Friday, April 17, 2009

Fight Water Pollution in Your Own Backyard!

Union of Concerned Scientists
Greentips: April 2009

When rain falls faster than the ground can absorb it, it runs off into storm drains along with any contaminants in its path, such as oil and grease, de-icing salts, heavy metals, pesticides, and bacteria from trash and animal waste. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that urban runoff—in which 77 of 127 key pollutants have been detected—is one of the largest sources of water contamination nationwide.

We can all help minimize the problem of storm water runoff by planting rain gardens—6- to 12-inch-deep depressions filled with native plants. Rain gardens can capture hundreds of gallons of rainwater, filtering out up to 90 percent of pollutants while allowing the water to drain deep enough into the soil to help recharge groundwater supplies.

Whether you undertake this project on your own or with a landscaper, here are some factors to consider when planning a rain garden:

  • Location. Site your rain garden where rain and snowmelt collect or run off—near downspouts or gutters, below a slope, or along sidewalks and driveways. However, avoid planting a rain garden within 10 feet of your home’s foundation, within a septic system’s drainage field, or above buried utility lines.

  • Size. The square footage of your rain garden should generally be about 20 percent that of the area draining into it. For example, if your roof covers 800 square feet, a rain garden designed to collect all of the roof’s runoff should cover 160 square feet. To capture runoff most efficiently, a rain garden should be longer than it is wide, and aligned perpendicular to the slope.

  • Materials. Rain gardens use layers of different materials to help maximize drainage. The bottom layer typically features an “underdrain” (e.g., a piece of perforated PVC pipe) pointed toward an existing storm drain and covered with gravel. The next layer is the planting medium, which should be a mix of about 20 percent compost, 50 percent sand, and 30 percent topsoil. A final layer of mulch helps prevent weeds and removes metals from runoff.

  • Plant choice. Native plants are best because they establish deeper roots (which help the soil hold water), can withstand the local climate, need minimal care, and attract local butterfly and bird populations. See the Related Resources for a list of plants native to your region. And, if your rain garden is near a street treated with salt in the winter, ask your local nursery for salt-tolerant plants.
For more information on how to make your own rain garden, visit

Monday, April 13, 2009

On Earth Day and Every Day of the Year...

Earth Day is a great opportunity to celebrate environmental progress and cultivate new strategies to continue protecting the Earth. On Earth Day and the other 364 days of the year, we can all help to foster a healthier environment through our actions, including:

Saving energy
Reducing, reusing, and recycling
Conserving water
Planting trees
Teaching kids to respect the environment

State's carbon dioxide output up
It tops a list of gainers as the U.S. overall drops.
By SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Published: 4/9/2009 2:30 AM

Oklahoma has topped a list for having the biggest increase of carbon dioxide emissions while the rest of the country's total output actually shows a 3.1 percent drop in 2008. Oklahoma released 3.1 million tons of carbon dioxide from 2007 to 2008, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, which released the report this week. EIP described Oklahoma's increase as "massive" and attributed it directly to increased generation at OG&E's coal units in Muskogee and the Sooner units at Red Rock, as well as AEP-PSO's coal and natural gas units in Oologah. OG&E Electric Services spokesman Brian Alford said the increase in 2008 was created by a number of unit outages at coal facilities in 2007. A return to more historic levels was seen in 2008, he said. Alford said there are three reasons why less energy was used in 2007:
  • It was a milder, wet summer and less air-conditioning was needed.

  • A severe ice storm in eastern Oklahoma that left thousands without power for more than a week.

  • No off-system export of coal-fire generation. The overall reduction in carbon dioxide in the rest of the country has been attributed to the economic downturn and mild
For the complete article, visit the Tulsa World .

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Join Us for Sustainable OKC's Recycle, Rethink, Redesign Art Exhibit

Fundraiser for Sustainable OKC on Sat., April 18, 2009, at 7 p.m., IAO Gallery, 811 N. Broadway, Oklahoma City. Organized in collaboration with IAO in honor of Earth Day. Local art, local foods, local music, silent auction! Purchase tickets at For more information, or