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Small Actions Spark Big Changes

You can make our planet more sustainable

At the Academy of Natural Sciences, we believe that individual actions can truly make a difference. Each month of 2020, we’ll guide our community in a conversation about how everyday choices can affect the health of our environment. Follow along with us here, on our Blog, on social media @acadnatsci and #TakeActionANS, through email and in the museum to join the conversation!

September 2020: Register and Vote!

I voted stickers

The 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives every U.S. citizen age 18 and older the right to vote. Voting is the fundamental right that people living in a democracy possess to voice their opinion on issues that affect them and on elected officials who have the power to influence those issues, or not.

It may seem like a small action to those who have voted in many elections for many years, but voting can lead to big changes in how we experience life and who makes those decisions in our neighborhoods, communities, municipalities, counties, states and at the federal level. With the Nov. 3 general election right around the corner, the Academy of Natural Sciences urges every eligible voter to research the platform of each candidate, then make your voice heard. Register to vote by the deadline required by your state, and then vote on time.

Click here for important voting information on the Academy Blog.

Resources

Important Dates

Election day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania allows any voter to request a ballot by mail. Click here to request a mail-in ballot. Click here to check your registration status.

  • The deadline to register online to vote is Monday, October 19, 2020.
  • The deadline for registering by mail to vote is (postmarked by) Monday, October 19, 2020.
  • The deadline to register in person to vote is Monday, October 19, 2020.
  • The deadline to request a ballot by mail is (received by) Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
  • The early voting period runs from Monday, September 14, 2020 to Tuesday, October 27, 2020, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live.

New Jersey

New Jersey will mail a ballot to all active, registered voters for the General Election. Click here to check your registration status.

  • The deadline for registering by mail to vote is (postmarked by) Tuesday, October 13, 2020.
  • The deadline to register in person to vote is Tuesday, October 13, 2020.
  • The early voting period runs from Saturday, September 19, 2020 to Monday, November 2, 2020, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live.

Delaware

Delaware allows any voter to request a ballot by mail. Click here to check your registration status or request a mail-in ballot.

  • The deadline to register online to vote is Saturday, October 10, 2020.
  • The deadline for registering by mail to vote is (postmarked by) Saturday, October 10, 2020.
  • The deadline to register in person to vote is Saturday, October 10, 2020.
  • The deadline to request a ballot by mail is (received by) Friday, October 30, 2020.

Read more:

We’re Walking the Walk

Back in 2008, Drexel University, with which the Academy is affiliated, joined the Philadelphia Bar Association, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Committee of Seventy to invite other employers to allow employees time off in order to vote on Election Day. The University and the Academy now give employees up to one hour of paid time off to vote.

Coming up next: 

  • October 2020: Support Environmental Justice
  • November 2020: Compost

August 2020: Reduce Household Energy Use

lightbulb by riccardo annandale

40 Tips to Reduce Your Energy Use

It’s hot and humid, and you just got back from a COVID walk-around-the-block break from your bedroom office. All you want to do is open the refrigerator door and stand in front of it. Don’t do it! You’ll feel cooler, but letting that cold air escape wastes enough energy to power 50 loads of laundry. Plus, it costs you money and affects the environment. Whether your motivation is to save money or to decrease your carbon footprint, making small adjustments to reduce your daily energy consumption can have a positive effect on the environment and help reduce the amount of energy consumed by your community.

Although your own energy saving adjustments may seem inconsequential, small steps become great leaps when multiplied by 7 billion others just like you. Try switching up some of your lifestyle habits in August with our 40 easy tips. Then share your tips on social and in the comments at the end of the blog post.

Click here for 40 Tips to Reduce Your Energy Use.

What are you doing to conserve energy?

Resources

Tools and Calculators

On PECO’s Tools & Calculators webpage, you can calculate your energy savings on six household features: heating, heat pump, water heater, gas heat conversion, heater efficiency, and thermostat settings. In the Heating tab, there’s an option to calculate you Cooling efficiency, which could help in deciding how much to run your air conditioner this summer.

peco calculator
Click here to explore PECO's Cooling Calculator (photo via peco.com)

We’re Walking the Walk

The Academy’s commitment to combat climate change relies on staff members’ willingness to make seemingly small, everyday sustainable actions. This month most of the staff are still working from home most of the time due to city and state regulations. We remember fondly switching off the ceiling lights, microscope lights and computers in our offices and labs when we left for the night. We took the steps instead of the elevators. We felt good about exercising on Drexel University’s cardio machines that produce electricity when you pump your legs and arms. We’ve not lost these good habits! Now that the museum has reopened on a partial schedule, our teams are renewing our energy reduction efforts both at work again and at home.

The Academy also is able to save energy every day through a variety of recent building upgrades. This year we installed a new, efficient HVAC system in the renovated rare book room of the Academy Library. The library and also meeting rooms throughout the building have been fitted with automatic on/off light switches. Most of the bathroom faucets in the museum automatically turn off and on, and the toilets have sensors that allow them to flush automatically. The most recent roof work was done with a white roof surface to reflect the sun’s heat and light, and the building’s heating system reclaims heat for maximum efficiency.

Upcoming Topics

Each month in 2020, we’ll guide a conversation in the galleries and online to share how small actions can spark big changes in our world.

July 2020: Reduce Plastic Use

crushed plastic bottles

40 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic

It’s Plastic Free July, and millions of people around the world are starting the month long challenge to reduce their use of plastics. Plastic Free July is a global movement begun in 2011 in Australia. It’s grown to be one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world, and this month 250 million people in 177 countries are expected to participate.

We created plastic 150 years ago; we love it and depend on it. But plastic waste has become a global plague, one that industries and nations need to solve on a planetary scale. Individual acts alone can’t fix global ills, but the Academy believes small actions on a global scale CAN make a difference and that allows more energy to go into the search for solutions.

Consider taking the Plastic Free July challenge today. To get started, pick a couple tips that fit your lifestyle from the list below. Then share your tips or social and in the comments section at the end.

reduce plastic button

What are you doing to reduce your use of plastics?

Resources

Which plastic containers can be recycled in Philadelphia?

The majority of household plastic containers are recyclable in Philadelphia’s single-stream curbside recycling bin. This list of recyclable plastics is from our partners at Green Philly.

#1 – PET (Polyethylene): Soda and water bottles, condiment and peanut butter jars, etc.
#2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): Milk, water and juice jugs, detergents, shampoo bottles, dairy product containers, flower pots, some household cleaners
#3 – PVC – (Polyvinyl Chloride): Rigid plastic containers and juice bottles, Charcoal lighter, mineral water, cooking oil bottles, etc.
#4 – LDPE – (Low Density Polyethylene): Plastic tubs and lids from butter, margarine or similar products, Fabric softener bottles, lotion & sunscreen containers, etc
#5 – PP (Polypropylene): Yogurt containers and deli trays
#6 – PS (Polystyrene): Plastic cups, plates and to-go containers (clear, rigid #6 only, NOT Styrofoam* products)
#7 – (Other plastic): Many mixed plastic containers and plastic products like ketchup squeeze bottles, syrup bottles, microwave containers

You can also download the Plastics Recycling Fact Sheet for more info.

DIY Powdered Laundry Soap

homemade detergent ingredients

Katie Marquardt, Manager of Membership and Appeals, makes her own powdered laundry soap for her family of two adults and one child. This recipe lasts her about three months.

Ingredients measured as dry cups

  • Scant 2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • 3 cups Borax
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • ½ cup LA’s Totally Awesome Oxygen Base Cleaner
  • 4 oz bar of Kirk’s Gentle Castile Soap, grated

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Add the finished product to a container with a tight-fitting lid. 

We're Walking the Walk

When we asked the Academy staff for tips to pass along to our readers, we were flooded with ideas. This one came from Carol Collier, the Academy’s senior advisor, watershed management and policy.

Check out www.loopstore.com, www.loopindustries.com and www.terracycle.com We buy products from Loop. They come in reusable (not recyclable but reusable) containers. When we have finished using a bottle of laundry detergent, hand soap, Clorox wipes, etc. we send the bottles back in a shipping box they provide and say whether we want a refill of a certain product or not. It is the next big step past recycling. The company is in Trenton, N.J. and also started TerraCycle (www.terracycle.com) where you can recycle things like snack bags, the bag inside cereal boxes, toothpaste tubes, etc. There are pick up areas at the Weavers Way Co-ops.

June 2020: Get Outside

cherry blossoms

6 Tips to Get Outside Without Leaving Home

Nature is all around us, but a funny thing is happening now that people have been largely confined to their homes for months because of COVID-19. They’re taking notice!

With vacations dashed and many destinations still shuttered, grand plans for fun and relaxation have shrunk to what can be done in the backyard, front stoop, balcony, and looking out the window. Turns out there’s plenty to do, and health experts advise dialing up your creativity to find new ways to enjoy the great outdoors from your own home.

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control show that time outdoors boosts our physical fitness, immune system, concentration and mental health, while reducing stress, fatigue, inflammation and mortality risk. Now, after being cooped up for weeks with no school or work in the traditional setting, kids and adults are embracing nature more and more as a comfort in this time of crisis.

On our blog we offer a few tips to help you enjoy the physical and mental benefits of nature despite restrictions because of the coronavirus. Here’s the first tip:

Become an eco-traveler without traveling.

You don’t have to go to the beach or the park to find nature. Simply walk out the door or open a window and you’ll find all kinds of flowers, trees, weeds, worms, beetles, spiders, ants, bees, butterflies, birds, mice, squirrels, stray cats — you get the idea — hiding in plain sight. Be quiet, patient, motionless and observant. For example, if a bird is your object of fascination, listen to its song and try to imitate it. Think about what the bird is doing; pulling a worm out of the dirt? Look at the beak; the shape and size give clues to what it eats. Sketch what you see. Watch for patterns; if a bird is building a nest it will fly back and forth carrying something over and over. Take notes and photos. If that seems like homework, then just enjoy the experience.

Click here to read the full article.

What are you doing to get outside this spring?

We asked the Academy staff to record a short video of themselves explaining what they are doing to get outside. Here’s a quickie compilation to inspire you:

Resources for Getting Outdoors

When home just doesn’t cut it, take a walk in the park.

Resources for local hikes:

Pennsylvania state parks near Philadelphia:

National Parks near Philadelphia: 

Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge:

loyalsock canyon vista by mike servedio

We’re Walking the Walk

In May, the Academy’s social media team announced the Academy Nature Project to staff, asking them to post their nature photos on any of the Academy’s social media channels. The images poured in, and the project was expanded to include submissions from the public. When the museum reopens, we’ll showcase many of the photos alongside our Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. We can’t wait to see what photos we receive in June! For more information, visit ansp.org/nature.

May 2020: Eat Local

peppers at farmers market

6 Tips for Eating Local

Eating is one of the great joys in life. We need to eat to survive — even during a pandemic. With the spring bounty making its way to market in May, now is a good time to try new options for eating local.

The idea of buying fresh foods from growers and grocers close to home rather than from another coast or country is not new; it went mainstream in the 1970s, after the first Earth Day. Today, shuttered restaurants, social distancing and queues of masked shoppers remind us that not only is eating local healthy and good for the environment, it’s also a lifeline for farmers, cooks and food-service workers.

On our blog we offer a few tips to help you navigate the brave new world of coronavirus and still eat healthy and local.

To give you a taste, here’s the first tip:

Farmers markets have many safety measures to protect shoppers. 

Many of the year-round farmers markets operated by the Food Trust, Farm to City and others remain open in Philadelphia and the five-county region, but that could change so check their websites or Facebook before you go. Resourceful vendors have adopted safety measures including pre-bagging produce so it’s not handled by other customers, eliminating product sampling, online ordering in advance, and special early hours for seniors and the immunocompromised. 

“The producers are very confident they can do this in a safe and conscientious way,” Jon Glyn, farmers market program manager for Farm to City told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Unfortunately, the leisurely stroll and chit-chat with neighbors in the open-air market will have to wait for another season.

Click here to read the full article.

Why is it important to eat locally grown foods?

Resources for Eating Local

shopping for fruit and vegetables

We’re Walking the Walk

Many Academy staff are passionate about buying locally grown foods locally. Here are some of their favorite markets:

Philadelphia

Bucks County

Delaware County 

Montgomery County

Chester County

New Jersey

omelet with salad

Surprise surprise: our staff likes to cook and eat! We exchanged recipes, and you can see Exhibit Designer Lauren Duguid’s favorite omelet recipe on the blog. But what about the salad in that image?

Lauren: “I like to drizzle balsamic glaze and olive oil on colorful tomatoes and top them with fresh basil and pink salt. It's great paired with a room temperature soft cheese, spread on sourdough toast. My go-to soft cheeses for this are Bucheron, Humboldt Fog and Vermont Creamery's Bijou. If you go the Bijou route, it's amazing on toast with honey.

April 2020: Plant!

tomatoes in bowl

Seven Steps to Sustainable Gardening

With the outbreak of COVID-19, people across the world are spending more time at home. Being stuck inside can be difficult, and time spent interacting with nature often can provide much-needed respite.

Gardening, whether in your yard, in pots on your windowsill or in a square foot of space between your house and your sidewalk, is a wonderful way to enjoy nature while still adhering to social distancing recommendations. As you plan your garden this year, consider how you can take steps to create a garden that is kind to the environment and does not over-rely on natural resources.

On our blog, we provide seven tips on planning, planting and caring for a sustainable garden.

Here’s a sneak peek:

1.Think about your gardening goals.

Are you hoping to grow flowers, food or both? Do you want to cultivate unique plants? Have you considered ways to use your garden to increase biodiversity or sustain local wildlife? Are you exploring a mix of the above?

It’s important to think critically about what purposes you want your garden to serve. Many people grow gardens not only for the plants, but also for the cool native wildlife that the garden will attract, such as bees, birds and butterflies. You can, for example, grow coneflowers to attract the American goldfinch, or you can cultivate certain morning glory species to attract the golden tortoise beetle, which is the fastest color-changing arthropod in the world! If you focus on planting native plants and on worrying less about holes in leaves or petals, your garden may provide a nourishing space for local wildlife.

Learn more about sustainable gardening on the Academy Blog: https://www.anspblog.org/seven-steps-to-sustainable-gardening/

Why are plants important?

Resources on Sustainable Gardening

seedlings

We’re Walking the Walk

Many team members at the Academy have their own gardens or enjoy raising potted plants. A number of our colleagues shared their own small, everyday, sustainable actions for gardening that we shared above. Here is a collage of staff members at work in their own gardening spaces!

Planting for the Environment

grass in a jar

In Plant the Tiny Seed, Christie Matheson helps the youngest naturalists understand how tiny seeds bloom into stunning flowers. Through delicate collage and watercolor graphics and poetic, simple text, she demonstrates the steps involved in planting a few seeds, taking care of them and watching them grow.
Readers are encouraged to “push” the seeds into the pages, wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, tap the clouds to bring rain and clap to wake up the sun. They then can follow the growth of a zinnia and better understand the role it serves in a garden of bees, butterflies and other animals.

Find a digital copy of the book at your local library or on YouTube. Then, do the following activity (or help your kids help plant a garden of their own) to learn more about the process at home. While you work, explain the main things that plants need to grow, including sun, water, soil and space.
Don’t have the book at home? No problem! Follow the prompts in our Planting for the Environment blog and learn about planting on your own!

March 2020: Using Less Water

child and parent use faucet

Using Less Water: A How-to Guide

It seems like water is all around us — but did you know that only one percent of the water on our planet is available for drinking? About 97 percent of Earth’s water is saltwater, and another two percent is frozen in ice caps and glaciers.  

Our world’s population, along with our need for clean freshwater, is growing, but our water supply is not. According to the United Nations, about 2 billion people are currently living in areas facing serious water scarcity. By 2040, it is estimated that one in four of the world’s children under 18, or 600 million, will be living in areas of extremely high water stress. Our water enables us to run our businesses, protect our communities and keep ourselves alive, so it is critical that we work to reduce water usage in our everyday lives.  

Do you know how much water you use each day? Most people have no idea! People in the U.S. use approximately 100 gallons of fresh, drinkable water per day for bathing, drinking, flushing, cleaning and yard care. And this number only takes into account the amount of water we use directly every day.  

Everything we buy, the energy we use and the food we eat requires water to produce. In fact, Americans’ actual water “footprint” – the amount of water it takes to produce our food, energy, clothes and more – is about 2,000 gallons of water each day. We consume about 95 percent of the water we use without ever seeing it. Purchasing recycled goods, carpooling with friends and eating locally grown veggies all will help to reduce our water footprint. 

What else can we do to use less water? Check out our blog to find out.

Visit Us and Join the Conversation

Just beyond the Academy’s lobby in our Science at the Academy gallery, you’ll find a temporary exhibit space where you can join the conversation about what using less water means to you. Using a magnetic talk-back wall, write down what small actions you’ve taken to benefit the environment, and watch a video to find out how others have done the same.  

How can we use less water?

Resources on Using Less Water:

daily water use chart 

We’re Walking the Walk

The Academy’s commitment to use less water relies on institutional changes, as well as staff members’ willingness to make seemingly small, everyday, sustainable actions. This month, we’re teaming up with our colleagues for the following initiatives: In April, May and November, the Academy and Philadelphia clothier United By Blue have formed a community partnership aimed at removing 25,000 pounds of trash from the Delaware River in the Philadelphia area. Cleanups will take place at designated streams and creeks along the Delaware this spring and fall. The cleanup schedule will be posted on the Academy’s website and on unitedbyblue.com.

Inside the building, the Academy has chosen to install water-friendly fixtures where possible. Some Academy sinks have low-flow faucets, which save hundreds of gallons of water each year! The Academy’s low-flow toilets save hundreds of gallons of water per year.

The Academy encourages visitors to drink tap water rather than purchasing single-use plastic water bottles. The Academy has hydration stations where you can fill your reusable water bottles and avoid buying plastic water bottles during your visit.

In other environmental news, Drexel University (including the Academy) is participating in RecycleMania, a friendly, nationwide recycling competition among colleges and universities. Throughout the months of February and March, we are tracking the amount of paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass, plastic, cell phones and computer equipment recycled to be benchmarked against the other participating institutions.

February 2020 - Talking About Climate Change

there is no planet b protest sign

Talk to Someone You Love About Climate Change

Why is it that talking about our changing climate can lead to such discomfort among ourselves and our loved ones? 

“The debate over climate change in the United States (and elsewhere) is not about carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas models; it is about opposing cultural values and worldviews through which that science is seen,” writes Andrew J. Hoffman, University of Michigan professor and author of How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate

“Those cultural values create a pattern of shared basic assumptions that tell us the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to problems and situations we face. […] As a result, when different groups view the same science through opposing cultural lenses, they see something very different.” 

Even the most dedicated advocates may feel uncomfortable disagreeing with a close relative or friend who doesn’t share their worldviews on climate change. This might be because of a desire to preserve a relationship or it may be due to something else, like concerns about creating awkwardness, spurring an argument, sounding “too smart” or sounding not smart enough. 

So what do you really need to say or do to have an effective conversation about climate change? Are there times when you should (or even shouldn’t) provoke or join in the conversation? 

On the Academy blog, we take you through some simple ways to approach a conversation about climate change with people in your life.

Visit Us and Join the Conversation

Just beyond the Academy’s lobby in our Science at the Academy gallery, you’ll find a temporary exhibit space where you can join the conversation about what climate change means to you. Using a magnetic talk-back wall, write down what small actions you’ve taken to benefit the environment, and watch a video to find out how others have done the same.  

What does climate change mean to you?

Resources on Talking About Climate Change

Resources on Managing Climate Change’s Emotional Toll

Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2019 (make sure to watch until the end!)

We’re Walking the Walk

The Academy’s commitment to combat climate change relies on staff members’ willingness to make seemingly small, everyday, sustainable actions. This month, we’re teaming up with our colleagues for the following initiatives:

Talking About Climate Change

By informing, initiating and convening conversations that matter, the Academy creates a trusted space for civic discourse. Academy evening programs such as Town Square and Academy Conversation are designed to engage and provide relevant, accessible educational content to the public on environmental issues. Our programs focus on critical global issues in environmental science by featuring prominent thought leaders and their findings on biodiversity, freshwater issues, climate change and evolution.

Environmental advocates, scientists and community members come together for an opportunity to further their knowledge about environmental and sustainability matters through accurate, real-time scientific information. After participating in these programs, attendees have told us that they feel confident discussing climate change outside these special forums, with family members, friends and others who are close to them. 

Sustainable Love Notes

Yep, that’s right we’ve got sustainably packaged, customized candy hearts for our staff featuring sayings such as “science matters,” “climate change is real” and “be a force for nature.” Fun? Definitely. Frivolous? Maybe not. We’re hoping that staff will take them home, share them with relatives and friends and help their loved ones digest the important messages featured on the hearts.  

January 2020 - Recycling

recycling bins on street

Recycling 101

In January 2019, we learned that over 50% of Philadelphia’s recycling was being sent straight to an incinerator in Chester. The problem was part of a larger issue with recycling nationwide — that the market for purchasing recycled goods, with China being the primary buyer, had shifted greatly. In 2018, China decided to no longer accept recycled materials that didn’t meet new stringent rules around contamination and mixed materials. Soon, recycling, which had actually been profitable for Philadelphia, became an expense for the city.

One of the main reasons that much of Philadelphia’s and the United States’ recycling is so expensive to sell is that it is deeply contaminated. You can help address this problem by knowing what you can recycle and how best to clean your recycling. On the Academy Blog, find out the answers to these common questions about recycling in Philly:

  • How clean should my recycling be?
  • What can and can’t you recycle curbside?
  • What can you recycle at a special facility?
  • How can you reduce the amount of recycling you create?
  • What does yard waste and composting have to do with creating less waste?
  • What resources can help me recycle properly in the Philadelphia suburbs? 

What question do you have about recycling?

Sometimes recycling properly seems like such a difficult code to crack that you may want to give up. But you’re not alone, and we encourage you to keep trying! Together, we can make a difference by sharing what we know and supporting others as they learn. Here are some questions that our visitors and staff have about recycling. Do you know the answers?Join our conversation on Facebook!  

Recycling Resources

We’re Walking the Walk

The Academy’s commitment to combat climate change relies on staff members’ willingness to make seemingly small, everyday, sustainable actions. This month, we’re teaming up with our colleagues for the following initiatives: 

Recycling

The Academy recycles every day — not just in January! In additional to single stream recycling items, we also have spaces to recycle plastic bags, chip bags, batteries and small electronics. 

Academy Swap

In January 2020, the Academy is holding our first "Academy Swap." Employees can bring in everything from unwanted holiday gifts to used household goods and clothing. We’ll donate leftover clothes to charity and recycle or dispose of other items properly. We’re also having a battery recycling and paper shredding event for our staff. 

stacks of recycling materials