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
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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
40. Vote. Support politicians who you think are doing right by the
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
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.