Mount Rainier Green Team

Working for a More Sustainable Mount Rainier Maryland

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

#GREENisLIFE – Lead with Joseph Jakuta (Ep. 9)

Doug Adams sits down to talk to ex-Chair of the Mount Rainier Green Team about the harm of lead exposure and how Mounties can test for lead in their homes and land.

#GREENisLIFE – Air Quality with Joseph Jakuta (Ep. 8)

Doug Adams sits down to talk to ex-Chair of the Mount Rainier Green Team about the harm of air pollution and what Mounties can do to limit their contribution to air pollution.

Pictures from the Native Plant Talk with Linda DeGraf

Did you miss the native plant talk with artist, naturalist, and former resident of Mount Rainier Linda DeGraf?  Well we can’t go back and impart the great knowledge to you from the talk, but we can at least share some great pictures from the event.




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

Fall Clean Ups!

The Mount Rainier Green Team represented at two clean up events this past month!

First, we did some work at the 37th Street Park. This included cutting down invasive plants…

Weeding the native pollinators garden…

And mulching the young edible forest trees planted last spring.

Second, the Green Team helped out at the Mount Rainier Elementary School Growing Green With Pride event, bringing trash pickers and gloves.

Thanks to all who have helped keep Mount Rainier green and clean!

Take our Survey on Curbside Composting in Mount Rainier!

The Green Team is working on a program that would allow residents to sign up for FREE curbside compost pick-up. If you are interested in participating in this program, or would like more information about it, please fill out an interest survey here:

Green Team Explores New Composting Program

What is compost? 

Compost is simply decayed organic matter, and it’s great for rich, garden soil. Most of the items we throw away can be used for backyard compost, including fruit and vegetable scraps, yard waste, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, newspaper, cardboard, and even dryer lint. The brand-new Prince George’s County Composting Facility can also take meat and bones, dairy products, compostable dinnerware, cardboard ice-cream containers, soiled pizza boxes, and much more.

Can composting save money? 

Yes! Composting is MUCH more economical than throwing everything into a landfill. Organic matter is heavy and thus expensive to throw away. About 853,000 pounds of compostable waste is thrown away every year in Mount Rainier. That costs our city over $25,000 per year.

Does composting help the environment? 

Yes! Composting keeps organic matter out of landfills, where it would otherwise break down into greenhouse gases. Compost also enriches our soils naturally, so harsh chemical fertilizer applications can be avoided. Composting keeps our air cleaner and healthier to breathe, because it captures and eliminate 99.6% of volatile organic compounds from the atmosphere. And compost acts as a “carbon sink” by sequestering carbon in the dirt, thus further reducing greenhouse gases.

How can I compost?

For now, your main option is to build or purchase and maintain your own compost bin in your yard. However, the Green Team is working on a program that would allow residents to sign up for FREE curbside compost pick-up. If you are interested in participating in this program, or would like more information about it, please fill out an interest survey here:

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 (

Stop by the Green Team Meeting 9/9

The Green Team is hosting its monthly meeting on Monday, 9/9 at City Hall from 7-9 PM.  We will be talking about lots of fall events, composting, parks updates, bike lanes and more.

You can also send us a message if you are interested in learning more, but cannot make the meeting

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