Composting | A Major Climate Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | July 20, 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. 

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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.


  • 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
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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?

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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

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
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“Benefits of Compost.” U.S. Composting Council, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

Simon, Julia. “How to Start Composting.” NPR, 2021,

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

Make 2021 Better!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 16, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

You have set your intention for the new year: Make the world a better place. One way to do that is to plant a tree. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams made similar plans as they wandered the gardens of England in 1786. Jefferson and Adams, sometimes adversaries with opposing political views, joined together to investigate the worthiest of English gardens as they waited for trade negotiations to move forward in Europe. Appreciatively scouring the estates, these two Founding Fathers admired the winding paths and natural features of the most modern gardens. 

The Stowe garden appealed to Jefferson’s practical side. Known for both his head and his heart, Jefferson noted utilitarian features such as pastures and irrigation methods. While he appreciated the color and design of the garden, he seemed irritated by useless items like a solitary Corinthian arch. Adams was most likely in full agreement with Jefferson’s opinions about Stowe. Urban environments strained him; he was happy to escape London for the English countryside. Occupied for decades with government business, he longed to return to Peacefield, his farm in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. Adams enjoyed digging side by side with the hired workers and instructing them on the latest innovations in soil improvement. His correspondence during his retirement years is riddled with the virtues of manure. The English garden tour provided Jefferson and Adams plenty to dream about as they finished their trade negotiations and headed home, inspired to make their gardens and the new nation just a little better.

Maybe you’re inspired to follow through on that intention to make the world better. Your activism represents a decision to make a difference: The tree you plant contributes valuable oxygen to the atmosphere. Added bonus: When your neighbors see the results, they might plant a tree, too. Choosing the best tree to plant can be daunting, but resources abound. Reflecting on the purpose of the tree will help you decide: Do you want more shade in your yard? Are you looking for privacy? Do you have limited space? To see quick results, you may want to plant a fast-growing tree. 

Fast-Growing Trees in Virginia*

  • Hybrid Poplar
  • Weeping Willow
  • Quaking Aspen
  • October Red Glory Maple
  • Arborvitae Green Giant
  • River Birch
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Leyland Cypress
  • Paper Birch
  • Pin Oak

*As you plan, be sure to check to make sure the tree you choose is a Virginia native.

By planting a tree (or two), you are demonstrating the ideals that made our country strong: freedom, hard work, and perseverance. For men like Jefferson and Adams, gardens represented more than just beauty or status; the nurturing of crops, shrubs, and trees symbolized the cultivation of American ideals. Independence is evident in the natural style of early American gardens. The labor devoted to bringing life to their farms and gardens fostered the self-reliance for which America became famous. Experimenting with new methods of soil conservation and irrigation affirmed the idea of perseverance. The Founding Fathers were not afraid to get their hands dirty to achieve a higher goal. Planting your tree also serves a larger purpose – improving the health of the planet.

Helpful Resources:

Fairfax County Tree Basics Booklet | Public Works and Environmental Services

Gallant Gold Media

Tree Planting Information

Planting Trees from Seeds


“Notes of a Tour of English Gardens, [2–14 April] 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives,

Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. Knopf, 2011.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Trees

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

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

“Let there be trees,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Ways to Give Back

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

Resources for Parents


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

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

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


Informative video for parents and kids:

Tree Activities for Kids:

Benefits of trees:,

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A REAL Solution – Urban Tree Canopy|Act Now

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

The emerging concept of “green intelligence” is bringing much needed analytical assessments to the attention of mayors across the country.  We understand the ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300
importance of planting thousands of trees in our local communities. But apparently, where we plant trees really makes a difference.

How do we determine the best locations for each household to plant ten trees? Thankfully, the USDA’s Forest Service Northern Research Station has just released a valuable analysis termed UTC, Urban Tree Canopy. The UTC Assessment is made up of geospatial data that can be used to strategically outline where exactly new trees should be planted in a town or city, and approximately how many will net the maximum benefit. It can be used as a guide in every city in America to identify which areas in each city need more tree work and tree TLC. New York City’s Hudson Yards’ revitalization is an excellent example.

By the way, Urban Tree Canopy is the complete tree mass — made up of branches, leaves and stems — that covers the ground when looking down from above the treeline.

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Here are the facts:

  • Trees make a vital, positive impact on all communities, particularly cities where there’s a dense population
  • Trees improve storm water run-off by capturing rain water in their canopy and discharging it into the atmosphere.
  • The EPA asserts that, “Tree roots and leaf litter create soil conditions that promote the infiltration of rainwater into the soil.”
  • So with more trees, there should be less street flooding.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 8.47.03 PM.png

  • Trees provide shelter from the heat, and lower urban temperatures.
  • Trees reduce air pollution by absorbing toxins into the roots, bark and leaves. Trees also absorb a significant amount of CO2, as well us provide us with the oxygen we need to live.
  • Once trees have been planted, wildlife habitat will soon follow. This rich habitat includes wonderful insects, birds, bats, butterflies and small mammals.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 9.11.54 PM.png

  • Trees beautify our communities which increases property values and improves our mental health.
  • In fact, Thomas Jefferson, and our founding fathers for that matter, strongly believed that trees and gardens were so critical  in ensuring our emotional strength and stability, that they insisted trees be planted across Capitol Hill and that a Botanic Garden be established at its base.
  • Trees improve the economic viability of a city or town.
  • Trees nurture the community spirit and strengthen community ties. In this day and age with the opioid crisis still haunting our communities, it’s nice to know that we can grab onto something positive, inspirational and healthy that will improve our quality of life and draw us all together.

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The facts are clear. Numerous life saving benefits, and a plan that the whole community can participate in. Team work. It’s time to attend town hall meetings to discuss our local community’s Urban Tree Canopy assessment. Did our mayors and town counsel members even read the UTC released by the USDA’s Forest Service? Let’s find out.

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.

The Science Behind Political Polarization

Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Our nation’s founders seemingly thought of everything…

With Jefferson outlining so clearly and passionately our founding principles in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truth’s to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

To James Madison concisely enumerating guidelines to effectively govern our united states in the Constitution and Bill of Rights: “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Unites States of America.

Yet none of the founders initially envisioned there would be political parties. They assumed Americans citizens would simply use common sense to elect the candidate they felt would best represent them.

So, back at the beginning, during a presidential election, the one who received the most votes became president, and the one who received the second largest number of votes became vice president.

Immediately following his signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin set sail for France, becoming the first Minister of France, living in Paris for eight years.

Thomas Jefferson replaced Benjamin Franklin as the Minister of France and called Paris his home for seven years.

John Adams also resided across the Atlantic for a number of years as a diplomat in several European countries.

Three Founding Fathers, three key visionaries, were outside the country when our very young nation was still a tiny sapling and very impressionable.

Back on the home front, an ambitious brilliant young military officer named Alexander Hamilton, rose in the ranks to become Aide-de-camp to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, and was a key figure in the decisive victory at the Battle of Yorktown that won the Revolutionary War. This was a stunning success. Alexander Hamilton was now at the top of his game.

Because Alexander Hamilton had become a close confident to George Washington during the war, and because of Hamilton’s immense ambition and passion for money and wealth, after George Washington was sworn in as first President of the United States, he named Alexander Hamilton as his Secretary of the Treasury, and Thomas Jefferson as his Secretary of State.

This dynamic became quite tumultuous soon after Jefferson and Hamilton began working together.

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, who ardently believed everything he’d written in this historic document, was the champion of the hard-working industrious farmers and firmly espoused that the common man could govern himself and live freely on the expansive verdant land that seemed to stretch on indefinitely to infinity.

Hamilton believed that only the wealthy and privileged would have the proper amount of education necessary for governing and that America should be run similar to a monarchy, or even an autocracy — with an iron-fist.

Jefferson was startled that Hamilton had forgotten the principles outlined in our founding documents. Hamilton was in disbelief that Jefferson thought farmers were educated enough to know how to make good decisions. Jefferson was unnerved that Washington had such high regards for Hamilton after the war, and that Hamilton had far more say on critical issues than Jefferson. Hamilton soon formed the Federalists. Jefferson eventually countered by forming the anti-Federalists who later became known as the Democratic Republicans.

These were our first political parties. Two polar opposites.

So you see, it was Jefferson and Hamilton who taught us how political polarization happens in a democracy. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution are in the middle. Our nation’s principles and beliefs seem to be very clearly defined so there won’t be any mistakes about how to apply them to our modern life.

However, as soon as one key player or group/party becomes extreme with interpretation, there immediately forms an opposition group to offset this force — thankfully. This process is very scientific and is easy to visualize.

Thus, the extreme polarization created by our current president, is a measure of how far off the center of our founding principles this new negative force has taken us. The resistant opposition currently battling trump and the GOP, is a predictable outcome based on Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion. The same outcome as was seen with Thomas Jefferson’s resistance to Alexander Hamilton.

Now that we understand what’s been taking place this past year and the science behind it, it’s easier to see what needs to be done to correct the situation. It seems that the only way to really stop these polarizing swings is to get back to the middle. But until we get back there, we need to maintain a fierce opposition the same way Jefferson did.



“The pen is mightier than the sword.” ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839

This famous maxim may have been penned for the first time in 1839, but it was proven by some of our notable founding fathers — Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Ben Franklin in particular — decades before.

Stay tuned…


Recommended Reading, Th Jefferson, 1787

Thomas Jefferson was a prolific reader. In fact, his personal library was so massive that when the Library of Congress burned in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold the majority of his book collection to the United States Government to replace what was lost. Jefferson had to learn seven languages in order to read all the books he acquired. Many words were spelt differently back then, and punctuation was also a bit dissimilar.

The following is the recommended reading list Jefferson sent to his nephew Peter Carr in a letter dated August 10, 1787. Many of these are on Amazon:


  • Heredot
  • Thucyd
  • Xenoph
  • hellen
  • Anab
  • Q. Curt
  • Just
  • Livy
  • Polybius
  • Sallust
  • Caesar
  • Suetonius
  • Tacitus
  • Aurel
  • Victor
  • Herodian
  • Gibbon’s decline of the Roman empire
  • Milot histoire ancienne


  • Tacit
  • Germ. & Agricole
  • Hume to the end of H. VI. then Habington’s E.IV.
  • Sir Thomas Moor’s E.5. & R.3.
  • Ld. Bacon’s H.7
  • Ld Herbert of Cherbury’s H.8.
  • K. Edward’s journal (in Burnet) Bp. of Hereford’s E.6. & Mary.
  • Cambden’s Eliz. Wilson’s Jac.I. Ludlow (omit Clarendon as too seducing for a young republican. By and by read him)
  • Burnet’s Charles 2. Jac.2. Wm. & Mary & Anne
  • Ld. Orrery down to George 1. & 2.
  • Burke’s G.3. Robertson’s hist. of Scotland


  • Robertson’s America
  • Douglass’s N. America
  • Hutcheson’s Massachusets, Smith’s N. York
  • Smith’s N. Jersey
  • Franklin’s review of Pennsylvania
  • Smith’s, Stith’s, Keith’s, & Beverley’s hist. of Virginia


  • Mallet’s Northn. Antiquities by Percy
  • Puffendorf’s histy. of Europe & Martiniere’s of Asia, Africa & America
  • Milot Histoire Moderne
  • Volatire histoire universelle
  • Milot hist. de France
  • Mariana’s hist. of Spain and Span[ish]
  • Robertson’s Charles V.
  • Watson’s Phil. II. & III.
  • Grotii Belgica
  • Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical history


  • Homer
  • Milton
  • Ossian
  • Sophocles
  • Aeschylus
  • Eurip
  • Metastasio
  • Shakesp.
  • Theocritus
  • Anacreon
  • […]


  • Bezout & whatever else Mr. Madison recommends


  • Delalande &c. as Mr. Madison shall recommend


  • Musschenbroeck


  • Linnaei Philosophia Botanica
  • Genera Plantarum
  • Species planetarium
  • Gronovii flora [Virginica]


  • Fourcroy


  • Home’s principles of Agriculture — Tull &c.


  • Cheselden


  • The Socratic dialogues
  • Cicero’s Philosphies
  • Kaim’s Principles of Natl. religion
  • Helveticus de l’esprit et de l’homme
  • Locke’s Essay
  • Lucretius
  • Traite de Morale & du Bon[heur]


  • Locke’s Conduct of the Mind
  • Middleton’s works
  • Bolingbroke’s philosoph. works
  • Hume’s Essays
  • Voltaire’s works
  • Beattie


  • Whatever Mr. Wythe pleases, who will be so good as to correct also all the preceding articles which are only intended as a group work to be finished by his pencil.

Socratic Method

Back at the beginning of time, in the 1700’s when our Founding Fathers were ardently debating how the colonies could free themselves from tyrannical King George III and his oppressive regime, the vigorous debates of our forbears were typically pursued using the Socratic Method…an ancient system of reasoning brought back to life during the Enlightenment Era.

Stay tuned…