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Almanac Archive for April 8, 2019

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Garbage to Art

Many thanks to Suzanna Nickerson for sharing her art and inspiration in advance of the upcoming Earth Day Beach Clean-Up. Her exhibition "Beach Garbage," featuring posters such as the one above, opened last week at the studio of MVTV and will be showing throughout April and May. Stop by (Mon-Fri, 9-5) to check it out!
Conservation Calendar

Talk: Septic Systems for Homeowners
Wednesday, April 10, 5:00 — 6:30 pm, Chilmark.
This week, the Chilmark Library hosts a presentation by Doug Cooper, former head of the Connecticut Wetlands Management Program, on the science, operation, and troubleshooting of septic systems. It's an important and somewhat overlooked subject: Across much of Martha's Vineyard, water treatment is accomplished not by a municipal facility but instead by a combination of nature and ordinary Title 5 septic systems. Given the challenge of over-nitrification in our estuaries and the progress of technology, other systems may come to take prominence; but for now, good maintenance of older septic systems by individual homeowners is vital to maintaining our Island's water quality.

Citizen Science Info Sessions

Wednesday, April 10, 4:30 — 5:30 pm, West Tisbury; Saturday, April 13, noon — 1:00 pm, Chilmark.
Learn how you can help monitor wildlife through Felix Neck's various citizen science programs during these free presentations at the West Tisbury and Chilmark libraries. (The Chilmark event even has chowder!) Registration is required, call (508) 627-4850, or register online (West Tisbury; Chilmark).

Menemsha Hills Brickyard Hike

Monday, April 15, 1:00 — 3:00 pm, Chilmark.
The Trustees host a guided walk to the historic brickyard via a new trail addition to their Menemsha Hills Reservation. $10 for non-members, more info at Trustees website, (508) 693-7662, or via email.  

Seed Starting for Kids

Tuesday, April 16, 1:00 — 3:00 pm, Edgartown.
Join the Edgartown Library for a free school vacation week program: learn about growing your own flowers, herbs, and vegetables, start your own seeds, and create your own plants to take home. For more info, call (508) 627-4221.
Nature & Art at Featherstone

Thank you to Coral Shockey, Posie Haeger, and the rest of the wonderful folks at Featherstone for making our final Winter Walk of the 2018-19 season so special — and thanks as well to Abby Remer and the MV Times for their great coverage! If you missed the walk (or like most us that day, failed to take any pictures), check out the Times story and photo collection to catch up.

Watershed Moment for West Tisbury
The fifth and sixth graders of Plastic Free MV

Tuesday night at Town Meeting, West Tisbury has the chance to make history. Article 3 on the warrant, if it passes, would institute a new bylaw prohibiting the sale of water and many other beverages in single-use plastic bottles. Several cities and towns, including four in Massachusetts (Concord, Sudbury, Lincoln, and Great Barrington), have already banned disposable water bottles. However, the bold group of students at the West Tisbury School calling themselves “Plastic Free MV” are aiming even higher: their measure would be the first in the nation to also ban single-serving plastic bottles of soda.
In short, the proposed bylaw would ban plastic bottles of water and soda smaller than 34 ounces in size (that number chosen to make it clear that 1-liter bottles would be prohibited). Reducing the waste associated with bottled water has been a priority at VCS for a few years now (see story below), and it is certainly the smaller bottles that are the most obvious source of unnecessary waste. But why also include soft drinks in a bottle ban, as the Plastic Free students have done? They argue that they don’t want their bylaw to encourage people to switch to sugary sodas (one of the most common criticisms of bottled water bans), and that the real point is to reduce plastic waste by getting rid of all single-use bottles wherever there are readily available alternatives (in this case, typically aluminum cans).
It is a bold, ambitious proposal, and the kids have already accomplished a great deal in drafting their own bylaw, getting it onto the warrant in three towns, and doing months of outreach to the public and businesses. But to get over the finish line at Town Meeting, Plastic Free MV needs your vote! 
West Tisbury's Annual Town Meeting will be Tuesday, April 9, beginning at 7:00 pm at the West Tisbury School. Chilmark follows on April 22, and Aquinnah on May 14. Please see the Plastic Free MV FAQ to learn more about the bylaw.

Students get a lesson in parliamentary procedure from Dan Waters, West Tisbury Town Meeting Moderator

Free Your Water
Why VCS Supports the Students of Plastic Free MV
A close-up from the MV Tap Map showing two of the refill stations created through the "Take Back the Tap" initiative. Visit the Tap Map to see the rest, as well as those in progress or still on our "wish list." A list of currently operational stations is also at our website.  

As part of a broader agenda of promoting more sustainable living, VCS's "Take Back the Tap" initiative is a collection of efforts meant to reduce the waste and pollution associated with bottled water. The most visible accomplishment so far is surely the 18 new water bottle refill stations installed across the Island, with many more in the works.

This spring, Plastic Free MV — an ambitious and dedicated group of students at the West Tisbury School — have placed an article on the town meeting warrant in three towns that would prohibit the sale of many types of small, disposable plastic bottles. Because their work is consistent with our broader objective to reduce plastic pollution on the Island — and in the oceans that surround and sustain us — the students’ bold and inspirational effort has earned the support of VCS. We hope it will gain the public’s as well.

This bylaw is an opportunity for our community to lead the nation. It’s a watershed moment that every voter can be excited to be a part of — the beginning of a real change in our relationship with plastic, and a broader culture of consumerism. The students of Plastic Free MV have been working on this effort for months, and they are optimistic that it will have ripple effects far and wide.

Should the bylaw pass, it would impact businesses — like restaurants, stores, and caterers — that sell plastic water or soda bottles, and we are sympathetic to their concerns about the challenges of switching. Businesses raised similar valid concerns about the VCS-led plastic bag ban two years ago. We believe the community will support businesses in adapting to another change, and two or three years from now all will similarly agree that the challenge will have been worth it.

The immediate result of the ban would be a change for the better in the containers we use for water and other beverages. Reliance on single-use plastic bottles for soda and water will give way to more sustainable, more recyclable containers like aluminum, glass, and cardboard. That will be a good thing.

More important, it sends a strong message about embracing a sustainable future for kids and their families. Free, chilled and filtered water is now available at more and more public places. Clean drinking water can and should be available to all, at minimal cost and environmental impact.

Students see that they are part of a larger effort on the Island and nationally. Reusable water bottles are now as ubiquitous as backpacks in our schools — so the next generation will expect quality drinking water to be freely available. Beyond the kids at West Tisbury School, other student groups across the Island are pursuing their own grassroots efforts to reduce waste, which we also heartily applaud.

The goal of the students in offering this bylaw is to inspire, not harm. Businesses are free to offer larger bottled beverages in plastic, and small, single-serving beverages in glass, metal or any other non-plastic material. And of course, in the event of a hurricane or other public emergency, an exemption allows for distribution of bottled water of any size or material. So come to your town meeting and add your voice of support for a more sustainable future.

(Text adapted from our recent letter to the editor; a tip of the hat is also due to the Vineyard Gazette for their "Watershed" headline, which we borrowed for the story above)

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.