Sunday, April 21, 2024

Earth Day 2024

   Here is a list of 50 Ways to Help Our Planet for Earth Day - and everyday!


1.       Eliminate or minimize use of herbicides and pesticides
Pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, are designed to kill weeds, insects, rodents, and mold.  By definition, these toxic chemicals can be poisonous to wildlife, pets, people, and especially children.  So use best practices in your garden to reduce or eliminate the need for these chemicals.
2.       Reduce use of fertilizers
Plants need fertilizer to grow, but most homeowners use much more than necessary.  When too much fertilizer is used or when it is applied at the wrong time, rainfall will wash excess fertilizer out of yards and into our streams and rivers.  This fertilizer overload causes severe issues like algae blooms and dead zones that kills aquatic life.
3.       Reduce storm water runoff
Stormwater runoff – excess rain draining from properties - is a leading cause of water quality problems. Rainfall or snowmelt from suburban lawns, golf courses, and paved surfaces picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, washing them into our waterways and into ground waters.   Capturing and keeping more rainwater in your garden allows it to soak in or evaporate, thus reducing both pollution and flooding.  Learn about projects you can do to reduce runoff at
4.       Reduce size of your lawn
There are about 40 million acres of lawns in the U.S., making it the largest irrigated “crop” in the country.  Americans spend about $30 billion –and countless hours – every year tending to their lawns.  And lawns are ultimately biological deserts of minimal ecological value.   Replacing areas of your lawn with more plants can yield significant environmental benefits.
5.       Grow a vegetable garden
Creating a vegetable garden rather than mowing a lawn has many health benefits, provides you with the freshest fruits and vegetables, and let’s you manage what fertilizers and pesticides touch your food.   Such gardens can come in many sizes from balcony container gardens to mini-farms.
6.       Protect existing trees
There is nearly an endless list of benefits from trees including providing shade, cutting electric bills for cooling, improving air quality, reducing stormwater runoff, enhancing beauty, providing homes for wildlife, increasing property values, and even improving mental health and happiness.  Read the “owner’s manual” on how to keep your trees strong and healthy.
7.       Plant more trees
We need to protect the existing trees and we need to plant more trees.   As the proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”  It is also important to pick the right tree for the right place.  Learn more about selecting trees and proper planting techniques at
8.       Plant native plants/plant pollinator garden
Your choice of plants is a big factor in how much environmental benefit they provide.  Plants are at the base of the food web for wildlife and research clearly shows that plants that are native to an area – plants that co-evolved with local insects – provide dramatically more wildlife benefit than ornamental plants from distant lands.  So go native as much as you can!
9.       Live in harmony with wildlife
As human populations grow and our cities and towns expand across the landscape, so have our interactions with wildlife.  Many species have adapted to living alongside people in our suburban and even urban areas.   Hundreds of species of birds, countless insects from beetles to bees to butterflies, snakes and lizards, and larger creatures such as foxes and raccoons make their homes and live their lives in our communities.  With proper care and respect, observing these creatures can enrich all our lives.
10.   Become a River Star or Bay Star Home
Make a commitment to be a better steward of the environment, get more tips on how to use better practices, and in some cases be eligible for financial support on projects.
11.   Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  But Most of All – Reduce.
The average American throws away 4.5 lbs of stuff every single day, 365 days per year.  Only a small fraction of all this stuff ever gets recycled and much of it is not easily recyclable.   We’ve all heard of the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  But perhaps the most important step is to Reduce first – avoid getting single use products and packages that you’ll toss almost immediately.
12.   Donate old items in good condition to thrift stores
Before you throw away that item, consider whether it has a second life.  Is it in good condition?  Would it be something you would give to a friend?  If so, consider donating it to a local thrift store.   It can then benefit the charity, provide a low cost item to someone else in your community, keep it out of the landfill, and make you feel good!
13.   Share tools and equipment with neighbors rather than buying your own
Ever need that one tool that one time?    Should you really hop on your favorite e-commerce site and order it?   How about hopping on your local community group on social media and asking if you can borrow the tool.  Odds are someone has it and may be willing to let you borrow it for the afternoon.
14.   Opt out of junk mail
Americans receive millions of tons of junk mail every year.  That’s cumulatively, but many may feel they get that much just themselves.  And much of it goes straight into the recycling bin.  Here are some options for cutting down on how much you get in your mailbox.
15.   Turn off unused lights and switch to LED light bulbs
Starting with the oldest tip – turn off unused lights – to the newest – replace light bulbs as they fail with LED bulbs.   The price of LED’s has dropped dramatically over the years, they use 90% less electricity than incandescents, they have no toxic chemicals, and they practically last forever.
16.   Adjust your thermostat
You can save 10% of your heating and cooling bill by adjusting your thermostat for at least 8 hours per day.    And heating and cooling costs can easily be more than half of the average home’s electric bill – usually much more during our hot and humid summers.
17.   Wash full loads of laundry in colder water
Most of the cost – and energy usage – in doing laundry goes to heating water.  Washing in cold water uses 90% less electricity.  Also washing in cold water gets the clothes just as clean in typical situations and is more gentle on the clothing.
18.   Look for the Energy Star label when buying new appliances
When you're shopping for appliances or electronics, you have to think both short term and long term.  There is the cost of buying the appliance but also the cost of operating it year after year, which is usually much more than the cost to buy it.   Looking at the Energy Star label, you can see how much it will cost to run the product so you can buy the more efficient products.  You’ll save money year after year and save the planet.
19.   Winterize your home for winter and summer savings
“Winterizing” your home actually saves you money both in the winter and the summer.  Taking steps to insulate your home and seal cracks keeps warm air inside in the winter, but it also keeps cool air inside in the summer.   Both can result in major cost and energy savings!
20.   Get a home or workplace energy audit to identify where you can make the most energy-saving gains
You can work with Dominion Energy to have a professional do a Home Energy Assessment of your home and identify more ways to save energy and money.
Shopping/Eating out
21.   Say no to single use plastic bottling – bring your own reusable bottle or mug
In a nation where almost all Americans (but sadly not all) have access to clean, safe drinking water, we consume water in single use plastic bottles at the rate of 100,000 PER MINUTE; 50 billion bottles per year.   And 77% of these bottles never ever reach the recycling center.   Be healthier, save money, save the planet - bring your own water from home!
22.   Avoid single use plastic packaging
Our society is drowning in single use plastic items – from plastic bags to impossible to open “blister” packs, from plastic water bottles to fruit clamshells.   These items will last nearly forever but are trash after the initial use.  Most are not readily recyclable.  Plastic production from new petroleum resources is projected to increase by 40% over the next 10 years, and the oil and gas industry is expecting this to be a major revenue source.  Take action to reverse this trend.
23.   Shop local          
By shopping local you support your local community and reduce transportation costs.   And when buying locally produced food, such as from farmer markets, you support local agriculture.
24.   Combine online deliveries into a single delivery
Online shopping is convenient.  But having a steady stream of delivery vehicles cruising city streets to drop off more and more cardboard boxes and bags at your door is certainly not ideal for reducing waste or pollution.    Reduce your impact by combining your orders and deliveries into as few shipments as possible, such as by setting an “Amazon Day”
25.   Go Meatless at least once a week
Livestock operations have significant negative environmental impacts, from the amount of land and water consumed to the amount of animal waste produced.   Skipping meat once a week can have a major benefit for the ecosystem.
26.   Buy organic and local whenever possible
The USDA Organic certification gives you confidence that it was grown pesticide-free.  Locally grown food helps local farmers and reduces transportation costs.  Locally grown organic is the best of both worlds.   Learn about your food choices and make the best choices!
27.   Bring your own reusable container for leftovers at restaurant
Want a do-it-yourself solution to avoid getting those Styrofoam containers for leftovers when you go to a restaurant?  (Remember back when we ate out).   Come prepared, bring your own reusable food storage containers in a small bag and fill them yourself with your leftovers.
28.   Buy second hand from thrift stores or friends
Why buy new when there are perfectly good items looking for a new home at your local thrift store?  You avoid the need to manufacture a new product using raw materials, keep an item out of the landfill, save money, and likely help a local good cause.
29.   Buy Less, Live More
Focusing on life’s simple pleasures-  like spending time in nature, being with loved ones, making a difference to others – can  provide more purpose, belonging and happiness than buying and consuming.

30.   Bike instead of driving for some of your trips
Choosing your bike over your car has multiple benefits – reducing fuel use and carbon emissions, saving wear and tear on your vehicle, reducing traffic congestion, and providing you with exercise.
31.   Walk instead of driving for short errands
Ever drive from one side of a parking lot to the other?   Take the car to go to the post office down the street?   By walking instead of driving you again reduce pollution from your car and get great exercise.  So park that car and get moving!
32.   Combine trips to reduce driving
When you do drive, combine several errands in one trip.   And plan your route in advance to line up destinations efficiently and avoid having to backtrack.  And a tip from UPS – when planning your trip, minimize making left turns because they result in more wasted time and fuel.
33.   Improve your gas mileage by taking care of your car
There are many easy ways to improve your gas mileage, starting with making sure your tires are properly inflated and your air filters are clean.   Also go easy on the gas pedal, avoiding “jack rabbit” starts and driving too fast.
34.   Make sure your next car has better gas mileage - or go electric
Hybrids and EV cars now so a clear lifecycle reduction in CO2 emissions.  The trick may be finding one as demand ramps up.
35.   Telecommute
A lot of businesses have been required to practice telecommuting for the first time this year.  If they decide to retain this option for employees long term, at least some of the time, they can provide significant environmental benefits to the world.   Thousands of cars could be removed from the road and traffic congestion relieved.  Employers could also save costs on heating and cooling buildings.  And employees could save hundreds of hours of time commuting each year.
36.   Reduce energy consumption
Businesses can also save money by adopting a variety of energy saving practices, some as simple as making sure unused lights and equipment are powered down.
37.   Switch to renewal energy providers
Renewable solar and wind energy continue to decline dramatically in cost, making them competitive with gas powered and cheaper than coal powered generation.    Business can either install solar and wind directly or buy via renewal energy contracts.
38.   Establish a workplace recycling program
Businesses often generate large amounts of recyclable materials.  To be a good corporate citizen, the first step for a successful program is a waste audit, including reviewing how to reduce waste before it happens.   For items you can’t reduce/eliminate or reuse, the next step is setting up a recycling program.   Learn how at
39.   Reduce waste and improve your company’s environmental footprint
Reducing waste saves money while conserving both natural resources and energy – “waste not, want not”.  Reducing your waste is also a practice that provides positive customer public relations for businesses.  More than just recycling, waste reduction looks for various ways to reduce a company’s environmental footprint.
40.   Reduce business travel
Traveling long distances for business meetings has a major environmental impact, not to mention being expensive and time consuming.  Sometimes there is nothing that can replace the impact of a face to face meeting, but with today’s technology a tele- or video conference will often be sufficient.
41.   Never litter – and lend a hand by picking up litter when you are out and about
Litter happens … whether from carelessness, neglect, irresponsibility, or mistakes.  Make a pledge to never litter.  And when you see litter, pick it up if you can.  Research shows that people are less likely to litter if an area is already litter free.   And discourage the use of single use, disposable packaging when possible.
42.   Join community cleanups
Many locales have regular cleanups through programs like Adopt-A-Highway, Adopt-A-Park, The Great American Cleanup, Clean the Bay Day, and the International Coastal Cleanup.  Go out and lend a hand!
43.   Follow the Friends of Indian River on Facebook
Get the latest environmental tips and updates from the Friends of Indian River.  Follow us on Facebook.
44.   Volunteer with the Friends of Indian River and other local environmental organizations
We are always looking for volunteers to help on a broad array of activities.  From cleanups to advocacy, the efforts of volunteers are what makes non-profits effective.  Check with our  volunteer calendar at or browse
45.   Participate in the activities of city boards and commissions
There are several city boards and commissions, in addition to the CEIC, that deal with environmentally related issues.  These include the Chesapeake Agricultural Advisory Commission, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area (CPBA) Board , Chesapeake Bicycles/Trails Advisory Committee (BTAC) , and the Stormwater Committee.
46.   Make your voice heard at the Planning Commission and City Council
The Planning Commission and City Council deal with many land use issues and overall city policies.  The Planning Commission has public hearings on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.  The City Council has public hearings on most Tuesday evenings.
47.   Become an environmental and conservation advocate
As a citizen and a constituent, you have the power to contact your elected officials at the city, state, and federal level about issues that are important to you.    Tools include e-mails, letters, in person meetings, comments at public hearings, and even letters to the editor of local newspapers.
48.   Share the Knowledge/Be a Good Example
Share what you know and be a good example for others.   Model good behavior and others are more likely to trust you and change their own behaviors
49.   Vote
Elections matter.  Research the candidates running for office and support candidates who best support your goals.  And make sure you register and vote.  If you can’t get to the polls, make sure you apply for an absentee ballot.
50.   Go outside, enjoy nature, and bring a friend – building a love of nature will encourage everyone to protect our Earth
Study after study shows that getting out in nature improves health and happiness.  And people won’t protect the natural world around us unless they learn to appreciate it.   One lesson we hopefully take from the recent crisis is that we need more natural areas in our cities.  (Please follow physical distancing rules as required).

Originally published for Earth Day 2020 - the 50th Anniversary.  Now with updated links.

Monday, April 1, 2024

April Newsletter and Events

Join us on Saturday, April 20th for an Earth Day Festival at Campostella Square Park (next to the Cuffee Center).  There will be games, music, and educational activities. There will also be free native trees and plants available for adoption, thanks to the Virginia Cooperative Extension - Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council Tree Board. Come out and celebrate Earth Day! 

  • Upcoming Events
    • 4/13/2024 - Saturday - Second Saturday Hike at Indian River Park
    • 4/20/2024 - Earth Day Festival
  • News
    • Proposed City Budget
    • Our Updated Goals 
    • March Recap
    • Tree Pledge
Upcoming Events

Saturday, April 13: Second Saturday Hike @ Indian River Park 
  • Time: 
    9 am to 11 am
  • Location: Meet at the Indian River Park entrance at Rokeby Ave. and Main St. (2001 Rokeby Ave.) which is located just south of Military Highway, i.e. across Military Highway from the Fire Station.
  • Join us for a walk in the park. Learn about the history of the park, the native trees and plants in this century old forest on the Indian River flood plain, and its value to maintaining the health of local butterfly, bird, and wildlife populations. Note: the forest trail has uneven surfaces and minor elevation changes.
  • Please pre-register at (suggested but not required)
Saturday, April 20: Earth Day Festival 
  • Time: 12 pm to 4 pm
  • Location: Campostella Square Park, 2019 Windy Road (next to Cuffee Center)
  • Come out for Chesapeake's first big Earth Day festival at Campostella Square Park. There will be games, music, and educational activities. There will be free native trees and plants available for adoption, thanks to the Virginia Cooperative Extension - Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council Tree Board. Come out and celebrate Earth Day! 


Proposed City Budget

The proposed City Budget for 2024-2025 was released by the City Manager on Tuesday 3/26.  The Capital Improvement Program proposes two new items that directly affect the Indian River area:
  • An Indian River Façade Improvement Grant (#16-290) would allocate $40K per year to fund a competitive grant program allowing commercial property owners in the Indian River Planning Area to apply for funding to facilitate improvements that may include, but are not limited to, façade improvements, landscaping and hardscape improvements, signage, outdoor eating areas, and pedestrian enhancements. The 1:1 matching grants will be approved and undertaken by the Chesapeake Economic Development Authority on a case-by-case basis, with all applications being reviewed by an interdepartmental committee.  These kinds of grants have been established for Great Bridge and South Norfolk and getting them for our area has been one of our goals.  
  • $2.3M is budgeted to rebuild the intersection of Military Highway and Rokeby Avenue (#41-290), with design funding starting in 2026.  The redesign will prohibit left turns from Rokeby Avenue (north or south) onto Military Highway. We're concerned that the preliminary designs did not include a pedestrian crossing of Military Highway at Rokeby.  We've already raised this issue with the City and we plan to re-iterate that the design must include a pedestrian and bicycle crossing at this intersection to provide access to Indian River Park.
There are several other projects in the budget that have been previously funded, but that we are still waiting to see construction start.  These include:
  • (#65-230) Philmont Ave Septic System Disconnection (and replacement by sanitary sewer system) - this project has been delayed so long that $1.1M of appropriations in this project lapsed as of November 19, 2023. This amount will need to be reappropriated as of July 1, 2024.  It now has an estimated completion date of December 2025.
  • (#52-250) Norfolk Highlands Stormwater Improvements - $620K in 2025, $500K in 2026, $1.32M in prior years funding 
  • (#40-270) Indian River Road Bike Lanes - $130K in prior years funding
  • (#56-230) Oaklette Bridge (Indian River Road) - Replacement/Repair - $6.4M in prior years funding 
The good news is that work is underway on several projects, including construction of the new Blue Heron Landing Park and design work for the Cuffee Community Center Pool.
  •  (#50-270) Indian River Road [Commercial] Design Guidelines - $175K in prior years funding 
  •  (#15-240) Blue Heron Landing Park - $1.5M in prior years funding
  •  (#72-270) Cuffee Community Center Pool - $20M in prior years funding 
The Public Hearing on the Budget at the City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23. We are planning to make comments about our priorities at the hearing.  You can find the full proposed budget at Budget Department | Chesapeake, VA (

Our Updated Goals

The mission of the Friends of Indian River is to improve the quality of life for all the residents of the Indian River neighborhoods of Chesapeake, Virginia, by promoting and preserving a healthy and clean river, shorelines, parks, and green spaces connected to the surrounding community.

We've updated our goals to reflect our current efforts to:
  • promote attractive streetscapes, 
  • encourage sustainable gardening and landscaping methods, 
  • promote and preserve a healthy and clean river, shorelines, parks, and green spaces connected to the surrounding community,
  • energize local business development, 
  • and support broader civic activities to improve the community.
These include our on-going cleanup activities, garden maintenance, and work at local parks.  They also reflect our work to protect and plant more trees, recruit more River Star Homes and Businesses, improve safety of our streets, and revitalize our "Main Street" along Indian River Road.  

Take a look at our full list of goals at

March Recap

It was a rainy month and both our Second Saturday Hike and Adopt-A-Road Cleanup were rained out.  We did have an excellent discussion about the City Comprehensive Plan Update - and City Planning in general at our March meeting.  

A big thank you to everyone who became a new member or renewed their membership in March.  We met our spring membership drive goal, raising $1620.  But it's not too late to join!  The Friends of Indian River are an all-volunteer, local, 501(c)(3) non-profit, and we depend on member contributions to advance our mission to improve the quality of life for all the residents of the Indian River neighborhoods.  You can become a member, renew your membership, or just make a contribution online at

Tree Pledge

Will you take our Tree Pledge to protect trees in our community?  
Click here to help protect trees:

Striving to improve the quality of life for all the residents of the Indian River neighborhoods of Chesapeake, Virginia, by promoting and preserving a healthy and clean river, shorelines, parks, and green spaces connected to the surrounding community.

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