Tag Archives: water quality

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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Spring into river cleanups

BrushCreekFlood(7-11-10)_102Shake off the last of your cabin fever while keeping our waterways clean and healthy. Spring is here, and several clean-up dates are scheduled around the region. Pack your sunscreen and bug spray, and lend a hand to the region’s rivers and creeks. (Be sure to dress for the weather in work-appropriate clothes — long pants and sturdy shoes or boots are strongly recommended.)


River Otter Day

  • Date/Location: Saturday, March 22, 9 a.m.–noon, Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park, Kansas City, Mo., south pavilion.
  • You Bring: A willing spirit.
  • Provided: Gloves, trash bags, rakes, T-shirts and lunch.
  • Clean up along the Riverfront Heritage trail and wetlands ecosystem. For information, contact Vicki Richmond with Healthy Rivers Partnership.


Oil Creek Cleanup

  • Date/Location: March 29, 9–11 a.m., Wallace Park, Belton, Mo.
  • You Bring: A reusable water bottle.
  • Provided: Training, work gloves, trash bags, morning donuts and lunch.
  • Register with South Grand River Watershed Alliance online or call 816/331-0336
  • Park at Community Center, 16400 N. Mullen Road, Belton, Mo., and follow the signs to the registration tent in the park.


Project Blue River Rescue 24

  • Date/Location: April 5, 8 a.m.–noon, Lakeside Nature Center, Kansas City, Mo.
  • You Bring: A reusable water bottle
  • Provided: Coffee and donuts, T-shirts, tools, work gloves, trash bags and lunch.
  • Register online at lakesidenaturecenter.org or by calling 816/513-8960.
  • All ages and abilities welcome. Lakeside Nature Center is located at 4701 E. Gregory Blvd., in Swope Park.


Leavenworth/Weston Missouri River Clean up

  • Date/Location: June 7, 9 a.m.–noon, Riverfront Park, Leavenworth, Kan.
  • You Bring: A willing spirit.
  • Provided:  Boat ride, T-shirt, trash bags, gloves and a reusable water bottle.
  • Register online with Missouri River Relief or call 573/443-0292.
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Creative messaging is an inspiration

In preparation for the Water Quality Education Committee’s fall media campaign, we have been researching a variety of creative ways in which positive environmental messages can be delivered to the public. Our most recent ad campaign included billboards to deliver our message, so we’ve been particularly interested in what others are doing with billboards.

We thought we’d share some of the most innovative billboard ads from around the globe, which not only deliver a clear message, but visually communicate the message to passersby.Photo of Denver Water billboard advertisement

See more examples in this blog post from PGHEnvironmental.

Our advertising budget may not support quite this level of creativity, but we are inspired by what others are doing.

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It’s your home, make it safe: a (very) short history of the HHW program

HHW logo w.tagline (horiz)

In 1993, planners in Kansas City, Mo., began to study ways to safely collect and dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW). Two years later, on a June weekend in 1995, nearly 4,300 people waited in long lines to properly dispose of their HHW in the area’s first mobile HHW collection event. This event, hosted by the city of Kansas City and sponsored in part by the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD), demonstrated residents’ concerns about hazardous materials stored in their homes and their commitment to the safe and proper disposal of HHW.

One-third of the people who participated in that first HHW collection event in 1995 were people who lived outside the city limits of Kansas City, which highlighted the need for a regional program. The opening of the Kansas City HHW collection facility in September 1996, as part of the city’s environmental campus, offered the SWMD an opportunity to design a regional collection program. The district formally created the Regional HHW Collection Program in 1997 and offered 18 mobile collection events that year.

In the spring of 1997, the city of Lee’s Summit built the region’s second HHW facility, using funds from the district’s grant program. This facility is located at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.

Today, the Regional HHW Collection Program provides residents of participating communities with access to both of the permanent HHW facilities and several mobile collection events held in outlying communities each year. The program is funded by a per capita fee paid annually by each participating city or county. To ensure the success of the program, the district provides grant funds to help meet unanticipated disposal costs and support education and promotional efforts.

Since the program started, more than 6 million pounds of HHW have been collected and safely disposed. More than 90 percent of the HHW material collected is recycled, reused or recovered through waste-to-energy methods.

Visit RecycleSpot.org to learn more about HHW, including facility hours and locations, participating communities, this year’s mobile collection schedule, and materials accepted.


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Celebrating the value of trees

Look outside – do you see a tree or two? In Greater Kansas City, more than 249 million trees provide a wealth of services and benefits. From removing pollution and storing carbon from CO2 emissions (also known as carbon sequestration) to providing shade to lower cooling costs, each tree provides hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in benefits to our region. It would cost tens of billions of dollars to replicate the benefits that our trees and forests provide to us virtually free of charge. In addition to the eco-services they provide, trees are also a natural source of beauty and provide shelter for both people and wildlife.What do trees do for you? Online advertising art.

MARC worked with professionals and scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, Davey Resource Group and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to publish “Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values: the Greater Kansas City Region,” which takes a scientific approach toward calculating the value of our region’s trees. Some key findings show:

  • Trees remove 37,000 tons of pollution from our region’s air every year.
  • 1 million tons of carbon are stored within our trees each year through carbon sequestration.
  • The region’s 249 million trees save $14 million in energy costs annually.

Young girl holding sapling at City MarketTo draw attention to the findings of the report and help educate the community on the value of trees, MARC has given away more than 300 bur oak saplings and educational materials at area farmers markets. Bur oak trees are native to our region and can grow more than 70 feet tall and live for up to 300 years, all while cleaning our air, cooling our homes, and providing food and shelter to wildlife.
Consider planting a tree in your yard today. For information about proper tree selection and planting, check out Missouri Department of Conservation’s web resources. Visit our website for more information about the MARC’s Regional Forestry Initiative and to read the iTree report.

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Fireworks, AirQ and You


By Luke Pitts

Each year, Americans gather on July 4 to celebrate our nation’s independence and fireworks are one of the most popular ways to celebrate. Americans bought more than 185 million pounds of personal fireworks in 2012.

Beautiful and powerful as they are, fireworks do contribute to air pollution. Smoke from fireworks poses a health risk — particularly for those with asthma — and traces of accelerants and heavy metals used to create colors can stay in the air and water for weeks. You don’t have to cut out fireworks completely to reduce pollution. Watch this short video on what London researchers have learned about the health effects of fireworks and what you can do prevent your exposure.

Fewer fireworks equal less pollution. For a beautiful, healthy Independence Day, try attending a community fireworks display. Many cities and nearby attractions have planned celebrations that are open to the public. See the Kansas City Star’s Fourth of July event list here. Rather than spending money on your own display, pack a picnic and a blanket and go with friends or family to one of these events.

If you do celebrate at home, try exploring alternatives. Biodegradable confetti, glow sticks, glow jewelry and noisemakers can all be fun ways to celebrate our nation’s birthday. You can even create your own laser show and set it to music. There are numerous guides on the Internet and electronic devices that can help. Just pick a playlist and start your spectacle of lights.

Protect yourself, your family and our air quality — and have a great Fourth of July!

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You’re caring for more than your lawn

It has rained a LOT in recent weeks, and with the rain comes every homeowner’s favorite task — maintaining the lawn.

Are you prepared for the summer ahead? Do you know how your lawn care is affecting not only your patch of land, but also the air, water and wildlife surrounding it?

This video from the University of Michigan covers the basics of your lawn’s impact on our earth. Professor Steve Skerlos explains different methods of mowing and basic lawn treatments that are kinder to the air, soil and water around you.

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Spring water quality campaign: “If it’s on the ground — it’s in our water”

WQedPrintAd-blogThis month we concluded our spring water quality public education campaign — an effort to increase awareness about proper storm drain use, healthy lawn care and other water quality issues within the region.

Our message, “If it’s on the ground — it’s in our water,” was featured in regional newspapers, on news websites and social media, network TV and two outdoor billboard advertisements targeting the general public in the Kansas City region, with an emphasis on communities that participate in MARC’s regional water quality program.

The commercial that was featured on network TV is also available online. It explains water quality issues and provides tips that everyone can use to help keep our water clean. With nearly 200 ad placements across four types of media, the campaign reached more than 2 million residents across the metro from April 8 to May 5.

Did you see our message in print, online, on TV or on a billboard? What did you think? Take our survey.

WQedBillboardBlogTo stay up to date on MARC news and events, subscribe to this blog, follow @MARCKCMetro on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook. And watch for our next water quality campaign this fall!

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Wrap Up: Missouri River Charette

This is a part of a series of posts for attendees and blog visitors interested in the fall 2012 Missouri River Bed Degradation Charette.

Thanks so much to all of the stakeholders and staff that stuck with the charette all of last week. It was, at times, a tedious process, but the outcome was agreement on an abbreviated time and money-saving study. In fact, charette participants committed to a savings of one year and $1.4 million.  Here is an attempt to summarize the outcome.

The team is assuming that the Mobile Bed Model, developed by John Shelley (USACE), will not require any significant modifications upon review, and therefore, it can be used now to model alternative modifications to the Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project (BSNP) structures. USACE engineers are developing three scenarios, for modifying the BSNP to attempt to arrest or slow degradation, of which one will rise to the top. The best scenario will then be combined with other potential measures and modeled with a final array of alternatives identified July, 2013. This is the next major milestone for the study. This will be the time for a public and agency scoping meeting.

What does this mean to stakeholders? The abbreviated timeline means that, in order to provide the necessary match for a faster moving PDT, we will have to agree on an expedited fundraising schedule for the $260,000 required in FY 2013. Here are the targets that we’re looking at:

  • January, 2013 — $60,000
  • April, 2013 — $100,000
  • July, 2013 — $100,000

I do have an idea about how we can achieve this and will be in touch with each of you individually to discuss it. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.

Several of you have asked about availability of presentations from the charette, as well as some of the working documents (ie. decision log). These will be available on the web soon and I will let you know when they are.

Thanks again!

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