This picture needs to be posted.

I saw a mouse!


I was working on an essay at a table outside the Leonardtown Community Center. It kept running back and forth, foraging, and stopping under my feet. So cute! It seemed to be missing an eye, though, which made me kind of sad, 'cause it's bad enough being a special on the bird of prey menu when you've got two eyes. However, the ex-eye was healed over and everything else was intact, so best of luck to you, little guy (gal?).

I was also pleased to observe that we have a compost bin now!


Anacostia picture diary

Let's all welcome Maura to the blogosphere - she posted her first entry below, about the very trip that I'm documenting here in photos. Hers will reveal the social ties among Ecohouse members, the breakfast cuisine, and (spoiler alert) dimples - but I mustn't give away too much. Whereas mine is - well, here:

Look! Proof of social ties among Ecohouse members! Also, proof of Saturday morning.

Trash can't ruin a thing like this.

Or can it? Mind you, these are only the things that float.

This is the archaic sewage system responsible for the poopy water condition. I'm sorry - the "coliform bacteria" water condition. When it rains a certain amount in a certain time frame, the system can't hold everything and just lets it flow. Too much information? Well, I'd rather know than go out in a canoe and capsize in it.

Cap'n Lee stands fast at the helm, singin' tales o' the sea to me n' me hearties. Arr! He sails with the crew o' the Anacostia Watershed Society.

Lee explained that the yellow things go all the way to the bottom and catch sediment. The grassy knoll used to be an unregulated landfill that has since been lined.

These orange ties deter geese from eating the essential wetland grasses...

... and these fences prevent them from landing among the grasses, because they need a long runway for taking off and won't land in cramped spaces. Honk!

Another problem in the Anacostia river...

...is monocultures of invasive species.

This wall from the Stone Age - that is to say, the Dark Ages before environmental science grew into an authoritative field - that is to say, the 1950s - was built to straighten the river's naturally curving path in order to flush out pollution. However, the river knows what's good for itself because the process of constantly changing its path and flooding and receding from the wetlands with their purifying flora naturally "flushes out" pollution. It's the bee's knees! Now we feel awful silly because golly, the wall prevents the river from doing just that. Oh, Billy!

Also, did I mention that a train load of coal fell into the river at this bridge about a year ago? No? Well it did. We're not sure why the crane is there - maybe to pull the remaining parts of the train out? - but those orange things in the water are for catching floating trash.

In spite of all these issues...

... many types of wildlife are returning to the river to make it their home.

And see, they're not sickly. They flew away as our pontoon approached. The turtles opted for diving under when we got close, so the water is good enough for them and (hopefully) getting better.

The so-called Meast and his attentive crew. (I tried to catch his dimples in action, but he moved as fast as the turtles.)

New Blog Contributor on the Anacostia Field Trip

Hey there EcoHouse members and enthusiasts! This is my first blog entry ever. How far I have come in three short years from looking up what the word "blog" meant junior year of high school. I'm testing the blogging waters right now so... how 'bout that Field Trip?

This weekend the entire EcoHouse went to the Anacostia River to pick up some trash. We all did not think that this Canoeing trip would actually take place as it had been steadily raining for two days and we had learned in class that after too much rain the sewage treatment plant overflowed. At 1 in the morning I did decide to get a little sleep... just in case... but it was sobering to check my email and see that indeed the fieldtrip would go on. Luckily one of my amazing EcoHouse apartment mates Elena made us pancakes as we got ready.

An army of bikers made their way to the river by trail but I was in the car because I do not know how to ride a bike. I wish I could say something about the bike-trail because I am sure it was scenic and fun. EcoHouse re-assembled in the parking-lot and were treated to bagels, cream-cheese, and hummus!!!

We were also greeted by Anacostia River protector Lee Cain, who we in our apartment have nicknamed "The Meast" because he is a man and a beast... a Man-Beast... a "Meast!" All we have to say is that you brought this on yourself when you decided to grow your own food while sporting dimples. In all seriousness Lee is a very good guide who gave us an interactive lecture on Tuesday and then an awesome Pontoon Boat tour of the river on Sunday. He also looked out for us and told us that it would be unsafe to pick up trash because of the aforementioned fecal matter in the river. The Pontoon Boat Tour replacing the Canoeing/ Trash Clean-up was very informative and full of wildlife... and trash sightings. The vast majority of the trash consisted of plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers, but there were also sports balls. Seeing the trash caught on branches, collected on the bank and floating in the river was the wake up call this sleepy group of college students needed to get them alert before noon on a Saturday. It makes you think about the things that you use and where they ultimately end up. The animals were cool to see and included blue and white herons, kingfishers, ducks, geese, a hawk, and cutest of all... TURTLES.

After a scenic lunch in the arboretum we were on our way back, some on the boat enjoying the sights for the first time as they had fallen asleep on the first pass down. Then the heavens opened thanks to Cameron's quote "I wish it were raining right now!" A few minutes later and it began to POUR. Thus our river field trip came to a soggy end, exponentially so for the army of bikers who braved the torrential onslaught on their way back to campus.

All in all it was a fun trip! We bonded, got drenched, and were motivated by the trashy banks of the Anacostia... and the Meast.

Note: The author had a nice conversation with the Meast during lunch and in no way condones the objectification of Anacostia Watershed Society Environmental Educator Lee Cain the dimpled, food growing, river-saving, former teacher.

Sustainability tips of the week

It's Monday, and there's no better way to make the most of the week starting before you're ready than to start a new tradition. (Disclaimer: There may be a better way.)

Each week, an Ecohouse member delegated to the task sends us all an email containing environmental tips of the week. These tips will now appear in the blog. This week's list is brought to you by Josh. Thanks, Josh!

What’s Happening Ecohouse! Here are the sustainability tips for the week…

In the dorm

* Enable your computer to go into "sleep mode" when not in use.
* Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
* Use natural light rather than electric whenever possible; make sure to watch out for peeping toms.
* Buy inexpensive mugs and plates that you can wash rather than disposable ones.
* Avoid over-packaged takeout food.
* Buy a water filter and refill a reusable container instead of buying cases of bottled water.

In the bathroom

* Take shorter showers; unless you start smelling like cottage cheese.
* Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and shaving.
* Report leaky faucets and showerheads.
* Don't use the toilet as a garbage bin. Toss tissues and waste in trash cans.

In the laundry room

* Only wash full loads of laundry.
* Wash your clothes in cold water.
* Air dry whenever possible.
* Use products containing the least amount of bleaches, dyes, and fragrances.

In the classroom

* Use refillable binders instead of notebooks or use a laptop.
* Take notes on both sides of paper.
* If it’s OK with your professor, hand in assignments by printing on both sides of the page.

Soon, I will post about the field trip we took on the Anacostia River over the weekend.


Got wood?

"Timber Industry: Cutting Down Trees Helps Environment"

Listen to the NPR story here. Then raise your collective eyebrows with me.

For more stories, check out NPR/National Geographic's Climate Connection. They have some really interesting, thought-provoking, not your average "10 ways to reduce carbon footprint" stories (although... they have that one too).


I'd like to report a theft...

Remember the fans I lugged from the Catholic Student Center?

I left them on the balcony outside my apartment against the wall with this sign:

(I was going for the '50s Diner-esque aesthetic.)

When I left for class in the morning, they were gone. But the sign was still up, and a trash bag that needed to be taken to the dump was also still outside.

I am more confused than anything. Who steals fans? For that matter, who pulls completely nonfunctional fans out of streams and lugs them across campus with every intention of using them?


Anyway, my plan was to get an area in Byrd Stadium where I could display the fans. A caption would explain that they were pulled out of Paint Branch Stream by the College Park Environmental Group on 9/20/08, the very same day that the Terps ran over Eastern Michigan with an offensive onslaught (thanks, Diamondback headline writer). Why fans? Because, you see - and a banner would proudly proclaim this - Terps are big fans of the environment. Oh yes.

Beneath the banner would be a list of things that Terps fans can do to show their team spirit, by way of respect for the campus upon which we kick so much athletic arse. For instance:
  • Recycle aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes
  • Use the compost bins provided by Dining Services to dispose of concessions
  • Don't litter
and essentially leave the campus at least as lovely as you found it.

I could get some trashed fans from the dump. Or I could take this theft as a sign that some vigilante got wind of my nefarious plans and decided to put a stop to my rampant punnery.

Perhaps Testudo himself would be a more convincing environmental liaison to Terps fans. Fan fan fan. I have hereby lost my privilege to say the word "fan" for at least another five posts.



Today, Emily, Natalie, and myself joined some CPEG volunteers to do a stream cleanup. College Park Environmental Group is an on-campus student organization that has adopted a small stretch of Paint Branch stream near the Catholic Student Center. They usually hold cleanup events a few times each semester, among other service and outdoorsy activities.

Picking up trash can lead to interesting sociological hypotheses. For instance, when I picked up trash in my small suburban hometown, most of it consisted of cigarette boxes, beer cans, and hard liquor bottles. This, I figure, is because young people are afraid of disposing of these things in their parents' houses, where they may have to answer for them, so they toss them out of the car instead. Now who wants the job of sitting on the side of the road, watching cars go by, and observing the people who litter to determine whether my hypothesis is correct?

Nobody? Okay.

We found some fans.

I have plans for these fans. I shan't reveal them yet, but suffice to say I lugged them from the Catholic Student Center all the way to Ecohouse (at Leonardtown behind Frat Row) amidst puzzled Terps supporters tailgating for the football game. I love being that person who makes people's days interesting.

Other observations:
-The only carbonated soft beverages represented were Coke (Coca Cola) and Mountain Dew (PepsiCo).
-There were many beer cans, a few liquor bottles, and no wine bottles or boxes. I would like to point out that although Natty Light and its derivatives have "natural" in the brand name, the aluminum cans do not actually belong in or around the stream. I will stop being a wise guy when people stop littering.
-There was a chair. Also, a cell phone LED panel.
-There was a sign - one of the yellow signs from Knox Rd. that says "Residential Permit Parking Only." Only permit-holding residents may park on the banks of the stream; all others will be towed.
-There were no bodies.
-There seemed to be a lot less litter than there's been in the past! So either our fellow students haven't gotten started properly trashing campus yet this semester, or more of them are taking advantage of the limitless opportunities for trash disposal and recycling offered by this great institution. Go Terps!