11 Great Plants of the West Coast (and a photo of alpacas for good measure)
I hope you enjoyed seeing some watery West Coast scenes earlier this month. It’s a rainy day here in Philadelphia, PA, where our office is located, so looking at sunnier sights feels like a welcome reprieve. While traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles earlier this summer, I couldn’t stop admiring all of the plant diversity. So cool!
Here are some of my snapshots of the various green spots I encountered on my own Green Trek (see what I did there?). From a green roof atop the California Academy of Sciences to succulents in a friend’s yard in Portland, OR, to the majestic redwood forest, I was in awe of it all!
Exploring the West Coast: Water & Conservation
I kicked off my summer with a whirlwind roadtrip down the West Coast with my younger sister (who you may remember from this blog post) and our friend Dawn. It was a beautiful experience! Like true tourists, we were all snapping away photos the whole time. Today I’m highlighting some shots of water, water pollution, and conservation. If you want to learn more about protecting water, please visit our StormwaterPA project.
Environmental Education Leading to Environmental Careers
In our films, we highlight people who are doing great things for their environment and communities. So it is thrilling to hear from someone who was featured in a video we did years and years ago!
As a 7th-grade student, Heather Zanoni’s class was featured in one our documentaries called “The Environmental Classroom.” This film followed the Monagacci program, which encouraged using the outdoors as a classroom. “I think one of the major underlying themes of Monagacci was an idea of taking care of and understanding the environment around you,” Heather states. “There wasn’t a big lecture on ‘sustainability’ … I think the idea was more about using our local outdoors as a tool for instruction and practice based learning, which I think both teachers hoped would inspire students beyond the 7th grade…”
Scenes from our Environmental Classroom documentary
Heather immediately was inspired by this “life changing educational experience”. Leading a hike for second graders at a summer camp the following summer, Heather was able to identify for the young hikers the types of wildlife and plants they were seeing. This passion continued throughout her academic career. As a graduate student going for her Masters in Environmental Policy at The New School, Heather participated in the Solar Decathlon down in Washington, D.C. (and, yes, we did feature this energy competition in a documentary series over on our environmental education program site – EcoExpress.org). This collaborative, multi-year project (see Empowerhouse for more information) resulted in an affordable housing duplex, which is also inexpensive to live in. The house consumes about 90% less energy for heating and cooling than most homes, but it also substantially cheaper than many other green homes, costing about $250,000 to build.
Photo of Empowerhouse by Martin Seck
Now Heather works as an associate at The Stone House Group, energy efficiency consulting firm in Bethlehem, PA. It’s wonderful to see how all of these meaningful, educational experiences can lead to a life path of caring for the environment.
Sporting Life: All Eyes on Philly, When it Rains it Pours!
As leader of a non-profit with a major focus on water resource protection, I’ve got to admit, we kind of like when it rains. Believe me, I don’t love the fact that runoff wreaks havoc with our waterways, streets, and basements, but downpours do draw attention to the problems we human-folk have brought upon ourselves by altering the landscape. Once upon a time, nature did a great job of balancing the water cycle, but as we chopped, paved, and built our way into a life of impervious-ness, we generated a ton of stormwater runoff — which causes flooding, erosion, and pollutes our rivers and streams.
So, what’s the connection to sport? Last weekend, one of the nation’s biggest Bike races came to Philadelphia, and luckily for riders and the partygoing fans, the rains had left by race day. This week, the U.S. Open has come to our suburbs; attendees from far and wide have been pummeled by storms. And next weekend, the TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon takes place. The latter event involves a swim in the Schuylkill River, a biking segment in Fairmount Park, and is capped with a run. If we get any major rains leading up to or on race day itself, chances are good that the swim will be canceled because of high water and potential contamination. Oh, the event will likely go on, but in a drastically different form. (I’ll be racing as usual, and since I’m a mediocre swimmer, I’d benefit if the swim gets canceled. But I’d also be disappointed because I signed up for the challenge of the three discipline event…)
The point is that storms bring runoff and runoff disrupts our lives in myriad ways. The learning moment is that WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. People all around us are trying to minimize the impacts by getting this stormwater under control. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the inspiring story of Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program. Learn more by visiting StormwaterPA. And then Get into the Act by planting a tree, building a rain garden, installing a rain barrel, and sharing what you’ve just learned.
Graduating to More Sustainable Ways
This week marks the end of many college semesters in my region, which means there are a lot of students moving out of campus dorms and apartments. Unfortunately, this means a lot of things get thrown out that could easily be used! My little sister also just finished college (congrats, Maura! I snapped this photo of her at 8am on her graduation day!), so I’m getting to see this all play out again first hand.
In my former neighborhood of West Philly, the end of the semester for the University of Pennsylvania is seen by many as “Penn Christmas.” For the weeks following the end of the academic year, people dumpster dive and trash pick wonderful treasures. Some trash finds are downright mythic. I have a friend who claims to have discovered both an iPod and a backpack that still had cash in it!
Since 2008, UPenn has been working to eliminate the amount of items that get tossed. PennMOVES collects donated items, and then resells them to benefit local charities. It’s such an excellent idea! I wish more schools would implement such a program. If you are interested in scoping out some free secondhand treasures, I definitely recommend looking up your local college’s academic calendar.
Do you know of other colleges that collect donated items from their students moving? Or have you found such cool items after college lets out? Let me know! !