Thursday, March 2, 2017

Prospect Park Work Day

     Today for work, our department did a service day, and I was able to spend my day cleaning up the Prospect Park Lakeside. I am not unfamiliar with the debris issue in Prospect Park. From fishing line to discarded straws and bags, it's all there and more.
     Before work I birded my way to the zoo, where I began my work day. It only seemed appropriate to check out the birds who call the lake and its shorelines home, who we would hopefully be helping by cleaning up their home a little bit...
American Coots were everywhere we ended up. As our leader Mary Beth pointed out, they were appreciative of the soil and sediment we disrupted and took the opportunity to forage through to see if we turned anything up.
It also felt like the trio of American Wigeonss were everywhere we were too, possibly taking the same opportunity as the coots. I enjoy these guys, mostly because their call is not a quack, but more like a rubber duckie squeak-- which I did retrieve a rubber duckie from the lake today, along with a skateboard, toy truck, and a myriad of liquor bottles.


The snow geese duo are getting rather accustomed to humans. Me thinks they have been taking bread handouts- which are super unhealthy for wildlife. We also noticed we found a lot of bread bags-- so people feed them and then leave their bags behind which is also ridiculous.



Little songbirds like this white throated sparrow foarge among the shorelines- which are littered in plastics, metal cans, and fishing line- so dangerous to so many creatures.


I took this picture with Mary Beth in mind- this goose not only has "eyebrows" but also a smokey eye look with that white under its eyes. Mary Beth has a group she started called W.I.L.D. for Prospect Park- it is a group for park stewards to help keep the park clean and safe for wildlife AND humans.
I credit these shots to Mary Beth, this is from the Vanderbilt side of Prospect Lake, near the little gazebo. I piled out of the lake plastic bags and film, enough to fill a garbage bag.
Much of the plastic was snagged through roots and sediment, it was impossible to get it all without falling in. I was amazed at how much I pulled out of an area, without taking a single step to the side to pick up more. It was really disgusting and rather eye-opening.
So, with my experience today, I pledge to further reduce my use of single use plastics. I already use 98% of the time reusable bags/back packs/my bike bag - I have even been so desperate to avoid bags, I have shoved groceries in my purse. I have also began to use reusable zip bags, hoping to reduce my purchase of single-use zipper bags.

I am purchasing tonight some more things to further reduce my consumption- I am purchasing a spork to keep at work and reusable straws to keep in my bag for use at restaurants, movies, or the bar. I want to share some of my favorite products I use (or plan to use) that help reduce my dependence on single use plastics:
  • Water bottles: I get these ALL THE TIME as give aways, at this point I don't purchase water bottles, I use the ones I get as a prize from my cycling/running events. But here is one I know folks really love: Hydroflask (I also recommend investing in a bottle brush to properly keep your bottle clean and skank-smell free)
  • Bags: I really love the ones I got from a supermarket back home because they are HUGE and have critters on them and I can carry them over the shoulder. You can basically get reuseable bags also as give-aways at fairs and events. But for one to keep discretely in your pocket or bag (theres no need to be embarrassed about saving the Earth...), I LOVE Chicobags, they fold up into themselves and have a little clip to attach to a keychain so you don't forget it!
  • Plastic Baggies: I have recently invested in Blue Avocado reusable zipper bags. So far they work really well, they zip quite securely, clean well, and come in different sizes-- and they work for the freezer too!
  • Mugs: I get really pissed off that my local coffee shops near work, Dunkin Donuts included, charge the same amount when you hand them your reusable mug to fill. So I now make my own coffee at work and use the best travel mug I have ever had, the Bodum Stainless steel french press travel mug. 1. It brews a great cup of coffee, like a regular french press. 2. It keeps my coffee HOT- I left it in the car at work while I taught for 2 hours, came out (in the winter time!) and my coffee was still satisfyingly warm. 3. Easy wash and you can reuse! I love it and keep it at work and it was the best $24 dollars I spent for myself.
  • Office Utensils: I was trying at work to use a plastic fork for as long as I could. I used it and washed it for 2 months, then I broke it. So I am investing in a spork system-- it has a spoon, fork, and a knife edge on the fork to cut with. I look forward to attaining this tool. Also looks like a great addition to a camping pack!
  • Straws: Technically, you never need a straw. But if you like straws, why not carry a stainless steel one with you - many sets also come with a bonus cleaning rod, so you don't have a funky straw.

     So, you have collected a ton of plastic bags from the grocery- how in the world do you ever get rid of them- well here in NY, you can do plastic bag and plastic film recycling at your local grocery store, target, etc-- anywhere that gives out lots of plastic bags. If your store does not offer this, you can let NY DEC know, as they are required to provide this service.
     We do this in our home, along with collecting food scraps and regular recycling-- the result? We toss out one 13gallon bag of garbage about once every two weeks (this does not include animal waste-- we have pets). We are not perfect, for sure, but we have felt like small shifts in our lifestyle- a little at a time are do able and after a while, it becomes routine. I challenge you to take a small step too- share what you do in the comments or a pledge you will make to reduce your consumption of single-use plastics!