Making a difference

Jacob Pogue, 2, and brother Michael Shane Pogue, 3, play in part of a Charleston Water Systems exhibit at the 9th annual Earth Day Festival on Saturday at Park Circle in North Charleston.

EARTH DAY: APRIL 22

No green thumb? Maybe it's just pale, or perhaps it's a drab yellowish-green color?

That's OK. There's hope.

Thousands of children and adults attending Saturday's Earth Day Festival learned that while innumerable ways exist to help heal the planet, each person could have a positive impact in his or her own way.

"Every little bit that you do makes a difference," Sharon Moody of Wando said.

National Earth Day 2008 is Tuesday, but Moody, like several other festival participants, said even the smallest environmentally-conscious gesture can make every day an Earth Day.

"I'm for cleaning up the environment," Moody said. "I do my share of picking up in the neighborhood. As I do my walk, I pick up the trash that's along the route. I'm planning on living a while, so I want it clean for me and those after me."

Charleston County hosted the ninth annual event at Park Circle in North Charleston to

celebrate countywide efforts to boost environmental awareness. Residents saw how they could help preserve the Lowcountry through litter control, recycling, and energy and water conservation.

There were more than 60 educational exhibits on alternative energy, local and organic agriculture and nutrition, fossils, fluorescent bulb disposal, and more.

While compost from the Bees Ferry landfill was given away for free, College of Charleston graduate student Megan Penrod urged festival participants to try an alternative way to compost waste at home with worms.

The 26-year-old environmental studies major talked about how red wiggler worms can compost organic household materials, such as apples, banana peels, egg shells, onion peels and even pizza crust, into rich soil. Worm composting can be done indoors and outdoors.

"You can order the worms," Penrod said. "They come in the mail. It's really cool."

Penrod convinced Andrew Hiott, 18, of Health Nuts Organic Foods and Sports Nutrition in North Charleston to experiment with worm compost.

"I'm totally going to get some soon," he said.

Last year, more than 5,000 people attended the festival.

Cathleen Foisy of Hanahan moved to the area in October and decided she'd try out the festival for the first time this year. Recycling is almost second nature to her, but she said she understands why some people feel overwhelmed in trying to live green.

"It is a lot, but starting small, it'll make you feel good," Foisy said. Her apartment complex doesn't collect recyclable materials, so she said she regularly drives to North Charleston City Hall to unload her blue recycling bins.

North Charleston resident Kanita Coleman said her family does their part to be environmentally friendly mostly by carpooling and recycling. "My girls are good on aluminum, and that's really about it," she said.

Coleman, her two daughters and her little sister stopped by Go Green Charleston's booth to play the hands-on "Is It Recyclable?" game.

Several household items were spread across the table, and players were to pick which ones could be recycled.

"That. That. Not that," Coleman's 9-year-old sister, Raven, said as she scanned the items.

An empty Pedialyte plastic bottle proved tricky for young Raven. She thought it could be recycled.

"It's not," Chad Norman, founder of Go Green Charleston, told the youngster. "It's a plastic No. 5."

"Oh!" Raven exclaimed, disappointed that she was wrong.

Norman said it can be hard keeping straight which household items are recyclable. Certain plastics are recyclable, while others aren't.

"A lot of people don't know to look at the number," he said. "They see the recycling symbol and they think it's recyclable. It's really about the number inside of the symbol."

Sure, recycling is good. But judging from the many cars and sport utility vehicles parked all over Park Circle, perhaps the majority of festival participants could learn a thing or two from Tony Dursse of North Charleston.

He rode his bike there.

You can make a difference

1. Change your bulbs. Pick several lights that are on most of the time, and swap the regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs use about 75 percent less power and last 8-10 times as long as conventional bulbs, saving energy and money.

2. Maintain your vehicle. Save about 10 cents a gallon by keeping a vehicle's tires properly inflated, and the tires will last longer, too.

Replace dirty air filters and improve gas mileage by up to 10 percent.

3. Kill the energy vampires. Many electronic devices, from coffee pots to cell phone chargers, consume electricity as long as they are plugged in.

Unplug them when they aren't in use, or connect them to a power strip that can be switched off.

4. Plant something. Trees soak up climate-changing carbon dioxide while beautifying their surroundings. Replacing part of a lawn with native plants and shrubs will reduce the need for watering, mowing, and lawn chemicals.

- David Slade

Local action

After years of federal inaction on climate change, cities and states across the nation have set out to create their own plans.

In South Carolina, climate change concerns seemed to hit a tipping point last year, and both the state and the city of Charleston formed committees to develop policy recommendations.

Charleston's action followed up on Mayor Joe Riley's 2005 pledge to make deep cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. The city has undertaken energy-saving measures, and last fall the city's Green Committee met for the first time.

In Columbia, a committee formed by Gov. Mark Sanford has been working on recommendations that could lead to legislation in 2009. "Remedies based on market principles, private property rights and conservative ideology ..." are the goal.

In November, 108 S.C. mayors signed an open letter to the 2008 presidential candidates, urging them to make climate change solutions a priority.

- David Slade

Recycling on the rise

Charleston County residents appear to be recycling more these days.

The county's Solid Waste and Recycling Department processed 21,014 tons of recycling materials last year, which was up about 115 tons from the previous year. And the upward trend in recycling is continuing so far this year.

The most recycled item is newspaper, followed by cardboard and green glass.

The waste and recycling department is working with neighborhoods to organize days when residents can drop off their household hazardous waste at a nearby designated location. Seven neighborhoods have signed up so far this year.

Charleston County officials unveiled earlier this year a program for residents interested in recycling their compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Residents can now take them to eight centers in the county, which then works with Cleanlites Recycling of Spartanburg to recycle them.

- Tenisha Waldo

Retail goes green

Retailers are rushing to embrace the green movement, which is no longer confined to the local organic food shop.

It was even the central theme of the National Retail Federation's big January convention in New York, where experts discussed topics like "Protecting the Environment and Your Bottom Line."

Industry kingpin Wal-Mart helped nudge the trend toward the mainstream with last year's initiative to sell 100 million energy-efficient light bulbs.

Others are looking to tap into this market while burnishing their public image.

Home Depot sells environmentally certified lumber tree, Levi Strauss makes organic cotton jeans and Clorox has introduced natural cleaning products.

"They understand there's an opportunity because consumers are asking for it," said retail consultant Lynn Switanowski of Creative Business Consulting Group.

Some green products, like compact fluorescent light bulbs, save consumers money, but others cost more that conventional products.

Convincing buyers to fork over more for Earth-friendly products remains a challenge, said Britt Beemer, chairman of Charleston-based America's Research Group. Beemer's pollsters found that, of shoppers interested in eco-friendly items, 93 percent said they'd go green only if it didn't cost more.

- John McDermott

Green house

More local real estate professionals these days are seeing green, realizing that environmentally friendly development techniques are not only ecologically sound, but also in demand by consumers who will sometimes pay more for energy-efficient buildings of sustainable materials.

Major home builders, for example, sometimes offer upgrades that either save energy or incorporate recycled products, such as carpet created from used plastic bottles. And some local home inspectors are now offering tests that measure a structure's energy efficiency.

Some developers are planning entire neighborhoods around green concepts. The Magnolia Development in the Charleston Neck Area, for example, is participating in a pilot program created by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The program would "certify" the neighborhood because developers plan to rehabilitate polluted land.

- Katy Stech

Bright ideas

It's easier than ever to put a green tint on the lights, laundry and everything else in life that requires electricity.

Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, has been selling energy from renewable sources since 2001, but the other South Carolina power companies fell in line late last year.

South Carolina Electric and Gas, Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. have agreed to pump a 100 kilowatt-hour block of green energy onto the grid for every extra $4 their customers pay. The money will be routed to Palmetto Clean Energy, a nonprofit consortium created to develop renewable power sources.

Santee Cooper has gone a step further. In the next month, it will mail a voucher for a dozen ultra-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs to each of the 135,000 homes hooked to its plants. They plan to spend $2.7 million on the initiative.

In October, the state's 20 electric cooperatives pledged to spend $10 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their revenue, on green initiatives such as buying 7 million CFLs over the next decade, among other things.

And it's easier than ever to cross state lines in order to help save the planet. More than a dozen companies around the country sell green power "tags," which subsidize the development of clean energy, for between $5 and $75 a megawatt-hour.

- Kyle Stock

Clean sweep

Maybe the simplest thing you can do for your planet is to pick up after yourself. And others.

Litter is the ubiquitous pollution. Paper, plastic, cigarette butts and other materials are not only unsightly but wash into the drainage system and into the water supply in rivers and lakes, then into the ocean. The waste and the contaminants it carries can threaten wildlife and marine life.

Clean Cities Sweep, a volunteer operation coordinated among Keep South Carolina Beautiful, Keep Charleston Beautiful, Keep North Charleston Beautiful and a number of other organizations, begins today and runs through April 27. For more information, call 579-7501.

Every little bit helps. More than 31,378 volunteers in organized efforts across the state last year picked up a combined 1,682,606 pounds of trash and recycled 4,518,115 pounds more, according to Sarah Robinson of Keep South Carolina Beautiful.

"A lot of the litter we find is recyclable, glass bottles, plastic bottles,"

said Karen Hauck, director of Keep Charleston Beautiful. "People sometimes find Earth Day too big a thing to deal with. Cleaning up a neighborhood or a community is an easy task for someone to do and still feel they are giving back and protecting the environment."

- Bo Petersen

Making waves

Boaters enjoy the best of the Lowcountry coastal environment. They also have some of the hardest impact on it.

Boat wakes erode banks and kill oyster reefs. Island excursions intrude on threatened species of nesting seabirds seeking isolation and foraging shorebirds trying to feed for migrations of thousands of miles. Paper or plastic litter can be mistaken for food by turtles and other marine life.

That's along with carbon fuels and oils that bleed into the water, the noise and the threat of striking turtles, manatees and other marine life. A host of marine biologists, regulators and law enforcement officers are occupied constantly handling or mitigating the problems.

Keep the motor clean and operating efficiently. Don't operate a boat recklessly.

"We're blessed with these abundant, gorgeous marshes and estuaries. We're out there so often we risk loving them to death," said Nancy Vinson of the environmental advocate group Coastal Conservation League. She offers three more tips:

Know where you can and can't go as far as bird rookery closures; restrain pets from chasing shore life at other locations.

Throttle back near shorlines and through smaller tidal creeks as well as respect other no wake zones. Pick up litter.

- Bo Petersen

The green Web

Find tips on energy savings, state and federal tax incentives, climate change lessons for children, and more at these sites:

www.energystar.gov - Learn about energy-saving projects and products, take the "change a light" pledge, and read about federal tax incentives. The Energy Star kids page offers fun ways for children to learn how they can help.

www.fueleconomy.gov - The U.S. Department of Energy's guide to improving automobile fuel economy.

www.epa.gov/climatechange - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's web site on climate change. Also a link to EPA's kid-friendly site.

www.energy.sc.gov - The South Carolina Energy Office offers information on state tax incentives, renewable energy, and more state-specific facts.

www.charlestongreen.us - The Charleston Green Committee, formed by the city to create a local climate change action plan.

- David Slade

Earth Day events

Earthfare's Earth Day Celebration: All day. Earth Fare, 74 Folly Road, Charleston. The S.C. Aquarium's Outreach Team will teach about the environment and the impact of everyday actions. Animals and hands-on activities. Call 577-FISH or visit www.scaquarium.org.

Earth Day Crafts: 4 p.m. Johns Island Library, 3531 Maybank Highway. Free. Ages 11 and younger. Make art out of recycled materials and learn about how to save the planet. Call 559-1945.

Earth Day Celebration: 4:30-5:30 p.m. Mount Pleasant Regional Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Road. Free. Grades 6-12. Make a craft out of recycled materials and celebrate National Earth Day 2008. Snacks will be provided. Call 849-6161.

Energy Conservation Workshop: 6-8 p.m. The GreenHouse, 1441 E. Montague Ave., North Charleston. Free. Learn simple ways to reduce energy consumption and cost. Presented by the Sustainability Institute. Call 529-3421 to register.