Posts Tagged ‘EcoMyths’

Myth: Wild Predators Belong Anywhere But Here

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Meaty Topic: Are Large Carnivores Moving Into a New Neck of the Woods?

Plenty of people like the idea of big wild animals like bears, big cats, and wolves roaming the land…in theory. Large meat-eaters can exude an aura of cool, plus, their babies are ridiculously cute. But when these top-of-the-food-chain creatures, aka apex predators, begin to expand their territory closer into ours, even the biggest animal lover in the room may be tempted to ask, “uh, don’t they belong, like, somewhere else?”

Myth busted—they belong just as much as any native species in the local ecosystem. Apex predators can help keep smaller animals from overrunning the place, ultimately keeping natural areas in balance. The trick is to learn how to peacefully coexist, as much as is possible, both for the average Joe and Jane and statewide management alike…and that starts by simply better understanding these animals and their role in the balance of life. (more…)

Myth: Monarchs and GMO Foods Are Unrelated

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Why North America Is Losing in the Monarch Games

Wanna talk Olympic pursuits? Every fall, monarch butterflies in eastern North America embark on an epic journey. Putting in 50-100 miles a day, they travel up to 3,000 miles from the U.S. and Canada to the fir forests of Mexico’s Neovolcanic Mountains, where they settle in for a few months of subtropical sun before winging it back north in March.

Monarchs cluster on fir boughs in central Mexico (Sweet Briar College)

Monarchs cluster on fir boughs in Mexico. (Sweet Briar College)

Ground zero for scientific study on this more than 10,000-year-old migration is Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage site, where an estimated 95 percent of the eastern monarchs spend the winter, making it, as UNESCO puts it, “the most dramatic manifestation of the phenomenon of insect migration.”

This winter, though, monarchs are occupying the smallest area they have since scientists started measuring 20 years ago, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund-Mexico. (more…)

Myth: You Must Rinse All Containers Before Recycling Them, Or Else…

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

No Shame in Not Knowing Rinsing Protocol

It’s time we had a little talk. Sometimes in life, we have dirty things we want to, ahem, recycle. This can mean we have to rinse containers before recycling them…except for when we don’t. Sound as clear as mud? It pretty much is, considering the need to rinse really depends on the recycling provider in your area.

Chicagoans, for example, are off the hook for rinsing, according to this handy guide. Denverites don’t need to rinse all containers—just roughly 30 percent of them, like milk, juice, yogurt, and peanut butter containers. Memphis does not require rinsing, but does recommend it for plastic bottles and steel cans. Meanwhile in San Francisco, “all materials should be rinsed prior to recycling.”

Fortunately the answer in other areas is just a click away, thanks to Earth911’s recycling database, also available by app, which has compiled nationwide guidelines by zip code.

Just enter your zip code into the Earth911 database and voila, the local do's and don'ts are revealed.

Just enter your zip code into the Earth911 database and voila, the local do’s and don’ts are revealed.

(more…)

Showdown: Bottled vs. Tap Water

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Meet the Contenders

The crowd roars as the rivals enter the arena. Who will win this epic match: bottled or tap water?

A shiny clear bottle takes the ring, and it sure looks like a champ. Its factory-sealing suggests safety, its plastic material, convenience, and the pristine waterfalls gracing its label ooze purity—together inspiring confidence in Team Bottle’s enormous fan base. Yes, according to the International Bottled Water Association, Americans drank 9.67 billion gallons of bottled water in 2012, up 6.7 percent from 2011. That puts its sales numbers ahead of milk, juice, and coffee, according to Columbia University Water Center analysis.

“Have you even seen where it comes from?” someone jeers as the scrappy faucet-sourced challenger jogs into starting position. Still, filtered tap water has its own diehards, too, with groups like Food and Water Watch and Environmental Working Group (EWG) cheering it along as just as safe and far more sustainable than bottled. (more…)

Seed the Day: Popular Native Plants for Chicagoland Gardeners

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

With close to 2,000 species native to the Chicago region alone, choosing the best ones for your garden can seem overwhelming at best. A few pieces of good news: Gerould Wilhelm, author of Plants of the Chicago Region, says only about 100 of those will actually do well in the typical garden (for more on that, read the myth).

Still overwhelmed? We hear you. So we’ve put together a short list of popular native plant picks that tend to do well in gardens around Chicagoland.

Common Witch-Hazel: These big (we’re talking 20-30 feet tall, and 15-20 feet wide) shrubs do well in full sun to shade, and moist, well-drained soil. We love the yellow ribbon-like flowers they produce in fall.

Shooting Star: A dainty spring perennial, this native plant has a leafless flower stem with lovely white or pink blossoms. It likes full sun to partial shade, and moderately moist soil.

Some of Illinois' natural beauties, clockwise from left: little bluebell, purple coneflower, shooting star. (Pictures by Chicago Botanic Garden)

Purple Coneflower: An Illinois prairie flower star, the vivid coneflower is a lovely addition to a sunny garden. Its rosy-purple daisylike flowers bloom in late summer—and can last straight through to October.

Bluestem: One of the most common prairie grasses in the state, this warm-season grass was named the Illinois state prairie grass in 1989. Its delicate leaves and bright fall and winter colors make it a nice way to highlight areas of your garden.

Golden Alexander: A native perennial, this member of the carrot family grows up two feet tall, with starbursts of yellow flowers blooming from late spring to early summer. It thrives in full to partial sun, though light shade can work too, and moist, loamy soil is best.

Glade Fern: This lush native fern has elegant, shiny leaves, and grows well in moist, silty or loamy soil that’s lightly shaded and sheltered.

Blue Wild Indigo: These pretty, native perennial plants are related to beans, and produce showy flowers in varying shades of blue in late spring. They fare best in full sun with average moisture levels and rocky or loamy soil.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of other great native options for your garden out there. The decision as to what to buy depends on so many variables, from the sunlight in your location to the soil composition, so the best thing to do is check with an expert. Head to one of these native plant sales, where you can browse and get advice while you’re at it.

Into the Wild: Proposed Wildlife Refuge Would Be the Closest One We’ve Got

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

The proposed Hackamatack refuge area is an important habitat for the endangered whooping crane. (Photo by NaturesFan1226/Flickr)

Hackmatack. The word doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue…but that’s hopefully about to change for Chicagolanders, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the possibility of creating the Hackamatack National Wildlife Refuge along the Illinois/Wisconsin border. Named for the Algonquin word for the tamarack tree, an uncommon deciduous conifer that’s native to the area, Hackmatack would be the closest wildlife refuge to the city. (more…)

Myth: Wild Seafood Is Better Than Farmed

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

The (Sea)food Network: Tuning In to the Wild Vs. Farmed Debate

What does the word “wild” mean to you? To us, it conjures up visions of salivating grizzly bears, gun-slinging outlaws, untamed facial hair…that sort of thing. But it can also evoke a fuzzy feeling of natural goodness—pesticide-free lands, clear skies, and clean water teeming with silvery fish.

Problem is, wild isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be—at least not when it comes to seafood. And like the ocean itself, the question of buying farmed versus wild seafood can be tough to navigate…unless you’ve got a Shedd Aquarium pro on your side. So let’s dive in (pun intended, per usual)! (more…)

Myth: The Mighty Oak Will Always Flourish in Illinois

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Root for the Home Team: How and Why to Support Local Oak Trees

Strength, protection, endurance, Chardonnay…these are all words associated with the mighty oak. In Illinois, we love the acorn-bearer so much that we named one of them our official state tree. (That would be the white oak, or Quercus alba for you crossword fans.) For many of us, an oak-lined street or oak-dotted prairie is one of the most iconic features of the Illinois landscape. But are oaks as mighty as they appear? And can we count on them to maintain their local grandeur for the generations to come?

We chatted with a trio of experts on the subject—the Morton Arboretum’s Forest Ecologist Bob Fahey, PhD, Plant Systematist and Herbarium Curator Andrew Hipp, PhD, and Botanic Gardens Conservation International’s Executive Director Andrea Kramer, PhD—who all agree that we can’t expect our oak forests and woodlands to look the same in the future if we don’t take action today. (more…)

Myth: Feeding Birds Is As Problematic As Feeding Other Wildlife

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Hunger Games: Bird Feeding Edition

We all know we’re not supposed to feed wild animals (for those who don’t, here’s why)…but do the same rules apply to birds in our backyards? We chatted with a couple of Chicagoland’s foremost ornithologists for their take on using bird feeders, and turns out, they both give them a thumbs up. Read on to find out why it’s A-okay to share the edible love with our feathery friends.

First, let’s get the elephant out of the room: both of our experts, Jim Steffen, senior ecologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and Doug Stotz, senior conservation ecologist at the Field Museum, have bird feeders in their own yards. That’s because a.) they’re big-time bird lovers and b.) they agree that the benefits of the practice greatly outweigh its potential negatives. (more…)