Below is a checklist of tips that Montgomery County residents can use to be good to the environment and improve our community quality of life.
First, love where we live. LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR NEIGHBORHOODS AND PARKS FOR MOST OF our Stroll events. Photo essays of community strolls led by Conservation Montgomery are available by clicking the links in this list:
- Reduce your number of daily car trips as much as you can. Check into teleworking, using a carpool and combining your errands into fewer trips.
- Shopping online for certain items is another way for consumers to keep more cars off of the road. Consider that the world is at your fingertips!
- Buy in bulk. Not only will this reduce your number of car trips but you may save money since most items are cheaper by the dozen.
- Use public transportation as often as possible. And urge county and state elected officials to vote for improvements in transportation infrastructure.
- Walk to work or walk to the Metro. Or ride a bike. Not only will keeping a car off the road help our air quality, you will benefit from the exercise.
- Do you know what your carbon footprint is? Find out by using EPA’s Household Emissions Calculator at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html This is one of many CO2 calculators you can find online. The more we learn about the impacts of our own daily habits, the more we can do to make a difference when it comes to climate change impacts and energy consumption.
- Survey your home inside and out and see if you can find spots where you can plug leaky window frames or door frames. Caulk and plug leaks, or replace older windows and doors with energy efficient ones if you can afford it. Thermal pane windows and well-sealed doors can improve the quality of your life, and keep your home more energy-efficient. Turn your thermostat down in the winter and keep it at a reasonable temperature when you use air conditioning. If possible, use a ceiling fan as an alternative to air conditioning for cooling and ventilation.
- Consider looking into solar products. Use Google or do some research to find the best suppliers and contractors who can install solar panels to move some of your energy consumption off of the grid.
- Replace your appliances with energy efficient products when they wear out or break down.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs in every light in your home. Keep lights and other electrical appliances or electronics turned off when not in use at home and at work.
- Change the filters in your heating and air conditioning system to make sure the system functions working properly. Have it serviced to check for problems that stress the system and use more power.
- Use electric or reel mowers to cut your lawn. Fact from Montgomery DEP: Every summer day, the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment releases more than 100 times the VOCs of a typical large industrial plant.
- Never dump chemicals or trash into local streams or creeks. Water flows downstream. What flows from Montgomery watersheds eventually reaches the Chesapeake Bay. We want to be partners in prevention and protection – not pollution. And dumping is illegal!
- Disconnect downspouts draining from your rain gutters at home and use rain barrels instead of allowing untreated and polluted stormwater to run to the streets and nearby watersheds. Learn more about the county’s rain barrel program by visiting the Department of the Environment website or by visiting the Montgomery Stormwater Partners website: http://www.stormwaterpartners.org/?cat=9&paged=5
- Learn about the "Rainscapes" program offered by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. Rainscapes offers creative solutions to dealing with stormwater runoff. This link takes you to how to implement rainscapes on your property or your building project.
- If you see muddy construction runoff flowing down streets in your neighborhood from a building site, contact the builder first to see if the problem can be corrected onsite – and quickly! If you are unable to reach the builder or property owner where the runoff originates, contact the Chesapeake Bay Foundation “Mud Busters” and call the County Department of Permitting Services (DPS) to let them know. Take digital photos of what you see and send them to Mud Busters and to DPS. Find out more at http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=806 To call the main DPS number and speak to someone in the stormwater management section, call 240-777-6300 or send an online complaint to DPS at: http://permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov/dpstmpl.asp?url=/permitting/c/cform.asp
- Plant rain gardens in your yard using native species of plants. The Maryland Native Plant Society has a list online of native plants that make attractive rain gardens that capture stormwater runoff. Find the MNPS at http://www.mdflora.org/
- Keep plumbing repaired at home. Why lose precious water from leaky plumbing?
- Remember to recycle! Montgomery County has an excellent program for recycling but it all starts with how we recycle at home. Find out more at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/swstmpl.asp?url=/Content/dep/solidwaste/index.asp
- Hold garage or yard sales or donate used items to charities like Purple Heart, Salvation Army, Goodwill or Freecycle to avoid sending usable items to crowded landfills. Use the Montgomery County Transfer Station (found in the link above) to dispose of old computers, TVs, mattresses, etc. properly.
- Use reusable shopping bags as often as you can. Keep a supply of them in your car for unanticipated trips to the store.
- Pick up trash around your home, business, school or around other public places. A little pride in our community goes a long way. Pitching in also sets a good example for children and young people in the county. When you pick up trash in the community, try to pitch into recycling bins.
- Whenever it is affordable, try to purchase quality products that will not break or wear out as quickly as well-manufactured items. This will reduce what goes into our solid waste stream over time.
- Trees are the answer. Not only are they pleasant and peaceful, trees are the solution to a lot of environmental dilemmas. And tree and forest conservation makes economic sense. (Find “The Economic Benefits of Trees” on this website for more information.) Trees filter polluted air, store carbon and reduce the urban heat island effect.
- Plant trees when they die in or around your home or business and keep healthy native vegetation alive. It helps to filter urban stormwater runoff, cools the air and provides habitat for wildlife in the county. Keep them watered, healthy and take measures to prevent young trees from becoming deer food.
- Prune older trees in your yard and keep them in a healthy condition by cabling large limbs and multiple trunks of older trees.
- Another way to keep trees and plants on your property healthy is to remove invasive species that choke trees and plants around them. Common plants such as English Ivy, vinca and Daylilies can get out of hand quickly. Find out more at:
- As a community project, talk to your civic association leadership about a launching a neighborhood invasive removal day. Walk the streets of your neighborhood with clippers and gardening tools. Clip and remove ivy growing on trees in the public right of way along sidewalks and streets and in our parks. Remember that our street tree and parks program budget have been cut. Until the budgets are restored by our elected officials, let’s help our local trees and parks.
- Find a conservation easement easily and learn more about easements by visiting this link to the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning website.
- Visit Web sites for the Montgomery County Department of the Environment (DEP), Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, or the website of your favorite environmental or civic group (like Conservation Montgomery) often. New information is posted at most sites regularly to provide county residents with tips on environmental stewardship.
- Attend your local civic association meetings frequently to keep up with news about what your neighborhood can do to partner with other organizations or neighbors on caring for our communities.
- Work with schools to encourage environmental stewardship. Volunteer to plant trees and work with your PTA, kids and parents on environmental projects in and around a local school.
- Join a county Citizens’ Advisory Committee to get up to speed on the issues and that affect our quality of life. The committees that deal with environmental issues are:
- Montgomery County Forest Conservation Advisory Committee
- Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board
- Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee
- Dickerson Area Facilities Implementation Group
- Historic Preservation Commission
- Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee
- Department of Permitting Services Advisory Committee
- Recreation Advisory Boards
- Water Quality Advisory Group
- Washington Suburban Transit Commission
Learn more about these communities managed by the County Executive’s office at: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/exec/boards/list.asp
- If you have a new home or a development project on the horizon in your community and you are worried about environmental impacts, talk to the developers. See if they will work with the community to preserve trees adjacent to the project and find out how they will mitigate any unintended consequences of building. Many builders want to create projects that are visually appealing and lessen the impact of a project on the community. Try working with builders before assuming that they are the enemy in your neighborhood. Many builders are eager to work with adjacent residents in order to help their project meet approval within a surrounding community. If the builder is uncooperative or unwilling to meet with you, contact your civic association, your County Council member or the appropriate county agency for assistance. (Agencies are listed on this site.)
- If you are remodeling or building a new home, use low impact development practices. Visit the Web site for the Low Impact Development Center, Inc. to learn more: http://www.lowimpactdevelopment.org/ or visit the National Association of Home Builders website to find out about their national green building program: http://www.nahb.org/
- Talk to contractors and site managers to make sure they understand not to park heavy construction equipment on the roots of trees. Heavy equipment lodged on a root system will kill a tree.
- Make sure silt fences are not leaking muddy construction runoff that will make its way to local streets and waterways. What flows from Montgomery eventually reaches the Chesapeake Bay.
- Consider hiring a tree moving company to use a tree spade to move a lovely, healthy mature tree that is in the path of pending construction. It is possible to move trees of significant size in diameter. If moved correctly and watered, a tree will thrive in a new location.
- If you must cut trees down, replant the highest caliper trees that you can on and around the project. Keep deer from grazing on young trees and water them as needed.
- Use tree-save measures on and around the site as required by county law – and then some… No one will ever fault you for doing more than county law requires to save trees and respect the area around your project.
- Pay attention to news and upcoming hearings on legislation that will have an impact on our quality of life and environment. Sign on for updates at http://www.MontgomeryCountyMD.gov and at the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission Web site: http://www.mncppc.org/commission_home.html. Attend hearings and provide testimony on issues that are important to you. Part of the beauty of living in Montgomery County is that it’s a county where residents are vocal and informed.
- Write letters to the County Executive, County Council Members and Planning Board. To get tips on contacting them and addresses, please visit: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/mcginfo/siteFiles/contact.asp http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/links/contact_us_include_list.shtm