April is Earth month! It’s time to welcome in spring and let the abundance of life serve as a reminder that without clean air and water we would not have spring flowers, green trees and birds singing. Beyond the obvious superficial benefits, we should celebrate the ecosystem services provided by our natural systems. Acknowledge those services provided by our ecosystem that rarely have a monetary value attached to them, yet have incredible importance in our everyday lives.
• Waste treatment – Decomposers remove excess nutrients and pollutants from air, water and soil. Imagine the waste build up that would occur without fungi, bacteria and other decomposers.
• Erosion control – Colonization of vegetation holds soil in place and prevents gradual or quick destruction of landscapes.
• Nutrient cycling – Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous are cycled through ecological systems maintaining system health and providing nutrients for plant growth.
• Water regulation and supply – Vegetation in areas such as wetlands slows the flow of water allowing it to seep into the ground and create aquifers that can supply water for agriculture and residential use.
• Food and raw material – Ecosystems provide wild food items, and provide wood and minerals for building supplies.
• Climate services – Plants provide removal of carbon dioxide through photosynthesis to reduce climate change. During the process of photosynthesis, water is evaporates off leaves, causing a cooling effect in the microclimate.
• Pollination services – One third of our food supply relies on pollinators for reproduction.
• Medicinal – Fifty percent of common drugs come from plants and animals.
• Bioprospecting is the exploration of biodiversity for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical resources. What if biodiversity is lost before we can harness its valuable uses?
The list reminds us of the importance of our environment, while Earth month brings awareness to action items we can use to protect our ecosystems. Spring is also a time of surviving and preparing for a long hot summer. Here are some spring green survival tips:
• Bug spray – Insecticides are causing the decline of pollinators, including native bees, across the U.S. Use all-natural versions of bug sprays on your skin and yards. Make your own bug spray mixing together witch hazel, lavender oil, vanilla extract and water in a spray bottle.
• Cleaning spray – Home chemicals and use of phosphates in soaps (laundry detergents and dishwashing detergents) sends harmful liquids down the drain into our water supply. Green your spring cleaning by making your own cleaning liquid using white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and tea tree essential oil.
• Get an aesthetically pleasing and ecologically healthy yard with native grasses and wildflowers. Buffalo grass is the easiest-to-find native grass seed available. Or skip the green yard altogether and xeriscape creating an inviting living space with drought and heat-resistant plants.
Round out your April by participating in Earth Day on April 22. Many schools and organizations are hosting events to celebrate our connection to the Earth and increase climate literacy. Head to Fair Park on April 21-23 for Earth Day Texas for outdoor fun, informative talks, interactive exhibits and many ideas to take action to protect our Earth.
Speaking of, what will you change this Earth month to have less of an impact on our environment? What can you do to use less resources? This year for the first time ever, I’m committing to make monthly monetary donations to climate research organizations. It doesn’t have to be a donation. There are many ways to decrease your environmental impact. Plant a garden, go meatless one day per week, avoid using plastic bottles, change your printer settings, invest in solar or create your own act of green. One of the biggest impacts you can make is sharing this info and building more knowledge. Let’s continue to learn about our Earth together — connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @naimajeannette!