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There have always been pockets of people pushing our government and anyone who would listen to help preserve the planet. With global climate changes in recent years and an increase in natural disasters, this body of Earth enthusiasts is growing. Gallup’s 2007 survey on environmental issues shows 70% to 80% of Americans have a “great deal or a fair amount of worry” about where our planet is headed.
“With casualties happening such as Katrina, I think it has raised the conscious level of Americans and made us start looking at the environment and what we can do to make it better,” says Dennis Lee, director of Project NEAT, a concept that focuses on storm-water management issues throughout Philadelphia. “All of us have a role in this and each one of us can contribute,” he says.
Project NEAT, developed through the American Cities Foundation (www.amcities.org), a national organization that promotes the urban revitalization of U.S. cities, provided information to 11,000 households in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia through a recent pilot recycling program. And with its popular tree-planting initiative, the organization has given roots to more than 726 trees throughout parts of North, Southwest, and West Philadelphia.
“Because Project NEAT speaks to storm-water management issues, we are involved in anything that is going to absorb water, so that’s one of the reasons we plant trees,” Lee says. “A normal tree, after it’s fully grown, can absorb about 2,380 gallons of water.” Lee adds that when tree plantings are announced in the city, entire communities come out to lend a hand. Anywhere from 50 to 80 residents volunteer at each planting, and many of the worker bees are local high school students and their parents.
The green movement is certainly big enough for everyone to make a contribution. So, if you are ready to solicit neighbors and friends to join the effort, here are five steps to get you started:
1. Join or organize a group. Gather a few neighbors or rally an entire block to come up with and then commit to earth-friendly ideas. Your community may already have an environmental stewardship program that you can join. Check with your township or borough for existing “green” programs.
2. Recycle. It starts with the plastic, glass, and aluminum cans tossed in curbside containers. But you can also recycle paper, cardboard, and even rain water. “We know we can collect about 50 gallons of water off of any rainfall, so we’re initiating a campaign where we will be installing more than 100 rain barrels in areas that we’ve worked with already,” Lee says. Rain water can be re-used to water your lawn, plants, and even wash your car. Rain barrels are available at major home improvement centers and online wholesale sites.
3. Plant trees. Planting trees removes carbon dioxide from the air and absorbs water. Many municipalities already have tree-planting programs as part of neighborhood preservation initiatives. But if space is limited, consider creating container