Greening the Apple

Avoid Painful, Often Dangerous, Encounters with Yellow Jackets

By Marcia Anderson

Last week, a friend’s daughter was repeatedly stung by a yellow jacket during recess on her school playground. It was first thought that the children must have disturbed a nest while playing and that the wasp focused on one girl in particular. The playground monitor tried swatting it, but it kept coming back. She was stung three times. We later found that she was wearing a sweet smelling body lotion that may have drawn the attention of the wasp.

Avoidance: The best way to prevent unpleasant encounters with social wasps, such as yellow jackets, is to avoid them. If there is a chronic problem with yellow jackets around playgrounds, picnic areas, or athletic fields, inspect the area to locate the nests. Once you know where they are, have children avoid their nesting places. Avoid swatting and squashing yellow jackets because it is counterproductive. When a yellow jacket is squashed, a chemical (pheromone) is released that attracts and incites nearby yellow jackets. Avoid wearing bright colors, especially yellow, or floral patterns that may attract some foraging yellow jackets. Lastly, minimize the use of products with perfumes such as sweet smelling shampoos, lotions or soaps, as yellow jackets are attracted to sweet smells.

Yellow jackets become more aggressive in the fall.

Yellow jackets become more aggressive in the fall.

Stings and Symptoms: Yellow jacket stings pose a more serious threat to people than stings of bees. Because a yellow jacket’s stinger is not barbed like a honey bee stinger, it can repeatedly sting its victim, whereas a bee can only sting once. It can be very frightening to be the victim of multiple yellow jacket stings. The first impulse may be to run away, however the best strategy is to back slowly away from the colony until they stop attacking. Some people are more sensitive than others to stings due to allergic reactions. People who experience large numbers of stings at once, may suffer severe reactions to the inflammatory substances in the insect’s venom.

Yellow jackets that are foraging for food will usually not sting unless physically threatened, such as being struck or swatted. Multiple stings from yellow jackets are common because they are sensitive to disturbance and aggressive in defense of their nests. Sometimes merely coming near a nest, especially if it has been disturbed previously, can provoke an attack. Since problems with yellow jackets are most common in the fall, parents, teachers and school staff should be provided with this information soon after school opens.

Reduce Their Food Sources: In early fall, a yellow jacket’s food preference turns to sweets such as sugary drinks, ice cream, and fruit. Their behavior also turns more aggressive and they are more willing to sting. Since garbage is a prime foraging and hunting site for yellow jackets, garbage containers should have tight fitting lids and be regularly cleaned of food waste. Otherwise, the garbage (and the flies around it) becomes a food source for yellow jackets.

Repair windows screens and caulk holes in siding to prevent yellow jackets and other flying insects from entering the building. Playground and building inspections for pests should be conducted monthly to ensure that developing nests are found and removed before they become problematic.

Read more from the University of Florida on yellow jacket and wasp control.  Also check out EPA’s resources on smart, sensible and sustainable pest management in schools.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Being Really Smart About Septic Systems!

By Kristina Heinemann

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

This week is EPA’s national Septic Smart Week.  Septic Smart Week is an annual event designed to raise awareness and actions that protect both the environment and public health from septic systems that don’t function well. There are all sorts of things households can do to optimize performance of onsite septic systems and prevent some of the common causes of septic failure.  See https://www.epa.gov/septic/septicsmart-homeowners. However in areas where nutrient pollution is a problem as it is in lake front communities and communities near estuarine waters we often need to consider innovative and advanced septic systems that do a better job at removing nutrients from household wastewater.

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

I want to use this year’s Septic Smart Week to highlight the work of the newly created New York State Center for Clean Water Technology located at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York (http://www.stonybrook.edu/cleanwater/). The work of the Center is a nationally unique resource poised to make significant contributions to the field of advanced onsite and decentralized wastewater treatment. As the Center itself says, their mission is to marshal “the best science and engineering to develop and commercialize innovative solutions that will protect our waters regionally, and beyond.” The Center brings a lot of brain power to the challenge of developing innovative and affordable onsite wastewater treatment systems that reduce nutrient, and in particular nitrogen pollution to groundwater and surface waters. Stony Brook graduate students along with Professors Harold Walker and Chris Gobler — Hal is a civil engineer and Chris is a marine scientist –  have a lot of knowledge and experience that they apply and will continue to apply to developing decentralized wastewater treatment solutions in watersheds sensitive to nutrient pollution. You can follow the work of the Center by signing up for their listserv at: http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/cleanwater/Listserv.html

I am pleased that we have this nationally unique resource right here in our own backyard!

Three of the Nature Conservancy Videos Explaining the Link Between Septic Systems and Nutrient Pollution on Long Island

Three of the Nature Conservancy Videos Explaining the Link Between Septic Systems and Nutrient Pollution on Long Island

For those who want know more about septic systems on Long Island and the effects of nitrogen pollution on ground and surface waters, the Long Island Chapter of the Nature Conservancy developed several excellent videos that educate and tell a compelling story about the importance of our water resources. See:  http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newyork/places-preserves/long-island-water-quality-videos.xml and enjoy!

One in five U.S. homes have septic systems. Yours may be one of them. If your septic system is not properly maintained you may be risking your family’s health, hurting the environment, and flushing thousands of dollars down the drain. EPA’s SepticSmart initiative is a nation-wide public education effort with resources for homeowners, local organizations, and government leaders.

About the Author: Kristina is the Decentralized (Septic System) Wastewater Treatment Coordinator for EPA Region 2.  Kristina lives on Long Island, New York where she is the not so proud owner of two antiquated onsite wastewater disposal systems also known as cesspools.  Kristina looks forward to upgrading her septic system to an innovative and advanced onsite treatment system in the near future!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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An Elderly Tenant’s Path to Overcoming Bed Bugs

By Marcia Anderson

Lynne Gregory of EPA Region 2 recently shared with me a compelling story about Vivian, a 70-year-old retiree whose bed bug story began on September 11, 2001.

Vivian lived in a high-rise on the southern end of Manhattan, in close proximity to the World Trade Center. Her building felt the effects of the tragedy, as did she. Vivian was forced to move out of her residence for both structural and air quality reasons and was never able to return. As a result, she has had to move multiple times, with her most recent move into an apartment infested with bed bugs.

Like most people, Vivian did not notice the bed bugs when she moved in. It was the recurring bites that tipped her off.  She captured some for identification. While searching online for bed bug information, she found the EPA bed bug website along with a list of EPA regional employees to contact, for bed bug advice. She called Lynne and has been in regular contact with her for the past six months.

A proud woman, Vivian was ashamed to discuss the bed bug matter with others, but Lynne gained her confidence and has coached Vivian on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices for bed bug control ever since. Vivian refuses to tell the landlord about the problem for fear of being blamed for bringing in the bugs. She was also ashamed of the amount of boxes and clutter in her apartment that resulted from all of her moves.

Bed bugs are small in size but still visible to the naked eye.

Bed bugs are small in size but still visible to the naked eye.

Informing the landlord is normally the first course of action when finding bed bugs, or any other pest in multifamily housing. However, elderly tenants like Vivian are often apprehensive that their landlords will become hostile toward them. They may fear eviction, fear having to throw out life-long possessions (a directive many landlords issue to tenants prior to allowing any pest treatments), and worry that they will be forced to pay to solve a problem they did not cause.

Vivian contacted the NY City Housing Department and her state senator to find out about the city’s bed bug laws and what, if any, tenant rights she had. In the end, there was nothing anyone could do to assist her.

Despite the challenges, Lynne was determined to help her. First, Vivian was told to put encasements on her mattress and box springs to keep the bed bugs off them.  Next, she was coached to reduce the clutter in her apartment – a challenging task for anyone, let alone a 70-year-old woman with no assistance.  On Lynne’s advice, Vivian put all of her clothing in tightly sealed plastic bags and heat treated items in a dryer set on high. She began laundering bed linens weekly. During the past six months, Vivian has decluttered her apartment, one box at a time. She keeps only one or two of her most precious items, and has gotten rid of the items she no longer needed.

While Vivian had read online about the use of various products, including dusts and foggers, to help combat the bed bugs. She was advised against their use by her physician because of her health issues. It is advisable to only use EPA-registered pesticides labeled to control bed bugs and to use them according to their label directions.

EPA bed bug general card draft final 5-2-12Vivian also asked if bed bugs could bite through clothing and was told that they cannot. So, she mummies herself in a sheet at night to avoid being bitten. That strategy has actually been working superbly. She no longer gets bites at night. In addition, Vivian has been using a petroleum jelly as a barrier on her bed legs to prevent the bed bugs from climbing onto her bed for a late-night blood meal.

Vivian has asked about cleaning the bed frame with mineral oil or soap. Regular cleaning will help to disturb any harboring bed bugs and will also help to dislodge their eggs. Rather than the oil or soap, it is the physical cleaning, a key step in the IPM process, that actually helps.

Despite her age, physical condition, fear of her landlord, and strong propensity for privacy, Vivian has now overcome bed bugs. One of the most difficult pests to manage under any circumstances has been brought under control by her strong will and determination, following recommended IPM practices, and heeding the coaching provided by Lynne.

For more information on bed bugs, review the resources on EPA’s bed bug information clearinghouse, including a bed bug information card and a bed bug prevention, detection and control flier. Also, check out EPA’s website for information on IPM, a smart, sensible and sustainable way to control pests at home and in schools.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me…..

By Marcia Anderson

Summer is a glorious time for an outdoor family BBQ.  Those interested in nature can watch all of the animal families busily foraging for food. Rest assured it won’t be long until you hear the familiar buzz of house flies.

Adult house fly. Image: David Cappaert

Adult house fly.
Image: David Cappaert

The good news is that house flies cannot bite, unlike mosquitoes, because their mouth is no more than a spongy pad. The bad news is that one landed right on my macaroni salad. Like most people, I shooed the fly away and went back to eating. However, I pushed the food that the fly touched to the side of my plate and did not eat it. I also washed my hands when I went inside for there is no way to know where that fly had been, and where else it had landed.

Why am I so paranoid over a fly you ask? Because a house fly potentially carries twice as many pathogens as a cockroach, and they transmit infectious bacteria at levels high enough to be a significant public health risk. As a matter of fact, many common infectious diseases, ranging from food poisoning to respiratory infections, are transmitted by house flies. Some of the most common diseases spread by the house fly are typhoid fever, tuberculosis, dysentery, food poisoning, and diphtheria, all of which can be serious if not treated promptly.

The University of Florida recently found even more pathogens transmitted by house flies. The bodies of healthy people can usually isolate and fight off numerous pathogens before they become a problem. However, these same pathogens are a serious health risk to many people with developing or compromised immune systems, including infants, young children, senior citizens and those recuperating from illness. For me, ingesting a potentially harmful pathogen is just not worth the risk.

Since they do not bite, exactly how do house flies transmit diseases? House flies pick up pathogens from a wide range of feeding places such as organic matter, feces, fruits, vegetables, meat, and open wounds, just to name a few. At first, the fly regurgitates saliva and digestive juices onto their food then sponges up the solution. Their saliva actually liquefies their food. This way of feeding allows flies to contaminate large amounts of food.

Head of an adult house fly. Image: Pest and Disease Library; Bugwood.org

Head of an adult house fly.
Image: Pest and Disease Library; Bugwood.org

A house fly needs only a few seconds to contact a pathogen source in order to transport it elsewhere.  Sometimes, only a few microbes attached to the flies’ body, legs, or mouthparts can cause a serious disease. For all of these reasons, fly control needs to be taken seriously. You do not need a lot of flies to contaminate food sources, hence the need to heed health department requirements in school kitchens and restaurants. Limiting fly contact with food, utensils, food preparation areas, and people is an important part of hygiene.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the smart, sensible approach to controlling flies and other pests.  IPM is not a single pest control method but rather involves multiple control tactics based on the biology of the pest and site information. Consequently, every IPM program is customized to the pest prevention goals of the situation. Successful IPM programs use a tiered tactics that include: proper pest identification and monitoring; pest prevention through cultural controls such as sanitation; maintenance that eliminates entry points and food/water sources; pest control devices; and pesticides, as needed.

First, focus on pest prevention through exclusion. If flies cannot get into an eating area, they will not be a problem. Providing barriers, such as screens on doors and windows, nets, self-closing doors, and sealing cracks that provide entry points create a good first line of defense. Even air curtains (fans blowing air down over a doorway) will keep them out.

Next take up sanitation. Garbage should be placed in plastic bags and held in containers with tight-fitting lids. It should not be allowed to accumulate. Reducing the sources that attract flies, such as pet excrement, soiled baby or adult diapers that have not been discarded properly is key to IPM and fly prevention. Open piles of compost, animal manure, garbage, lawn clippings, decaying vegetables, fruits, and dead animals are also breeding sites and pathogen sources for flies.

For flies, the larval stage is the easiest to control. If breeding sites can be eliminated, the lifecycle of the fly can be broken, thus preventing more adult flies.

After sanitation and maintenance, there are devices that can assist in fly control. They include ultraviolet light, air curtains on doors, inverted cone traps that contain attractants, and the old fashioned fly swatter.

Penn State University offers an informative fact sheet on house fly control to help you get started. Once you’ve taken on the fly management challenge, you can enjoy your next meal without the buzz of these troublesome pests.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Keep Pests Out When Serving Breakfast in the Classroom

By Marcia Anderson

Breakfast in the Classroom is a popular meal program in schools nationwide, and is widely adopted in many NYC and surrounding schools. Once in the classroom, however, food becomes a source for potential pest problems. Even if students assist in cleaning up after eating their meal, wipe their desks, recycle waste appropriately, and put the trash in garbage bags, crumbs and spills may go unnoticed.

American cockroach Photo: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

American cockroach
Photo: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

Pests are not picky. Ants, flies, cockroaches, and mice are drawn to the long-forgotten crumbs in the corner and juice residue left on desks by sticky fingers. It takes very little food for pests to thrive in the hidden spaces of a classroom. Pests are attracted to any place that offers food, water, and shelter – this can include classrooms, cabinets, desks, lockers, and cubbies. Remember that managing pests is important because some can carry diseases, spread food-borne illnesses, and triggers asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

Clean up after meals. Remember that food, even if left in the classroom trash can, becomes an open invitation to any cockroach or rodent in the area.  Cleaning up regularly removes the necessities that pests need to survive. Keep paper towels or moist cleansing wipes in each classroom so students and teachers can clean desks after breakfast. Classrooms serving meals may also need more frequent vacuuming or mopping.

Disposing of trash promptly, within about two hours of the meal, and proper recycling keeps classrooms clean and pest-free. Recycling and waste management programs may need to be altered to accommodate disposal of breakfast packaging.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

Implement a comprehensive pest management program. EPA recommends that schools adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests.  IPM emphasizes preventative strategies such as sanitation, maintenance, and exclusion.  In an IPM approach, school buildings and grounds are inspected to see where pests are finding food, water, and shelter. Steps are then taken to keep pests out and to make conditions unfavorable to pests by keeping everything clean, dry, and tightly sealed. Using IPM practices to manage pests is cost effective, and reduces exposure to pests and pesticides. The goal of a school IPM program is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

Following these practical steps will help keep pests out of your school when serving Breakfast in the Classroom.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Youth in the Environment

By Dan D’Agostino

Small programs at EPA Region 2 can often have a meaningful impact for the local community. Each year, the Youth in the Environment Program (YEP) takes around 20 high-school and college aged young people from economically underprivileged communities around New York City and presents them with the opportunity to work in the environmental field for the summer. The participants get firsthand experience working at New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) facilities, performing critical lab work, field sampling, working in warehouses and running the billing system. The Youth in the Environment program fosters an understanding of the value of public service and the significance of protecting our local environmental resources.

EPA Region 2, the National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), the Woodycrest Center for Human Development and NYCDEP partnered together to deliver this program to the community. Nationally, the Youth in the Environment Program here in Region 2 is the longest running youth program that PETE implements. The program represents a nexus between federal and local government and local communities. It is a great example of EPA Region 2 bringing people together with the goal of a healthier environment and increased economic opportunity for young New Yorkers.

Doug Pabst and Dan D’Agostino from EPA Region 2’s Clean Water Division present an award to a Youth in the Environment program graduate.

Doug Pabst and Dan D’Agostino from EPA Region 2’s Clean Water Division present an award to a Youth in the Environment program graduate.

On August 18, 2016, this year’s program was capped off by the annual “Recognition Day” ceremony, where youth participants, community leaders, program organizers and program partners convened to celebrate the achievements of the young people involved. Deputy Bronx Borough President Aurelia Green addressed the participants and highlighted how fortunate they were to have the opportunity to work in the environmental field, stressing the potential to make a positive impact on the community. The Clean Water Division’s Doug Pabst delivered a keynote address in which he explained how many of us take New York City’s water infrastructure for granted- the only time we think about it is the rare occasion that is isn’t working 100% correctly. He praised the youth participants for all the hard work they did and for being a part of something so important to the daily lives of New Yorkers.

Perhaps the most compelling words were those of the youth participants themselves. All of them spoke of the program as a challenge; one that could be interpersonal, scientific or even physical in nature; but one that they all overcame with determination and hard work.

About the Author: Dan is with the Clean Water Division’s State Revolving Fund Program Section. He holds a MEng. in Environmental Engineering from Manhattan College. Dan has been with EPA Region 2 for six years and has worked on a variety of subject areas including sustainable infrastructure, climate change and trash free waters.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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If You Like Apple Pie… Save The Bees!

By Sion Lee

I love honey. I put it on my pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, salad dressings and marinades. Honey is nature’s sweet liquid gold. As a guilty lover of sweet, processed foods, I am routinely amazed at how delicious and natural honey is. All bees scare me, but I sincerely respect the honeybee for producing such delicious bee vomit. (Surprise! Honey is, in a sense, bee vomit.)

Interestingly enough, honey bees are not just for honey. In fact, the most important role of the honeybee is its role as a pollinator. Animals or insects that transfer pollen from plant to plant are pollinators. Some plants are self-pollinating, which means they can fertilize themselves. Others, however, are cross-pollinating plants, which need a pollinator (or the wind) to transfer the pollen to another flower in order to fertilize. Once a plant is fertilized, it can grow seeds or fruit. This is how many of the world’s crops are grown. Almonds, apples, cherries, citrus, avocados, broccoli and pumpkins are common examples of foods that need pollinators.

Source: Whole Foods Market

Source: Whole Foods Market

Without honeybees, one third of the world’s food supply would disappear. In 2013, Whole Foods released a hypothetical before-and-after picture of a world with and without bees. As stated on their site, their produce team “pulled from shelves 237 of 453 products- 52 percent of the normal product mix in the department.” It’s really a disheartening thought. My favorite substance in the world, guacamole, would not exist. Apple pies wouldn’t be an apple pie. Almond butter would be unheard of. There would be nothing good left in the world.

Unfortunately, the population count of honeybees is rapidly declining. One problem that has been drastically influencing the decline of honeybees is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. In 2006, beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. While the cause of CCD has not yet been determined, many experts are pointing their fingers to habitat loss, pesticide use, and invasive species that are pests for honeybees. Of course, CCD is not the only reason why the honeybee population is dwindling; habitat loss and pesticide use are both very straightforward and valid reasons as to why these pollinators are perishing.

So how can we save the honeybees? First, learn. You can find more information about protecting pollinators here. Second, support your local beekeeper. Not all heroes wear capes- instead, some wear netted veil hats and thick rubber gloves. Your local beekeeper is nurturing and protecting these precious pollinators that are so vital to agriculture. Many local beekeepers will probably be selling bee products- honey, royal jelly, propolis, beeswax, and/or beauty products made from these components. (Personally, my local beekeeper does it all. She sells honey, honey sticks, lotions, lip balms, shampoos, soaps, and beauty creams.) Support your local beekeeper by supporting their business or support them just by lending them a hand. Beekeeping is hard work and is a job that gets nowhere near the amount of recognition it deserves.

You can also take small, individual actions to make a difference.  Bee careful with where and when you are applying pesticides (that is if pesticides are needed). Do not apply pesticides where bees are likely to be flying and try to apply them during the early evening when the bees are inactive so the pesticides can dry overnight. In addition, you can plant flowers that are pollinator-friendly. Milkweed, geraniums, lilies, roses, sunflowers and violets are all beautiful flowers that attract pollinators. If you do not have a large space in your home, even just having a potted pollinator-friendly plant outside can make a difference.

Now, let’s save the bees!

About the Author: Sion (pronounced see-on) is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She is an intern in the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. She is a native of Queens. Sion’s favorite hobbies include eating, listening to Stevie Wonder, and breaking stereotypes.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A City of Chickens

By Sion Lee

One of my good friend’s family houses four chickens in their backyard. Everyone’s reaction to this is of sheer surprise and intrigue. How could someone living in New York City have chickens running around in their backyard? Why would one do such a thing? Believe it or not, there actually are many upsides to having backyard chickens.

IMG_4481

Hanging out with the backyard hens.

In New York City, it is legal to have hens in backyards- just no roosters, because of possible noise complaints from neighbors. A chicken will cost somewhere between $1-$30, depending on the breed and size of the chickens (and also depending on if you want a chick or a full-grown chicken). A coop can cost absolutely nothing if you decide to make one or up to $3000 if you’re looking for something a little more high-end. It is important to understand that hens only produce eggs for a certain fraction of their lives, so if you are in it only for the eggs, you might want to reconsider.

To be clear: the hens’ eggs probably will not be economically profitable. A hen will usually lay one egg per day. It may not be plausible to sell the eggs simply because the average urban hen owner won’t have that many to sell in the first place. However, backyard chickens have a clear benefit when it comes to eggs: they are locally produced, which means the carbon footprint is greatly reduced. Think about it. Your typical, store-bought carton of eggs are transported from the farm to the store by a truck for miles and miles. Also, the plastic/Styrofoam container the eggs are in are materials that cannot be easily recycled. Manufacturing the containers result in carbon dioxide emissions, as they are made in large factories. Backyard chickens, however, only require you to transport from your backyard to your kitchen. How easy is that?

Another benefit is that chickens eat just about everything. Cauliflower stems? Carrot skins? Cooked pasta? They will eat it all. In addition, your hens will eat those pesky insects that are ruining your vegetable garden and act as a natural pest control. An added upside is that they consume mosquitos- so if you are like me and are considered to be a scrumptious delicacy by these blood suckers, this might be good news. Chickens do need to eat some chicken feed, but they can be inexpensive if you are feeding them a balanced diet of food scraps. (In fact, my friend only spends around fifteen dollars a month on chicken feed.) Everything the chickens don’t eat, then, can be composted. What comes out of the chicken can be composted, too. Poultry waste, when handled properly, is a valuable source of nutrients for garden soil. There is information on ways you can use chicken manure to fertilize your garden here.

There are many benefits to having backyard chickens, including garden fertilization.

There are many benefits to having backyard chickens, including garden fertilization.

Of course, there are always risks to every action. Poultry- like any other animal- runs the danger of infecting human consumers. Avian flu, salmonella, and E. coli are all commonly-heard diseases that chickens are prone to. For that reason, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a guideline for keeping backyard poultry. It is vital that you are sanitary and wary when it comes to handling these otherwise fun pets.

It is totally understandable when New York City dwellers say that there simply is not enough time and space to raise backyard hens. Personally, my family does not even have a yard to house these outside pets. Heck, my landlord does not even allow indoor pets, either. That’s okay, though. The next best thing to do would be to buy local. Buying local, like backyard hens, reduce the carbon footprint that is associated with regular store-bought eggs. It’s National Farmers Market Week, so find your local farmer’s market here and find those fresh eggs.

About the Author: Sion (pronounced see-on) is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She is an intern in the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. She is a native of Queens. Sion’s favorite hobbies include eating, listening to Stevie Wonder, and breaking stereotypes.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday- August 5th, 2016

Libertad Urban Farm Community Workday
Bronx
10:00 AM- 1:00 PM
Join Bronx Green-Up at the BLK Projek’s event to help this urban farm build more raised beds to grow more for the summer season.

Saturday- August 6th, 2016

Summer Streets
Manhattan
7:00 AM- 1:00 PM
Summer Streets is an annual celebration of New York City’s most valuable public space—our streets. On three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of NYC’s streets are opened for people to play, run, walk and bike. Summer Streets extends from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, along Park Avenue and connecting streets, and features sports, fitness, and art events and programs. All activities at Summer Streets are free of charge, and designed for people of all ages and ability levels to share the streets respectfully.

Green Team
Brooklyn
10:00 AM- 12:00 PM
The Green Team provides essential horticultural care to the park, including planting, mulching, and removing invasive plants. The Green Team is a wonderful opportunity to learn about gardening, enjoy nature, and make the park look its best. No experience necessary.

Helping Hummingbirds
Staten Island
11:00 AM- 12:00 PM
Learn about these beautiful birds of the Greenbelt and how you can help them this summer. Hike in search of hummingbirds, and make a nectar feeder to take home. This program is appropriate for children 6 and older. It is free for members and $3 for nonmembers. Registration is required. To register, please email naturecenter@sigreenbelt.org or call (718) 351-3450.

Hot Compost Hands-On Workshop
Queens
2:00 PM- 4:00 PM
Take your composting to the next level at this hands-on workshop! Learn to make and manage a “thermophilic” batch of compost—a pile that will heat up to kill weed seeds and pathogens—ready to use in as little as three months! Participants work together with NYC Compost Project staff to build a pile at our compost demo site. Come ready to get dirty! $5 per person.

Sunday- August 7th, 2016

Central Park Conservancy Family Performance Festival Leaf Arrow
Manhattan
12:00 PM- 1:30 PM
Each summer, Central Park Conservancy hosts a series of eco-education and multicultural performances for the whole family to enjoy. Formerly known as A Clearing in the Forest, this year’s Family Performance Festival is chock-a-block full of fun and learning through music, storytelling, park adventures, puppetry, and more! Through contemporary and historical storytelling, songs, and traditional dance, learn about the special relationship the Native American people have with the Earth. Celebrate your appreciation of the natural environment with an interactive show featuring coyote tales, creation stories, and historic folklore. This unique performance will remind even the youngest audience members that we must respect and care for our parks!

What’s In Bloom in the Heather Garden August Tour
Manhattan
1:00 PM- 2:00 PM
Take a walking tour of the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park with horticulturist Madeline Byrne and learn about the dozens of plants currently in bloom. Learn about the garden’s history and how the Heather Garden compares with the plants found at the New York Botanical Garden, where Madeline Byrne has over 15 years of experience. These tours are wheelchair accessible but persons with mobility issues may find them challenging because of the park’s many steep paths.

Living with Urban Coyotes
Queens
1:00 PM- 2:30 PM
Join the Urban Park Rangers in learning about coyotes, an oft-misunderstood member of our local habitat.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 29, 2016

Street Fair
Manhattan
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Free fun for the whole family, including arts, crafts, antiques, plants, entertainment, games and more.

Nature Sanctuary
Manhattan
2:00 PM
During these limited hours, visitors can explore the normally closed sanctuary at their own pace along the rustic trail. See how the conservancy has restored this native woodland garden for birds and other wildlife. The wood-chipped trail is uneven; please wear appropriate shoes.

This ecosystem is a protected area and home to many flora and fauna. No groups, dogs, bikes, or strollers. Free and self-guided. Space is limited.

Summer Garden
Manhattan
7/24 – 7/31/16
Summer Sunday evenings are always a little bit lovelier when MoMA’s free summer garden concert series rolls around. Each year, the museum hosts live jazz and classical music performances for those lucky enough to score a free seat. And you can’t find a better environment than MoMA’s serene Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The month’s shows include performers from the Juilliard School and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Seating opens at 7pm; concerts start at 8pm. For more details, visit moma.org.

Saturday – July 30, 2016

Hester Street Fair
Manhattan
11:00AM – 6:00PM
This fair will feature a diverse roster of 60 curated vendors and curiously creative entrepreneurs delivering design, art, fashion and food. The fair will also host a series of hands-on workshops, collaborative activities and special events.

Sunday – July 31, 2016

Hudson River Nature Walk
Manhattan
9:00AM
Learn about the park’s wildlife by joining experienced naturalists on guided nature walks along the more park’s esplanade. Enjoy a meandering waterfront walk while viewing and learning about the park’s flora and fauna, including some of the 85 different species of birds identified within Park boundaries. Peek into some of our many gardens to discover butterflies, dragonflies and other interesting insects. Get to know the native plants that thrive in unexpected places in and around the river’s edge. Each nature walk is unique and offers a one-of-a-kind treasure hunt-like experience. Please wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Loud noises and barking tend to startle wildlife and reduce viewing opportunities – please be considerate and leave your dog at home.

Harlem Week
Manhattan
Starts 7/31/16
What began in 1974 as a one-day tribute to Harlem has evolved over four decades into a month long celebration of the community’s rich economic, political and cultural history. Things kick off on July 31 with “A Great Day In Harlem” and reach a fever pitch during the bursting-at-the-seams weekend of events held under the banner of “Summer in the City” (August 20) and “Harlem Day” (August 21), including an auto show, children’s festival, small-business expo, fashion show, educational fair, outdoor film screening, a dancing in the street party and the inaugural Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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