Virginia Student from St. Stephens and St. Agnes High School Studies at HBF

June 23rd, 2016

Interning at AFF
By Camryn Collette

Teresa in the children's garden. Photo by Camryn ColletteFor my high school senior project, I volunteered 21 hours with the Alice Ferguson Foundation in Accokeek, Maryland. For our senior projects, we each proposed one question through a social justice lens that we would then attempt to answer. My question was, “How can I help to work towards more natural, peaceful, and greener ways for humans to live, while taking in consideration all forms of life?” I worked with Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator for AFF’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, as well as, AFF’s Hard Bargain Farm educators. The facilities and land they have are beautiful; especially their newest building that is currently in the process of being certified as a Living Building, which is like nothing I have ever seen before. My favorite part of the Living Building was the solar panel roof and front deck made out of recycled plastic. One thing that makes AFF special is the amount of passion and enthusiasm the staff has. As Hannah says, they are a “small but mighty crew,” and she is absolutely right.

One of the many important things they do at AFF is educate younger kids from D.C., PG County, and other places in the metropolitan region about environmental issues, and how to make a difference towards saving the Earth in everyday life. Since the majority of these students live in the city, this program often connects them to nature for the first time. While I was on the farm, I learned lots of cool and useful facts and ways I can help work towards a more natural, peaceful, greener life for humans to live, and I am excited to share this knowledge with others. One of the many things I learned on the farm is how huge of a positive impact humans can make on the environment just by doing simple things, such as sorting trash from recyclables and picking up trash or recycling that has been littered.

Living Building at Hard Bargain Farm.  Photo by Camryn Collette

 

Alice Ferguson Foundation Leads Cleanup of 334,952 Pounds of Trash

June 9th, 2016

Community comes together for 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup

Drawing from results collected on AFF’s Trash Network, nearly 10,000 volunteers collected 334,952 pounds of trash at 265 sites throughout the watershed in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia.

“I am incredibly proud of the work we were able to do this year to clean up our watershed,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director. “As the largest regional event of its kind, the Cleanup provides a transforming experience that engages citizens and community leaders and generates momentum for change. I want to thank all of our partners and volunteers for their efforts and commitment to making the Potomac Watershed healthy, clean and trash-free.”

A wide range of litter was removed during the cleanup – including 16,116 plastic bags, 1,003 tires, 14,280 cigarettes, 11 bicycles, car parts and even a bowling ball.
The announcement comes during the first annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, a joint effort by Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to draw national attention to the history and importance of the nation’s largest estuary. The Potomac is one of the largest rivers that flows into the Bay, and littering is a widespread problem in the area.

The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is one of many of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s programs designed to promote environmental sustainability in the region and connect people to the natural world. The Foundation’s Regional Litter Prevention Campaign empowers communities to “Take Control, Take Care of Your Trash,” and has reduced littering behavior by over 30 percent when comparing target areas before and after the campaign began in 2011.

“What you do every day matters more than what you do only once in a while,” said volunteer Keenan Williams from Charles County, MD.

Several hundred organizations and groups partner in the Cleanup each year, including Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anacostia Watershed Society, C&O Canal Association, Charles County Public Works, City of Alexandria, DC Department of Energy and Environment, Fairfax County Government Center, Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Joint Base Andrews, Montgomery County Parks and Planning, National Park Service, Prince George’s County, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Reston Association, Rock Creek Conservancy and Rock Creek Nature Center.

What can I do about the Foam Ban?

June 7th, 2016

Tim Murphy Coordinator, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

A major step was taken this year by the District of Columbia and neighboring jurisdictions, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County to ban the use of Styrofoam (Polystyrene) products for businesses that serve food or beverages. The intent is to move consumer usage toward products that are less harmful on the environment. Due to its lightweight nature, foam can be easily blown and washed into local waterways. It is made in such a way that it does not decompose, but breaks apart into small pieces so that it looks like food to the fish and animals that live in and around the water. This then becomes an ingested toxin and has harmful effects on the animal.

There will be a period of time over which the ban will take full effect. Although the responsibility of discontinuing foam products rests on the businesses in the food industry, there are a number of things consumers can do to help get rid of the foam from the environment. Just think of the 4 R’s

Reduce – If you patronize a business continuing to use foam, make the owners aware of the ban. The Department of Energy and Environment seeks to educate and assist with compliance rather than fine businesses for first offenses. See doee.dc.gov/foam for information on compliance and vendors of acceptable alternative products.

Reuse – Although you should make the best efforts to not use foam in the first place, it can find its way into your home as part of shipping or packaging. Rather than throw it away and take up that precious landfill space (remember, foam doesn’t biodegrade like other products will) there are decorative or functional uses for the stuff. I read an interesting post on recyclenation.com that can give you a few ideas.

Rethink- It is becoming more and more popular to carry a reusable drink container with you that you can fill up without using a supplied foam product. If you know you are going to be purchasing food, why not carry your own reusable service items with you. Stick them in your reusable bag and wash them when you get home.

Recycle – Most local waste haulers will not accept Styrofoam due to the cost involved in hauling a high volume lightweight material. It is also less expensive for manufacturers to make new Styrofoam than recycle it. There are, however, local companies that accept clean dry Styrofoam for recycling (EPI Industry Alliance www.epspackaging.org and selected locations of Mom’s Organic Market)  and local shipping companies may accept it to reuse.

It make take a little extra effort on our part, but each step we take brings us closer to sustainable waterways that are safe for drinking, swimming and fishing.

New Litter Prevention Research for the District of Columbia

June 7th, 2016

For over 5 years, The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been addressing the trash problem through The Regional Litter Campaign. Items such as banners, posters and yard signs evoke messages intended to actualize the impact of littering behaviors. Relevant messages include “Your Litter Hits Close to Home” and “Take Control, Take Care of your Trash”. Studying the effectiveness of the campaign through behavior observation and focus groups has given us insight into why people litter and how to promote positive behaviors.

We partnered with the research firm, Opinion Works, to look at selected groups in order to find ways to resonate with Litterers in wards 5-8 in D.C. In our most recent study, the target audiences were millennials (who are in the age demographic most likely to litter) and Spanish Speaking audiences, to determine the effectiveness of the Spanish Litter Prevention Campaign materials recently developed. Some of the findings were:

  1. Litter can be relative and situational depending on the context. Many of the people surveyed live in areas were a great amount of litter is present and therefore perceive one additional piece of litter as inconsequential. Where trash is abundant or there are not enough waste containers, residents tend to rationalize the behavior as outside of their level of concern.
  2. Direct confrontation of littering is met with negativity so it does not diminish littering. The images and wording of the campaign are meant to influence communities with value laden messaging such as, trash increases nuisance animals and reduces property values. A strong connection is made with images of children around litter where a sense of imminent harm and a need for protection. Relating trash to drinking water also has a strong correlation to reducing littering.
  3. The Millennial audience resonated with the campaign hashtag, #DontbeTrashy. The term “Trashy” implies a negative self-image; and, the association with littering behavior is a pairing that brings about a feeling of regret. The hashtag did not fare as well with the Spanish speaking audience as the direct translation of the phrase into Spanish is a little stronger and does not have a similar cultural meaning.

We completed an additional round of behavioral observations in the District of Columbia to track the impact of the presence of campaign materials on littering behavior. The rate of littering behavior since the placement of materials in 2014 had a 31% reduction in littering behavior at the four target areas in wards 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Our work in the District continues with holding cleanups to remove the litter already on the streets and in parks. Daily, we prevent litter with our Litter Prevention Campaign materials and with every new post of litter makes its way into our Potomac.

If you would like to request the littering campaign in your area, e-mail us at [email protected].

Litter Prevention Resources in the District

June 7th, 2016

The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Litter Prevention Campaign is currently in Wards 5-8. Our outreach efforts have reached out to businesses, neighborhoods, churches, community groups and other nonprofits and District Departments in this area. We have been able to provide groups the general items in our Litter Prevention Toolkit which includes community planning documents, newsletter language, radio PSAs and more.

We have focused our outreach on providing Litter Prevention Posters, Yard Signs and Banners as we have found these materials to be an easy gateway for community members to begin reducing litter. Our materials have changed over the years of the Litter Campaign as we have done more research and heard more feedback. The most recent updates to the Campaign materials are explained in our Blog Post ‘New Litter Prevention Research for the District of Columbia’ with our most recent focus group findings as of May 2016.

In the future we hope to expand our Litter Prevention Campaign to wards 1-8 in the District to increase our impact on litter and reduce the amount of litter in our watershed. With continued support from the District Department of Energy and the Environment, we can help to meet the trash Total Maximum Daily Load for the Anacostia and reduce the pollution of 80% of the regions drinking water; the Potomac River.

The bottom picture is a road in Ward 7 before a cleanup. The top is the road after the cleanup. Our Litter campaign Yard Signs are no up along the road to prevent litter in the future.

Litter Prevention in Ward 7

Faith In Our Watershed Month – May 2016

May 13th, 2016

Faith In Our Watershed, photo by Bill TownsendTim Murphy, Coordinator, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, Alice Ferguson Foundation

As I watch the drops of rain fall at the farm today, I am reminded that every molecule of water on the earth has always been here. It exists in our waterways, has seeped into the earth, resurfaced for our needs, and evaporated into the air, only to return again as rain. Refilling my 52 oz water jug from the tap supplied by our well, I start to wonder about all the places these molecules of water might have been.

The 2nd Annual Faith in our Watershed Month is a program sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. We are encouraging faith communities to consider where our water comes from and the gift it is to all the people of the earth. 2/3 of our body weight is water, making the presence of water the primary factor of human viability. The essential message is that how we treat our water will have a long-term impact on our survival. The actions we are calling for are:

  1. Inspiring your faith community through messages during worship or organized educational activities. We at the Alice Ferguson Foundation are ready as a resource for any programming you want to do.
  2. Take Action by cleaning up the trash in your area. Cleanup activities are listed year round on our Trash Network: trashnetwork.fergusonfoundation.org. You can even organize your own cleanup and list it on the network as well. We can take you through every step. Our Adopt A Litter Can program involves taking ownership of a litter can that we provide, to put in a place that is often littered. This program is getting popular, and proving to be an exceptional solution.
  3. Raise Awareness by posting our litter campaign materials. We can provide you with free promotional materials that are proven to reduce littering.

For more information on Faith in our Watershed Month, contact us: [email protected]

Mallows Bay Cleanup Volunteers Remove 4.84 Tons of Trash

May 13th, 2016

Mallows Bay Cleanup, Photo by Adirenne FarfallaThe 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup was April 16, 2016. AFF supported hundreds of cleanups all over the region from DC, MD, VA, to WV. Among the cleanup sites was Mallows Bay. Mallows Bay has recently passed the nomination process to become a National Marine Sanctuary and will be entering the next phase of designation involving a highly participatory and transparent public review process. 

Over 150 people volunteered at the cleanup, removing a total of 4.84 tons of trash!

Representing AFF were staff members Karen Jensen Miles, Adrienne Farfalla and Board of Directors Member Liz Theobalds. The site leader at Mallows Bay was Sammy Orlando from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Also in attendance was Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson, Tom Roland. Chief of Parks & Grounds, Don Shomette, author of Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, Susan Langley, Chief Underwater Archaeologist for the State of Maryland, Mary Groves with MD DNR Smallwood State park, Nick Kuttner with the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Charlie Stek, Chair of the Mallows Bay- Potomac River Community group, Dave Howe and the team from Institute of Maritime History, Judy Lathrop’s Atlantic Kayak Company, and the Nanjemoy Fire and Rescue team. These volunteers freely engaged the cleanup participants in wonderful stories about the sunken vessels and ecological treasures in the bay.

Tim Emhoff from Nanjemoy Creek and Adrienne Farfalla from the Alice Ferguson Foundation lead education programs with fourth grade students from Gale-Bailey Elementary School after the cleanup on activities such as; Who Polluted the Potomac, and Trash Timeline.

Regional Leaders Receive Potomac Champion Awards; Talk Trash-Free Solutions for the Anacostia River and Beyond

March 22nd, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  March 22, 2016

CONTACT: Julene Joy
703.403.2346 (cell)
[email protected]

(College Park, MD) Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III; Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett; and Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser were honored as Potomac Champions today at the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Transforming Communities Summit as elected officials, business leaders, community activists, and municipal managers focused on regional policies and efforts to reduce trash in communities along the Potomac River Watershed, particularly the Anacostia River.

The Summit’s theme of Trash-Free Solutions for Healthy Lives, Clean Land, and Safe Water was reflected in roundtable discussions that exhibited the enormous progress that has been made over the past decade since the Trash Treaty was signed in 2005. Sessions included information on how to comply with Styrofoam bans in several local jurisdictions, large scale food composting, and technologies for trapping trash in streams.

“The 2005 Trash Treaty brought attention to the pervasive problem of trash in our watershed,” said Alice Ferguson Foundation Executive Director Lori Arguelles. “While the past decade has yielded enormous progress, there is still much to be done to rid our communities and waterways of trash. Given that 80% of people in the Washington metropolitan region get their drinking water from the Potomac River, we all have a vested interest in transforming our communities for the sake of healthy lives, clean land, and safe water.”

The Trash Treaty, signed by nearly 200 regional elected officials, called for supporting and implementing regional strategies aimed at reducing trash and increasing recycling; increasing education and awareness of the trash issue throughout the Potomac Watershed; and convening annually to discuss and evaluate measures and actions addressing trash reduction.

Bag laws incentivizing reusable bags, Styrofoam bans, and plastic microbead bans are some of the significant accomplishments since the first Summit was held in March of 2006. These progressive policies, along with community focused initiatives, are among the reasons that County Executives Baker and Leggett, along with Mayor Bowser, are being recognized as Potomac Champions.

Other award recipients include: Julie Lawson, Trash Free Maryland Executive Director; Maurice Collier-Shabazz, Phyllis E. Williams Elementary School Teacher; District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, Sixth District; Frankie Sherman, Charles County Department of Public Works; Deborah Turner, Coordinator for the District Heights Community Garden Program.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation connects people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy. AFF operates the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center—a 330 acre working farm located on the shorelines of the Potomac River south of Washington, D.C. Learn more at www.fergusonfoundation.org

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View the List of 2016 Potomac Champion Award Recipients

Transforming Communities Summit

03/22/2016
10:00 am - 4:00 pm Transforming Communities Summit
University of Maryland Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, College Park Maryland

AFF Education Team Tours Local Facilities

January 20th, 2016

The education team toured the new Prince George’s County compost facility this morning. The goal of this facility is to make household composting facilities available to every home in the county, eventually having the ability to put out your compost bin along with your trash and recycling bins. The pilots have been successful, the compost staff are committed to making the program a success, along with Adam Ortiz, Director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment who joined us today.

The group continued their local tour of forward thinking facilities, and visited Bandalong Trash Traps in DC with Groundworks Executive Director, Dennis Chestnut. The traps are designed to float in waterways in order to capture litter before it flows further downstream by using the current to guide debris into the trap.

AFF’s education team enjoyed being on the receiving end of learning new information that they can, in turn, use to help formulate the conversation with students, teachers, and the general public who we touch in our many environmental programs.

PGC-Compost-Visit-web PGC-Compost-web

GroundWords trip