50 ways you can save the bay

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay is a really, really, really big task.

But there are things all of us can do to help the cause, even just a little bit. We’ve compiled 50 ideas for you to try.

1. Get active. Join a local watershed group, sign a petition, attend a meeting, volunteer, try some of the things on this list.

2. Bend a politician’s ear. Make it known that the environment is important to you. One starting point is the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. (www.mdlcv.org) Whether you agree with their ideas or not, the LCV knows all the hot environmental bills at the state level.

3. Plant a tree. Trees slow down rainwater and prevent runoff. They also absorb carbon dioxide, a cause of global warming. Plus, they’re pretty.

4. Skip the lawn fertilizer. Improper fertilizer use sends nitrogen and phosphorus running off into the water. Does your lawn really need to be perfectly green?

5. Install a rain barrel. It collects water from your downspouts, which reduces harmful runoff. Use the water to water your plants on a dry day.

6. Plant a rain garden. A rain garden is designed to soak up rainwater. Consider enlisting the help of an experienced landscape designer.

7. Switch to low-phosphorus dishwasher detergent. This will be the law of the land in a few years, but you can buy low-phosphorus detergent now in stores such as Whole Foods. Less phosphorus in the water means less that the sewage plants have to treat.

8. Pick up a bay-related book. Fact, fiction, children’s literature — there’s tons of good stuff out there to read. We recommend James Michener’s classic novel, “Chesapeake.”

9. Fight global warming. Warmer air and water temperatures and higher water levels may hurt the bay’s wildlife. Save energy, use renewable energy, use compact fluorescent light bulbs, use Energy Star appliances.

10. Get to know your local riverkeeper. Many rivers have these paid, full-time environmental advocates, including the South, Severn, West/Rhode, Patuxent and Chester rivers. Go to www.waterkeeper.org.

11. Share the bay with a child. Tell them how important it is and how much promise it holds. Set a positive example for kids.

12. Eat local seafood. Enjoy the bounty of the bay and support watermen who make their living on the bay.

13. Eat local produce. Some say a well-run farm is better for the bay than the same acreage of suburbia. Plus, eating locally saves on transportation-related pollution.

14. Buy a car that has low nitrogen emissions. Keep it in good shape and try to cut down on your driving. To compare pollution from various models, go to www.epa.gov/autoemissions.

15. Don’t wash your car or truck in the driveway. That’s because soap and chemicals will run straight into the storm drain and ultimately the bay. Instead, take it to a car wash that reuses water. Or move it to the lawn where the grass and ground can soak up the water and pollutants.

16. Conserve water. This puts less pressure on our sewage treatment plants. Take shorter showers, run the dishwasher and clothes washer only when full, use low-flow appliances, don’t water the lawn, turn water off when brushing teeth and shaving.

17. Use native plants. They are accustomed to our climate and require little or no watering, fertilizer or pesticides. Learn more at www.mdflora.org.

18. Make sure your septic system is working properly. Leaky septics are a leading cause of bay pollution. Grants are available to upgrade to a nitrogen-reducing system.

19. Report polluters. Figuring out the right agency is tricky, but here are some numbers to get you started.
• Anne Arundel County hotline: 410-222-7777.
• Maryland Department of the Environment: 866-633-4686.
• Department of Natural Resources “911” of the Chesapeake Bay: 877-224-7229.

20. Practice bay-friendly boating. Don’t dump your waste overboard, get it pumped out. Use a certified “clean marina.” (www.dnr.state.md.us/boating/cleanmarina)

21. Learn about the bay. Attend lectures and meetings (listed on this page), read newspapers and magazines, watch “Outdoors Maryland” on Maryland Public Television, take a class.

22. Encourage your workplace or school to be bay-friendly. Some ideas: planting trees, installing rain gardens, saving energy, giving employees time off to volunteer.

23. If you live on the water, raise some oysters over the winter. Watch them grow and plant them in the spring. (www.cbf.org)

24. Get to know your watershed. What watershed do you live in? Where do all the streams go? What are the problems in your watershed? Go to www.chesapeakebay.net/wshed.htm and enter your ZIP code.

25. Clean a stream. Project Clean Stream in April is a bay-wide effort, but you can organize a clean up any time.

26. Compost instead of using the garbage disposal. It helps your garden and relieves pressure on sewage treatment plants.

27. Skip the female crabs, stick to the males. One female crab can produce 8 million eggs in one season. That’s a lot of baby crabs.

28. Fish responsibly. Use barbless/circle hooks during catch-and-release. Don’t use lead sinkers. Only keep what you plan to eat. Properly dispose of your fishing line — don’t leave it in the water where ospreys or other birds might pick it up for their nests.

29. Don’t empty your aquarium into the bay. Remember, this is how the snakehead got into that pond in Crofton. Find a home for unwanted pets through www.mdapi.com/goldcircle.html.

30. Don’t dump nasty stuff down the storm drain. Those “Chesapeake Bay drainage” stencils are there for a reason. Anne Arundel County has regular household hazardous waste collections. (www.aacounty.org/DPW/WasteManagement/householdWaste.cfm)

31. Go birding. Learn about ospreys, bald eagles, waterfowl and other birds that depend on the bay. (www.mdbirds.org)

32. Fight invasive species on your property. Phragmites and kudzu are big problems that can be removed with some elbow grease. Burning bush and English ivy are also common invaders found here. (www.mdinvasivesp.org)

33. Fix your shoreline. If your bulkhead or riprap is failing, or erosion is bad, consider installing a more natural “living shoreline.” (www.shorelines.dnr.state.md.us)

34. Put your money where your mouth is. Like the ideas of an environmental group? Help fund their mission. Or consider buying a “Treasure the Chesapeake” license plate — the proceeds go to on-the-ground bay projects.

35. Support businesses that do their part to help the bay. Ask about their environmental practices. Check out members of the “Businesses for the Bay” program. (www.chesapeakebay.net/b4bay.htm)

36. Make your voice heard. Start a blog, write a letter to the editor, speak up at a community meeting. Write The Capital at capletts@capitalgazette.com or ourbay@capitalgazette.com.

37. Do you own undeveloped land or farmland? Preserve it. A conservation easement is a legal document that limits development on a property forever, even if you sell the land to someone else. A local land trust can help you.
• Scenic Rivers Land Trust: www.srlt.org.
• Magothy River Land Trust: www.magothyriver.org.
• Eastern Shore Land Conservancy: www.eslc.org.

38. Pick up your dog’s waste. It’s gross, but necessary. Pet waste contains bacteria that washes into creeks and harms swimmers.

39. Use a push or electric lawn mower. Gas lawn mowers are notoriously bad polluters.

40. Vote. Support politicians who you think are doing right by the bay.

41. Grow underwater grasses. Grass-growing projects usually start in March. You set up a tank in your home or business, watch the shoots sprout and then wade into the water for a planting in early summer.

42. Play the Bay Game. Even grown-ups can learn from this kid-friendly activity book. Pick the game up at the toll booth next time you cross the Bay Bridge. The 2007 version has a Capt. John Smith theme.

43. Chaperone a school field trip. You may learn as much as the kids do.

44. Look out for litter. Those floating plastic bags and old soda cans my end up in a stream if you don’t pick them up.

45. Take a trip. Check out the farthest reaches of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, perhaps Cooperstown, N.Y., or Lexington, Va. Yes, the bay watershed really stretches that far.

46. Get your white sneakers dirty. Each May and June, “wade-ins” inspired by retired state senator Bernie Fowler are held around the bay. It’s a low-tech way to understand water clarity by literally wading into the water until you can’t see your feet.

47. Visit a museum. Close by is the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Though the museum still is rebuilding from Tropical Storm Isabel, it still has programs and events. (www.annapolismaritimemuseum.org) In day-tripping distance are the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons and the Chesapeake BayMaritime Museum in St. Michaels. (www.baygateways.net.)

48. Learn about lighthouses. The Chesapeake’s lighthouses are full of lore, history and beauty. Many are accessible from land. Get info at www.cheslights.org.

49. Spread the word. Share bay-saving ideas and information with your family, friends and coworkers.

50. Last but not least: Enjoy the bay! Go fishing, take a spin in a boat, paddle down a creek, look for birds, go swimming, take a stroll on the beach, splurge for dinner at a waterfront restaurant and watch the sun go down over the bay as you dine.

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pwood@capitalgazette.com

(Revised September 2007)