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Conservation Almanac for May 2, 2018

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Quote of the Week
“If the United States went grocery shopping, we would leave the store with five bags and drop two in the parking lot. And leave them there.”

—National Resources Defense Council, Wasted: How America is Losing up to 40% of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Read the report here.
Breaking Free from Plastic:
Homemade Food Hacks!

Do it yourself, and skip the packaging
We’ve become so accustomed to just grabbing what we need from the supermarket shelves that we’ve forgotten that many packaged foods, such as bread, tortillas, crackers, pasta, granola bars, yogurt and hummus, are all quite easy to make. Along with great taste, when you make it yourself you avoid the processing and preservatives – and a whole lot of plastic! 
This extra-delicious fourth installment of our Breaking Free from Plastic series will be next Tuesday, May 8, from 6 to 7 pm. Please join us!

Breaking Free from Plastic events are co-sponsored by Plastic Free on MV and the Vineyard Conservation Society. The family-friendly workshops and community discussions are held monthly at the Island Co-Housing Common House. Kids are welcome!

Directions to the Common House: From State Rd., take Stony Hill Rd. (about a mile between the upper and lower ends of Lambert's Cove Rd.). After 0.2 miles, take a left onto Red Arrow, then a right onto Rock Pond. See map.

Conservation Calendar

Citizen Science: Horseshoe Crab Surveys
Saturday, May 5, 1:00 - 3:00 pm, Edgartown.

The horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, is one of Earth's oldest living animals, surviving the extinctions of many more well-known prehistoric creatures. Long harvested as bait, today it faces a new threat of over-exploitation due to its amazing utility in the pharmaceutical industry. In light of this massive new pressure on the fishery, there is an urgent need for solid survey data so that state managers can set proper regulations and harvest limits.

Mass Audubon, in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island, the National Park Service, the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries and others, is conducting a long-term survey of spawning horseshoe crabs. Volunteers are needed for the counts, which take place on full and new moons at high tide. To sign up to volunteer for the surveys, please email Felix Neck or call (508) 627-4850, and attend the training session this Saturday at 1:00 at the Felix Neck Sanctuary.

Land Bank Walk

Sunday, May 6, 1:
00 - 3:30 pm, Chilmark.
Join Land Bank staff for a free guided natural history walk from Waskosims Rock Reservation to Tiasquam Valley Reservation. The walk will start from the trailhead off North Road near the Chilmark/WT town line. Parking is limited, so please carpool. For more info, call (508) 627-7141.

Climate Change & Invasive Species

Tuesday, May 8, 7:00 - 9:00 pm, West Tisbury.
UMass researchers lead an educational program on the risks of new biological invasions in a warming climate. A free program at the Ag Hall, see flyer for more info.

Monitoring & Improving the Health of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound
Wednesday, May 9, 5:00 pm, Chilmark.

For 25 years, the Buzzards Bay Coalition has been monitoring water quality in the Bay and its watershed, and has recently expanded their work to include Vineyard Sound and some of our coastal ponds. President Mark Rasmussen will discuss recent successes in tackling nitrogen pollution from wastewater, wetlands restoration, and watershed land conservation, all subjects with important parallels to efforts underway on Martha’s Vineyard. At the Chilmark Library, (508) 645-3360; or contact the Buzzards Bay Coalition to learn more about their work.

Stormwater & Threats to Clean Water
Thursday, May 10, 6:00 - 7:00 pm, Tisbury.

Learn about sources of stormwater-derived pollution, the threat to our coastal and inland waters, and how stormwater management has evolved at this presentation sponsored by Tisbury Waterways, Inc. At the Tisbury Senior Center, for more info, see flyer.

Local News
An Island Community Labor of Love

At Menemsha jellyfish abound in the harbor, a striking reminder of what a sea turtle sees when one of the plastic bags in the dunes makes it into the ocean. See more photos from the 2018 Earth Day Beach Clean-Up.

Every year, on the Monday morning following the annual Earth Day Beach Clean-Up, the staff at VCS take a deep breath and reflect on our amazing community of volunteers. After scouring a large portion of the Island’s coastline for the usual bottles and cans, bits of plastic large and small, chunks of Styrofoam, fishing gear and other marine debris, it’s time to relish in the glow of a job well done – a job that is possible only through the combined effort of hundreds of people working together in common purpose.
Fanning out over 26 beaches (including new addition Jetty Beach in O.B.), over 250 volunteers collected an unusually large amount of trash this year: 3,380 pounds was taken in Tisbury alone, the Refuse District (representing the haul from Edgartown and up-Island) took in 2,880 pounds, and an unknown (but substantial) amount from Oak Bluffs added up to about four tons of waste removed from the beaches in just two hours. The large amount of big, heavy items washed ashore by the series of powerful storms this March may explain the large total mass of the year’s take – one broken lobster trap easily weighs more than 100 balloons and plastic bottles combined. Some of the more unusual finds were an antique sewing machine's cast-iron pedal, a commercial coffee pump-pot (we promise we didn’t lose it during that Winter Walk!), and a lost voucher entitling one would-have-been lucky student to a night of no homework – what a waste! (See all the photos here.)
The hard work of planning, organizing, and finally doing the clean-up is always rewarded with the happy (if a little tired) faces of satisfied volunteers at the after-party. Held for the first time at the Sailing Camp in O.B., everyone’s mood was brightened by the welcome sunshine. Kids explored a natural playground of fallen trees and adults enjoyed the view of the lagoon, while everyone warmed up with mugs of chili, chowder, and many other good eats (generously donated, see below). Afterward, we were treated to a celebration of a recent event that will strengthen our ability to protect our beaches and oceans. Seventh grader Mya O’Neill gave a presentation on how the West Tisbury School student group “Safe Sea MV” won passage at four Town Meetings for their bylaw to stop the intentional release of helium balloons. Congrats!

Thank you to our fiscal sponsors, Cape & Islands United Way, MV Savings Bank, and MVY Radio; to Josh Aronie, the Black Dog, Scottish Bakehouse, the FARM Institute, and IGI's Farm Hub for food donations; to Robert Lionette and our team of volunteers for running the kitchen; and to our beach group leaders, the Church of Latter Day Saints, Friends of Sengekontacket, Girl Scouts, Brownies, Cub Scouts & Boy Scouts, Felix Neck, Harbor View Hotel, Lagoon Pond Association, MV Savings Bank, MV Surfcasters, MVY Radio, Oak Bluffs Con.Comm., Sail MV, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, Tisbury Waterways, Town of Chilmark, The Trustees, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Brian & Caroline Giles, Bruce Golden, and Bill Randol.

Finally a huge Thank You to every single volunteer who came out to help protect our ocean environment!

Improving Local Food Waste Management
Can We Close the Loop on Organics?

As is thoroughly documented by last year's report from the National Resources Defense Council, food waste is one of the most important challenges facing the world today. The environmental implications are huge – for example, greenhouse gas emissions from wasted food are the equal of 37 million cars – but so are the economic, social, and humanitarian stakes.  

Taking the lead on these issues at the local level is Island Grown Initiative's Food Equity and Recovery program. Though relatively new, the program has already done much to reduce both the sources of food waste (for example, through gleaning programs and coordination with service organizations to distribute the produce) and to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the trash. Building on their Island Food Rescue project, which has successfully diverted over 100 tons of waste to farms for composting, the program has recently begun collecting residential food waste at three local transfer stations.

We recently caught up with program director Sophie Abrams Mazza to check on how the new program was going, and their plans for the future.

VCS: Now that the food waste collection program at the town transfer stations has been up and running for a while, how much are you collecting? How much does it vary by town?

SAM: Collection began at the Edgartown Transfer Station at the end of July and on average we are picking up 100 lbs. of food waste there per week. Collection at the West Tisbury and Chilmark drop offs didn’t start until December. It’s been variable, but more like 50 lbs. per week at those.

As more people find out about the service and begin to utilize it, I hope to see those numbers increase. We’re also hoping to set up residential drop-offs in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury this year as well, which will help. There is an estimated 4,800 tons of residential food waste created on the Island each year!

Are you still hoping to increase the total amount of food waste you collect, or are you nearing capacity? If the latter, what are most significant limiting factors in your system?

In 2017 we picked up 80 tons of food waste, commercial and residential combined. We could handle a little more, but to really increase our capacity we would need to invest in a larger truck or an actual garbage truck. We also need more composting infrastructure. We’ve had some success working with different Island farms to compost food waste, but composting takes a lot of time and labor, and our farmers’ main focus is on growing delicious local food for us!

In the big picture, without a large-scale higher-technology system like an in-vessel composter, the amount of food waste we can process locally will be limited. We’ve found composting in outdoor windrows difficult because of pests, and we don’t want to be feeding species that are going to eat our endangered species. A large-scale, enclosed composting system that could handle a larger volume of food waste would make a huge difference.

Continued here. Read on for some tough issues: money and human behavior, the risks of backyard composting, and "closing the loop."
Other News
A Pointed Argument for Conservation

Time's up. ("Spiky", an ecological art installation by Elisabeth Buecher)

As anyone with an electric water heater already knows, generating hot water is one of the largest energy demands in a typical home. (With gas-powered heaters the energy usage may be less obvious, but no less real.) If showering is our single largest use of hot water (see table on page 5), what is the energy-conscious person to do, especially on a cold winter morning?
Apparently not content to leave progress in the hands of technology and government incentives, ecological artist Elisabeth Buecher offers a more, shall we say, medieval approach to incentivizing water conservation. After four minutes of shower time, her “Spiky” shower inflates itself to gently motivate, then impale even the most recalcitrant shower-steamer. Alternately, for the conservationist with a differently-tuned sense of horror, she has also created the claustrophobia inducing “Trap” curtain. It appears that a cold shower is now only the second worst thing in the world.
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) 2018 *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.
Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.