For the Conservation Curious

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Wedding Waste October 17, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — newdomino @ 11:30 AM

I’m getting married this coming weekend. I had wanted to elope for several reasons, but in the end my fiancée and I decided to have an informal ceremony and party-like reception. I thought that would make it an affordable option… Now that seems very laughable and naïve. The wedding industry is just that: an industry. It is big business. I had to wonder, at what expense to the planet?

Being cost conscious, we could have opted for disposable plates, cups, napkins, etc. That would have saved us a lot of money. Renting all those things, along with linens and catering staff, was a big chunk of our budget. But we had to do it, as I couldn’t stomach the thought of all the waste of disposables. Even if you opt for the “green” version of compostable plates that is only green if you have a municipal composting facility that can handle them. Unfortunately most of the time those “green” plates and cups are sent to the landfill where they won’t break down as they’re supposed to. Now, washing all that silverware and glassware isn’t all that great either, but what’s the alternative? Not serve food? Drink directly from the wine bottle? I’m ok with that, but not with sharing.🙂

We are keeping the decorations to a minimum. We tried to borrow white string lights where we could. The centerpieces are very small and use dried grasses and flowers rather than fresh roses shipped from a former rain forest in South America. But what will happen to these 2 dozen decorations after the wedding? They’re made in beer growlers so I hope some people will put them to good use in their home – either as a decoration or a beverage holder. But for the others I hope I can find someone on the internet or my home town to buy/take them for their next special event. I wonder how many people actually try to upsell their wedding décor? Most brides are key on saving money where they can and most couples will have no money after their wedding so recouping some of their investment makes sense. And it makes huge sense for the environment; more materials reused means fewer materials created from scratch.

I would love to hear from brides and grooms about how they tried to have as environmentally-friendly a wedding as possible and whether or not that raised the price of things considerably. Can it be cost-effective to have a “green” wedding without having to know someone who owns a farm where you can hold your wedding for free with flowers from the grounds and grass-fed beef from the pastures? Cause unfortunately I don’t know anyone like that and chances are, you don’t either. What a wonderful world it would be if we all did!




Good Intentions Meet Laziness or Forgetfulness October 14, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — newdomino @ 11:00 AM

Do you guilt trip yourself when you forget your reusable coffee mug on the counter and don’t realize it until you’re at the coffee shop counter? Do you mentally kick yourself when you don’t bring the canvas grocery bags into the store and can’t be bothered to go back to the car and get them? Do you sigh out loud when you are given leftovers from your favorite restaurant in a styrofoam container, rather than the reusable bowl you forgot in your kitchen? If one or more of these sound familiar to you, you are not alone. Environmental guilt can strike at any time, to anyone who cares about the planet.

I know that I am guilty of this guilt. Right now I’m drinking coffee from a paper cup with a plastic disposable lid. What a horrible person I am! And the coffee probably isn’t rain forest and bird-friendly organic certified. Ugh! I might as well stop calling myself an environmentalist! At least that’s what my internal hippie tells me under such circumstances. Yet all is not lost, my friends.

Here’s the thing… no one is perfect, not even the greenest of the green people. As a right-wing organization likes to show us with a billboard on the PA Turnpike (a photo of Robert Redford is beside the text “Flies private jet but wants us to give up gasoline.” or something like that), even people with the best intentions don’t give up everything that might not be good for the planet. The point is to be as good as you can, as often as you can, but not beat yourself up over the times when you’re not.

My husband to-be eats meat. Do I try to convert him, knowing that a vegetarian diet is much better for the planet? No, I don’t do that. But through my cooking he now eats vegetarian meals more than he would on his own. I doubt he’ll ever give up meat completely, and that’s ok (not amazing, mind you, but ok), but he recognizes the benefits and does what he can. Now if I could only get him to bring canvas bags to the grocery store!

But I digress… the point is to find little, simple things you can do, do them repeatedly, and they will become habit. Then stretch yourself to some greater actions and repeat. You’ll be helping the planet and not putting yourself out of your comfort zone too much. And then when you forget to do that action, or are just feeling too lazy to motivate yourself that day, remember that it’s ok. The planet won’t crash and burn just because you forgot to recycle that can of soda today. Just don’t make a habit of it!🙂


Why Voting Matters for the Environment October 11, 2016

The title of this blog post may seem like a no-brainer, but I wanted to reiterate the fact, especially as today is the last day people can register to vote in my home state of Pennsylvania. If you haven’t done so already, please, do so ASAP. Your vote does matter!

The economy is one of the most important concerns of US voters and understandably so; most people are not getting ahead, are worried about having enough to send their kids to college or retire, etc. However, there is a less obvious but no less important issue that all voters should have on their mind, and that is the environment and climate change. The simple fact of the matter is, without a stable and well-functioning environment our economy will suffer. Think of all the natural resources our society relies on to thrive: plants for food and medicine, minerals and metals for industry, beautiful beaches for tourism, to name but a few. The diversity and health of our natural world allows us to have myriad businesses that put money in our bank accounts.

But think about what recently happened to Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia (not to mention Haiti and other Caribbean islands)… Hurricane Matthew. This storm destroyed beaches and the homes crowded along the shores, flooded inland streets and businesses, and grounded aircraft bound for places around the world. The economic impact of that one storm will be in the multi-billions, if not more. Climate scientists expect storms like Matthew to become more common and more serious over the years as a result of climate change. And what is more threatening is that they expect storm surge (what causes much of the damage) to become more of an issue in the future.

Some politicians think that climate change is a hoax, even though the super majority of climate and other scientists are in agreement about its existence and people’s roles in it. Other politicians acknowledge that climate change is real, but think it is not very important in relation to international problems and domestic economic issues. But as I stated before, our economy is intricately tied to the environment. When it is affected by natural disasters like Matthew, or by an oil spill or over-harvesting of a natural resource, that negatively impacts the economy. And international problems like the Syrian crisis could get worse as natural resources dwindle due to over-crowding, bad weather conditions, etc.

Our world is like a web, where one piece is connected to another and another and so on. If you think a heathy economy does not rely on a thriving environment, think again. And if you think all politicians (at the local, state, and national levels) care about these issues, guess again. So be informed and be sure to vote. Our economy and environment depend on it.


Reflections of a Slacking Environmental Blogger September 14, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — newdomino @ 1:30 PM

For nearly two years I worked in the environmental consulting world, spending my days guiding junior analysts in their writing and communications tasks. After eight hours of that each day, I had little desire to spend more time staring at a computer screen, writing a blog article or tweeting about timely environmental news.

About a month ago I moved back to Pennsylvania from my stint in Virginia, to embark on a new journey in matrimony. I shed the consultant mantle, trusting that I would find gainful employment back in the capital city. As I wait patiently (or not always so) for employment, I am trying to fill my days with something productive. I’ve taken back up the role of freelance reporter for a couple publications in the area. I may even help out with some political volunteerism. And yes, I am making a promise to myself and to all my wonderful readers to get back into at least weekly blogging and more frequent tweets.

So here is my first blog post in nearly nine months. I may be a bit rusty, so please forgive.🙂

What I want to reflect on today is something I may have touched on a few years ago, because it is something that sticks with me. It does not seem to have changed over the years and my absence. What surprises me is that Harrisburg, the capital of the state, should have a thriving environmental network given all the state agencies and non-profits located here, but it seems to be somewhat lacking. I went to the revitalized Green Drinks Harrisburg last week (an organization I had belonged to in years previous, before it sort of fizzled out), heartened that the group was back together. Yet it was a small showing (8-10 people while I was there) and no former members at all, aside from me. The people there were great: smart, funny, committed to the cause, enjoying great beer from Zero Day Brewery. They ranged in careers from Senate staffer to house flipper. What should be a thriving organization (as it is in bigger cities like Pittsburgh) is small and not well-known. Now sure, it just started back up again this past spring, so it could be just growing pains. But I don’t think so. I think it is suffering from two things, not necessarily unique to Harrisburg… one, people are too busy (or think they’re too busy) to spend time socializing and networking with “strangers”, and two, the environmental community likes to stay in its silos – one organization does x, another does y, and never the twain shall meet. There is not enough realization that by working together we can accomplish something greater.

So I encourage my environmental comrades in Harrisburg and beyond to make some time to network with one another, and grab a beer or soda with someone new, to help build up a stronger, more cohesive environmental movement where we’re not competing for the same scarce grant dollars, but are applying to grants together, and sharing volunteers and brainpower, to make forests where otherwise there would be a few scraggly trees.


Have You Met My Friend Charley? February 19, 2015

I gaze at the black and white plumage of an eider duck on my laptop background. I look at my daily planner and see the red head of a woodpecker. I turn around and on my wall I see a poster swimming in bright colors and shapes of animals and plants galore. These are all works of one my absolute favorite artists, Charley Harper.

Charley Harper is known for his modern interpretations of animals, especially birds. I discovered his art while working for Gorman Heritage Farm near Cincinnati, his hometown. He did a series of posters for Gorman Heritage Farm and its parent organization, the Cincinnati Nature Center.  I fell in love with the sharp lines, simple details, engaging colors, and diversity he put into each of his images.  Even with such minimal detail I could tell what each species was. His designs challenge the imagination but not in a completely abstract way.

Charley also designed posters for the National Park Service and Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania. He illustrated the Golden Book of Biology too. Prints, mugs, and other knick knacks with his artwork on it can be viewed and purchased at I have a wish list a mile long there!

I want to show you a small sampling of his artwork here so you can fall in love with his art as I have.  His art speaks to the interconnectedness of nature, the beauty of each living thing, and a belief that nature inspires art and vice versa.

**All images are work done by Charley Harper. Please give him his due!


The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side January 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — newdomino @ 2:00 PM

Any time I say that line I think of a song lyric from the band Travis. The lead singer talks about, “The grass is always greener on the other side. Neighbor’s got a new car that you want to drive… We all live under the same sky, we all will live, we all will die. There is no wrong, there is no right, the circle only has one side.” At least I think that’s how the song goes. I’m always a bit hesitant to write down lyrics as our ears may hear something that isn’t quite there. But you get the gist.

I think of this line today, writing as I am from my new home in Virginia, thinking back to the past two years worth of complaining and annoyance at my life. I wasn’t happy with my job or my social life or where things seemed to be headed, yet am I any better off now? Is the grass truly greener in Virginia?

The weather is nicer, certainly, on the whole. While my friends in Pennsylvania were huddled inside over the weekend I sat out on my back porch, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and sunshine. The climate it much better for growing grapes, and hence, numerous good wineries to enjoy. There are forests, rolling hills, beautiful horse farms, the beach not too far away, rivers to kayak in, and other outdoor amenities. Not that Pennsylvania didn’t have most of those things, but the newness of the surroundings here makes them feel a bit more special for some reason. The chance to explore new territory is thrilling… I can see why so many explorers left their homes, knowing they faced grave dangers, just to see new places and experience new things. I can’t discover a brand new world, but I can see something unique to me.

Is everything peachy-keen in my brave, new world? No, not yet, at least. Uprooting your life after a decade in one place is no picnic. But I’m trying to stay positive and see what is so wonderful about the move, rather than focus on what may be lacking. If only more people could hone in on that mindset.

This morning an HVAC guy came to my house to check on the furnace. Before he left we talked about living in Virginia and moving long distances by yourself. He said his anxiety is too great; he would never be able to do something like that. I felt bad for him. Here is an adult who feels trapped in his life (in a place he openly admitted to hating) because he is too afraid of the unknown. To me the unknown is something to relish. Here’s to more unknowns and surprises in the new year.


October 30, 2014

Filed under: Science — newdomino @ 11:15 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

On October 3 I blogged about going to the Czech Republic. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend that trip now, but the reason for that is a good one. Starting on November 10, I will begin a new job as Senior Analyst with Marstel Day, an environmental consulting firm headquartered in Virginia. I have a feeling this job will keep me very busy, so my blogging may slow down, at least initially. I just wanted to let you all know that.

In honor of tomorrow being Halloween, I want to blog about bats. Bats are wonderful creatures that are misunderstood and under-appreciated for a variety of reasons. Hopefully I can show you that bats are valuable and important components of the ecosystem, well worth protecting.

In Pennsylvania, there are nine common species of bats. These are: the most common one – the little brown, the big brown, the Eastern pipistrelle, the tri-colored or pygmy, the Northern long-eared, the endangered Indiana, the small-footed, the silver-haired, the red, and the largest one – the hoary bat. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, one individual bat can consume up to 500 insects per hour or more than 3,000 insects in a single night. Think about that when you’re sitting outside on a hot summer night, fighting off the mosquitos. Bats are a natural mosquito control. Bats also eat those pesky stinkbugs that like to invade your home and eat from your veggie garden. How nice is that?!

Bats fall into two categories, those that overwinter in caves and those that migrate south when it starts to get cold. Big brown bats are the last bats to enter hibernation in caves, buildings, mines and storm sewers. Hoary bats, on the other hand, migrate south for the winter. During nice weather you may find bats roosting under loose tree bark, under house shutters, or in man-made bat boxes. You might also find bats roosting in your attic. If so, do not be alarmed. Look to the Penn State guide, “A Homeowner’s Guide to Northeastern Bats and Bat Problems,” to learn tips about bat-proofing your home. Once all openings are sealed except for one, let the bats escape at night, then seal the final opening. Consider building a bat box near your house to provide them a nice alternative.

Bats are not doing very well throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada, so they could use our help. Cave bats like the endangered Indiana and the little brown are dying out in record numbers due to White Nose Syndrome (WNS), an invasive fungus that weakens the bats and until they die from starvation or predation. This syndrome was first documented in 2006 in New York, showing up in Pennsylvania in 2008. According to the National Wildlife Health Center, they have documented an approximately 80 percent decline in bat populations in the northeastern U.S. since the syndrome was discovered. They go on to say that it is very unlikely that those species of bats affected by WNS will recover quickly because bats have only one pup per year. We can help them out as much as possible by staying out of caves, especially during the winter, and disinfecting your shoes and gear after being in a cave, to limit the spread of the fungus.

Bats are busy little insect-eaters that also help pollinate flowering plants. They may not be adorable like a rabbit or kitten, but they can and should be appreciated for all they do for us and the environment. The next time you freak out about a bat flying overhead, instead think, “Hey, thanks for eating those mosquitos!”

(Photos: USGS)