Gerald Winegrad: It’s time to step up for the Chesapeake Bay and our planet. Here’s how.
We are bombarded daily with doomsday environmental news, including global warming-related record breaking heat waves, flooding, drought and forest fires.
Thousands of people are dying in climate disasters and millions are displaced. The extinction crisis looms over the planet. The continued pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and the fecklessness of supposed bay leaders have led to humans dying from flesh-eating diseases and to collapsing fisheries.
As our planet careens toward being uninhabitable, reactions range from denial, obliviousness, agnostic indifference to hopelessness. The righteous are taking steps to prevent the destruction of Mother Nature and are asking what can we do? Here are some suggestions.
Conserving energy: This is the most-critical step each of us can take to address global warming and Chesapeake Bay restoration. Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 0.9% in 2022 (0.8% in the U.S.), reaching a new high despite pledges to reduce these emissions.
Residences and transportation (mostly motor vehicles) account for 60% of energy used in Maryland. About 80% comes from polluting fossil fuels — oil, natural gas and the dirtiest fuel, coal. About 30% of all nitrogen pollution reaches the bay from such fossil fuel emissions. Save money and help save the bay with these steps:
Electricity: BGE rates will increase by 50% on Oct. 1 over what they were on Sept. 30, 2022. You can install solar panels using major tax incentives, buy 100% solar energy from Neighborhood Sun and pay 10% less than BGE charges and choose an electrical supplier using 100% clean wind or solar energy.
Sign up for a free BGE Quick Home Energy Check with free installation of energy-saving CFL bulbs, smart thermostats and power strips, faucet aerators, efficient-flow showerheads and water heater pipe insulation. Or use the comprehensive BGE Home Performance ENERGY STAR survey for $100 — you will save thousands of dollars over time. Call 877-685-7377 or go online.
You can convert all lighting to LED bulbs, keep air conditioning off as much as you can and set the thermostat at 79 degrees when the air conditioning is on. Keep it low in winter — 65 is fine. Close drapes/curtains in summer and open for sun in winter.
Be sure your attic is well-insulated, check for air leakage around windows and doors and add weather stripping/foam as needed. For older homes, consider energy-efficient windows and doors. We had them installed 15 years ago making a big difference in energy usage and comfort.
Turn off all lights, computers, TVs and other electronic devices when not in use. Purchase only high-efficiency appliances especially heat pumps. Reduce hot water usage — hot water heaters use the most electricity after air conditioning and heating.
Use water-saving faucet aerators, efficient-flow showerheads and power strips. Wait for full loads in the washing machine. Do not let water run while brushing your teeth or shaving. Regularly maintain your furnace and heat pump and change furnace filters.
You also can work to see that these measures are applied at your offices, schools and houses of worship.
Transportation: Drive hybrids or electric vehicles. If not, choose vehicles that achieve at least 40 MPG. Keep them well-maintained, tires properly inflated, avoid idling, plan driving trips/errands to minimize miles driven, telecommute, car-pool, walk, bike and use public transit when possible.
Reduce stormwater runoff: This will limit pollutants entering surface and groundwater from your home or business. The best solution is to convert lawn turf into natural landscaping with trees, shrubs and flowers to attract pollinators in rain gardens. Install rain barrels to retain stormwater and slow its erosive impact.
Eliminate fertilizers and pesticides or greatly reduce their use. Never use phosphorus except for new lawns or bald spots — it’s the law. If you must retain a lawn care company, choose one that minimizes fertilizer and pesticide use. Always have a soil test done before nitrogen application and use only organic slow-release nitrogen.
Use an electric or battery-powered lawn mower. Mow high with a self-mulcher — clippings shade out weeds and conserve moisture. Sharpen blades regularly.
Conserving water and reducing wastewater: This aids our environment and saves you money. Public water supplying 75% of county citizens comes from underwater aquifers. The remaining water is supplied by private wells, also from aquifers. These aquifers have limited water. Overuse led to depletion in several areas of the county including here on the Annapolis Neck Peninsula leading to saltwater intrusion.
Ways to conserve water are mentioned above in the energy section. It is not difficult and for those folks on wells like us, conserving prolongs the life of wells. Wastewater flows are reduced.
Help prevent sewage spills by adhering to the county’s policy of only disposing of the three Ps in toilets: Pee, Poop and Paper (toilet paper only). The wastewater system is threatened by disposable wipes, wrongfully labeled as flushable. Do not flush wipes, diapers, rags, facial tissue, paper towels, scrub pads, sanitary napkins, condoms, hair or dental floss. They clog pumping stations and could cause equipment malfunctions leading to raw sewage spills.
Never dispose of fats, oils or grease in your sink or toilet to prevent clogging. Don’t put food scraps in sinks as this sends polluting nutrients to our waters. Never flush chemicals or medicinals down toilets or sinks.
Reduce, re-use and recycle: This will help limit solid waste being disposed of as garbage. This avoids burning or burying the waste. We reduced garbage by 90% — you can, too. Do not put plastic bags in recycling bins, take them to the food store for recycling. Always bring your own shopping bags. Buy recycled paper products and reduce plastic usage.
Use the award-winning tap water provided by the county and city rather than buying plastic bottled water. Not only is tap water safe and thousands of times cheaper, 17 million barrels of oil are used annually to manufacture 50 billion U.S. plastic water bottles — enough to fuel a million U.S. cars for a year.
About 75% of these bottles wind up in the garbage or in waterways. If you don’t trust your tap or well water, use a Brita water filter pitcher for drinking. Use a refillable container to take water with you.
If you are among the 20% of residents with septic tanks, help prevent the leaching of 500,000 pounds of polluting nitrogen to the bay annually. Use a state grant through the county Health Department to upgrade with nitrogen removal technology or hook into a county treatment plant.
About 35% of the food grown, processed and shipped in the U.S. is wasted while 34 million Americans face hunger each day. Do not waste food.
You do not have to live like an ascetic monk, just use common sense and be aware that all of us are engines of pollution.
Americans consume 16% of global energy with 4% of world population. This is 5.3 times greater per capita than Mexico, 2.5 times that of China and 1.8 times of England. No wonder we are the second-greatest emitter of global warming gases.
We can stop being energy and water hogs and become conservators of our planet if we try.
Gerald Winegrad represented the greater Annapolis area as a Democrat in the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate for 16 years. Contact him at [email protected].