OZONE AWARE: Help Take Care of the Summer Air

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

We have another month until it’s official, but it already feels like summer in the Midlands.  Here in the Midlands, summers are known for festivals, homemade ice cream and playing in Lake Murray. But there’s something else that heats up when the Midlands starts getting warmer: ground-level ozone. Here’s the dirt on ground-level ozone:

Good up high. Bad nearby. Unlike the good, protective ozone layer in the stratosphere, ground level ozone is a harmful air pollutant that affects all of us. It’s formed when emissions from everyday items combine with other pollutants and “cook” in the heat and sunlight. (Gasoline-powered cars and trucks are the most common source of emissions in our area.) Weather also plays a key role in ozone formation. The highest ozone levels are usually recorded in summer months when temperatures approach the high 80s and 90s and the wind is stagnant or light.

Ground-Level ozone affects everybody. At ground level, ozone is a health hazard for all of us, especially the young and elderly. Those who are active and exercising outdoors may experience breathing difficulties and eye irritation. Prolonged exposure may result in reduced resistance to lung infections and colds. Ozone can also trigger attacks and symptoms in individuals with pre-existing conditions, like asthma or other respiratory infections like chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Stay alert all summer. Remember, the highest ozone levels are typically found on days that reach the high 80s and 90s and when the wind is stagnant or light. Stay tuned to your local meteorologists, as they will be notifying the public of Ozone Action Alert days when ozone levels are forecasted to reach unhealthy levels. Or use Enviroflash to sign up for free air quality forecasts.

Don’t just breathe, do something. Fellow breathers, you can become a part of the solution. There are simple, easy steps you can take to reduce harmful emissions during ozone pollution season. Be a clean air warrior and click here to get started. 

For more information on ground-level ozone, visit Clean Air Midlands or SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.

 

Partnership Transforms Plastic Bags to Help Those in Need

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you start off with the best of intentions when it comes to using reusable shopping bags. You have a cute set conveniently tucked into your cargo area or trunk – my favorites are Queen of Green bags from Lilly Pulitzer. But if you’re like me, those great bags don’t always make it back into the car. Then, in a moment of eco-embarrassment, you end up using the plastic bags from the store, only to get home and find they seem to multiply tenfold in a matter of days.

Plastic bags may be “free” at the grocery store, but they have a huge cost for the environment. They:

  1. Litter our landscapes, clog waterways and jam expensive equipment at the recycling recovery facilities.
  2. Migrate to the ocean via local waterways, where some 100,000 marine animals ingest them and die each year.
  3. Waste energy and create greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing process.
  4. Jam expensive sorting machines at the recycling recovery and sorting facility.

What if you could use your plastic bags for good?  Thanks to Operation Bed Roll, you can. Operation Bed Roll is a local collaboration designed to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills, engage our citizens in a community-wide maker project and provide the chronically homeless with a better place to sleep. They transform thousands of plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn aka plarn to create crocheted sleeping mats that provide an insulated barrier for those whose circumstances result in sleeping on the ground.

Operation Bed Roll consists of ten partners: Sonoco Recycling, Environmental Education Association of SC (EEASC), United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, City of Columbia, EdVenture Children’s Museum, Art Ecologie Group and countless community volunteers: schools, retirement communities, churches, artists, Scout troops and more.  They adopted the project from a similar one in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The average American uses 500-700 plastic grocery bags each year, and that’s about the same number it takes to create a bed roll. And while a recycled bag might not be your idea of luxury, they are lightweight, easy to carry, dry quickly and don’t attract bed bugs and provide insulation for those who sleep on the ground. (A bed roll has been found to keep users 10 to 20 degrees warmer than sleeping on the bare ground.)

I participate in Operation Bed Roll as a bag collector and plarn maker. I love the diversity of volunteers and partners involved as well as the simple sustainability of the project. It takes something that’s designed to be used for a mere 12 minutes and creates something practical and lasting for those less fortunate. And when the bed rolls wear out, they can be recycled with other plastic bags at grocery store plastic bag recycling containers.

Since beginning in January of this year, Operation Bed Roll volunteers have created over twenty “plarn” sleeping mats, saving approximately 15,000 plastic shopping bags from the landfill. Those mats are being distributed to the chronically homeless by United Way of the Midlands.

Operation Bed Roll’s goal is to produce another 80 mats between now and the fall, when the weather will get cooler again. You can help in many ways:

  1. Donating your plastic bags (used only, please; getting new ones defeats the purpose).
  2. Cutting plastic bags into strips.
  3. Linking strips together to create plarn.
  4. Donating plarn to knitters.
  5. Using your crocheting skills to create bed rolls.

For more information, visit OBR’s Facebook page or email the group at operationbedrollsc@gmail.com.

Pneumonia Weather

By: Chaunte McClure

One sure way to strike up a conversation is to talk about the weather. With this spring-like weather in the dead of winter here lately, it’s easy to do. I love it, although I have a few sweaters and scarves I haven’t worn yet. However, it’s nice when I can take a late afternoon stroll in the park without a sweatshirt, gloves or jacket.

Every Woman Blog - Pneumonia Weather

All the creepy crawlies must be confused. One weekend it’s snowing and the next it’s 78 degrees. This weather blows humans’ minds, too. That’s why you’ll likely find a photo on your timeline of a friend’s dashboard displaying today’s temperature. Grandma would call this pneumonia weather – when the weather goes from one extreme to the other and back again. Cold, hot, cold. I know some of you are bold enough to argue with Grandma and say the weather doesn’t make you sick, but uh ruh, nudge, nudge. Grandma is always right!

Let’s call this season “spwinter” – a combination of spring and winter. The time of year when you can wear shorts, flip-flops and wool coats in one week. And when you can light the fireplace and turn on the AC during the same week. Hey, we could have blistering cold weather like my friends in Washington and Wisconsin are experiencing. I’d say I’m happy to call South Carolina home, despite the pneumonia weather.

The Midlands Arts Conservatory

Providing a Free, Public Education that Combines Arts and Academics

By: Shannon Boatwright

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Just one year ago, in January of 2016, I wrote this blog entry sharing news of a mission to bring an arts conservatory to Columbia, SC. With great zeal, I shared my support for this mission and why the arts are such a huge part of creating a quality, top notch education for the young minds of today.

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.”
– Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

I am thrilled to help announce that people have rallied behind the mission of the Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) and an outpouring of support is helping to make it a reality! Please help me continue to support the mission and share the progress of MAC. There are informational meetings being held this coming weekend that parents and families can attend to get all their questions answered. If you know of any student in the area with a passion for the arts, absolutely do not hesitate to share this info with them! For more details, please read the information below and share it in every way that you can. Let’s help make the arts shine so that young minds can be enriched, deeper understanding can be attained and creativity can thrive!

Arts Charter School to Open in Columbia:
Midlands Arts Conservatory

A committee of arts professionals, educators, parents and community members is moving forward with plans to open an arts charter school in Columbia. The Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) will have a focus on the visual arts, theater, dance and music.

mac-logo-squareThe school will hold two informational meetings for parents and the community: on Saturday, January 7th at the North Main branch of the Richland Public Library at 4:00pm, and on Sunday, January 8th in the second floor theatre at the main branch of the Richland Public Library at 3:00.

MAC will provide a free, public education that effectively combines arts and academics. The school plans to open in the Fall of 2017 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade level each year, reaching 12th grade in 2022. The Midlands Arts Conservatory will be free for any South Carolina resident student in the appropriate grade level who has an interest in the arts and is willing to meet the high academic expectations of the school.

The school will be staffed with highly qualified arts and academic instructors in an environment that provides training, exposure and practical application in the arts and the integration of arts into the academics of the school. The student-teacher ratio in classes will be no higher than 20 to 1 and lower in specialized arts areas. MAC will have small group and individualized instruction in the arts with a wide spectrum of academic support available.

The MAC Planning Committee members understand the importance of a high-quality arts education for young people. They want to ensure that every child in the Midlands has the opportunity to experience the power of creative self-expression.

For more information, contact J Britt at (803)-630-1622 or (803)-630-1MAC; visit http://midlandsartsconservatory.org; or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MidlandsArtsCon.

3 Easy Steps for Sustainable Holiday Gifts

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to start shopping for holiday gifts. A shopper at heart, I love buying gifts for the special people in my life. As a “green girl,” I shop with sustainability in mind and wanted to share some tips so you, too, can be a more sustainable holiday shopper.

Think local. The Midlands area has really become a mecca for unique, locally produced items. One of the best locations for finding them all in one place is Soda City, Columbia’s Main Street market open every Saturday morning 9AM – 1PM, year-round, rain or shine. Recycled ornamentLocally produced products support the local economy, and they’re created here – not shipped in from across the country or even across the world. The footprint of your gift will be smaller and result in a cleaner environment.

Consider consumables. Having issues with clutter myself, I refuse to create more for the holidays, for me or for others. My standard gift is usually a recycled-content ornament, but this year I’m only buying gifts that can be used or eaten. The Cotton Mill Exchange at the SC State Museum has a great selection of Palmetto State gifts, including gourmet foods produced within our borders. Or select a gift card to a local restaurant, bakery or micro-brewery. Personally, I’ll be asking Santa for a gift certificate to Spotted Salamander, a downtown Columbia café featuring inventive Southern cuisine with fresh, high quality local ingredients.

Another favorite consideration? Think experiential. In the Midlands, it’s easy to find something for everyone on your list to enjoy, like tickets to a play or attraction you know they like. A donation in the name of your recipient will go a long way, too. At the top of my list is a membership to The Nickelodeon, Columbia’s art house theatre on Main Street.

Where is your favorite place to buy sustainable holiday gifts? And what is it you recommend there? What’s on your list for Sustainable Santa?

Hometown Tourists

By: Ashley Whisonant

congaree park

This past weekend, my boys and I had absolutely no plans. This is a very rare occasion. Between soccer games, play dates, vacations, and birthdays our weekends have been jam packed. My husband and I wanted to spend the free day as a family, outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather, but we didn’t want to drive too terribly far.

Enter Congaree National Park!

Just a 50 minute drive from Lexington, we packed the car and headed down to arrive at nine. With lunches in book bags, we first stopped at the Visitor’s Center. They had tons of displays for the kids to look at and learn from. We also picked up two scavenger hunts for them to complete as we “hiked.”

congaree parkThe trails were perfect for my two and five year old. There was tons to observe and only a small amount of mosquitos! The trails did have some roadblocks because of trees falling, but the boardwalk was amazing. It stretched close to a mile over some swamp areas. That area was my favorite!

After two hours of hiking around, we stopped at the picnic tables to have lunch before heading home. It was the perfect morning! Don’t miss out on this amazing park in our backyard!

Here’s Your Chance to Become an Every Woman Blogger!

Every Woman Blog Contest

We’re excited to announce that we’re sponsoring another Every Woman Blog Contest to select new bloggers to join our team! Women of all ages are invited to enter the contest from June 1st to June 30th. Each selected blogger will receive a $250 cash prize.

To enter the blogging contest, visit Lexington Medical Center’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LexingtonMedical. Upload a video or post a short written statement on the Wall about why you would be a great blogger to represent and inspire women in the Midlands. Five women with the most persuasive, funny, touching or engaging posts will be selected to become featured bloggers on the Every Woman Blog.

Each featured blogger will write at least one post per month. The topics will vary greatly depending on the personalities of the bloggers and their daily experiences in the community. The bloggers will also meet in person at “blogger reunions” to share ideas and brainstorm topics.

Make sure to visit us on our Facebook page and leave us a message on the Wall stating why you think you’d be a great blogger – and you could win!