Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Not all Heroes Wear Capes Members of the Office of Community Sustainability had the opportunity to meet and hear from a 4 th grade all-girls robotics team, Hydro Heroes, from Howard County, MD. The team participates in the FIRST Lego League ( FLL), which presents a challenge each year for teams to solve. This year’s theme is HydroDynamics, and the challenge is to improve the way people find, transport, use, or dispose of water. The team began by identifying a problem within the human water cycle to design a solution that makes the problem better. Through their research they found that only 1% of fresh drinking water on Earth is accessible and that shower use is one of the highest

Workin at the Car Wash

It’s hot, it’s dusty, it’s per­fect weather to get out there and wash your car! But think about this before you suds up your lovely vehi­cle: where does all of the dirt, oil, and soap from your car go after you wash it? ….Are you stumped? It gets dumped down a storm drain. Why does that mat­ter? Because, unlike the water that you flush down the toi­let, water that’s swept into a storm drain isn’t treated before it emp­ties into a local stream or river. Now, all of the things you didn’t want on your car are in a local water body. This often includes met­als, nutri­ents, and hydrocarbons—all things that we shouldn’t be putting in our streams. So what

7 Things I Can Do To Improve Water Quality

Check out this article to learn about simple ways that you can help protect our local water! 1. Slow The Flow-Redirect rain-spouts away from hard surfaces (like driveways and sidewalks) and onto grassy areas whenever possible. This reduces the amount of runoff from roof tops from entering the storm drain system and helps the water to slowly sink into the ground. Install a CleanScape to stop runoff in its tracks before it can harm local water! 2. Stash The Trash-Trash discarded on parking areas, beside roads and other open areas is washed into local streams. Pick up and properly dispose of trash whenever possible. 3. Refrain From The Drain-Storm drains are for water only. Never use them to dispose of

Water, Water Everywhere

A cou­ple of week­ends ago, my room­mates and I had the plea­sure of a burst pipe in our base­ment. Of course, we ran around like chick­ens with our heads cut off try­ing to find some­body who knew where the water shut-off valve was. But nobody seemed to know until one heroic neigh­bor stepped in. We spent the rest of that Sat­ur­day clean­ing up 3–4 inches of frigid water after los­ing feel­ing in our toes in the first few minutes. To cel­e­brate the con­clu­sion of our Her­culean feat, we sat down and shared snacks. We’d saved water in bath tubs so that we could at least flush the toi­let man­u­ally. But, faced with only a gal­lon or two of bot­tled water

When it Rains, it Pours

2014 has been a watershed year for stormwater efforts in Howard County. The Howard County Office of Environmental Sustainability has rolled out some innovative ways that you can help to protect our local water. First there is the stream mAPPer, a free smart phone app that tracks the health of your neighborhood stream or river. The stream mAPPer helps you get to know your neighborhood stream’s behavior and helps us keep our eyes on the more than 750 miles of streams in Howard County. We already have over 100 reports! Find all of the mapped locations here and add your own. If you would like to start mAPPing, download the app here. You can also email for more information

Backyard Art

A few weeks back I had the good for­tune to visit Ire­land for the first time. What I heard was true, the scenery was spec­tac­u­lar. While I cer­tainly got my fill of rolling coun­try, stone walls, and hill­top cas­tles; being a stream guy, I have to admit I was in awe of the pris­tine, text book exam­ples of healthy streams through­out Ire­land - veg­e­tated banks, acces­si­ble flood plain, rif­fles and pools; all indi­ca­tors of a stream in the prime of its life. The water was crys­tal clear and the bot­tom rocks were free of sed­i­ment — signs that the macro inver­te­brate pop­u­la­tion (bugs) was plen­ti­ful. These bugs, the food sup­ply for fish, were the rea­son we fre­quently saw fly– fish­er­man

2011 20 Minute Cleanup – Thanks For A Successful Day!

Thank you to every­one who par­tic­i­pated in the 2011 20 Minute Cleanup! Over 1500 peo­ple in Howard County par­tic­i­pated and removed many, many bags of trash and recy­cling. Not every­one counted their haul, but for those who did, the total was 141 bags of trash and 32 bags of recycling. Thank you all for mak­ing Howard County cleaner and greener. By work­ing together, we made our neigh­bor­hoods more beau­ti­ful and less trash will end up in our envi­ron­ment, par­tic­u­larly our streams, rivers and the Bay. That is really won­der­ful and shows the great vol­un­teer spirit in Howard County. On a per­sonal note, It was very inspir­ing to get all of your won­der­ful emails and pos­i­tive com­ments about the project. I

2012 20 Minute Cleanup Results

Well Howard County, you’ve amazed me again. The 2012 20 Minute Cleanup had over 2300 participants! They are over-used these days, but I think that deserves some extra exclamation points. All I can say is wow. And thank you. Thank you for not being the only crazy one out there picking up other people’s litter. Thank you for getting outside and taking action. Thank you for participating, motivating others, and making a difference. Thank you for re-energizing us government workers, who sometimes see the less happy side of our wonderful residents. The 20 Minute Cleanup is a very simple idea, which we borrowed from a project in Toronto called the 20 Minute Makeover. That sounded confusing to me, hope I’m

Hot Tire Haulin’

The forecast called for 97 degrees by 11 a.m. – ugh. The hottest day of the year, and what was on my agenda? Hauling tires out of a river with volunteers. Well, quite a bit of planning had gone into it, so what else was there to do but pack a lot of water and get out there? Yes, it was the hottest day of the summer, the day we could have had a blackout caused by heat. But Friday, July 22, turned out to be a great day because I was lucky enough to spend the morning with a fun and dedicated group of people and work with them to clean up a section of Howard County. There were