Working for a More Sustainable Mount Rainier Maryland

Category: Green & Health Living (The Message) Page 1 of 2

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:

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month. Visit or email

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 or email

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 or email

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 ( 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 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 or email 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.

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

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

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

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 or email

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 For information on the Mount Rainier Tree Commission and upcoming meetings, visit

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 or email

Scoop the Poop, Repeat

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

Joe’s Stream Team and the Mount Rainier Green Team have done our best to cover the importance of keeping litter out of our waterways. It’s important to be aware that all land litter has the potential to wind up as water, river, lake and stream litter. Most of the time, when you think “litter” you think of bags and bottles, but if we told you that dogs in the neighborhood are contributing to polluting land and water, would you believe it? There is nothing like going on a nice walk through the city or though nature with your pet. Dogs are just being dogs: we are relying on dog owners to help prevent a major issue.

Pollutants from improperly disposed pet waste may be washed into storm sewers by rain or melting snow. Storm sewers usually drain directly into our lakes and streams, carrying many pollutants along with the water. When pet waste is washed into lakes or streams the waste decays and uses up oxygen, sometimes releasing ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia combined with warm temperatures can kill fish and other marine animals. Pet waste also contains nutrients that encourage weed and algae growth. Overly fertile water becomes cloudy and green which is quite unattractive for swimming, boating and fishing. Importantly, pet waste can carry disease which make water unsafe for swimming or drinking.

When pet waste isn’t disposed of properly, your health may be at risk outside of our waterways as well. Pets, children who play outside, and adults who garden are most at risk for infection from some of the bacteria and parasites found in pet waste. Flies can also spread diseases from animal waste. There are various diseases or parasites that may be transmitted from pet waste to humans. So, when you pick up after your pet be sure to protect yourself as well!

Your pet’s waste may not be the largest or most toxic pollutant in urban waterways, but it is one of the many little sources of pollution that add up to a big problem. Fortunately, picking up pet waste is a simple thing we can all do to help keep the water clean. The next time you want to go for a nice walk with your pet, please enjoy it! Be aware and responsible and pick up after your pet. Not doing so would be a direct contribution to pollution to our neighborhoods, parks, and waterways.

Joe’s Stream Team is @JoesStreamTeam on Facebook and Instagram. The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month at the Mount Rainier 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 or email

Get the Lead OUT


Lead is a toxic grey heavy metal that us Mounties should be thinking about, especially if we have or will have young children. In 2016, Reuters looked nation-wide at lead hotspots, and though Mount Rainier is better than some areas, nearly 6% of the children living in single family houses and 3% of the children living in apartments had elevated lead levels ( Exposure to lead can lead to mental impairment and psychological disorders in children and brain and heart problems in adults. 

How are Mounties getting exposed to lead? There are three main ways:

  1. Lead Paint. Lead was added to paint to help paint be more durable, more moisture-resistant and to dry more quickly. Lead was banned in most paint in the US in 1978, but many of the houses in Mount Rainier were built before then and could have lead paint throughout the house. This lead paint could be the top layer or covered by several coats. Lead paint is mainly a problem if it is chipping and the chips get eaten or paint dust is breathed in.

    You should test your house for lead paint, especially if children are present or on the way. Two home tests meet EPA standards: D-Lead ( and Lead Check ( Other home tests are more likely to give false positives or negatives and shouldn’t be trusted. If you test positive for lead paint contact a removal professional immediately and do not try to remove the paint yourself. If you do need help with money for removal, MD has a grant and loan program to help ( 

  1. Lead in Drinking Water. Lead can be in your drinking water when pipes with lead corrode, especially when water has a high acidity or low mineral content. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated faucets and fixtures with lead solder. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder.

    You should test your water for lead as soon as you are able if you have not tested in the past. You can get a home test kit at any local hardware store, which will tell you if your levels are high but may not give you exact numbers. You can also send your water off to a test facility approved by the MD Department of Environment ( Note it is any facility that does “Metals 1” testing) to get a more thorough test. 

  2. Lead in Soil. Lead likely entered your soil because it was a component of car exhaust. Lead was added to gasoline until the mid 1990’s though it started to be phased out in the late 1970’s. Areas like Mount Rainier that had decades of car travel have lead deposited in the soil. You should get your soil tested, especially if you have children or want to garden. The problem with exposure to lead in soil to children is the same as paint: it’s mostly a problem if they eat it. If you want to garden you should wash all plants thoroughly before eating and you may want to consider digging up the soil you have and getting fresh dirt from College Park Public Works ( You can get your soil tested through any of the resources recommended by the UMD Extension Service (

Joe’s Stream Team Call to Action

The Creative Works Stream Team out of Joe’s Movement Emporium has been working diligently to maintain consistent clean-outs of the litter trap in the local Arundel canal right here in the city of Mount Rainier. The Arundel canal is a tributary of the Anacostia River and its watershed. Those who know of the Stream Team and our work should know that our focus is litter reduction overall but particularly in the local waterways. The “big picture” goal is to have a fishable and swimmable Anacostia River. We are calling on the people, the citizens, the residents, the families, the community of Mount Rainier to step up, step in, and help us with what seems to be a never-ending battle against polluters and litter.

Many people tend to not connect the dots between litter found on land (“Land-Litter”) and Litter found in Oceans, Bays, Lakes, Rivers, and Streams (“Water-Litter”). What is on the land can and usually will end up in a current somewhere and eventually in a larger body of water where it can potentially harm wildlife and negatively affect the water quality. While the Stream Team are doing its part, this is a task that really lives up to the saying of “it takes a community.” We are giving a heads up to the community of Mount Rainier that the Creative Works Stream Team will be canvassing, door to door, throughout Mount Rainier, in the near future. Our purpose will be to seek Block Leaders: individuals in the community who are willing to become part of a network we hope to create through this city. 

This network will be similar to Neighborhood Watch or Crime Watchers only we’ll be asking folks to report on a consistent basis of how much if any litter accumulates on your particular block in the city. Blocks with high volumes of litter we can zone as “litter hot spots” and work to solve the litter problem, perhaps by hosting and leading a clean-up of your neighborhood.

If you see people in sky blue shirts at your door, don’t be alarmed, it’s only the Stream Team coming to try to defend our beautiful neighborhoods from pollution. Once we have attained a dedicated community group we’ll follow up with details on our overall community environmental protection plan. As always, to learn more about Joe’s Stream Team or to keep up with the efforts, please, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @JoesStreamTeam. Send us an email if you would like to at StreamTeamPG AT gmail DOT com with any questions or concerns.

Summer Haze Got You Down?

Summer is here and it is time to be air aware.  In our region the worst air quality is seen in the summer and breathing the air can lead to health problems, especially for sensitive groups like the elderly, children, and people with immune system problems. Here is makes the air bad, how it can affect Mounties, and what Mounties can do to help make it cleaner.

Over the years air quality has gotten much better due to Federal and State regulations but there are still problems in the DC area. The two main types of pollution we are concerned about are fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone, which together often get called haze or smog. Ozone and PM2.5 have been linked to premature death, heart attacks, lung disease, and asthma, there are other potential effects that are still being researched. The DC metro area is not meeting the Federal ozone standard and while it is technically in compliance with Federal PM2.5 standards many scientists say the standards should be stricter.

The air is not bad every day but there are days when air quality is a concern, mostly during the summer during the late afternoon and early evening. To get forecasts and alerts of when the air is bad you can sign up for email alerts here “Code orange” means the air is bad for sensitive people and “code red” means it is bad for everyone.

Much of the pollution is caused by burning fuel or releasing volatile gases. To help reduce pollution on bad air days, you can:

  • Take public transit or bike – cars are the #1 cause of air pollution in the DC area
  • Put off yard work if you use gas equipment or go electric
  • Don’t refuel your car since the gas vapors are volatile
  • Don’t paint or use turpentine since the vapors are also volatile

Even if it isn’t a bad air day, if your check engine light is on in your car, get it fixed: that light means your car probably is a big polluter.

So this summer be air aware, know when the air is bad, keep you and yours safe when it is, and do your part to keep our air cleaner.

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