The best way to improve the Chesapeake? Set a good example - Southern Maryland Headline News

The best way to improve the Chesapeake? Set a good example

Commentary by Carrie Madren

We’ve got ecologists, biologists, hydrologists, geologists, botanists, Riverkeepers, volunteers, conservationists, habitat restoration experts, land managers, teachers and hundreds of other passionate people working every day to fix the Chesapeake’s problems.

Those individuals are vital to the health of our environment. But even if your job isn’t in conservation, you can make a difference without making a major life change. Among the best ways to help change our watershedwide attitude is by modeling stewardship. Sharing your experiences, best practices, green habits and knowledge with your network is often the best way to help shape a more Bay-conscious mind-set.

Attending a talk on wetland preservation or a legislative meeting to lobby for greener laws will boost your knowledge and offer plenty of information to share. Do you compost? Keep your compost container out in plain view for guests to see. Curious visitors might ask about it, and you’ll have an instant audience to learn how and why you’re taking the time to compost cooking scraps.

As an informal Chesapeake ambassador, you may be a source for friends and family to turn to for all sorts of Earth-friendly ideas such as getting their own compost started, where to buy a rain barrel, or what odd objects can be repurposed or recycled.

Picture this: At a summer dinner party, a friend comments on your tasty homegrown tomatoes. You tell them that your garden is organic, and you’ve taken to leaving grass clippings on the lawn, too. Another guest asks about your new flower bed out front — a practical rain garden — and you get the opportunity to explain how much stormwater runoff it saves each time it rains. Later, conversation veers towards energy, and you use the opening to explain how your household has switched to wind energy and your monthly bills remain much the same.

Stay up-to-date on current Bay issues and findings to enrich your conservation conversations and help others understand the issues and how their actions matter. Most conservation groups have expanded into social media, distribute e-newsletters and host special events; so you can form loose associations with these green organizations to stay up-to-date.

By sharing your stewardship values and green living with your friends and family, you can help change the collective watershedwide perspective and use what you’re already doing — toting reusable bags, being careful about trashing toxics, recycling — as a jump-start for conversation.

Many argue that this kind of stewardship, in which everyone takes their local rivers and the bay into consideration for their personal and business decisions, is what is needed most to improve the health of the Chesapeake.

Take your influence to a new level by engaging online. Repost articles about summer water quality on Facebook, Tweet about a local stream cleanup, or Pin ideas to reuse disposable items on Pintrest. You could also find ideas and tips by searching local green groups’ Facebook pages, or searching hashtags such as #recycle or #Chesapeake on Twitter. Many of the best ideas come from chatting with people — in environmental groups or meet-ups such as Green Drinks.

In addition to setting a stewardship example for the adults in your network, you’ll teach your kids — or young relatives or neighbors — how to live with less impact on the ecosystem.

Consider yourself a model of stewardship and set an example for your community. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to demonstrate Bay-friendly living and decision-making.

Carrie Madren writes about environmental issues, Chesapeake life and sustainable living. She lives in Olney, Maryland. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

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