February 23, 2009

Slow it Down! Reducing Stormwater Runoff

Wilma J. Holley, Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program Educator, Pinellas County Extension

People often think that stormwater runoff just goes down the drain and we don’t have to think anymore about it. Why would we need to reduce runoff—don’t we want all of it to go down the drain? It’s not that simple. There are many problems caused by runoff and the pollution it ultimately carries. There are even books written about it as well as laws in place to deal with controlling runoff. Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program has nine principles for Florida-Friendly landscaping and –you guessed it—the eighth principle is “reduce stormwater runoff”. In order to better understand why it is so important the following definitions are in order.

  • Stormwater runoff: Rainwater running off impervious surfaces or water saturated landscapes, carrying with it sediments and pollution into stormdrains or nearby water.

  • Point source pollution: Water pollution discharged from easily identified sources such as discharges from factories or sewage treatment plants.

  • Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution: NPS pollution is not easily pinpointed to a single source. Pollutants from our activities such as; gasoline and oil leaks, pesticides and fertilizer accumulate on the land. Then rainfall or excess irrigation carries these sediments and dissolved chemicals to waterways in stormwater runoff or by leaching or percolating through the soil.

You would think that with water resources so limited everyone would want to protect it. Three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, 97% of that is salt water, 2% is tied up in polar ice caps. Therefore we have 1% of the Earth’s water available for our use and it is imperative to protect it, and prevent it from becoming contaminated with stormwater runoff.

Since the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Water Act and subsequent amendments most of the point sources of pollution have been regulated or eliminated. Huge gains have been made in restoring water quality here in Tampa Bay and the rest of the United States. However, NPS pollution is not as easily regulated and maintained.

There are things we can and should do to eliminate as much of the nonpoint source pollution as possible. Some of them would take separate articles to write about such as watering efficiently, fertilizing appropriately, mulching, and managing yard pests responsibly. Reducing stormwater runoff is another method to eliminate some of the NPS pollution. One way of slowing runoff is directing downspouts onto pervious surfaces (mulched plant beds or lawns) so that water slowly seeps into the ground. Another method of reducing runoff is, where possible, use pervious surfaces for walkways and driveways. Pervious materials include; mulch, stepping stones, pavers, gravel, porous concrete and brick. These materials allow water to seep into the ground thereby filtering out pollutants. Also learn about and use rain harvesting techniques to eliminate some of the runoff. Not only do rain barrels reduce runoff they are an additional source of landscape irrigation water especially for hand watering. We offer rain barrel workshops here at the extension office. To find out the class schedule go to our website: and click on calendar in the title bar.

Following are a few more tips from “Stormwater Systems in Your Neighborhood” from Southwest Florida Water Management District:

  • Never dump oils and other chemicals from your home directly into stormwater drains,which are direct conduits to your stormwater pond or natural waterway. Contact your local government’s waste management department for a list of disposal facilities.

  • Keep vehicles tuned up and in good operating condition. Check for drips and repair leaks immediately to keep nuisance oils off pavement.

  • Buy low- or no-phosphate cleaners and detergents. Phosphates act as a fertilizer and
    increase algae and aquatic weeds in stormwater ponds. When these plants die, they rob the water of oxygen and fish may die.

  • Wash your vehicles, bicycles and home equipment on the lawn, where soapy water can’t quickly run toward the nearest storm drain, picking up other pollutants as it goes.Wash your car with nontoxic, low-phosphate soap and use water sparingly.

  • Sweep walks and driveways instead of hosing them down.

  • Clean up pet wastes from which nutrients and bacteria can enter the stormwater drains and contaminate the water system. To download the entire document go to:

In Florida much of our drinking water comes from ground water supplies, which often lies near the surface. Excess stormwater runoff could infiltrate our groundwater. It is crucial that we do our part to reduce runoff when possible. The following EPA website has many more in depth articles on what we can do to help: Another source of information is the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at the following website:

February 17, 2009

Bully No More

Janet Golden, Program Leader 4-H Youth Development & Distance Education, Pinellas County Extension

What exactly is bullying? Bullying among children and youth is defined as, “an aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power or strength.” Bullying can take place in many forms, including physical, verbal, nonverbal/emotional, cyberbullying, and sexual harassment. Each one of them is very serious and often a young person is bullied by using more than one of these forms.

Bullying is epidemic amongst children and youth today. Bullying has become such a national concern that in December of 2003, the federal government announced it as a public health issue. Schools are also reporting that bullying is of major concern. While school violence has declined overall, bullying has actually increased by 5%. One study found that as many as 80-90% of adolescents report that they have been the victims of at least one type of bullying in their lifetime. Other studies show that 15-25% of students are bullied with frequency.

Take a few minutes to read the statements below from the Stop Bullying Now Campaign and decide if they are true or false.
  • Bullying is the same thing as conflict.
  • Most bullying is physical.
  • Bullying isn’t serious. It is just a matter of “kids being kids.”
  • Bullying does not happen at my child’s school.
  • Bullying is more likely to happen on the bus that at school.
  • Children and youth who are bullied will almost always tell an adult.
  • Children and youth who bully are mostly loners with few social skills.
  • Bullied kids need to learn how to deal with bullying on their own.
  • Most children and youth who observe bullying do not want to get involved.
If you answered false to all of these questions then you passed. The above statements are all myths about bullying. Bullying is an extremely serious issue that has consequences for those being bullied, such as poor school performance, depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, and fear.

As adults we would not put up with this type of behavior from our peers. Children and youth should not either, but often they need our help as adults in dealing with this serious issue. We need to join together in our schools and communities and first understand bullying and then do something about it. On March 4th from 12:15-12:45 I will be offering a free webinar called “Bully No More: Tips for Parents” to talk about the issues related to bullying and to give tips for parents and other concerned adults in dealing with bullying. To attend this webinar visit and select the 'Register Now' link located to the right of the program description.


February 9, 2009

Lighting Your Way to Energy Efficiency

Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Specialist – Urban Sustainability

Whether at home or in the office, proper lighting is one of the simplest ways you can increase the energy efficiency of a building. According to the Energy Information Administration world energy consumption is projected to increase by 71% from 2003 to 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that lighting consumes approximately 23% of the electricity used in buildings. According to Energy Star , “if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.”

There has been much talk about replacing high energy consumption bulbs with energy efficient ones. But where do you start and what are you looking for? One size does not fit all. Regardless of which energy efficient product you decide will best fit your individual needs, take a look at and consider the following four things before you purchase that next bulb.

Lighting Terminology
Watt and lumen are two terms that you should know. Watt is the unit of measure for the energy used to produce the light output. Lumen is the unit of measure for the light output. When replacing a light bulb with a more energy efficient one, such as a compact fluorescent light (CFL), you should look for the number of lumens when determining which light bulb to select. This information is important because you want to identify the number of lumens equivalent to the bulb to be replaced. The chart below illustrates this point. A common household bulb is a 60 watt incandescent. To achieve the same brightness with a compact fluorescent light, you should select a bulb that uses only 13-15 watts because it will produce 800 lumens of light. Same light output, less energy.

Source: http://www.energystar,gov/

Energy Use for Incandescent Light Bulbs(Watts)

Minimum Light Output(Lumens)

Energy Use for commonENERGY STAR qualified CFLs (Watts)



4 to 9



9 to 13



13 to 15



18 to 25



23 to 30



28 to 40



30 to 52

Dim it
Utilizing a dimmer switch is another option to consider. Dimmer switches have three primary benefits: energy conservation, extended bulb life and flexibility in creating room ambience. For instance, you may choose to install a dimmer on the general light source used in a family room. Depending on the activity, you can adjust your light. If you are just “hanging out” or relaxing with family and friends, you may not need or want the full brightness of your light. However, if you’re doing housework you may use the full capacity. How about the bathroom? A bright light, first thing in the morning, is usually not welcomed. A dimmer lets you adjust your light gradually.

Right Light, Right Space
Using the right light in the right space can be accomplished by layering light sources. What does “layering light sources” mean? Layering light sources is combining natural and artificial light to achieve efficient and optimum lighting performance. There are three basic categories of light: general, task, and accent. General lighting provides uniform lighting throughout the space such as a chandelier or any other overhead lighting option. Task lighting provides direct light to complete a specific function such as a desk lamp. Accent lighting highlights a particular object such as a piece of art work. Consider the activities in your space. This will help you determine the appropriate lighting.

Consider the daylight and modify your habits
How much direct light does your space get during the day? Try this exercise: select a frequently used room in your home and watch the sunlight patterns throughout the day. This will give you a little insight on the type of lighting required for that space. Many of us are creatures of habit. If you have an eat-in kitchen with a window that faces the east, you may not need to flip that light on when you’re sitting down for breakfast.

Your attitude is probably the most critical element in making any change. Taking the time to educate yourself about lighting is important, however, making the effort to implement better choices, no matter how small, can provide short and long term benefits for the environment, your quality of life and your finances.

To learn more about maximizing and creating more energy efficient lighting systems, join me for the online Webinar, “Lighting Your Way to Energy Efficiency”, where I will explore in more detail some of the best lighting practices. Visit and sign up through the online registration option. This Webinar, or online informational session, is a live broadcast and attendants have the ability to ask questions and interact with the presenter. The Webinar is free, and only requires a PC or Mac complete with speakers or headphones.

Winchip, S. M. (2008). Fundamentals of Lighting, Malaysia: Fairchild Publications, Inc.
Environmental Protection Agency: Energy Efficient Lighting
Energy Star: Lighting Products

To learn more about
LED Lighting
Fluorescent Lighting

February 6, 2009

Time Marches On!

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions. Be sure to check out our lunch break on-line classes, Solutions in 30.

The classes being offered in March are:

Solutions in 30:
March 4th - Bully No More! Webinar
March 11th - Parenting Tips for the Teen Years – Part 1 Webinar
March 18th - Parenting Tips for the Teen Years – Part 2 Webinar
March 25th - Making the Most of Youth Activities Webinar

Pesticide CEUs:
March 4th - Integrated Pest Management
March 11th – Aquatic Update
March 13th - Pesticide License Training and Testing

Families and Consumers:
March 14th – Get Cooking Demonstration: Delicious Squash Shines in Summer & Winter
March 28th – Get Cooking Demonstration: Meet Spinach: The Green Nutritional Powerhouse

Lawn and Garden:
March 5th - Florida Style Gardening: Landscape Management
March 11th - Pruning Basics and Benefits

4-H Youth:
March 14th – Family Fun Learning: Lady Bug, Lady Bug
March 26th - Sharks

Sustainable Living:
March 4th - Green Home Webinar
March 17th – Green Purchasing Webinar
March 19th – Lighting Your way the Energy Efficiency Webinar

You can register for classes on-line at Please look for the “Online Class Registration” button on the right hand side near the top of the page.

February 2, 2009

Tips for a Healthy Heart

Nan Jensen, Famlies & Consumers Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the United States. Since February is American Heart Month, it’s a perfect time to take action since a healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight heart disease. Be good to your heart and yourself by taking these simple steps below.

Don't smoke, and if you do, quit. People who smoke are two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who don’t. Smoking also boosts the risk of stroke and cancer.

Aim for a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity cause many preventable deaths. Start by knowing what you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. Don’t eat more calories than you know you can burn up every day. To help you burn more calories, increase the amount and intensity of your physical activity. Successful and lasting weight loss requires a permanent change of lifestyle, not a brief effort to drop pounds. Losing between 1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week is a reasonable amount to aim for. If you have a lot of weight to lose, a registered dietitian can help you develop a sensible plan for gradual weight loss.

Get moving. Commit to include more physical active in your daily routine. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week is a goal to work toward. If you can’t do at least 30 minutes at one time, try three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.

Eat a heart healthy diet. The best way to start is by choosing nutrient rich foods that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. Choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and low fat or fat free dairy products. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure. Whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight.

Limit your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Lean meats and poultry without skin and prepared without added saturated and trans fat are good choices. Fish like salmon and trout containing omega-3 fatty acids may help lower your risk of death from heart disease. So try to eat fish at least twice a week. Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Make your dairy food choices like milk, yogurt and cheese, low fat or fat free.

Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Use the Nutrition Facts panel to guide your food choices.

Finally, remember to watch those portions. If you want to know what counts as a portion from the foods groups go to

Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides).

Blood pressure goal is 120/80 or less
  • Less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic is normal
  • 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic is considered pre-hypertension
  • Blood pressure readings of 140 and higher are serious and require medical evaluation and treatment.

Blood glucose (mg/dl) -fasting
  • Below 100 is normal
  • 100-125 is considered pre-diabetes
  • 126 or higher requires additional testing and treatment

A goal of less than 200 is desirable for total cholesterol, but the HDL and LDL levels are also important in equation.

Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dl
  • Low- density lipoprotein or LDL (“bad”) less than 100 mg/dl
  • High- density lipoprotein or HDL (“good”) more than 60 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dl

For more information on promoting heart health, go to