Working for a More Sustainable Mount Rainier Maryland

Author: mtrainiergreenteam Page 1 of 7

To help our native wildlife, turn down the lights!

As our part of the world warms up and wildlife returns, we can do something simple to help: minimize outdoor nighttime light. A growing body of scientific research reveals that artificial light can confuse, harm and potentially kill insects and migratory birds.

Cheap, efficient LEDs have made it possible to light up the night for low costs. Holiday lighting may be OK, because most insects are dormant and migratory birds are down south. Now that it’s spring, it’s time to put those lights away. Some lighting is necessary for safety but the darker we can make our yards and streets, the better.

Remember that we share our environment with millions of species. The small act of turning off a light can make a huge difference for a bird or butterfly. The less light pollution, the more we can enjoy nature’s original light show: the stars and planets!

Lights that shine upward and “cold-color-temperature” lights with energy in the blue part of the spectrum are especially detrimental. If possible, avoid upward-facing lights at the bases of trees or buildings.

Here are a few sources for anyone who wants to learn more: 

https://www.audubon.org/conservation/project/lights-out

https://theconversation.com/want-to-save-millions-of-migratory-birds-turn-off-your-outdoor-lights-in-spring-and-fall-114476

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191118162938.htm

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/05/can-scientists-help-insects-survive-their-fatal-attraction-light-night

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month. Visit https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com.

Mount Rainier Inaugural Bike To Work Day

On May 21, the Mount Rainier Green Team and the Mount Rainier Bike Coop host the first Bike To Work Day at the soon to be remodeled Mount Rainier Bike Coop. It was a great opportunity for those working from home to get back into bike commuting and essential workers to meet up with other bikers as traffic picks back up. A great time was had by all and nearly 50 people signed up for the inaugural pitstop in Mount Rainier.

Keep Your Lawn and Life Green

Spring is over and it is yard work season in Mount Rainier. Even Green Team members with lots of native plants have yard work to do and sometimes rely on the tools of the trade: lawn mower, weed whackers, edgers, leaf blowers, etc. As much of these tools make our lives easier, when they are gas-powered they can come with some huge downsides to yourself, your neighbors, and your wallet. But better tools are available and we’ll help you navigate to cleaner, green yard care.

The number one reason why you should scrap your gas lawn equipment is the air pollution. Lawn equipment is often powered with a two-stroke engine, which is not very efficient at burning gasoline (or a gas-oil mixture). As a result, these machines emit volatile organic compounds, which leads to formation of ozone in the summer, which in turn can harm lung function and cause asthma attacks. Some of the air pollution gas mowers and leaf blowers emit, such as benzene, are carcinogens. Studies have shown just one hour of lawn mower use is about the same as driving your car 100 miles. This pollution is not something you want to be breathing in on a beautiful Saturday.

Another reason to scrap your gas lawn equipment is the noise. Lawn equipment regularly makes noise above 85 decibels, which the CDC finds can cause hearing loss after just two hours of sustained use. And it’s not just the person doing the yard work that is exposed to the noise, all of your neighbors are too.

But there is hope! One great thing about Mount Rainier is how compact of a community we have, so the vast majority of us don’t have very large yards to maintain. We were surprised after doing a little online shopping to find that corded electric lawn mowers, weed whackers, and leaf blowers were the same cost if not cheaper than equivalent gas powered equipment. Given the size of many of our yards, you will only need a 50 foot extension cord to maintain your whole yard. And electric mowers and other equipment are easier and cheaper to maintain: no oil to change, or spark plugs to swap out, or trips to the gas station with a jerry can. 

While in the grand scheme of things the Green Team does recommend that you swap out your grass for native plants or a veggie garden and to leave the leaves over the fall, we know that is not the path all Mounties will want to take. But if you want to breathe easier, enjoy the sounds of a quieter weekend, and save some money and headache over time, it is highly recommended to switch to electric lawn equipment.

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

Currently, our meetings are held virtually via Zoom. All interested citizens are invited to attend and can email us for the meeting connection information. For more information, meeting agendas and minutes, and an up-to-date calendar please visit https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com.

Managing Stormwater in Our Community

by Joe’s Stream Team and the Mount Rainier Green Team 

When it rains, it pours! The management of stormwater is crucial. Millions of gallons of water fall upon Maryland each year, and that water must be rerouted away from everyone.  Unchecked stormwater runoff has many collective impacts on humans and the ecosystem including damage to public and private property and local wildlife. 

What is stormwater? Stormwater is what it sounds like: water from a storm. Any precipitation that falls from the sky, including rain, hail, and snow, is considered stormwater. The falling water is swept across various surfaces as runoff: stormwater that travels once hitting the ground. Runoff flows over concrete and more natural areas like forests and wetlands and can soak into the ground or flow into local streams and other bodies of water. 

Uncontrolled stormwater runoff can do damage not only to human goods and possessions, but can also push fertilizers, pet waste, chemicals, and other harmful waste into our rivers and streams. Rainwater itself is usually rich in minerals and can cause sediment build-up. This build-up can cause damage to stormwater drain infrastructure leading to flooding or costly repairs. This is one of many reasons stormwater management is an important topic for our neighbors to understand.

How can neighbors help prevent stormwater damage? Litter is a huge issue when it comes to stormwater management. Any trash or other debris that is not cleaned up will eventually get washed into a nearby storm drain when it rains. This is a primary means for ground litter to end up in a waterway. Too much litter in a storm drain will create a blockage that can lead to flooding. A big solution to this is holding regular-clean ups in your neighborhood to clear the land areas of litter. The Mount Rainier Green Team and Joe’s Stream Team want to organize regular block clean ups, but we will need the participation of the community. Be on the lookout for announcements about these clean-ups! If you have never participated in a community clean-up you should look for an annual Earth Day clean-up around April 22nd, such as the one hosted by the Anacostia Watershed Society at our very own Nature Center.

Litter is not the only material on land that poses a major threat when caught in the path of stormwater. Cleaning up after your pets is being a good neighbor and helps save the environment. Leaving waste behind is not only harmful to other animals, and generally unpleasant, but it does pose a threat to human life. Pet waste may contain e. coli, campylobacteriosis, and salmonellosis with an increased risk of infection from bacteria and parasites. This affects children who play in parks and can pollute natural and man-made water sources. Waste can also attract pesky flies to an unwanted location. These flies can spread the infection even more from landing on waste to landing on human food. Just picking up after your pet can greatly increase the well-being of our community and decrease the pollution in our waterways.

We use products at home every day that are harmful and contribute to pollution of the environment without us even knowing. If you can, research and utilize products that are environmentally friendly. Environmentally friendly products can include the food we eat, the soap we clean our dishes with, what soaps we wash our cars with and the sprays we might use in our home gardens. Plant-based soaps and sprays are starting to become mainstream and can be a healthy alternative. For washing dishes, a lemongrass-based liquid is perfect for your daily needs and the world. There are various eco friendly options to replace the more harmful ones. There may not always be a perfect product but it is great to be aware and take steps that are available to reduce harm to the outdoor world when it comes to stormwater issues. 

What is Mt. Rainier doing about stormwater? The City of Mount Rainier received grant funding to commission a Stormwater City Master Plan. The Master Plan includes a review of the existing stormwater management system in the city and looks at how climate change could stress that system in the future. Did you know that our City’s storm drain system was largely built between the 1910s and 1920s? Experts expect changes in our rainfall including more rain and more often, straining our stormwater management system further. The City Master Plan contains potential green infrastructure solutions as part of adapting to this new pressure on our stormwater systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green infrastructure is a cost-effective approach to managing rainfall that provides community benefits as well as ways to manage stormwater and reduce pollution. The City will use the Master Plan to develop stormwater management solutions for our community.

Please follow @JoesStreamTeam on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for more information about this and related matters.The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Currently, our meetings are held virtually via Zoom. All interested citizens are invited to attend and can email us for the meeting connection information. For more information, meeting agendas and minutes, and an up-to-date calendar please visit https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com

April 1st – Climate Workgroup Meeting

The City Council passed a resolution to commit Mount Rainier to become net zero emissions for municipal operations. We will be having a Green Team Climate Workgroup meeting to develop materials and strategize in order to make sure a new City Manager can move forward with implementation. The meeting will be held on Zoom on April 1 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. The information for attending the meeting is below.

Our New Native Plant Network

This past winter, the Mayor and Council passed legislation drafted by Councilman Chesek to create the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network. This is a new idea and probably easiest to explain by first talking a bit about biodiversity.

Biodiversity is the enormous variety of plants, bugs, bees, birds, bears, humans, and everything in between that makes our planet so wonderfully alive and habitable. The services provided by biodiversity, such as pollination, are crucial to our planet and human existence. Unfortunately, misguided human development is accelerating climate change and habitat loss, and our planet is losing biodiversity at increasingly alarming rates.

Our response to this threat will determine the kind of planet future generations get to enjoy. Our challenge is to take bold action and turn the tide on biodiversity loss, preventing a diminished future with a scarcity of wild animals, plants and pollinators. To address this crisis, leading environmental groups are campaigning to preserve 30% of the planet as nature preserves, but unfortunately, creating islands of biodiversity in our state and national parks is not enough. Incorporating native plants into the local landscape – yards, businesses and public spaces – and connecting biodiversity across the state is critical.

Here’s the idea. To restore biodiversity to our community, volunteers are setting up the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network. The volunteers will educate, encourage, and assist residents, apartment owners, businesses and our local governments with planting and documenting native plants on their properties.

How do I get involved? Anyone can sign up as a participating home or business or volunteer in the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network. As a participant you will plant or maintain native plants in your yard with the goal of having at least 25 different native plant species in your yard, or 10% of your yard planted with natives. This fall a volunteer will come by to verify and officially count you as a certified yard in the Mount Rainier Native Plant Network.

Are there incentives? Certified yards will receive a beautiful and artistic small yard sign (designed by our very own Torie Partridge) to show off their membership. Your certified yard will also be included on an online map, providing a virtual representation of the native plant ecosystem in our city.

Is help available? Yes! If you don’t know how to get started you can request a no-cost consultation from volunteers trained by the Prince George’s County Audubon Society Wildlife Habitat Program. Email Kathy Shollenberger (kathyk9@gmail.com) to set up a time for a local volunteer to visit your property, and lend their expertise and guidance at helping you create a beautiful native landscape that is both better for the environment and often easier to maintain than a traditional grass lawn.

Additionally, native pollinator seeds and soil are being provided through the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Watershed Stewards Class for citizens who are volunteering to plant native yards this growing season. If you are interested, please email Dave Epley at dmepley@gmail.com. Supplies are limited!

This is just the start. The Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter has the goal of creating a Native Plant Corridor across the state of Maryland. Mount Rainier can lead the way as a shining example.  With so much outside of our sphere of influence in the fight to save our planet, it is heartening to know that there is something we can start right here, right now, to help save our planet. 

Learn more. The Mount Rainier Native Plant Network will be holding a Zoom meeting on March 30th at 7pm to help kick off this movement. You can sign up at http://bit.ly/3aaCZEN or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com. If you can’t make it but want to find out how you can join the Network and get involved, email Dave Epley or Kathy Shollenberger (contact above).

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Currently, our meetings are held virtually via Zoom. All interested citizens are invited to attend and can email us for the meeting connection information.

February 8th Meeting on Stormwater Management in Mt. Rainier

In 2017, Councilperson Chesek presented a short, medium, and long-term plan to address stormwater management. Since that time, the City has received $352,000 in grant funding to build bio-retention structures in some of our tree boxes and develop a stormwater master plan for the city.

Last year, many of us realized the gravity of this issue as we saw our homes or property damaged in a flash flood event. Those events, unfortunately, will only become more common as climate change causes greater water saturation in the air around us. As a result, it is important to have a plan in place to address our outdated stormwater management systems and better manage the increased storm falls we can expect to see.

Well, on Monday, February 8th at 7pm, the developers of the city’s master plan will present their initial findings at a Green Team meeting held over Zoom, and they want your feedback to incorporate into a final presentation before the Mayor and Council. If you would like to join that meeting to share your input, please email the Green Team at mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com.

RES 15-2020 – Municipal Greenhouse Gas Resolution – Draft Final

On January 5, the Mount Rainier City Council passed Resolution 15-2020: Municipal Greenhouse Gas Resolution. This resolution, initially drafted through the Green Team is based on the analysis finished in 2017 to analyze the City’s Municipal Carbon Footprint. The resolution commits the City of Mount Rainier to phase out carbon emissions from city operations by 2030 and offset any which it cannot. The resolution also commits city staff to put together an action plan on how to make this happen and to report to the City Council annually on progress.

If you would like to participate in a Green Team work plan to collaborative build the action plan and monitor progress contact the Green Team.

You read a draft-final version of the resolution here.

Green Rebate Programs

With many summer vacations and social gatherings cancelled due to Covid-19, you may have a bit more time on your hands to check off those house and garden projects that have been on your perpetual to-do list. Did you know that both the state of Maryland and Prince Georges County have a variety of rebate programs to incentivize homeowners to make their property more sustainable? Make sure that you take advantage of these programs if you are planning any green projects that are eligible for rebates.

The Rain Check Rebate Program incentivizes property owners to help us better manage our stormwater by installing ‘Rain Check’ approved stormwater management practices. Homeowners can receive up to $4000 in total rebates across multiple projects. Eligible projects include rain cisterns, rain barrels, green roofs, pavement removal, permeable pavement, tree planting, and rain gardens. For more information, visit https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/313/Rebates.

Rebates for eligible Rain Check Rebate projects include:

  • Cisterns – $2/gallon stored (250 gallons minimum)
  • Green roofs – $10/square foot (minimum 1/4 roof retrofit)
  • Pavement removal – $6/square foot
  • Permeable pavement – $12/square foot
  • Rain barrels – $2/gallon stored (must capture 50 gallons)
  • Rain gardens – $10/square foot (minimum size 100 square feet)
  • Urban tree canopy – $150/tree (minimum tree height of 5 feet)

The Residential Clean Energy Rebate Program offers rebates for homeowners who install solar panels, solar water heaters, and geothermal heating and cooling systems. Rebates range from up to $500 to $3000 based on the project. For more information, visit https://energy.maryland.gov/residential/Pages/incentives/CleanEnergyGrants.aspx.

The Clean Burning Wood and Pellet Stove Rebate Program offers rebates for stoves that displace electric, non-natural gas fossil fuel heating systems or old woodstoves. Rebates are up to $500 for eligible clean burning wood stoves and $700 for pellet stoves. For more information, visit https://energy.maryland.gov/residential/Pages/incentives/woodstoves.aspx.

If you take advantage of any of these rebate programs, please share photos with the community on our Facebook page, @MountRainierGreenTeam!

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month in the Community Room at the Police Department from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Meetings are temporarily held via conference call until it is safe to meet in-person. All interested citizens are invited to attend. For more information, meeting agendas and minutes, and an up-to-date calendar please visit https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com.

Food Forests in Mount Rainier

by the Mount Rainier Tree Commission and the Green Team

Do you know where your food comes from? Most of the food we eat is grown in a monoculture, needing the constant use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Even organic veggies are grown as a single crop. In the wild, by contrast, nut and fruit trees provide shade for berry bushes, climbing vines, perennial herbs and vegetables. The soil is continuously nourished, teeming with life, holding moisture, storing carbon, and providing nutrients to the plants. A cultivated food forest, the world’s oldest form of land use, mimics the growing conditions of a woodland ecosystem.

In Mount Rainier, several years ago, fruit-bearing trees and a pollinator garden were installed at 37th Street Park (at Otis Street). This spring, a new food forest came to life at 31st Street Park (between Taylor and Upshur Streets). These public park projects have been initiated by groups of volunteer residents and supported by the Mayor and City Council. Instead of dividing the land into traditional, individual community garden plots, volunteers cultivate the food forest together and invite the public to harvest what is grown. The Green Team and Tree Commission steward the park, with the participation of other volunteer residents.

We hope to achieve harmony between humans and the rest of the natural world, rather than attempt to grow bushels of produce. With that goal in mind, three efforts are underway. First, the space is being transformed from lawn to a natural wooded environment, with opportunities for observation and interaction with nature for children and adults.

Second, the plantings are mainly native species. These plants provide sustenance for humans but also for birds and pollinators. The City of Mount Rainier and many of its residents encourage native planting in our yards and public properties, creating a native plant network to help sustain our part of the natural ecosystem.

The third effort is education. All plants have labels identifying them, and upcoming signage will provide further information on the plants and planting concepts. A website provides still more information on plants and home gardening, as well as links to additional resources and updates on the park’s progress.

Please visit and enjoy Mount Rainier’s food forests. For additional resources and updates, visit  https://mtrainiermdfoodforest.org. For information on the Mount Rainier Tree Commission and upcoming meetings, visit http://trees.20712.org/.

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month virtually or in the Community Room at the Police Department from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. All interested citizens are invited to attend. For more information, meeting agendas and minutes, and an up-to-date calendar please https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com.

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