Confronting the consequences of climate change and the changing chemistry of our oceans—specifically, the carbon dioxide that threatens our coastal waters—may seem daunting, but Maine has many advantages to help it meet the challenge. Mainers are known to be resolute, resourceful, and committed to community. Our residents value the environment, understanding that our future prosperity is dependent on maintaining the state’s beauty and natural resources. If any place can identify and implement solutions, it is Maine.
Even if you adopt only one or two of the suggestions below, you will be helping to improve the health of Casco Bay. Acting locally, ultimately, can have a global impact.
Think About Casco Bay as You Care for Your Lawn
Why? Nitrogen is public enemy #1. Fertilizers intended for lawns and fields can end up feeding phytoplankton instead. In addition to killing bugs, pesticides kill sea life.
- Do not use fertilizers and pesticides, which our testing has demonstrated can end up in the ocean.
- Adjust lawn mower to highest setting, preferably 3½-4 inches. This promotes vigorous root growth and healthier grass.
- Leave grass clippings as you mow. (That’s right—no raking!) These natural fertilizers return about 50% of the nitrogen back to the soil, where it belongs.
- Do a soil test to determine what, if any, amendments are needed.
- Find out more at cascobay.org/bayscaping.
Responsible Boaters Are Important Stewards of the Bay
Why? Because boaters are on the water, in the water, or next to the water working on their boats, they are the first line of defense in protecting Casco Bay. Those who enjoy the Bay have a special responsibility to keep pollutants out of the water, including sewage, urine, fuel, oily bilge water, cleaning supplies, paint, and varnish.
- Use a pumpout facility for your marine toilet. (And don’t pee over the side!) Find a list of pumpout stations in Casco Bay at cascobay.org/ boat-pumpout-program.
- When refilling your tank, avoid spilling fuel and don’t overfill.
- If you do spill fuel, don’t squirt dishwashing liquid on it; sop it up with the fuel spill pads at the fuel dock.
- Reduce fuel consumption: keep the engine tuned, clean your hull, and drain the bilge and holding tanks properly before departure. Store unneeded supplies and equipment ashore.
- Recycle oil from your boat at recycling centers, often located at marinas, town transfer stations, auto parts stores, and service stations. You can also recycle your oil filters and engine batteries.
Green up Your Ride
Why? Cars and trucks are big sources of nitrogen pollution (nitrous oxides), carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases.
- Bike, walk, use public transportation, or carpool.
- Maintain your car so oil, antifreeze, and other toxic substances don’t leak. By keeping your car tuned up, it will run cleaner, burn less fuel, and get better gas mileage.
- When you do have to drive, plan ahead to combine trips to reduce the distance you travel. For example, shop and do errands on the way home from work.
- Don’t idle—get out of the car instead of using the drive-thru.
- Check tire inflation every week to increase miles-per- gallon by 3%.
- When it is time to replace your car, buy a fuel-efficient model.
Reduce the Energy You Use in Your Home
Why? By conserving energy, you will be limiting the release of greenhouse gases, lowering both your carbon and your nitrogen footprints. Burning less oil, wood, and coal to heat your home reduces the release of nitrogen, as well as your fuel bill.
- Get an energy audit.
- Adjust your thermostat by 2 degrees cooler in winter.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs.
- Make it a habit to turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Wrap insulation around your water heater.
- Unplug “vampire” electronics and appliances when not in use, such as cell phone chargers and cable or satellite TV boxes.
- Install weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows of your home.
- Dry clothes on a clothesline. A clothes dryer accounts for 12% of home energy use.
- Wash your clothes in cold water.
Calculate Your Impact
There are personal actions each of us can do so that the next generation inherits a cleaner and healthier Casco Bay. Calculate your nitrogen footprint at either of these sites:
Many carbon footprint calculators also can be found online.
Use Less Water
Why? Up to a third of our electricity is used to move, clean, and dispose of water and wastewater, so every drop saved also saves electricity and reduces power plant emissions. Sending less water to the sewage treatment plant means the facility has to process less water.
- Turn off the water while shaving, doing dishes, and brushing your teeth.
- Install water-saving faucets, toilets, and showerheads.
- Fix your toilet if it tends to run after flushing.
- Fix that dripping faucet!
- Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.
Manage Your Waste
Why? We’re talking about sewage here. Sewage, including urine, is loaded with nitrogen, which can be flushed into coastal waters, leading to algae blooms.
- Pick up pet poop. Carry a “pooper scooper” or plastic bag whenever you take your dog out for a stroll.
- Have your septic system inspected yearly and pumped every 2-3 years to remove sludge.
- Don’t dump anything down a storm drain, as polluted rainwater, along with anything else that goes down the street drain, can end up in Casco Bay, usually without first being treated at the sewage treatment plant.
Keep Water From Running off Your Property
Why? Prevent pollutants, such as nitrogen and other chemicals, from being washed into the Bay. Plantings act as sponges, giving rainwater time to soak into the ground.
- Redirect your downspouts from hard surfaces to your lawn or garden.
- Position rain barrels to catch water that runs off roofs and sheds. Use it to water the yard and garden.
- Plant a buffer strip of bushes and trees between lawn and water’s edge.
- Cover bare soil with grass seed and compost to keep it from washing away— and to keep down weeds.
- Replace asphalt or concrete on driveways, sidewalks, patios, and pool decks with gravel or pervious pavers interspersed with gravel or grass.
- Create a rain garden of water-loving plants or a grassy swale to hold rainwater runoff.
- Wash your car on a grass or gravel surface instead of the street or your driveway. This will allow soapy, dirty wash water to soak into the ground rather than running down storm drains.
Buy and Eat Local
Why? An average plate of food travels over 1,300 miles, consuming large amounts of energy to transport it. Frozen and processed foods, especially, require a lot of energy to produce and transport.
- Grow your own vegetables and buy fresh food from local farmers.
- Buy only what you’ll eat.
- Opt for meatless Mondays—or more. Eating meat generates 2½ times more greenhouse gases than eating vegan, but any reduction lowers greenhouse emissions.
- Compost food wastes.
- Bring reusable shopping bags. US consumers use 100 billion plastic bags a year.
- Make kitchen cleanup green, too. Clean counters and fridge with baking soda or a spray bottle of vinegar and water.
Get Involved—What You Can Get Others to Do
Why? Volunteers and voters are vital in catalyzing changes in communities, businesses, and governments. Friends of Casco Bay, and other nonprofits, could not accomplish our work (often, activities that government can’t or won’t do) without the help of citizen scientists and community activists.
- Limits on nitrogen discharges are needed. In 2007, Friends of Casco Bay helped persuade the Maine Legislature to pass a law requiring the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a limit on how much nitrogen sewage treatment plants and other facilities may discharge into coastal waters. The DEP has yet to fulfill that directive. Tell your state legislator to make the DEP take action.
- Encourage your community to adopt ordinances to ban pesticides, at least in parks, school yards, and playing fields, where children and pets can come in direct contact with toxic chemicals. When Friends of Casco Bay tested rainwater running into Casco Bay, we found pesticides at 13 coastal neighborhoods, some in amounts the Environmental Protection Agency has determined can harm fish and other sea life.
- If legislation is introduced to limit the application of pesticides and fertilizers on a state level, please support it.
- Support municipal actions and fees to reduce sewage pollution.
- Ask businesses about their energy and conservation policies.
- Encourage “green development.” Attend town hall presentations by developers and planners, to encourage projects that incorporate vegetated median strips, parking lots with permeable pavement, more green space, and green roofs.
- Join a town committee, such as the conservation commission or planning board, to help create a vision for the future.
Help Us Help the Bay!
Why? Friends of Casco Bay started as a grassroots community organization 25 years ago. Our success today continues because of the commitment of our volunteers and members! Find out more at cascobay.org.
- Become a member and donor of Friends of Casco Bay. Go to donate.cascobay.org.
- Become a Champion for the health of Casco Bay. Learn more about issues that pose a threat to the Bay and use our Bay Papers to educate friends and family. www.cascobay.org/bay-papers
- Invite a dynamic speaker from Friends of Casco Bay to talk about issues impacting Casco Bay. www.cascobay.org/hostaspeaker
- Volunteer with us to pick up trash from beaches and marshes, test water quality, and lobby your legislators. www.cascobay.org/volunteer
- Borrow Friends of Casco Bay’s storm drain stenciling kits to spray paint reminders to others: Do not dump. Drains to Casco Bay. www.cascobay.org/storm-drain-stenciling
- Host a neighborhood BayScaping social on ecological lawn care practices that will save you time, save you money, save your lawn, and save Casco Bay. www.cascobay.org/bayscaping
Read our final section of the report Anything but “Fresh” . . .