When autumn leaves start to fall

colorful leaf on a lawnRight about now your yard is likely filling up with leaves. But instead of raking, blowing, and bagging them, you can put these leaves to good use and help protect the environment: just mulch them with your lawn mower. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water and protects waterways from runoff pollution.

Some tips:

  • Mulch when leaves are dry or only slightly wet.
  • Set the mower blade to its highest setting.
  • Remove the bag that collects clippings.
  • With heavy leaf cover, you may need to make more than one pass. Make the second pass at right angles, perpendicular to the first.
  • Reduce leaf clutter to dime-size pieces.
  • You’re done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through mulched leaf layer.
    • If you’re done and can’t see any grass whatsoever, reattach the bag and go over the grass one last time to pick up some of the leaves. Place bagged leaves in your garden beds or compost pile.
  • Consider mulching on a weekly basis during the height of the season to prevent a challenging amount of leaves from accumulating.

You can mulch leaves with any type of lawn mower. If you prefer a mulching blade, they can be purchased at most hardware and home improvement stores.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can bring your leaves to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer residents opportunities to obtain mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services. Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city has this service (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers; contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

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Cities Map, Manage and Maintain Urban Trees

Fall trees with crosswalk signalAs financially constrained cities struggle to grow and manage their urban tree canopy, dedicated nonprofits, institutions and volunteers have joined forces to help U.S. cities map and maintain their street trees. These organizations often champion urban forestry mapping projects, helping municipalities select diversified species of trees and identify new planting needs. In turn, many open-source mapping services have emerged, providing a low- to no-cost platform for mapping street trees and quantifying the significant ecological services they provide.

An accurate inventory helps cities manage their trees and prioritize maintenance needs. Successful endeavors to map street trees are underway in cities across the country. New York City’s TreesCount!, an effort to map every tree in the city, counted and collected data for 650,000 trees with the help of more than 2,000 volunteers. In San Francisco, a collaboration between the city and a local nonprofit led to the launch of Urban Forest Map, an effort to count street trees and assess their canopy with an eco-benefit tool, providing a one-stop shop for tree data. In the nation’s capital, Casey Trees aims to preserve Washington D.C.’s street trees through mapping, field work and aerial imagery. Many of these mapping initiatives are large-scale, citizen science projects that rely on community members to contribute tree data using apps on their mobile devices.

Tree mapping data is used to estimate the environmental and economic benefits street trees provide. Mapping software tools like OpenTreeMap quantify services in terms of dollars in a user-friendly format. Improved air quality through carbon sequestration, improved water quality through natural stormwater management, and heat island reduction are a few ecosystem services trees provide. In addition to these services, well-maintained street trees boost local economies by increasing property values and creating safe, vibrant public spaces. Tree maps can be used as environmental education tools and to help build communities around urban forests. Investing in tree inventory data is a great way for cities to adapt to changing climates and improve many public health issues.

Here in Kansas City, where tree cover is around 18 percent, mapping has not been completed for individual trees. However, the iTree Eco Model, used to advance understanding of forest resources, assessed economic value the region’s trees provide. The total value of ecosystem services trees provide is a staggering $93.4 billion in the Greater Kansas City region.  Data from iTree can help the metro area better care for our thriving urban forest and maintain it for the future. Results from the study can be found in MARC’s Tree Data Summary.

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Birds Love Native Trees

Illustration: birds flying around tree with fall colorsNative trees — species that are native to a particular geographic area — help protect water quality through their deep, well-adapted root systems that naturally increase the ability of soil to absorb, treat and retain water. These trees are also essential for supporting our region’s diverse bird populations. Native trees produce more insect prey for birds than non-natives ― and 96 percent  of birds raise their young on insects. They are crucial to preserving habitats, and can support 35 times more insect-eating birds than non-natives. Ever-increasing population density in cities makes it more important to consider the impacts of the built environment on wildlife habitats. To promote avian biodiversity, urban areas must be suitable for both humans and wildlife.


Bird-Loving Trees:

The following native trees attract both birds and beneficial insects in our region. Images and information used with permission from the GrowNative! program.

Downy Hawthorn, Crataegus mollis
Roughleaf Dogwood, Cornus asperifolia
Wild Plum - Prunus Americana
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum
Shingle Oak Quercus imbricaria

Because local insects did not evolve with non-native trees and plants, many lack the ability to overcome a non-native tree’s natural defenses and must feed elsewhere. Caterpillars, a fundamental food source for breeding birds, are one of the most specialized groups — over 90 percent of butterfly and moth larvae feed exclusively on certain plants. Currently, more than 80 percent of suburban areas are landscaped with Asian flora, leaving a food-barren environment for birds looking to find nourishment. When non-native trees replace native species, entire food webs can be disturbed by loss of adapted insects, wiping out sustenance for birds.

A study conducted through Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program found birds are more likely to build nests in yards dominated by native trees, and will fly farther to find grub if nest locations are not ideal. Although humans may find non-natives exotic and alluring choices for their landscapes, such choices can decrease birds’ survival and fitness, as many lack nutrient-dense seeds and fruit and may lure birds toward predators. Research by ecologist Amanda Rodewald found that chickadees nesting in invasive honeysuckle reared 20 percent fewer young due to increased predation during the breeding season. Non-native trees can be destructive to bird populations by disrupting natural selection.

Help protect habitats that allow birds to flourish by landscaping your yard with native trees. Birds, insects and many other species will thank you!

Visit the MARC Water Quality native plants page for more about native trees, including some that display fall color. »

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KC escapes sunny, hot weekend without an Ozone Alert

This weekend — despite the heat and sunlight — we didn’t exceed the ozone standard. Today we have a guest post from our meteorology consulting team at Weather or Not, who provide the SkyCast during the ozone season, to explain why.

Sunshine, heat and southerly winds are typical triggers for high concentrations of ground level ozone. So why is it that Kansas Citians basked in the sunshine, felt the heat and southerly winds but didn’t see an Ozone Alert this weekend (June 11 and 12)?

Factors such as cloud cover, lower traffic on the weekends, rain potential and upwind pollution all played their part.

Cloud cover played a pivotal role in limiting local production of ozone. Sun is a key ingredient in the formation ozone, so when puffy cumulus clouds begin to build, ozone production either stalls or decreases. The hour of each day that the puffy cumulus clouds were building was the exact same hour that ozone monitors peaked. Since the EPA ozone standard is based on a running eight-hour average, the “fair weather” clouds helped to keep ozone levels from climbing too high.

Sunday’s scattered showers and thunderstorms also helped decrease ozone values. Thickly clouded, rainy afternoons are an environment that can stunt ozone production and keep levels within clean air limits.

Weekend traffic helped. Fewer cars on the road helped to minimize local ozone production Saturday and Sunday. During the weekdays, we have two peak travel periods (morning and evening) that can increase dirty air. On the weekend we don’t have rush hour traffic, which limits pollution levels that could lead to increased ozone production.

We got a little help from our friends. Our upwind pollution potential for the weekend originated from Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Their ozone levels stayed at high green to low yellow values (Air Quality Index (AQI) values in the upper 40s to low 50s). Often when their levels are high for a few days, southerly winds will transport those high ozone concentrations into the Kansas City area. That didn’t happen this weekend.

While close monitoring of the Ozone Alert potential was necessary this weekend, Mother Nature did her part to keep ozone in check in Kansas City.

And you helped, too, if you limited driving and other emission-producing activities.

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On the road again? Don’t forget to recycle.

You may be a master recycler at home, but what about when you’re on the road? Summer vacations are just around the corner. Wherever your travels might take you, be sure to reduce, reuse and recycle along the way.  Here are some helpful tips:

Pack it in, recycle it out Many national parks offer recycling. So whether your camping or just driving the park loop, please help keep our national parks clean and green. Photo Caption: Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National park

  • Check ahead — Planning for recycling on your road trip is just as important as remembering to pack your tooth brush and phone charger. Contact the places you’ll be staying (campground, motel, resort, etc.) to find out what recycling services they offer. Once you arrive, lodging staff should be able to direct you to a recycling location on- or off-site. Another great resource is iRecycle, an app developed by Earth911 to provide recycling information and locations for the USA, and parts of Mexico and Canada. Both EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com and the Green Hotel Association can help you find lodging that offers recycling.
  • Contain it — You’ll need a way to contain your recyclables and trash while you’re on the road. Bring a container (bag, bin, etc.) for each. If you’re staying someplace that doesn’t offer recycling, bring your own container to hold recyclables until you reach someplace that does.
  • Let it rot — If you compost at home, you can compost on the road, too. Take an airtight plastic container or two to store your compostables until you get back home.
  • Reduce packaging — Space is always at a premium when you’re on the road, so choose items with little or no packaging. Avoid items that are individually wrapped. If you end up with candy wrappers or chip bags, check with TerraCycle, a company that prides itself in recycling everything.
  • Leave only small “food prints” — Eating out on the road is expensive both in terms of your pocket book and energy and resources. Pre-purchase snacks, drinks and food, keep perishables in a cooler, and visit a local grocery store when you run low.
  • Go for unique souvenirs — Consider buying goods by local artists to support the local economy and buy fair trade items when available. If you’re buying gifts for others, use your old road map or a brochure as gift wrap.
  • Pack your reusable bags — Always pack a few reusable bags for souvenirs and those on-the-road grocery stops.
  • Just say no to “Would you like a box for that?” — Remember to take plastic food storage containers for your restaurant leftovers. They’re easier to pack in a cooler than flimsy takeout containers, and they keep food fresh longer.
  • Reduce, reuse, rehydrate — Take reusable mugs and bottles for all your road trip drinks.

For information on where you can take your recyclables once you get home, visit RecycleSpot.org, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

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Spring Into Recycling

Gardener looking at base of plastic plant pot for recycling symbolSpring has sprung, which probably means you’re itching to get outdoors to clean and landscape your yard. This year, make it extra clean and green by recycling.

Mulch it over

Instead of bagging your grass clippings and leaves, mulch them instead. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water, and protects waterways from stormwater-runoff pollution.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can take your lawn and garden waste to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services.

Get composting Spring is a great time to install a compost bin in your backyard. In addition to making a great natural fertilizer, composting is a great way to reduce the 20-30 percent of your household trash that is made up of food waste and lawn and garden waste.

Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers — contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

They lurk in your garage

Dangerous lawn and garden chemicals put the health and safety of your family and the environment at risk. Safely dispose of hazardous chemicals through a household hazardous waste program. These programs also take paint, automotive fluids, cleaners, bug sprays, batteries, fluorescent light tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs and other household products labeled danger, warning, or caution.

Pots and trays and bags, oh my!

When you’re done landscaping, recycle your plastic planting pots, trays and landscaping product bags (packaging for mulch, topsoil and other soil amendments). After a quick rinse, pots and trays can be recycled in your curbside bin or be taken to area recycling centers. After a thorough rinse (i.e., they’re 100-percent clean and dry) landscaping product bags can be recycled with plastic bags at your local grocery or “big box” store.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

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Grant calls for Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) now open

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks, recently announced that grant rounds for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) are now open.  LWCF grants are available to cities, counties and school districts to be used for outdoor recreation projects.  RTP grants fund trail-related projects and are available to local and state governments, school districts, for-profit and non-profit organizations, and businesses.  The deadline to submit applications for both programs is April 22, 2016. For more information about either of these programs, to download the grant applications, and to register for a grant application workshop, visit https://mostateparks.com/page/55065/outdoor-recreation-grants.

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Congratulations to our 2016 SWMD grantees!

Photos of past grantee projects, and/or district grant priority target materials. From top to bottom: Man deconstructing a mattress, receptacles for recycling and trash, used books, woman collecting food waste, bicycles.One of the most important things the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) does is provide financial support to organizations in our region for projects that reduce the amount of material we send to landfills. The district receives funding every year from the fees collected from the state’s landfills and transfer stations. Half of that amount is used to fund local waste reduction, reuse and recycling projects through a grant program. So far this year, we have awarded more than $515,000 to eight grantees. Another $70,000 in grant funding is in the final stages of being awarded.

The 2016 grant projects so far include:

  • Access Records Management: $50,000 to provide recycling services to businesses.
  • Avenue of Life: $51,140 to support the third year of a regional mattress recycling program.
  • Bridging The Gap: $80,000 to provide one-on-one consultations and assistance to businesses interested in starting new or expanding existing recycling and composting programs.
  • Dr. Joseph Martinich: $12,984 to produce a study on the economics of recycling for the Kansas City region.
  • Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences: $9,000 to improve the campus recycling program.
  • MRC Recycling: $5,000 for a baler to manage plastic material.
  • Missouri Organic: $206,233 to support infrastructure development for the placement of a food depackaging system (equipment that separates food items from their packaging material, including plastic and cans).
  • Project Central: $101,143 to support the second year of consultations for school composting and/or recycling programs.

We are very proud of our 2016 group of grant recipients and excited about their projects. The district could not accomplish its waste diversion goals without our grantees! Visit the Solid Waste Management District’s website to learn more about the grant program.

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MARC Solid Waste Management District awards luncheon recognizes regional leaders

Photo of people that accepted the MARC Solid Waste Management District's Special Recognition awards. From left, 2015 awardees Gabriella Sanders, JR Pesek, Alan Waterman and Marie Steiner.The MARC Solid Waste Management District held its 2015 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Friday, Dec. 11, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Elizabeth Cline, the author of “OVERDRESSED: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” spoke about the lack of sustainability in the fast-fashion industry. The district also recognized several individuals and organizations that have made notable contributions to regional waste management and recycling efforts. See photos from the event on Flickr » The 2015 Special Recognition Award recipients include:

Individual Supporter — JR Pesek, Town and Country Disposal
The Individual Supporter award recognizes an individual who has made exceptional contributions and commitment to the district’s waste reduction and recycling efforts.
Public Employee — Jim Eldridge, Kearney, Missouri
The Public Employee award recognizes a public employee who has shown dedication to the development and advancement of waste reduction and recycling through individual achievement and commitment. Alderwoman Marie Steiner accepted the award on behalf of Jim Eldridge.
Outstanding Program — 909 Walnut
The Outstanding Program award recognizes an innovative or outstanding waste reduction or recycling program. Alan Waterman, general manager for 909 Walnut, accepted this award.
Every Little Bit Counts — Gabriella Sanders, The Greener Life Market
The “Every Little Bit Counts” award recognizes that small actions are meaningful.
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New initiative calls for public input on watershed planning

Graphic for Lower-Missouri Crooked Watershed blog posts. Contains "Our Missouri   Waters" initiative logo, Missouri Department of Natural Resources logo, and partner   regional planning commission logos for Mid-America Regional Council, Green Hills   Regional Planning Commission and Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission.This post is the first in a series about the Lower-Missouri Crooked River Watershed planning process.

Missouri has abundant and diverse water resources rivaled by few other states in the nation. The quality of life for each Missourian is closely tied to the health of our waterways and other natural resources. Ensuring that today’s residents and future generations can enjoy Missouri’s waters is an important part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ (MDNR) mission. As it works to create a rich legacy for the state’s waters, MDNR recognizes that the agency can’t do this important work alone. MDNR’s “Our Missouri Waters” effort brings together an engaged local citizenry and good science to improve and maintain healthy waterways.

Rather than focusing on regulation, the Our Missouri Waters initiative seeks to share information and build relationships and understandings necessary to maintain healthy watersheds. Residents of area counties are invited to participate in a watershed planning process for the Lower Missouri – Crooked River Watershed. This planning effort is led by the three regional planning commissions located within the watershed — the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Green Hills Regional Planning Commission (GHRPC), and Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission (PTRPC).

Local Advisory Committees will meet in each of the three regional planning commission areas, and we invite you to participate. (See the meeting schedule below.) Each committee will work with local stakeholders and a team of professionals to identify issues, explore possible solutions, and help develop criteria to guide the planning effort. Work will focus on local areas and the watershed as a whole through June 30, 2016, resulting in a healthy watershed plan. Those interested are asked to complete a survey on watershed issues, and review a PDF of background information on the existing conditions of the watershed.

Meeting Times and Locations

  • Dec. 10, 2015, 10 a.m.–noon, Carrollton Library, Basement Meeting Room, 1 N Folger St., Carrollton, MO 64633: Green Hills Regional Planning Commission for Caldwell and Caroll counties.
  • Dec. 16, 2015, 46 p.m., MARC conference center, 600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64105: Mid-America Regional Council for Cass, Jackson, Johnson (KS), Ray and Wyandotte (KS) counties.
  • Dec. 17, 2015, 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Lexington City Hall, 919 Franklin, Lexington, MO 64067: Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission for Johnson, Lafayette and Saline counties.

Map of Lower Missouri - Crooked River Watershed with area of detail

Your participation is important to the project. We encourage you to be engaged in the entire planning process and help create a healthy watershed plan that meets the needs of your community and the future of the watershed for generations to come.

Contact Information

Alecia Kates, Water Quality Planner, Mid-America Regional Council
816-701-8233 • www.marc.org
600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64105

Randy Railsback, Executive Director, Green Hills Regional Planning Commission
660-359-5636 X11 •  www.ghrpc.org
1104 Main Street, Trenton, MO 64683

Ruth Anne Parrott, Environmental Planner, Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission
660-463-7934 • www.trailsrpc.org
PO Box 123, 802 S. Gordon, Room 102, Concordia, MO 64020

Our Missouri Waters initiative web page, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

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