It’s hard to believe, but Wednesday, April 22, 2020 marks Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. As far as anniversaries are concerned, the 50th is definitely a milestone, often commemorated with something lasting and treasured.
Kind of ironic then that this year’s Earth Day theme is “Climate Change.” According to the Earth Day Network, this theme represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.
All these tiny pieces of plastic started out as bigger pieces of plastic, which broke down over time and ended up in our waterways. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)
This year’s theme harkens back to 1970, when the first Earth Day was celebrated with an objective to spread awareness. Twenty million Americans (10% of the country’s population at the time) protested environmental ignorance and demanded protections for our planet. These demands eventually led to the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Many countries soon adopted similar laws.
As Extension agents, we are tasked with providing research-based, reasonable, and helpful information on a variety of topics that can improve people’s lives. Climate change is a divisive issue. In fact, a University of Florida IFAS Extension EDIS fact sheet called “Challenges in Communicating Climate Change to Extension Audiences” outlines the many challenges of discussing climate change with typical audiences.
|Six Americas Audience Categories
||You might hear
||Convinced global warming is a serious and urgent threat; highly engaged; most likely to change behavior
||I’m so upset and worried about the future.
||Convinced global warming is a serious threat; somewhat engaged; less likely to change behavior
||I think this is something politicians should address
||Believe global warming is a problem but not a personal or urgent threat
||So what is it all about?
||Give little thought to global warming; change beliefs easily; not perceived as a problem for them
||I have other things to think about, like how to pay the bills.
||Not sure if global warming is happening
||Seems like climate always changes. This is a political issue.
||Firmly believe global warming is not occurring; highly engaged in preventing change in policies; very knowledgeable
||It is arrogant to believe that people can change the climate. This graph shows the scientists have it wrong.
Nonetheless, Extension agents are well-informed and desperately care for the health and welfare of their families, neighbors, and communities. Especially now, as collectively, we all are facing an uncertain future.
The coronavirus pandemic has stressed our lives right now. Everyone is grappling with change. Everyone is worried about human health. Even with everything else going on, Earth Day is a yearly reminder to exercise our collective responsibility. As one human race, we just can’t sit back and relax and hope everything turns out okay. It is going to take some work.
So instead of feeling like our time is being wasted by staying at home, perhaps we can spend this time in a positive way. I heard a news commentator recently say something along the lines of not letting this time we all have now to use us, but for us to use this time to come out better on the other end.
Like Helen Keller famously said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Let’s start together.
Here are some tips and resources for saving energy, money, and the environment:
Save Energy, Save Money (https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver)
- Install a programmable thermometer
- Hang clothes to dry when you can
- Look for energy star appliances when shopping for a replacement
- Change to energy efficient light bulbs
Understand personal water consumption (https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water#Daily%20Life)
Say NO to plastic (https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/toxicological-threats-plastic)
- Carry your own reusable bag
Eat with a conscience (http://www.floridaclimateinstitute-uf.org/)
- Eat more meatless meals
- Don’t waste food
- Cook more
Think about personal consumption (https://moneytalk1.blogspot.com/2020/03/when-things-seem-out-of-control-control.html)
- Consume less
- Waste less
- Enjoy yourself more
Support your leading environmental movements. Youth around the globe are passionate about this. They worry, and rightly so, about what is going to happen, now and in the future.
Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30, with peak season in September and October. And hurricanes are not the only disasters we have to contend with. Living Well in the Panhandle provides the trusted Disaster Resources you need so you know what to do to keep your family and you living well.
Below are helpful resources for preparing for and handling the aftermath of a disaster. For more information, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Is My Food Safe to Eat?
Keeping Your Food Safe During Emergencies: Power Outages, Floods, and Fires
USDA – A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety-Severe Storms and Hurricanes Guide
Well Water Safety
Well Water Testing
Search for an open emergency shelter near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362) Example: SHELTER 01234
Lightning storm. Photo Source: UF/IFAS
Cleaning Up After a Hurricane
Safety Comes First!
Get the Right Tree Care Professional
Hiring an Arborist – Spanish
Cleaning Mold After a Flood
Hurricanes and Mosquitoes
Mosquito Control Tips for Homeowners
Money Management/Consumer Issues
Avoiding Fraud and Deception
Six Steps in Making an Insurance Claim
Replacing Lost or Damaged Documents
FEMA – Individual Disaster Assistance
FEMA – Interim Housing Resources
USDA Farm Service Agency Disaster Assistance
Disaster Recovery Loans
Tax Relief After a Disaster
Complaints – If you have a complaint about disaster relief assistance, contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office at 1-800-323-8603.
Family Health and Wellness
Call the Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 for free counseling – 1-800-985-5990 (TTY) 1-800-846-8517
OR text TalkWithUs to 66746
Mental Health for Adults
Mental Health for Kids
Mental Health for Adolescents
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Practices to Minimize Flooding Damage to Commercial Vegetable Production
Florida Panhandle Agriculture
Florida Panhandle Agriculture Facebook
September is National Preparedness Month, so right now is a great time to think about how you can be prepared, and then act on those thoughts and get ready for an emergency! This article will help get you thinking, give you some great starting points, and provide resources to turn to.
Emergencies Have a Wide Horizon
While hurricanes are likely the first thing panhandle residents think of when it comes to emergencies, are you prepared for others? Fires? Floods? Hail? Lightning? Tsunamis? Drought? Heat waves? Tornadoes? Possible winter storms? Marine oil spills? Major sewage problems? Other life-threatening medical disasters? Being prepared for a hurricane like Michael is vital to panhandle life, but it’s certainly wise to consider other possible disasters and to be prepared for anything.
Being prepared for an emergency can greatly reduce the stress it causes. (Photo source: Stephanie Herzog)
There are also so many ways to prepare for emergencies that it can be overwhelming to think about. Do you have sufficient food storage? What about clean water for your whole family (pets included)? How are you going to wash your clothes? How do you purify water? What if your toilet isn’t usable, what do you do? Can you safely start a fire if there’s no heat? What about shelter? How do you stop a gaping wound? How do you turn off the water to your house? What is the best evacuation route? How do you contact someone when there’s no power? Are those potentially life-saving prescriptions easily accessible? Where is the deed to your house, the title to your car, and your family’s vital identification documents? You’re filing an insurance claim, and you have no idea what brand your Smart TV was, where you bought it, how old it was, or how much it cost – what do you do?
Preparation Brings Relief
Have all of these questions got you thinking, but perhaps exhausted you? Now imagine that you could answer every one of these questions confidently – how do you feel? A weight lifted? Stress is a central source of fatigue for us all, and with it comes a variety of problems – mental, physical, financial, and social. Think of a time when you were prepared for the expected or unexpected – was your stress considerably less? Most likely it was. Preparation is a positive, proactive behavior that gives foresight into the unknown. Procrastination tends to be the default within a human’s nature, so being prepared doesn’t necessarily sound like a fun thing to do with your time. But it will be a game-changer for your life when the time comes that you have to react swiftly and decisively in the event of an emergency. The investment is well worth it!
However, you don’t have to do it alone. Thankfully, there are many professionals here to help you! Here are a few starter tips to aid you in the beginning of your preparation:
- Human Life. First and foremost, in an emergency the highest priority is that of preserving human life. Material objects can be replaced – a life cannot be. Always keep this in mind while preparing for and responding to emergencies!
- Sustenance Storage. Have adequate food and water storage for your needs. Label your food and water storage with the month and year to help track expiration dates.
- Canned and dehydrated foods are great for storage, and many items have a long shelf life.
- Remember one gallon of water per person/pet per day – store as much fresh water as you can! You can only survive a few days without water, but weeks without food.
- Plan in your near future to eat and drink the food and water supply that are nearing expiration and then replace the storage with fresh sustenance.
- 72-Hour Kit. Have a 72-hour kit for each member of your family, including pets. Backpacks or duffel bags are ideal grab-and-go containers. Keep a 72-hour kit both in your home and in your car.
- Review Annually. Pick one Saturday a year as your “emergency preparedness day” where you review all of your food and water storage, medical supplies and prescriptions, fire extinguishers, and all other emergency materials.
- Make an inventory and then head to the store to replace any expired or missing items.
- Clean and organize your storage space and emergency kits so everything is accessible.
- Evacuation Plan. Have an evacuation plan and put it on the calendar to practice it with your family – and even neighbors – every three months.
Start now to be prepared!
Jaffe, E. (2013, March.) Why wait? The science behind procrastination. Association for Psychological Science. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination
Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65
Eating fresh, local produce is a great way to be healthier, save money, and support the local economy. (Photo source: Stephanie Herzog)
Summer Local Eats – Supporting Farmers’ Markets
Summer is a great time of year to eat locally grown fresh produce! There are many options rich in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and nutrients. Farmers work hard to provide life-sustaining sustenance for society, and consumers supporting their efforts at the local level has an array of health and economic benefits.
Fresh summer crops in the panhandle abound. Produce that is ready this time of year includes peppers, cucumber, peanuts, okra, squash, corn, and watermelon. Spice up a summer salad with fresh cucumbers or peppers or try tasty yellow meat watermelon for a chill and nutritious summertime snack! Local, fresh produce is a healthy alternative to processed foods or produce found in grocery stores. Produce sold by local farmers is freshly picked and because you know where it comes from, it is both safer to eat and keeps for longer periods of time than grocery store produce, which often has traveled long distances, is seldom inspected, and is kept in storage before finally being put out on the floor for purchase.
Supporting your farmers’ market benefits both you and your community in many ways. Purchasing from local farmers and farmers’ markets is both financially sound for you and is supportive of the community’s economy – the money changes hands locally and creates and maintains jobs. Not only does it benefit the economy, it also fosters a stronger sense of community unity and trusted relationships, which is vital to any successful society and local economy. For example, farmers will sometimes offer a “u-pick” program, depending on the crop, where you go to their farm and pick what produce you want right from the field! You get to keep half, and the farmer keeps half. This is a great cooperative effort that benefits everyone – you get free, fresh produce, and the farmer gets free labor. Who doesn’t love a win-win scenario?
Jackson County farmers’ markets information. Residents in Jackson County have a wonderful farmers’ market in the heart of downtown Marianna, located at Madison Street Park (2881 Madison St.) that goes throughout the summer every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning from 7am-12pm. After September, the market will continue through the fall, winter, and spring each Saturday at the same time. Tuesday and Thursday have farmer vendors only, while Saturday includes a variety of vendors, such as arts and crafts, plants and flowers, jams, jellies, honey, etc. This market also offers a raffle when you purchase items from vendors! For any questions about the market or how to join as a vendor, visit their Facebook page or contact Tony Mayo, the current farmers’ market manager or Terry Johnson, the public relations manager for the market. His number is 850-592-5114. It’s a good idea to bring cash or checks, but some vendors do accept credit and debit cards.
Want to find a farmers’ market near you or learn more about the benefits and best practices shopping at a farmers’ market?
Come experience the buzz and benefits of the farmers’ market!
Local farmers at the Marianna City Farmers’ Market
Wang, Q., Evans, E. A., Pikarsky, M., & Olczyk, T. Consuming local vegetables from our local growers. UF IFAS publication HS1251.
One way to be more sustainable when shopping for groceries is to use reusable shopping bags. They’re durable and sturdy and can help reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the landfill each year. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)
Sustainability should not just be a buzzword during Earth Month. The fact that everybody either shops for or eats groceries means the whole grocery shopping experience is a good time to reflect and improve upon what we can personally do to embrace issues of sustainability.
This year in April, the Earth Month theme focuses on Returning to Nature. There is no better place to start a quest for personal sustainable improvement than the grocery store! Grocery shopping truly embraces the three main areas of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. In fact, it has been well documented that the average family wastes about 25% of the food it purchases. (Much of this ends up in a landfill and creates problems of its own.)
With a bit of forethought, meal planning before grocery shopping can help individuals and families apply sustainable best practices for environmental, economic, and social well-being. In fact, many of the principles of sustainability can be effectively applied to both meal planning and grocery shopping.
RESPECT yourself. Good nutrition is one of the keys to a healthy life. Improve health by keeping a balanced diet. Vow to make healthier food choices for personal health and the environment.
REFUSE to use food products that do not fit your principles of sustainability. This may mean buying food with less packaging, eating more locally-grown fruits and vegetables, or looking for foods labeled as more responsibly sourced.
REDUCE the amount of food thrown out. Planning meals ahead of time and writing out a grocery list are excellent ways to start living sustainably. Planning not only saves money on groceries, it can save time and decrease the amount of personal food waste a family contributes. (Remember, freezing products can prolong their life, so if you find that you’ve overbought, try preserving some of your bounty for later use.) Reducing the number of trips to the grocery store also can help save on fuel and transportation costs.
REUSE /REPURPOSE food for another occasion. Careful meal planning helps ensure that leftovers from one meal can be incorporated into the next one, thereby reducing food waste.
RETHINK! Healthy, nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive grocery choices can be found in every food group. Not all food has to be prepackaged. In fact, with a bit of planning, dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes. (That’s less time than it takes to wait in line at a fast food restaurant.)
BE RESPONSIBLE! Use what you buy.
Stock up on low-cost healthy grain products like whole-wheat noodles, brown rice, and store-brand cereals and oatmeal.
Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and cost less. In addition, do not forget that frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables can play an important part in meal planning.
Buy the largest size you can effectively use before it reaches the expiration date – and look for the items with the latest dates. Purchase store brands or generic brands whenever possible. Keep in mind smaller containers tend to cost more, no matter what the food group. Buying larger packages and dividing them into smaller portions can save money and reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in the landfill. Investing in small, reusable storage containers will save money and reduce waste in the end.
Practice Meatless Monday. The protein group provides inexpensive protein sources like beans, lentils, and eggs, which can be substituted for meat in many meals.
Protein does not have to be the most expensive item purchased. Consulting the store’s weekly sales flyer during meal planning can help you plan meals around meat and poultry items that are on sale.
Prepare food your family will actually eat. There are two schools of thought here: preparing just enough for one meal or preparing big-batch recipes that provide leftovers which can be frozen for later use. Either practice can be sustainable. Freeze leftovers only if you’re going to use them. Otherwise, cut down on the amount of food cooked to help reduce food waste.
Learn how to cook. Prepare and eat more meals at home. It is sustainable, good for you, and delicious. Meals cooked at home are more nutritious, less expensive, and result in less overall waste, such as packaging.
Two additional ways to be more sustainable when grocery shopping are to use reusable shopping bags and to stop using single-use plastic produce bags. Plastic grocery bags choke our landfills and end up in our water bodies. They are not biodegradable and can last thousands of years virtually intact. Reusable shopping bags are made from recycled materials and can drastically reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the trash each year.
For more information on making your grocery shopping more sustainable, check out these related articles:
Freezing: Nature’s Pause Button (UF/IFAS Extension)
What’s in your FREEZER? (UF/IFAS Extension)
Best Practices for Shoppers at the Farmers’ Market (UF/IFAS Extension)
Sustainable Grocery Shopping (University of Northern Iowa)
UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Sciences Agents Heidi Copeland and Samantha Kennedy
Have you ever read the book Something from Nothing, by Phoebe Gilman? It is a wonderful story, with a sewing theme, of sewing/creating something beautiful over and over again. My fervent hope is that the 4-H sewing camp participants feel the same way about all of their creations generated during sewing camp!
Recently, the Tallahassee Chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG, part of a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the art and love of sewing) generously volunteered their time, talent, and supplies to enrich the experience of every 4-H sewing camp participant.
The ASG philosophy, coupled with the 4-H history of helping youth “learn by doing” is a good fit. Both organizations focus on teaching new topics and life skills development through experiences thus enhancing self-confidence through skill building.
In today’s world, sewing is seemingly no longer a necessity. Sewing can even be expensive! But, can we put a price on self-confidence or creativity, sustainability or even a life skill?
4-H Sewing Campers Photo source: Heidi Copeland
Think of all the things learned while sewing. Sewing helps teach:
- Finger dexterity and the development of fine motor skills.
- The value of patience.
- Systematic following of directions – both verbal and written.
- Vocabulary as well as techniques.
- Pride in accomplishment for a job well done!
Moreover, sewing truly integrates science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). And it is FUN! Campers:
- Learned first-hand about fibers (science).
- Experienced technology using various sewing machines and equipment – some even computer driven.
- Became adept at trouble shooting their own machine repair (engineering).
- Artistically bedazzled their creations.
- Utilized practical applications of many mathematical concepts to measure and sew as well as critical thinking and problem solving.
The 4-H Club pledge says, “I pledge … My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service and My Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world”. ALL of the campers contributed to a community service project sewing a pillowcase destined for the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Read a Child to Sleep campaign. This fostered the idea that empathy, sharing, nurturing relationships and giving is important too.
Sewing certainly did not stop when camp ended. A budding entrepreneur posted on Facebook she is taking orders for her creations while another camper is helping a local theatre group fashion costumes to obtain her community service hours fulfilling a high school graduation requirement.
There is no better feeling than the pride of accomplishment. Sewing campers learned by doing and while they were at it learned a skills they will carry throughout life.
To find out more about the American Sewing Guild: https://www.asg.org/
To find out more about Leon County 4-H programs: http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/4h
If you are interested in learning more about 4-H, go to florida4h.org.