More Green, Less Screen

The amount of time children spend outside in nature has decreased significantly over the years, while the amount of time spent in front of entertainment devices has increased. It is said that the average American child spends less than 30 minutes a day outside in unstructured play but spends more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen.

Whether you grew up in the city, in the suburbs, or in the country, chances are you probably spent time outside playing and exploring. Maybe you climbed trees in the backyard or rode bicycles down the street to the corner store or played ball in the vacant lot.

Unfortunately, young children today do not have as much interaction with nature as previous generations and it’s taking a toll. Childhood obesity rates have doubled and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen tremendously.

In his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the then-controversial theory that detachment from the outdoors results in poor physical and mental health for both adults and children.

While not a recognized medical condition, Nature Deficit Disorder has gained scientific traction. Since his book, hundreds of studies have shown a connection between exposure to the outdoors and better health, as well as better learning and cognitive development, among children.

According to a 2010 report released by the National Wildlife Federation, Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, and Spirit Through Outdoor Play, the benefits of nature can be seen on many levels. The report contends that outdoor play increases fitness and builds active, healthy bodies, raises levels of Vitamin D to protect against a myriad of childhood health problems, and improves vision.

Exposure to nature may also be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Outdoor play reduces children’s’ stress, anxiety, and depression levels, while enhancing a child’s social skills and ability to form relationships.

The reports also contends that children that participate in outdoor environmental education programs score higher in math, reading, writing, and listening skills, and significantly increases critical thinking among students.

Flamingo Gardens has been at the forefront of providing environmental education for almost 40 years, providing fieldtrips to about 28,000 school children annually. But we can do more!

That’s why we’re launching “More Green, Less Screen” a new program to encourage kids to put away their electrical devices and spend more time outdoors. Look for #MoreGreenLessScreen campaign to come in 2023.

Eco-teers Tree Tops Park Invasive Plant Removal

On Sunday, October 23, 2022, the Eco-teers volunteered at Tree Tops Park in Davie. The project focused on removing invasive plant species such as the air potato and the snake plant

These plant species spread ferociously and can displace and prevent native plant growth. A healthy plant community has a variety of shrubs and trees, but invasive plants cause biological pollution thus reducing plant diversity.

Glennys, Luisa, Ezequiel, and Bee of the Eco-teers successfully removed 384 pounds of these noxious weeds by shoveling out the roots from the ground while simultaneously pulling down any vines or clusters attached.

The fight continues at Tree Tops Park and much of Florida so the Eco-teers will be returning to help clear out more saturated areas. Would you like to participate in the next project? Email [email protected] to apply!

How Climate Change Helped Intensify Hurricane Ian

As Hurricane Ian roared across Florida, we were reminded once again that climate change is helping make tropical storms and hurricanes worse.

While scientists and meteorologists collectively caution against blaming these intense storms on any one cause, they do agree that climate change is creating conditions which contribute to the rapid intensification, rainfall, and inland flooding of recent hurricanes.

“The acting National Hurricane Center director recently stated that ‘on the whole, on the cumulative, climate change may be making storms worse.’ That is supported by the overwhelmingly clear science on what climate change means for storms like Ian in general: heavier rainfall, possible slower movement which prolongs heavy rain and battering winds, and more inundation as sea levels rise,” the Hurricane Center’s public affairs officer Maria Torres wrote in an email for a recent TIME magazine article.

Scientists agree that the rapid intensification of hurricanes is becoming more frequent and is connected to the impacts of climate change. Higher average temperatures lead to warmer ocean waters which in turn causes more evaporation. As tropical storms like Tropical Storm Ian pass over very warm water, they absorb more moisture, leading to heavier rainfall. In the right calm conditions, warmer waters can also increase the storms’ wind speed, and can cause hurricanes to undergo rapid intensification more frequently.

Dr. Richard Knabb, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said in a CBS News article that Hurricane Ian packed two days’ worth of rapid intensification into less than 36 hours.

“Warming sea-surface temperatures are playing a role, since they provide fuel for hurricanes, which also rely on a moist and unstable atmosphere — all of which are becoming more conducive for strengthening hurricanes in our changing climate,” Knabb said. “Hurricanes appear to be peaking in strength a bit higher than they used to, and they seem to be intensifying at a rapid rate a bit more frequently. We do not appear to be seeing more tropical storms and hurricanes overall, but the proportion of storms that become majors and that peak a bit stronger appears to be what is increasing.”

Rising sea levels also increase flooding danger from storm surge, helping to push flooding further inland.

“In addition,” Knabb said, “sea level rise will only continue to increase the magnitude and inland extent of flooding already caused by storm surge, when saltwater is pushed onto normally dry ground from the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean.”

 Apart from the damage caused by inland flooding, freshwater lagoons and reservoirs may become contaminated by the saltwater and may also damage water sanitation services resulting in waterborne infections. Standing water may also increase the presence of mosquitos and airborne diseases as well. More intense hurricanes and more frequent flooding are expected to drastically increase insurance costs to Florida residents.

We can all make a difference by helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and by encouraging our leaders, friends, and neighbors to make impactful change as well. Here are 5 Things You Can Do to Fight Climate Change.

Eco-teers Secret Woods Nature Center Clean Up

On September 25th, the Eco-teers visited Secret Woods Nature Center for a waterway cleanup and invasive plant removal.

Unfortunately, the park has experienced heavy flooding due to king tides and they were unable to remove invasive plants. Their focus shifted to solely removing incoming trash from South Fork New River and they collected 47.6 pounds of trash including shoes, Styrofoam, toys and many plastic bottles. 

After the cleanup, the Secert Woods Naturalist offered a reptile show educating the Eco-teers on the many reptiles that are found in Florida and the importance of understanding the difference between non-invasive and invasive species. Invasive species can be plants or animals that have detrimental ecological and/or economic impacts. Learn more on how to identify these species by joining the next Eco-teers project in October. 

Support has been provided by the following Funds at Community Foundation of Broward: Leonard & Sally Robbins Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Frederick W. Jaqua Fund, and support from Spirit Airlines.

If you would like to join the Eco-teers in their upcoming projects, email Glennys Navarrete at [email protected] to request an application. 

Eco-teers Mangrove Propagules Collection

The Eco-teers have launched their mangrove restoration campaign in partnership with The Youth Environmental Alliance (YEA) on Saturday, August 27th. 

Volunteers spent their day collecting propagules and removing trash off the shores of Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park. Approximately 300 white, black and red mangroves propagules were collected which have been transported to Flamingo Gardens where they will be germinated in freshwater tanks. 

Once the trees are strong enough to be planned in-ground, they will return to Eula Johnson Stat Park. A special recognition goes to MangroLife and Youth Environmental Alliance (YEA) for their kind donations of aquatic tanks and for their roles as educators, providing information on how to collect and germinate the propagules. 

Eco-teers also removed approximately 40 pounds of trash using supplies donated by 4Ocean

Mangroves provide essential habitat for thousands of species. They also stabilize shorelines, preventing erosion and protecting the land – and the people who live there – from waves and storms. As the Climate Crisis and detrimental human activates continues to threaten our planet, it is crucial to take action in creating and advocating for more sustainable future for all.  

The success of this project could not have been possible without the help of MangroLife and the Youth Environmental Alliance. Support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Leonard & Sally Robbins Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Fredrick W. Jaqua Fund, and support from Spirit Airlines.

If you would like to join the Eco-teers in their upcoming enviromental projects, email Glennys Navarrete at [email protected] to request an application. 

Volunteer of the Month: Ariana-Marie Lorenzo

Our Volunteer of the Month for July 2022 is Ariana-Marie Lorenzo.

Ariana has been one of the most enthusiastic and pro-active volunteers we’ve ever had.

In July alone Ariana has complete 90 hours. She has been a part of every department including the Orchidteers, Animal Care, Flamingo Café, and events. Most recently she was a key contributor to our Monarchs and Milkweeds Eco-teer project.

July has been an extremely productive month for the Volunteer Department of Flamingo Gardens and Ariana may have been the biggest reason why. Thank you, Ariana!

Climate Change is Heating Up and Here’s How You Can Help!

Climate change is really heating up! Communities around the world are experiencing extreme heat, intense wildfires, scorched crops, water shortages, strained power grids, buckling infrastructure, and even loss of life. 

It’s only July and already extreme temperatures are reaching new heights and setting records. In Texas, temperatures have exceeded 110 F° in parts of the state, causing a spike in heat-related illnesses and rolling blackouts. Both Austin and San Antonio have already topped their records for hottest summers ever, and it’s not even August.

In Spain, wildfires have burned more than 193,268 hectares of land and extreme heat in the United Kingdom has melted streets, airport runways, and traffic signals and have caused dozens of wildfires near London. This current European heat wave has accounted for more than 4,600 deaths in Portugal, Spain, Germany, and Britain in June and July 2022 — and it’s not over yet.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of life-endangering extreme heat events. Extreme temperatures can exacerbate drought, in turn decimating crop yields and increasing the risk of wildfires.

Higher temperatures also create a greater chance of more intense storms, including hurricanes and tornadoes. Higher temperatures evaporate more water from the surface of our oceans, and warmer air holds more moisture, both of which create greater chance for extreme precipitation events which can lead to flash flooding and mudslides.

Extreme heat is increasingly posing risks to our health too. Beside dehydration, extreme temperatures can cause heart attacks, heat stroke, organ failure, and respiratory illnesses.

We must act now to combat these deadly heat waves! Fortunately, there are things we can all do to help mitigate climate change to help prevent even more extreme temperatures.

1. Use less Fossil Fuels

Scientists agree that climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions and Fossil Fuels are responsible for more than 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Offset your Carbon Footprint. Lead by example by knowing your carbon footprint and offset it; but make sure that your offset leads to a measured reduction in carbon emissions. Adjust your thermostat and make home improvements to reduce energy use. If you can, switch to renewable energy like solar or wind. Reduce gasoline consumption with little changes like walking or biking when possible. Carpool or ride share with a neighbor and consolidate your shopping to one day. Consider an electric vehicle for your next purchase.

2. Reduce Single Use Plastics

Plastics production accounts for 4-8% of annual oil consumption. The plastics industry in the United States alone is on pace to eclipse the carbon footprint of the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants by the end of this decade. Every step from production to disposal of plastics releases greenhouse gasses. When plastics enter our landfills and waterways, they leak pollutants into the environment. Just switching to a refillable water bottle, you can save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually. Reducing single-use plastics and recycling will make a difference in your own personal carbon footprint and reduce the billions of items of plastic currently choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers.

3. Eat less Meat

Producing the livestock we eat generates as much climate pollution each year as do all the tailpipe emissions from all the vehicles in the world! This doesn’t mean you have to give up meat entirely- small changes in your diet can make big changes for the planet as well as your health. Try eliminating meat for one meal each day or incorporating “Meatless Monday” into your menu schedule. Have smaller portions or try plant-based meat options.

4. Plant a tree.

Trees absorb CO2 as they grow through the process of photosynthesis and are extremely important in combatting climate change. When trees perform photosynthesis, they pull carbon dioxide out of the air, bind it up in sugar to build its trunk, branches, and roots, and convert it into the oxygen we all need to live. Trees mostly store the carbon in its wood and roots, releasing only small amounts of carbon to the soil as its roots capture nutrients and water or when its leaves decompose. While planting one tree won’t reverse climate change, every tree counts. Plus, trees provide shade and help to mitigate extreme heat!

5. Get Involved!

Educate yourself about Climate Change issues and talk about it to help educate your friends, family, and neighbors. Contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel. Volunteer with Climate Change initiatives. There are hundreds of environmental organizations that can use your help, like Flamingo Gardens’ Eco-teers.

You can help the Eco-teers collect mangrove propagules on August 27 in an effort to protect our Florida Coastline and absorb carbon. To join or for more information contact [email protected] or visit The Eco-teers!

 

Eco-teers Milkweed Planting for Monarch Conservation

The Eco-teers planted milkweed for Monarch butterfly conservation this past Saturday morning, July 23, at Flamingo Gardens. Twenty volunteers helped in the efforts to plant nectar and host plants in the garden and stratify milkweed seeds in growing cells for future planting.

The Monarch butterfly has recently been added to the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. As the population decreases for these important pollinators, Eco-teers have dedicated their focus to nursing milkweed plants and seeds to help conserve the species.

As climate change continues to rise, so does the threat of biodiversity and habitat loss. The Monarch population is experiencing the detrimental impacts of the climate crisis firsthand and is just steps away from extinction if action is not taken immediately. 

To protect our pollinators, the Eco-teers planted 24 host and nectar plants including milkweed, coontie, lantana, and penta. 720 milkweed seeds were stratified and placed in growing cells for future planting. Besides these efforts, approximately 83 pounds of weeds were removed from the Flamingo Gardens butterfly garden and 24 Monarch butterflies were released into the garden. More Monarch butterflies are to be released soon.

The success of this project could not have been possible without the help of the education and horticulture team at Flamingo Gardens and the Youth Environmental Alliance. Support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Leonard & Sally Robbins Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Frederick W. Jaqua Fund, and support from Spirit Airlines. If you are interested in joining these efforts, you may apply to become an Eco-teer by requesting an application at [email protected]g

Eco-teers First Beach Cleanup

Flamingo Gardens’ new volunteer group, the Eco-teers, spent Saturday morning, June 25, collecting trash from the beach at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park with equipment donated by our 4Ocean partners. Over 60lbs of trash was gathered at Saturday morning’s cleanup by the eleven volunteers. There were many items collected during the beach cleanup, but the majority was plastic.

The plastic pollution crisis has consumed every corner of Earth which has consequences on our ocean, climate, food, and drinkable water. Clean-ups like this are a great way to not only preserve the natural beauty of our beaches, but they also serve as research opportunities to identify the exact sources contributing to the crisis.

The Eco-teers advocate and implement solutions to plastic pollution so that our communities have a chance at a more sustainable and fair future for all. Join the Eco-teers at their next monthly project on July 23, by requesting an application through [email protected]  

Support has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Leonard & Sally Robbins Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Frederick W. Jaqua Fund, and support from Spirit Airlines.

For more information about the Eco-teers visit the website: Eco-teers.

The Plastics Pollution Problem – How You Can Help

The Plastics Pollution Problem – How You Can Help

It’s tough to say exactly how much plastic is in the ocean, but scientists believe at least 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. That’s the weight of nearly 90 aircraft carriers annually, and the problem continues to grow. The amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metric tons

Plastics produce 3.8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, roughly double that of all the airplanes on earth! According to a new analysis from Bennington College’s Beyond Plastics think tank, the plastics industry in the United States alone is on pace to eclipse the carbon footprint of the country’s remaining coal-fired power plants by the end of this decade.

 

Every step from production to disposal of plastics releases greenhouse gasses. Extraction and transportation of the fossil fuels used to make plastics is a carbon-intensive activity, emitting millions of tons of carbon dioxide. Refining and manufacturing of the plastics themselves is also a greenhouse gas intensive process.

Plastics disposal is usually processed in three different ways: landfill, incineration, or recycling. Landfill and incineration of plastics both have climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions. At present just 9% of all plastic is recycled worldwide!

 

Unfortunately, much of the remaining plastics end up in our oceans and waterways. And unlike some other kinds of waste, plastics don’t decompose, which means plastics can stick around indefinitely, disrupting marine ecosystems and creating havoc for marine life.

Some plastics float once they enter the ocean, though not all do. As the plastic is tossed around, much of it breaks into tiny pieces, called microplastics. These tiny pieces eventually break down to even smaller bits called microbeads, or microfibers which are shed from synthetic clothing or fishing nets. These fibers, beads, and microplastic fragments can all contain harmful pollutants like pesticides, dyes, and flame retardants, which can then be released into the ocean.

 

There are many ways to keep plastic out of the ocean! Here are some simple strategies to reduce:

  1. Reduce plastic use. Wherever you live, the easiest and most direct way to help is to reduce your use of single-use plastics. Refuse any plastic items that you use once and throw out (like plastic bags, straws, cups, plates, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, etc.) and replace them with a reusable version of that product.

According to Earthday.org, Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! That means that by switching to a reusable water bottle you can save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.

2. Avoid products containing microbeads. Microbeads are found in some face scrubs, toothpastes, and bodywashes, and they readily enter our oceans and waterways through our sewer systems and affect hundreds of marine species.

 Avoid products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polyethylene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products (find a list of products containing microbeads here).

3. Recycle Properly. Be sure to recycle the plastic you use. Recycling helps keep plastics out of the ocean and reduces the amount of plastic in circulation.

If you need help finding a place to recycle plastic waste near you, check Earth911’s recycling directory. It’s also important to check with your local recycling center about the types of plastic they accept, and how to prepare it properly for recycling.

 

4. Spread the Word. Stay informed on issues related to plastic pollution and help make others aware of the problem. Talk about the issue with your friends and family and explain about how they can be part of the solution!

Host a viewing party for one of the many plastic pollution focused documentaries, like A Plastic Ocean, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic, or Garbage Island. Or host an outing with friends to an exhibit about plastics and the ocean, like the Free Our Seas exhibit of sculptures made from ocean debris to be held at Flamingo Gardens this summer.

5. Participate in a beach cleanup. Volunteer to pick up marine litter in your local community, at the beach, or along a river, canal, or other waterway. Find a cleanup near you!

You can join Flamingo Gardens’ new Eco-teers volunteer group and take part in monthly projects such as waterway cleanups, tree plantings and coastal restoration projects across Broward County. Join like-minded environmental stewards and help us help the environment. Contact our Volunteer Department at [email protected] 

with the subject line “Eco-teers”.