Three ways to stay calm, go green while spending time at home

Microgreens are an easy, sustainable foray into indoors home gardening (via flickr).

Julia Poska | March 23, 2020

Over the last several weeks, people everywhere–including Iowa–have been increasingly encouraged or ordered to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Below are three ways to keep caring for Mother Nature while you care for yourself and your community during these unprecedented times.

1. No paper towels? No worries

With mass panic-buying wiping store shelves clean in recent weeks and non-essential excursions strongly discouraged, some households may worry about fulfilling their regular demand for paper products.

While disposable paper towels are great for the messiest of messes, consider using reusable cloths and rags are a more eco-friendly option for household cleaning.

2. No need for bottled water

While stocking up on bottled water might be tempting, there is no reason to believe the pandemic will impact household tap water. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a statement encouraging Iowans to continue using tap water as much as they can.

3. Grow your own microgreens

Doing some indoor home gardening will not only keep you busy, but create a hyper-local produce supply you don’t have to venture to the store for. Growing microgreens –seedlings of edible plants– is among the easiest ways to get started.

Spread potting soil in a shallow tray (consider reusing packaging from a container of berries or salad mix) sprinkle a layer of seeds on top and cover with a very thin layer of soil. Kept in a sunny spot and sprayed with water to keep the soil damp, you can yield a microgreen crop every two weeks or so.

Sunflower, sweet pea and radish seeds (available online) are great options for getting started. The seedlings take on the flavor of the mature fruit or vegetable, making a great salad base or addition to other dishes. Get creative!


ISU tips for being a “green” college student

Video game consoles can add as much as $250 per year to your energy bill if left on for large portions of the day. Photo by ASurroca, Flickr.

Earlier this week we posted the University of Iowa’s eco-friendly tips for college students. Iowa State University also has a series of “green” suggestions for the school year.

Some of ISU’s top ten tips are to turn off video game consoles when they aren’t in use, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights and to shop with reusable bags.

Read the rest of ISU’s tips here.

Tips for watering trees during the drought

Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has released a set of tips for watering trees during drought conditions.

They advise using buckets of water or a hose instead of sprinklers, since sprinklers are less efficient.

An area within and just beyond the canopy should be watered with one gallon of water per square foot. This should be done in the evening or early morning to avoid evaporation.

On weeks with no rainfall, trees should be watered one to three times.

Read more tips on watering trees here.

Cattle owners must help their animals fight the heat

Photo by NDSU Ag Comm, Flickr.

Iowa is in the midst of a hot spell. This is particularly challenging weather for cattle and their owners.

In order to keep cattle safe, their owners should make sure there’s clean water and shade available. Additionally, it’s recommended to feed the cattle more than usual during the hot afternoons.

Finally, if the cattle are really struggling, their owners should sprinkle the animals with water.

Read more from the Des Moines Register here.

On the Radio: Safety tips for winter ice activities

Photo by Tom Gill (lapstrake), Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment suggests a number of safety tips for winter ice activities.

Iowa’s frozen rivers and lakes can provide an excellent setting for a number of recreational activities – but do you know how to avoid falling through the ice?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Holiday recycling guide

Photo by sonofnels, Flickr.

Holiday gift giving can result in an excess of waste – wrapping paper, styrofoam, bubble wrap, plastic packaging – but just how much of that material is recyclable?

A recent article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette seeks to provide a bit of clarity on this issue through the following sorting guide:

    • Wrapping paper – not recyclable, must be placed in the garbage
    • Tissue paper – not recyclable, must be place in the garbage or reused
    • Styrofoam – not recyclable, must be placed in the garbage
    • Shirt boxes – recyclable with the tissue paper removed
    • Cardboard toy boxes – recyclable with any plastic handles or twist ties removed
    • Shredded paper – recyclable, place in a paper bag to reduce the mess
    • Plastic bubble wrap – if bubbles are popped can be recycled at grocery stores with plastic bags

For more information on holiday recycling, check out the full article.

DNR snowmobile safety tips

Photo by Explore The Bruce, Flickr

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has compiled a list of safety tips for Iowa’s 29,000 registered snowmobilers.

• Wear proper gear for the conditions – boots, a snowmobile suit, helmet, gloves and layered clothing
• Don’t ride alone
• Tell someone where you are going and when you will return
• Carry a basic tool kit and know how to use it
• Carry a cell phone
• Do not use alcohol or drugs before or during the ride
• Make sure the sled is in proper working condition
• At night, slow down and do not over-drive your headlights

Iowa has more than 5,000 miles of snowmobile trails, most of which are marked and maintained by local clubs.

For more snowmobile tips, view the Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release here.