Seven Resolutions to Make 2019 a Watershed Year

With 2018 in the past, it’s time to look forward by setting new year’s resolutions for 2019. Along with “take more vacations” or “get fit” consider adding “become a Watershed Warrior” to your list with these 7 ways to spark the watershed conservation movement for the new year.

  1. Take the Scenic Route: Seeing is believing, and you’ll learn what’s to love, and protect, by visiting one of Riverside County’s three watersheds. There are amazing sights to see and plenty of activities to take part in. Check out the watershed map on our website to help guide your trip.
  2. Watch Your Waste: Plan meals for the week so you buy just enough food and avoid having to throw any away. If you do find yourself with excess vegetables, search the Internet for new recipes for soups or stews. Compost any remaining food such as fruits or vegetables, avoiding meats, cheeses and dairy products.
  3. Don’t Be Trashy: Minimize the amount of trash you create by making a conscious effort to recycle and reuse. This includes bringing reusable straws to restaurants, reusable cups to order coffee, and even taking reusable totes to the grocery store.
  4. Take Care of Your Ride: We take vehicles for work and play every day, so make sure you’re keeping up with their maintenance to prevent oil leaks. Wash your car regularly with eco-friendly soaps and cleaners.
  5. Eco-Furry Companions: Don’t forget your pets when you’re making your resolutions. Picking up after your pet is an important step in protecting our watersheds. Carry a bag on walks with your dog to dispose of dog doo. #DooGood
  6. Volunteer Your Time: Time is a priceless contribution and volunteering your time to help clean our watersheds is invaluable. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for upcoming volunteer opportunities to help make a difference.
  7. Spread the Good Word: There’s strength in numbers, and the more people that make small changes in their lives towards a more sustainable lifestyle, the bigger impact it will have on our environment and watersheds. Tell a friend! Forward the newsletter! Share the tips we send!

The Last Straw for our Watersheds

Single use plastics such as disposable containers, water bottles, and cups literally adds tons of trash to landfills every year. One of the biggest offenders may also be one of the smallest: the straw.

Here in the United States, we use more than 500 million plastic straws a day. The majority of these are not recycled and many end up as litter in the lakes, streams and rivers of our watershed and then eventually in the ocean. Even when recycled, plastic straws are so lightweight they often don’t make it through the entire recycling process and end up as waste.

Once in the watershed, straws don’t biodegrade quickly. Instead, they break up into smaller pieces that endanger our marine life. Fish, whales, turtles and other sea animals mistake them for food and ingest them.

The solution may be one of the easiest: skip the straw when you sip. At restaurants, ask for your drink “no straw please.” Companies like Starbucks and Ikea are also pledging to reduce their straw use.

If you prefer to use a straw, opt for a reusable one. Option are available in glass, stainless steel, and bamboo. Keep one in your car or purse for drive-thru and restaurant visits.

Let’s make 2019 the year we ditch the last straw.

Getting the Car into Rhythm for Summer Trips

Summer is finally here, and that means destination vacations, beach days, camping trips, music festivals…and more time in your car. No road trip is complete without a cool playlist! Check out these classic “songs” for tips to keep your vehicle, and the environment, in great condition:

Talkin’ About the Car Wash (Rose Royce, 1976): Wash away the grime of freeways, sand, and dirt at a car wash that reclaims the wastewater. If you choose to wash at home, park your vehicle on a permeable surface (like your yard), use biodegradable phosphate-free cleaners with a hose that has an auto shut-off nozzle. This prevents wastewater from washing into the storm drains and into our local watersheds.

Life is a Highway (covered by Rascal Flatts, 2006) : Your car will get better gas mileage on the highways with consistent upkeep. Replace fluids on schedule. Use a funnel and drip pan to collect spills and clean up with an absorbent material like kitty litter or a wet/dry vacuum. Never hose down your work area because harmful pollutants could be washed into the storm drains. Routine maintenance of your car will help to prevent leakage of harmful fluids, save money on car repair, and protect our watersheds.

You Gotta Keep Em’ Separated (Come Out and Play, OffSpring, 1994): Mixed waste fluids are not accepted for recycling. Collect, store and recycle used automotive fluids like motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid and gear oil separately. Take fluids, filters, and batteries to a Riverside County household hazardous waste collection center or automotive center.

If You DIY This Summer, Do It Right!

School’s out for summer! Are you? If you have time off this summer, now may be the perfect time to spruce up a room (or two!) in your house with a new coat of paint. Here are three tips to help you add color to your house and not our watersheds:

  • Choose Non-Toxic: There are many non-toxic paints that you can find at your local hardware store. Look for the term “Non-VOC” or “Low-VOC.” VOC’s are volatile organic compounds that can lead to headaches, allergies, and eye irritation. Prolonged exposure may lead to more serious health risks. Best of all, since most of these paints are water based, the possibility for water contamination is reduced.
  • Buy Only What You Need: If you are unsure of how much paint you will need, ask the paint expert at your local store for recommendations. There are paint calculators you can find online that allow you to input details like height, width, number of doors and windows to determine the proper amount. Buying “just enough” helps to reduce waste and will have your wallet thanking you, too.
  • Recycle Cans and Paint: If you end up with just a little extra paint at the end of the project, store in a cool dry place for future touch ups. If you decide to discard, remember to let any paint residue fully dry out in the cans and then take to a Household Hazardous Waste collection facility for free disposal.

Choose “Green” Drinking For Better Watershed Health

We’re not talking about a kale smoothie! Whether you’re drinking water, iced tea, your favorite sports drink or an iced mocha latte, your choice of container can make a difference to the watershed.

As convenient as it is to grab a plastic bottle out of your refrigerator or a gas station store to stay hydrated on the go, the sad truth is that our convenience comes with a huge cost: 91% of plastic waste is not recycled! All this plastic trash ends up in landfills or making its way through waterways into the ocean. If it makes it to the landfill as trash, that plastic takes about 400 years to decompose. In the rivers, streams and in the ocean, it poses a huge threat to aquatic life.

You can do your part to minimize plastic pollution with these 4 tips:

  1. Trust the Tap: Tap water is a safe choice throughout Riverside County. The EPA requires that all community water systems prepare an annual water quality report, called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) and these are generally available online. To find your CCR, visit the EPA website here.
  2. Choose to Reuse: Invest in several stainless steel tumblers, making it convenient to fill and carry for every day travel. Cleaning by hand is a cinch. Use regular soap and water for daily cleaning. Allow to soak in 1-2 tablespoon of vinegar with water for fifteen minutes for extra cleaning. Be sure to use non-abrasive materials to wash and dry.
  3. Skip the Straw: Let your server know that you don’t need a straw and drink straight from the glass. The glasses are cleaned with the dishes and utensils you’re using so a straw won’t make a bit of difference! If you’re mouth sensitive to cold or heat, consider bringing a reusable stainless steel straw to restaurants.
  4. Recycle: Only about 1 in 4 plastic bottles are recycled. If you must use a plastic bottle, make sure to recycle it! Discard in a public recycled bin while you’re traveling or stash in your bag or car to recycle at home. Let that plastic bottle become insulation for a ski jacket or sleeping bag in its next life!

Watershed and Wildlife Protection

The way we treat our watersheds does not just affect us, but also all of the wildlife that we share the planet with. World Wildlife Day (March 3, 2018) is a good reminder to take into consideration the animals that share our watersheds.

All kinds of species can become extinct or threatened if their environment is disrupted. Some examples from Riverside County include the Riverside Fairy Shrimp, the Santa Ana Sucker, and the Western Pond Turtle which have all been placed on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Riverside Fairy Shrimp

Riverside Fairy Shrimp can be found after rainy seasons in vernal pools, temporary pools of rainwater that collect in shallow depressions. During the dry season, their eggs are cysts that can survive in soil until rainwater refills the pools. Trash, litter and illegal dumping can degrade or even destroy the areas that collect the rainwater these crustaceans rely on to survive. The Riverside Fairy Shrimp has only been found in a few areas, notably Riverside County. Keeping our watersheds healthy protects this tiny creature.

The Sana Ana Sucker

The Santa Ana Sucker is a freshwater fish that is native to California. These fish inhabit the urban areas of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Their decline highlights a need to ensure the health of Southern California’s watersheds since it is likely due to the lack of clean water. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have approved a recovery plan for the fish that includes reestablishing the Sucker’s habitat and providing additional areas of high-quality habitat in each of the inhabited watersheds.

Western Pond Turtle

The Western Pond Turtle is California’s only native fresh water turtle. They are typically found in lakes, streams or ponds with lots of aquatic vegetation. Their species has become threatened due to disease, aquatic habitat destruction, and the introduction of predators. Waterways they inhabit have been disrupted by contaminant spills, grazing, and off-road vehicle use. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in the Santa Margarita Watershed is one protected home for some of the remaining turtles.

You can protect these endangered species by helping keep our watersheds clean and reporting any signs of major pollution or major drought. Join the effort in keeping our precious species alive.

Seven New Year’s Resolutions for Watershed Warriors

The New Year symbolizes a time for new beginnings and to make modifications to your routine. Make changes, make a difference and make 2018 the year that you dedicate yourself to becoming a Watershed Warrior with resolutions that will benefit the environment and you!

Here are seven New Year’s Resolutions to awaken the Watershed Warrior inside you:

  1. Take Charge of Trash: Our watersheds become polluted with litter from overflowing trash cans. Cut back on the amount of trash you generate. Use reusable shopping bags; only purchase products that you need. Recycle and reuse.
  2. Pick Up After Your Pet: Even our furry friends have an impact on our watersheds. Carry a disposal bag when you walk your dog and scoop the poop, then properly dispose of it in the nearest trash can.
  3. Change Your Car Care: Keep up with regular car maintenance to prevent oil leaks. Wash your car with biodegradable and phosphate-free soaps and always use an auto shutoff hose nozzle. Better yet, take your car to a professional car wash that reclaims wash water.
  4. Practice Water Conservation: Look for ways to use less water. Skip long showers; monitor landscaping irrigation to eliminate leaks and avoid overwatering.
  5. Volunteer: Join a river clean up; adopt a street; organize a litter pick up event for your community. Do we have any? For upcoming activities near you, visit rcwatershed.org.
  6. Explore the Watersheds: Become familiar with three beautiful watersheds in Riverside County by checking out this map. Pick a location and take a day trip into nature!
  7. Become a Friend, Tell a Friend: Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and share tips for keeping our watersheds protected.

This New Year, include watershed protection in your resolutions and be ready to see the results.

Three Reasons Real is Better than Fake!

If your holiday season includes putting up a Christmas tree, here are three reasons to choose a real tree instead of using an artificial one:

  1. Fresh Air: Trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Studies by the National Christmas Tree Association report that an acre of Douglas fir trees can absorb about 11,300 pounds of carbon dioxide and produce the daily oxygen requirement of 18 people. Manufacturing artificial trees made of PVC, however, releases dioxins into the environment.
  2. Recyclable: Since real trees are biodegradable, when the season is over they can be recycled. Many cities and communities have green waste programs with free curbside pick-up service of discarded trees for recycling into compost or mulch. Be sure to remove all ornaments, tinsel and lights and cut any tree over 6 feet tall in half. More tips for green holiday recycling are available at the Riverside County Department of Waste Resources’ waste guide.

A DIY project: if you have access to a wood chipper, you can turn the tree into mulch for use in your own yard.

  1. Renewable Source: When Christmas trees are harvested, they are immediately replaced by 1 to 3 seedlings. Artificial trees are not a renewable source since they are a petroleum-based product.

Whether you cut your own at a local Christmas Tree farm or choose a harvested tree from a local nursery, you’ll bring the beauty and fragrance of nature inside your home.

Four Ways to Avoid Wrapping up Watersheds

Does your holiday season end with a mountain of wrapping paper, gift boxes and ribbon piled up in your living room? You’re not alone. Americans throw out 25% more trash than usual during the holiday season, which adds up to about one million tons per week. If only it were all recyclable! Ribbons, bows and metallic, dyed or laminated decorative papers are not suitable for recycling. Instead, most of the glitter and foil decked items will end up stuffed in a trash can, soon to be taken to a local landfill. Since the most common litter in our waterways is household trash, discarded wrapping paper can end up wrapping up our watersheds.

Here are four creative ways to reduce holiday waste:

  • Wrap gifts in alternative coverings like newspaper, magazine pages, or brown paper bags.
  • Carefully remove wrapping paper from gifts you receive and reuse the paper on gifts you give.
  • Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper, as bags are easier to reuse.
  • Skip ribbons and bows and use natural products like evergreen twigs, berries, or even mini pinecones to decorate.

This year, give the gift of sustainability and clean water with your holiday presents.

Waste Not, Want Not – 5 Tips for Dealing with Food Waste

We all seem to do it: we buy those fruits and veggies hoping to eat healthier and end up with spoiled food we toss in the trash. Some researchers have estimated that during a typical month, the average person wastes about 20 lbs of food, with even more than that wasted during the holidays. Not only is this bad for our wallets, it’s bad for our watersheds. Food waste tied in a plastic bag and tossed on a garbage pile takes years to decompose, releases methane gas and reduces the amount of oxygen available to aquatic life in the waterways.

Here are five tips to reduce food waste:

  1. Bypass Expiration Dates: There is a common misconception that the “Best Before date” on a product means that it shouldn’t be eaten after that date. This date simply indicates the peak time for quality. Most foods can be safely consumed after that date with no discernible difference in taste or nutrition.
  2. Don’t Look for Perfection: Lower your standard for appearance on fruits and vegetables, ignoring those bruises and blemishes. You’ll find that they taste no different from unblemished produce.
  3. Use Old Produce: We tend to throw out lettuce that’s beginning to wilt or bananas that are bruising. Why not throw them into a soup or smoothie instead? Wilting leaves can also be revived by leaving them in a bowl of ice cold water.
  4. Portion Control: It has become an American standard to serve big portions. Use smaller plates and serve less to avoid throwing out any uneaten food. It also might help you lose a few pounds!
  5. Compost: Composting takes your unwanted food and transfers the nutrients back into the soil. You can compost fruit peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and other items you’d normally toss in the trash.

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