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Almanac Archive for January 10, 2019

   The Conservation Almanac
             Environmental news from the Vineyard Conservation Society
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Quote of the Week

"Two basic versions of the future come to mind. In one, we drift along a course of degradation, losing our unique qualities, growing more like everyplace else as habitat is turned to lawn and specialized native wildlife succumbs to invading generalists. In the other, a critical mass of Islanders pushes back against encroaching dullness, finding ways to preserve the natural diversity and productivity on which past generations depended.”

Where is Martha heading? — New Year's essay for the MV Times by Matt Pelikan of The Nature Conservancy
B.Y.O. Spotlight
This space highlights programs and promotions that help encourage and reward the B.Y.O. spirit. Let us know if you see something cool while you're out, and you might see it featured here.

Check Out These Bags!

Literally, that is. Now when you borrow books at the Chilmark Library you can also check out a nice, strong bag to carry them home. Just bring the books back in the bag when you return — brilliant!
Conservation Calendar

Regenerative Backyard Gardening
Gardens of the Future
Saturday, Jan. 19, 10:30
— noon, Oak Bluffs.
Winter is the perfect time to dream about (and plan for) a garden that nourishes people, wildlife, and the planet. Learn how to use regenerative gardening practices to grow edible plants, conserve water, eliminate your use of fossil fuels, and make compost in your own backyard. This is the first of three workshop sessions, and will be held at the O.B. Library. The others will be Feb. 16 at the West Tisbury Library, and March 23 at the V.H. Library. No experience necessary, for more info, contact Noli via email or at (508) 687-9062.

Presentation: Talkin' Trash with Sakiko

Saturday, Jan. 19, 3:30 — 4:30 pm, West Tisbury.
Local waste management researcher (and garbage enthusiast) Sakiko Isomichi presents "Let's Talk About Garbage!" Her talk will recap recent trips to the off-island destinations of our recycling and trash, and offer other information she has gathered from studying the Island's waste management system. A free talk at the West Tisbury Library, click here for poster and details.

Q&A: Plastic Bottle Ban Bylaw
Thursday, Jan. 24, 4:30 — 5:30 pm, West Tisbury.
A group of 5th graders at the West Tisbury School is proposing a ban on single-use plastic bottles, to be voted on at this year's Town Meetings in West Tisbury and Chilmark. The students will host a Q&A session to discuss how their proposed bylaw would work, and the broader issues of plastic pollution on our Island and in the ocean. At the West Tisbury Library, email Annemarie for more info.
Next Winter Walk: Thimble Farm with Island Grown Initiative

The greenhouse remains, but much has changed since our last Winter Walk at Thimble Farm eleven years ago, with many exciting new developments at the Island Grown Initiative's Farm Hub.

This Sunday (Jan. 13), our first Winter Walk of the New Year will be an educational collaboration with Island Grown Initiative at their Farm Hub, located at the historic Thimble Farm. Co-led by Farm Hub director Matthew Dix and VCS's Brendan O'Neill, we will learn about current farm operations and other initiatives at Thimble, as well as the conservation and land use history of the farm and surrounding properties. The walk begins at 10:00 am and is expected to last about 2 hours. 


A History of Agriculture at Thimble Farm

Once part of a larger farm owned by the Elisha Smith family, the land at Thimble Farm has been in active agricultural use for centuries. More recently, it was home to the Whippoorwill Farm CSA for many years. A series of actions led by farmer Andrew Woodruff and his CSA members beginning in 2006 (including the purchase of a conservation restriction by the Land Bank) ultimately led to the permanent protection of the property and its purchase by Island Grown Initiative in 2011. Read more about this historical hub of Island farming at IGI's website.  

Building a Better Bottle Bill

The bottle deposit system in Germany is more complex than ours (many would say confusing), but also more effective, with recycling rates approaching 100% for some materials. The deposit amount (or pfand) varies greatly, from approximately 8 cents to over 3 Euro for a full crate of flip-top bottles. A key distinction is made between refillable bottles and single-use bottles, the latter of which carry a higher pfand of 25 cents Euro (30 cents US)  to encourage the use of refillables. (Photo via "Live Work Germany")

At VCS we are often asked about the possibility of expanding the current 5 cent deposit on bottles of soda and beer to include other beverages (water, juice, wine, etc.) or other bottle sizes, most frequently the much-maligned “nip” liquor bottle. The short answer is that we certainly would support such a measure, because historical evidence from around the world demonstrates bottle deposits increase recycling rates. The longer answer is that since the original Massachusetts Bottle Bill was passed in 1982, the proportion of bottled beverages to which the deposit does not apply has increased dramatically – up to 30% of all bottles sold by 2013, and likely higher today. This is due to the increased popularity since 1982 (or outright invention) of bottled tea, coffee drinks, new sports and “energy” drinks, and most important of all, single-serving water.
However, that longer answer also includes a dose of political realism. Industry opposition to bottle bills – expressed through lobbying and campaign donations – is intense (and at least so far, highly effective). Updates and expansions of the Mass Bottle Bill have come before the state legislature multiple times since 2000 and been consistently defeated. Furthermore, failure here is not so easily pinned on weak-willed or venal politicians. In 2014, a Bottle Bill expansion was brought directly to the voters: Ballot Question #2, which would have applied the 5 cent deposit to most non-alcoholic beverages, was defeated by a nearly 3:1 margin. That is a very large margin for a ballot question. Consider that on the very same ballot in 2014, Question #1, which by seeking to reduce gas taxes placed in opposition the same values of environmental protection vs. consumer prices, passed with just 53% of the vote.
Perhaps 2014's resounding defeat at the hands of the voters was also due to corporate power. While the Governor, other politicians, and the Boston Globe supported the measure, campaign spending by industry bested that of the initiative's proponents by a 6:1 margin. Or, perhaps, this defeat was just another example of the political truism that voters never choose to raise their own taxes, which a bottle deposit certainly does resemble.
Therefore, we are not terribly optimistic that a major expansion of the Bottle Bill will occur in the near future without a major change in the nature of the proposal, facts on the ground, or public opinion. But there are reasons for cautious optimism on some or all of those fronts, chiefly the view of the public regarding disposable plastics in general. On this issue, public opinion in Massachusetts appears to be changing very quickly. For example, in just a few years plastic bag bans have moved from a fringe idea to an accepted way of life in many towns. It is conceivable that a new bottle bill that 1) offers leaders and policymakers some technical and/or economic solutions to the currently perilous state of recycling in America (e.g., would reverse vending machines that sort and crush recyclables yield a more marketable product than single-stream bins?), and 2) heavily focuses its public advocacy efforts on the impacts of ocean pollution on wildlife, could today garner enough support to pass.
The Vineyard Conservation Society is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving the environment of Martha’s Vineyard through advocacy, education and the protection of the Island’s land and water.
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Copyright (C) 2019 *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.
Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.