing service area.  Many homes and businesses still throw their food waste in the trash, which is a missed opportunity to recycle these materials into nutrient-rich compost.  Having said that, we’re open to expanding into other communities, particularly in partnership with local governments.

Have you ever tried to win over Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill as a customer? While we generally don’t discuss the work we may do for specific customers, we have seen significant growth in the number of area office buildings and other businesses using our composting services over the past year.  And we’re always happy to speak to anyone about the benefits of composting at their workplace.

How much does the service cost? Our standard residential rate is $32 per month for weekly curbside collection.  Many neighborhoods have lower rates, based on large numbers of homes who have signed up for our service as a community.  Our rates for businesses depend on the amount of food waste and the frequency of collection.

What did I forget to ask, or what additional information would you like readers to know? Compost Crew has begun building distributed composting facilities in the region, including our first one at One Acre Farm.  We call them our Compost Outposts.  We’re aiming to put more of these Compost Outposts around the region, in partnership with farms, schools and local municipalities, to process the food scraps closer to where they are generated.  That will reduce the amount of resources spent hauling the food scraps and will make our communities more resilient.  

Twice a year, spring and fall, Compost Crew delivers a bag of finished compost to your doorstep to use in your yard, or for your house plants. You may decide to share with neighbors and encourage them to compost as well. Our future will become much brighter when everyone is composting.

Treehugger named Compost Crew the “Best Composting Service in DC, 2020.” Congratulations, Compost Crew! Keep up the great work.

© Copyright 2018 – 2022. ALL Rights Reserved.


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US Schools Are Climate Action Champions | Top 10 Climate Actions

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 28, 2021, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author 

From the IPCC Report boldly stating a Code Red for Humanity warning in August 2021, to the COP26 global conference in Glasgow a few months later in November, (both which urgently pleaded with communities across the globe to act immediately to lower carbon emissions), now is a great time to look back and see who was paying attention.

“It’s simple. Will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or will we condemn future generations to suffer.”

President Joe Biden, COP26

Based on the following 10 bedrock climate actions, which are basic requirements for reducing carbon emissions, boosting biodiversity, and drawing down legacy load carbon, it’s very exciting to see that our schools have become a bright beacon of light at the top of the hill. Additionally, not only are schools leading the way to a green community, they’re also climate action accelerators that transmit vigorous energy through a very powerful nationwide network.

Join the conversation and receive regular climate action tips, and soil health and biodiversity advice by staying engaged at Act Now for the Earth Cafe. You’ll feel hopeful when you ask questions and interact with like-minded others about finding solutions that will help the earth recover from the damage of climate change. You’ll feel confident that we can succeed at staying below tipping points. It’s all about community. We’d greatly value you being part of our ecosystem. CLICK here today and join the conversation at  Earth Cafe!

The combination of quick climate action that improves the well-being of our children, as well as provides significant financial benefits that enable school districts to have budget surpluses and finally offer teacher raises, is a win-win combination that is topped off with interactive hands-on science learning opportunities for students.

Did you know that our schools collectively are one of the largest landowners in the US?

The following list of 10 key climate actions pertain to K12 public schools, which have the most public data available. Private K12 schools are likely moving forward at the same quick pace. Colleges and universities with their larger campuses and sustainability departments may even be doing that much more than K12. The awesomeness of K12 schools, though, is that parents can learn from their children and establish the same habits at home. 

  1. EV buses

School districts have begun switching to EV buses at a faster rate than the general public is transitioning to EV cars. According to the World Resources Institute, in a report released in August 2021, data shows that 258 school districts out of 13,500 have committed to one or more EV buses. Fourteen of these districts have procured 10 or more, and 5 of these 14 are the largest school districts in the country. 

Just last week SEA Electric announced that it reached a deal with Midwest Transit Equipment to convert 10,000 diesel school buses to EV over the next 5 years. According the Live Green, districts save 80% on maintenance and 72% on fuel costs when they switch to EV. Montgomery County, Maryland has made the largest investment so far, committing to a procurement of 326 electric buses over the next 4 years. Fairfax County, Virginia just rolled out its first 8 EV busesin October 2021.

  1. Solar Panels

Installing solar panels on school roofs, as well as open fields have become a very big deal to superintendents. These savvy “just do it” community leaders are motivated by the substantial financial benefits that clean energy provides. Seven thousand schools across the country have solar power, and nearly 200 schools operate using wind energy. An Arkansas High School was able to install solar panels on their open field and within three years their budget surplus grew so large they rewarded all teachers with raises between $3,000 – $15,000. Arlington County, Virginia public schools are ranked number 4 on a list of the top 30 school districts with highest green power usage.

  1. White Roofs

Painting school roofs white lowers the heat inside schools by 10ºF, which cuts carbon emissions by as much as 29% and decreases electricity bills significantly. The Chelsea school district north of Boston, a sweltering heat island across from Logan Airport, painted the middle school roofs white during the summer of 2021. Superintendent Almi Abeytawas looking forward to the lower electricity bills and the various ways that the much needed extra money could be used.

Back in 2009, Nobel laureate and President Obama’s Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, announced at a global conference, “If you take all the buildings and make their roofs white, and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of color rather than a black type of color, and you do this uniformly…it’s the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions of all the cars on the road for 11 years.” 

  1. High albedo parking lots

Large stretches of black asphalt becomes a danger as well as a health risk in high heat. Black asphalt is 40-60ºF warmer than the air temperature which can become a major safety risk for children playing at recess. Light concrete or asphalt painted with a high albedo color such as white or light grey, not only lowers the heat bringing it closer to the air temperature, but also reflects more of the sun’s energy just like the shrinking icecaps, which helps to cool the entire planet.

  1. Composting

In many cities and communities, the town waste management facility partners with schools to incorporate waste management into the curriculum. Most provide lesson plans. Composting is a big part of this educational opportunity. Schools that have vegetable beds, pollinator gardens and tree planting programs, likely have their own compost pile outside near the gardens. Every school produces hundreds of pounds of organic waste each day. Schools now know not to throw food scraps away anymore. They’ve created efficient composting systems. Students are quickly becoming the composting experts in our communities. 

  1. Recycling & Upcycling

Many school districts consider their students citizens of the earth and stewards of the environment. Recycling is part of the daily routine. Teachers are quite resourceful, taking students on field trips to the landfill and town recycling center. Teachers also host fun activities such as upcycle night where students transformed newspaper into pencil holders, a juice box into a wallet, jars into piggy banks, etc. Recycling and upcycling develop critical thinking skills, inspire innovation and are now a part of most STEM learning programs. 

  1. Food Program

Our flawed food system emits 9 billion tons of carbon per year. In order to stay below 1.5ºC, we have to cut 7 billion tons of carbon per year, beginning immediately. As John Doerr pointed out recently, “humans have never been able to cut any carbon in the history of our planet, so this is a tall order.” But schools are moving quickly on the food front as well, much faster than any other mass population. 

One hundred large school districts and counting, including Los Angeles Unified School District and New York City Public Schools, have adopted the Meatless Monday campaign. According to FoodPrint, between these two large school districts alone, 1.5 million meat-free meals are served each Monday. Additionally plant-based meat alternative companies (ie Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods) have begun connecting with schools through the K12 marketplace, hoping to inspire school districts to switch to plant-forward recipes.

By the way, School districts will want to buy Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD’s new book Recipe for Survival(available January 27, 2022). Dr. Hunnes shares invaluable tips on the health impact of climate change, food choices and food insecurity. Hunnes is a Senior Dietician at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Assistant Professor at the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA.

  1. Pollinator Gardens

Our overall pollinator populations around the globe have shrunk significantly in recent decades and scientists worry that our food supply is at risk. Thankfully, teachers are coming to the rescue. Pollinator gardens are popping up on school grounds from coast to coast. These vast displays of native flowers not only provide food and shelter for our life-saving pollinators, but they also boost campus biodiversity, create biodiversity corridors within our communities, beautify campuses, brighten moods, and store more carbon above ground in the plants themselves, and in the soil. Schools across the United States and Mexico are embracing pollinator gardens as a STEM teaching tool and are all in on planting lots of milkweeds in the mix.

  1. Tree planting

Schools are major property owners, and the vast majority of our schools are eagerly taking ownership in increasing the tree canopy in our communities. Trees beautify the school campus, increase carbon storage, stabilize the soil, purify the air and the water, lower the heat, reduce noise pollution, and increase privacy. Tree planting is also a STEM tool for teachers.

  1. Vegetable beds

Vegetable beds are an ideal learning environment that inspire students to eat more fruits and vegetables. Vegetable beds promote the scientific method through inquiry, observation and experimentation. Movement is also a big part of the outdoor gardening experience which improves dexterity. The USDA promotes Farm to School programs and provides much guidance. Home grown produce is also that much more nutritious, containing higher vitamin content. 

If climate action is this beneficial, quick, easy and fun for schools, why is it so hard for everyone else? 

Just imagine how quickly we’d be able to cut carbon emissions if every household, business, organization and community quickly implemented these same 10 climate actions in 2022. We’d then have no problem staying below 1.5ºC. 

Let’s do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.


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Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also a tale that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

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Trees for Love | Planting Seedlings to Remember Those We Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 15, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

On October 24, 2020, when covid was ramping up for another major spike, both physical and economic, Gallant Gold Media hosted a free distribution of native redbud and button bush seedlings, at Parking Lot P at George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia. The campaign was called Trees for Love and the seedlings were being planted to remember those we lost to covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings. The Fairfax Tree Commission was an essential liaison that helped get everything off the ground, which enabled the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting the various organizations while in the middle of a pandemic. 

Gallant Gold Media’s Trees for Love Campaign. Planting trees to remember those we lost to covid. Funded by Fairfax City Reconnect Reimbursement Grant.

It takes a village.

This memorable campaign ended up being the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia in 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. We’re running this story again, after the little seedlings began waking up this spring in their new homes, and stretched their tiny limbs while reaching for the sun and are now another year older. More than 169 million Americans, 51 percent of population, are fully vaccinated.

As exciting as this may be, the pandemic will never be over for those connected to the 664,000 Americans who lost their lives to covid. Many family and friends are struggling with the heavy loss. Others are coping in whatever way they deem works best for them, for some, this is through nature, and planting trees to remember their loved ones.

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

One such Fairfax County resident is 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.

Ron Ontko and his wife Carol

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, his first wife and the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

Uncle Zeke

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.

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

Below 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.

David and Jonalyn Husar
David and Jonalyn 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.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee and his wife Leonor Lee
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. 

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, Dawn 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.”

Thanks so much, Dawn! You are a great inspiration to so many. 

When Dawn and I had tea on Wednesday, she explained that she planted more seedlings this spring, to remember the additional friends who lost their lives to covid after her October seedling planting. She spoke about how therapeutic nature is, and the wonderful peaceful feeling we can all receive when we stick our hands in the soil and carefully place the bare roots in the awaiting space where the sapling will soon take root and begin its slow and steady climb toward the sky.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.


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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.

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. Join us in GreeningUp to help US hit our Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to see details.

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.

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

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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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