Greening Gym Class

It’s a cliche, but things sure have changed since when I was in school. As I mentioned previously, my daughter recently started kindergarten. In addition to recess, which one would expect, she actually has physical education (P.E.) every third day (alternated with music and art classes). I’m pleased she’s being kept active, but surprised to be thinking about gym class quite so soon. In the midst of watching her explore the brave new word of P.E., I received an e-mail inquiry regarding the Greening Schools web site. This was a joint project of the Illinois EPA and GLRPPR’s parent organization, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC, formerly WMRC), which is unfortunately no longer funded (please e-mail me any ideas regarding funding sources to maintain and expand this site). The inquirer was interested in greener lesson plans geared toward P.E. I’ve seen resources related to greening athletic facilities, but the idea of actually greening the P.E. curriculum was an interesting twist to me, so I decided to share some of the resources I provided in response here. In this post I’ll discuss both resources for more sustainable P.E. facilities as well as curricula. Continue reading “Greening Gym Class”

Get the Lead Out

[Jeff Miller, Conservation Advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco, CA, is guest blogging today. His topic: CBD’s petition to the U.S. EPA to ban lead shot and fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Thanks to Madeline Sten, P2Rx National Coordinator, for asking Jeff to contribute a post.]

Bald eagle with sternal recumbancy from lead poisoning, photo courtesy The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota.
Bald eagle with sternal recumbancy from lead poisoning, photo courtesy The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota.

When the Environmental Protection Agency ruled last year to phase out the use of lead wheel weights for balancing car tires, the decision passed with no opposition from car manufacturers, wheel weight producers, or public citizen groups. It was, after all, a common-sense decision that guaranteed a safer environment, reducing the lead released into waterways when weights drop off cars and are ground into fine particles by passing vehicles. Manufacturers will have to adjust their production processes, a small price for society to pay for removing a source of toxic lead.

In a similar effort, the Center for Biological Diversity and American Bird Conservancy, along with other conservation, hunting, and veterinary organizations petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency this month to ban lead from ammunition used in hunting and weights used for fishing.

The petition to eliminate lead from hunting and fishing sports has nothing to do with the rights of Americans to bear arms and to hunt. Literally hundreds of recent peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown the dangers of lead in the environment for both wildlife and human health.

A variety of non-toxic bullets, shot, and fishing weights not made of lead are readily available and are equally effective. Some non-lead ammunition costs a bit more, but once lead-free regulations are in place and manufacturers re-tool and begin producing copper, steel, and tungsten bullets and shot in higher volume, prices will drop dramatically, just as the cost of eco-friendly light bulbs fell as they became commonplace.

Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at low levels. Exposure can cause a range of health effects, from acute poisoning and death to long-term problems such as reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth and damage to neurological development. Bald eagles, golden eagles, California condors, and other predatory and scavenging birds die in significant numbers every year as a result of feeding on carcasses or gut piles contaminated with lead fragments left behind by hunters.

Up to 15 million mourning doves die each year from lead poisoning from consuming spent lead shot pellets, which they mistake for grit– that’s almost as many doves as are intentionally killed by hunters. Swans, cranes, ducks, geese, loons and other waterfowl ingest spent lead shotgun pellets and lead-based fishing tackle lost in lakes and rivers, often with deadly consequences.

The deaths of these and other lead-poisoned birds due to renal failure, neurological dysfunction, or seizures are slow and painful. Harder to measure, yet possibly more significant than direct mortality, are secondary losses due to the “sub-lethal” effects of lead, such as reproductive failure, increased susceptibility to disease and infection, and increased predation due to anemia and weakened muscles.

In the United States, 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunting every year, another 80,000 tons are released at shooting ranges, and 4,000 tons are lost in ponds and streams as fishing lures and sinkers. The science on the environmental impacts of lead ammunition poisoning is indisputable. The petition references nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific studies that starkly illustrate the widespread dangers from lead ammunition and fishing tackle. At least 75 wild bird species in the United States are poisoned by spent lead ammunition, including our national symbol, the bald eagle.

Humans who eat game meat shot with lead bullets are also at risk. X-rays of shot deer and of packaged game meat reveal tiny fragments of lead left behind when bullets disintegrate on impact. Children are particularly sensitive to even low levels of exposure to lead and can suffer neurological damage. In recent decades our society has taken actions to reduce human exposure to lead from paint, gasoline, water pipes, toys, waste dumps, and shooting ranges. Spent ammunition and fishing weights are the major remaining uncontrolled sources of ecologically relevant lead exposure.

Hunters have made substantial contributions to conservation – funds from their hunting licenses and the voluntary purchase of duck stamps support National Wildlife Refuges and wildlife habitat. Shooting non-lead ammunition is a logical continuation of hunting conservation ethics, which is why the hunting group Project Gutpile, one of the co-petitioners to the EPA, has been rallying hunter support for the switch to non-lead.

The change to lead-free ammunition is essential, reasonable, and timely. Advances in technology and increased knowledge of lead’s risks mean we can now enjoy hunting and fishing without contaminating the land, wildlife, or ourselves.

For more information visit the Center for Biological Diversity’s Get the Lead Out web page.

Related Resources

Red, White, Blue & Green: Independence Day P2

fireworksThe Fourth of July approaches. For those of us in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes region, thoughts of Independence Day fireworks displays, parades and outdoor parties beckon from the weekend. While preparing for the festivities, you may want to consider how pollution prevention (P2) relates and include a little green with your red, white and blue. Continue reading “Red, White, Blue & Green: Independence Day P2”

April 2009 Site of the Month: The Sustainable Sites Initiative

The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. The information on the site is meant to be applied to sites both with and without buildings, including, but not limited to:

  • Open spaces such as local, state and national parks, conservation easements and buffer zones and transportation rights-of-way.
  • Sites with buildings including industrial, retail and office parks, military complexes, airports, botanical gardens, streetscapes and plazas, residential and commercial developments and public and private campuses.

The Initiative site provides a copy of the report Sustainable Sites Initiative Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks – Draft 2008, which focuses on measuring how a site can protect, restore and regenerate ecosystem services – benefits provided by natural ecosystems such as cleaning air and water, climate regulation and human health benefits. This report contains over 50 draft prerequisites and credits that cover all stages of the site development process from site selection to landscape maintenance.

Case studies, dates for upcoming presentations on sustainable sites, and information on the Initiative’s areas of focus (Why Sustainable Sites?; Hydrology; Soils; Vegetation; Materials; and Human Health & Well-being) are also provided.

November 2008 Site of the Month: Travel Green Wisconsin

Travel Green Wisconsin is a voluntary program that reviews, certifies and recognizes tourism businesses and organizations that have made a commitment to reducing their environmental impact. Specifically, the program encourages participants to evaluate their operations, set goals and take specific actions towards environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The program is also designed to educate travelers to Wisconsin about sustainable tourism practices. It promotes smart business practices, giving the state’s tourism-related businesses and organizations a significant point of differentiation from their competitors, and supports the state’s overall tourism brand. Examples of the types of businesses that can participate include: accommodations, attractions, restaurants, shops, resorts, convention, centers, golf courses, campgrounds, marinas, tour operators/leaders, events/festivals, chambers and CVBs.

Travel Green Wisconsin actually has two separate web sites. The organization’s consumer web site provides lists of certified businesses in the above and related categories, certified events, a map of the certified business locations, FAQs, and future goals. The organization also has an industry site that details how to participate in the program and the benefits, as well as discussion forums.

The Olympics and the Environment

Today marks the beginning of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In celebration, here are some sites that explore how the Olympics are going green:

UNEP and the International Olympic Committee
UNEP and the IOC have been working together since 1994 when they signed an Agreement of Cooperation to incorporate environmental issues in Olympic Games.

International Olympic Committee Sport & Environment Commission
The role of the committee is to advise the IOC Executive Board on what policy the IOC and Olympic Movement should adopt in terms of environmental protection and support for sustainable development and, through its members, supports the IOC programmes and activities in this field. See in particular the section on Environmental Protection and the Olympic Games.

Beijing 2008 > Environment
Links to press releases and information from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

Recent news stories on the Olympics and the Environment from Google News.

P2 for Winter Recreation

For those of us who live in the Great Lakes Region, it’s the time of year when snow and ice set the scene. Visions of a winter wonderland may be inspiring you to participate in any number of wintry recreational activities, including skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, etc. Before you join in any reindeer games, however, you may want to take a moment to consider how P2 applies. Here are some resources to help you out.

Grants Available for P2 Projects at Michigan Public Parks

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has announced the availability of applications for the 2007 Community Pollution Prevention (P2) Grants Program. The goal of this program is to institute P2 practices and waste reductions at public parks, and offer visitors a unique opportunity to learn about P2 and environmentally sustainable practices while observing day-to-day operations at those parks. A total of $250,000 in grant funds are available and applications are due April 30, 2007. Examples of eligible activities include: development of a park-wide P2 program; recycling projects; implementation of education outreach programs to train park staff and visitors about P2; the disposal of solid and hazardous waste, pesticides, and fertilizers located on park property; replacement of hazardous cleaning products through the purchase of environmentally friendly products; the purchase and installation of water saving fixtures and landscaping; the purchase of energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, and maintenance equipment; and green demolition and construction projects.

Be sure to check the GLRPPR Funding Opportunities page regularly for additional notices of grants available throughout the region. Relevant funding opportunities also appear in corresponding Sector/Subject Resources on the GLRPPR web site.