The High Line in NYC: The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan's West Side. Photo by: Shutterstock
Guest blog by Dee Dee Clark
Is it possible that our urban open spaces will become just as important as our national forests in supporting wildlife? It’s a concept that seems implausible especially here in Western NC where we are seldom more than an hour’s drive from numerous national parks and “wild” spaces. The land mass of the United States is so vast that, admittedly, our perception has been that no matter how many plots we subdivide, farmland we cultivate, or roads we pave, there will always be endless acres of undisturbed natural habitat for animals and insects to flourish. But is that still true today? If I asked you how much land you thought we humans have taken for our own use in the United States—what would your guess be?
Are We Running Out of Room for Nature?
As of 2011, we had converted over 468 million acres to managed urban and suburban landscapes or cropland (USDA). That’s close to 7 times the area of Colorado. From 1982 to 1997, the greatest percentage of increases (2.6 million hectares or 58%) in developed areas were here in the Southeastern region of the U.S. (White, E. M.). Throughout these residential, urban, and suburban areas, we have decimated the native plant diversity that historically supported our cherished wildlife friends. Photo Source: Meritpath.com
Our Love Affair with Grass
Adding to this destruction is our love affair with pristine and manicured lawns. It’s estimated that over 32 million acres of land in the U.S. has been converted to European and Asian turf grasses that are essentially useless to most of our native insects and wildlife (Tallamy D. W.). However, many birds, bugs, and butterflies could live sustainably with us if we chose to design both our public and private living spaces with diverse and native plant species.
Less Mowing, More Pollinators
Asheville Greenworks is making this city friendlier to bugs and birds by developing a template for turning low-use municipal park areas into native pollinator meadows like this bee and butterfly garden in Portland, Maine.
If you visit Lake Julian, you will see Greenworks’ Pollinator Meadow testing site along Fisherman’s Trail.
In May, GreenWorks coordinated with geocaching expert Graeme McGufficke, Buncombe County staff, and about 30 volunteers to lay plastic, cardboard, and mulch at the testing site.
Next spring, we are hoping you will see this area filled with a growing array of milkweed, tickseed, sunflower, wild bergamot, aster, goldenrod and other hardy perennial wildflowers.
What's Wrong with Grass?
Although Greenworks is currently determining the most cost-efficient and effective ways to kill turf grass and install perennial wildflowers native to this area, this isn’t a war on grass. We can appreciate the benefits of grass for dog parks or as a perfect picnic setting. In fact, evolutionary psychologists even theorize that humans have evolved to be attracted to large open grassy plots because our ancestors wanted to be able to see potentially dangerous animals coming their way.
However, grass has some major drawbacks too. Lawns must be mowed regularly. About forty million lawnmowers consume 200 million gallons of gasoline per year and one gas-powered lawnmower emits 11 times the air pollution of a new car. Another downside of grass?... I have discovered that my lawn is a breeding ground for the Japanese beetles that have been turning the leaves on my bean stalks into something that resembles lace doilies.
This summer, I have been working as a Fellow of UNC Asheville’s McCullough Institute in partnership with Asheville Greenworks to document various methods of grass removal and to research which native perennials are both easy to grow from seed and will survive in a sunny meadow with minimal maintenance. The McCullough Institute for Conservation, Land Use and Environmental Resiliency aims to be a nation model for blending environmental study with business and sustainable economic growth in urban and rural landscapes.
USDA ERS - Major Land Uses
White, E.M., et al., Past and projected rural land conversion in the US at state, regional, and national levels. Landscape Urban Plann (2008), doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2008.09.004
Tallamy, Douglas W. Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. Timber Press, 2007.
It’s hard to believe but I am halfway through my internship with Asheville GreenWorks. The past four weeks have provided me with so many opportunities to learn, grow, and step out of my comfort zone. “Get dirty for a great cause” could not be a more perfect way to describe my experiences with GreenWorks so far and I have loved every minute of it. From water quality testing with macroinvertebrates, vermicomposting with worms, and river cleanups along the French Broad, every day that I come home with a little bit of mud is a day well spent.
On my second week working with Asheville GreenWorks I accompanied Eric Bradford, Director of Operations, on a river cleanup with a visiting group from South Carolina. I had never done anything like it before so the idea of hopping out on the French Broad in a kayak was a little daunting at first. As soon as we hit the water I knew it was going to be a great day. Eric made sure everyone involved in the cleanup had the supplies needed for safe and successful participation. I had expected to collect plastic water bottles and maybe a tire or two after hearing about how many tires are found in the French Broad with each cleanup. As we made our way down the river I filled my bag with plenty of bottles, aerosol cans, and a surprising amount of styrofoam, which was particularly alarming to me since styrofoam can not be recycled. Not too long into our journey I passed a girl who was wading in the water waiting for assistance to remove what was left of a wheelchair from the mud below the surface. Two more foldable chairs were collected, along with old soccer balls and, of course, several tires.
I have lived in Asheville my whole life, and I never would have imagined how much junk ends up in our waterways. The French Broad River is utilized by so many people and it was shocking to see the things dumped in the water. It seems like GreenWorks holds cleanups all the time, but even with the frequency of these events, litter still finds its way into the river. The beautiful thing is, the more community members that come out to join Asheville GreenWorks for a cleanup, the safer, more beautiful, and more green our environment and the place we call home becomes.
Becca Cohen - Z.Smith Reynolds Intern / Asheville GreenWorks
Asheville - Four months ago when I was sitting at my desk searching an endless pool of internship opportunities in the nonprofit field, I never expected to find an organization that seemed to match my professional interests so perfectly.
I grew up in Asheville, and after studying Elementary Education and Nonprofit Studies at NC State in Raleigh for the past three years, the idea of returning to the mountains for the summer was more than enticing. When applying for internships through the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation brought to light the opportunity to work with Asheville GreenWorks I knew I had to be a part of this organization. I was positive that I would gain great experience toward my professional goals if I could intern with GreenWorks over the summer.
I have been working for about a week now and I can already tell that my high expectations for the experiences I would have with Asheville GreenWorks were not high enough. As I become more familiar with the seemingly endless list of programs offered, I am continuously amazed that GreenWorks is able to provide so many terrific services to our community. It is evident that the experience each intern receives means a lot to the staff, and they truly strive to provide interns with the support and resources they need to succeed in what they are most interested in.
When I applied to intern with Asheville GreenWorks I thought I would be working with an environmental education nonprofit. Now I realize that this organization goes above and beyond my initial impression and I can not wait to be a part of GreenWorks this summer!
Becca Cohen - Z.Smith Reynolds Intern / Asheville GreenWorks
Saturday June 17th - the Hard 2 Recycle event returns to Weaverville. Our partners will be accepting: styrofoam, toner carts, books, scrap metals, electronics, appliances, batteries of any kind and spent cooking oil.
The Asheville Humane Society will be there to receive donations of pet food, cleaning supplies and items for the office supplies. The Asheville area Habitat for Humanity is accepting working appliances, clean furniture and building supplies for their ReStore.
Arvato Digital Services Parking Lot
108 Monticello Road, Weaverville NC 28787
10am to 2pm
Download the event flyer here:
Support the French Broad River with your 2017 member sticker, all proceeds benefit a clean and healthy river. Show your river pride by placing this custom sticker on your boat, car or water bottle.
Running 40+ river cleanups each summer, our boats and tools take a beating. Your support will keep our gear ready for the next volunteer group. Purchase your sticker online or at one of the below locations.
Purchase your 2017 sticker online
Purchase a sticker at one of these locations
Even though the event was supposed to run until 2:00pm, we had to close down at 1:15pm because our partners trucks were filled beyond capacity.
Collecting recyclables in record-breaking heat
Other partners for Hard 2 Recycle participated at this record-breaking event, including Blue Ridge Biofuels, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and the Asheville Humane Society. The event also relied heavily on the more than forty volunteers who worked hard emptying cars, carrying 100lb televisions and directing traffic as temperatures reached 84 degrees in the parking lot.
Local green mover Open Box Moving Solutions (pictured here) couldn’t collect Styrofoam quickly enough. Every time a moving truck was filled, another massive pile of Styrofoam appeared.
"We usually collect two trucks’ of Styrofoam at a Hard 2 Recycle event. -Micah Chambers Owner Open Box Moving Solutions. I had my guys driving the trucks back to our warehouse in Leicester to unload and come back. We ended up moving five trucks worth of Styrofoam and filling up our warehouse."
While the amount of material people recycle and divert from the landfill is impressive, even more amazing is that our partners and volunteers are providing this important service for FREE. In fact, our partners often lose money, donating their time and costs to the effort.
Help us grow these events
With this quantum leap in attendance, our partners have begun the process of changing the event. We're looking at adding on additional sponsors, alternative locations and traffic calming practices. The only cost to the public for these collections is the $10 TV recycling fee. Local recycler Biltmore Iron & Metal Company takes a loss on each TV to provide a service to the community.
At Hard 2 Recycle events, we request donations to help support our efforts and continue offering this service to the public, free-of-charge. As the event gains popularity and the demand for the opportunity to dispose of “hard to recycle” items responsibly increases, GreenWorks needs your support to continue offering this event for free to the public and to be able to accept all the materials that are brought to an event. Please consider making a donation to GreenWorks today.
Saturday April 29th join us for Asheville GreenWorks Downtown recycling collection. Founded in 2011, these Hard 2 Recycle event seeks to give residents an alternative to the Landfill.
Event sponsors will be accepting: styrofoam, toner carts, books, scrap metals, electronics, appliances, batteries of any kind and spent cooking oil.
The Asheville Humane Society will be there to receive donations of pet food, cleaning supplies and items for the office supplies.
Give your children's and young adult books a new owner with the Snake, Rabbit and Snail Bookmobile. Our friends Asheville area Habitat for Humanity will be there accepting working appliances, clean furniture and building supplies for the ReStore.
Public Works Parking Lot
161 S Charlotte Street, Asheville NC 28801
10am to 2pm
Download the event flyer here:
Have a recycling / reuse question? email: [email protected]
Purging my life of wasteful materials was not a pretty process. Through trial and error, I learned that buying shampoo in bulk was better than trying to make shampoo out of apple cider vinegar, resulting in a residual stench that haunted my pillows and hair-ties for weeks. By choosing to not put produce in a plastic bag at Harris Teeter I received a fair amount of strange looks, and even the occasional “you better wash this before you eat it” speil. Or perhaps the time I nearly ruined a load of laundry from incorrectly making my own detergent. The vigorous effort I have put into having a waste-free lifestyle has helped me be more aware and controlled with what I do that could have any sort of negative impact on the environment. I want to continue moving my energy for this topic forward in a direction that helps people learn and get involved in a reduced waste lifestyle. The adjustments that I have made to my lifestyle are small, but are just the beginning steps in a lifelong process.
Lillian Lovingood is the Clean Communities Coordinator and AmeriCorps Project Conserve member at Asheville GreenWorks. For questions or comments feel free to email her at [email protected]
Saturday January 14th kick off 2017 with a much needed after-the-Holidays recycling collection. Our sponsors will be accepting styrofoam, toner carts, books, electronics, appliances, batteries, spent cooking oil and MORE to be recycled. Asheville Humane Society will be there to receive donations of pet supplies. Rehome your old children's and young adult books with the Snake, Rabbit and Snail Bookmobile. We're also accepting working appliances, clean furniture and building supplies for the Asheville area Habitat for Humanity.
(Arron's Rent to Own parking lot)
1298 Patton Ave, Asheville NC 28806
10am to 2pm
Please take note that due to rising recycling costs of electronics we increased the recycling fee for CRT & tube televisions from $6.00 to $10.00. There's a lot of Lead in those old tubes and it's hazardous for our sponsors to work recycle.
Download the event flyer here:
WE'RE NOT ABLE TO ACCEPT THE
Paint, stains, sealers, CFL / Fluorescent / incandescent bulbs; chip & snack bags; CDs / DVDs, petroleum products; hard plastics; vinyl / PVC / VHS / cassette tapes; plate glass, foam; wooden or cement items.
For more information or questions about recycling, call 828-254-1776