February 10, 2012

Peconic Dunes Saves a Polar Bear

Posted by Sarah Marcus, STEM Director/Educator @ Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp
(STEM=Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)

When you register your child for camp this summer you will notice a pleasant surprise. Gone are the days of printing out, filling out and faxing back to our office 11 different pieces of paper per camper. Due to technological advances and the critical thinking of our administrative team, parents now only have to fill out and return 2 pieces of paper, the rest can be filled out and submitted online as you register. Not only is this convenient for you (and us) but it also helps save polar bears.

So how exactly does saving 9 pieces of paper per camper contribute to saving polar bears in the Arctic Circle? Well, hold on to your hats people! We are about to do some very cool math! Due to our new and improved system, 9 sheets of paper per camper is saved, which is equivalent to 11, 232 sheets per summer. Saving 11,232 sheets of paper is equivalent to saving 1.5 trees per summer, or 15 trees per decade.

Now, you may be scratching your head and thinking that is not a lot of trees I’m saving at all! What is the point? Hold on there a second! The question really is this: How much is one tree worth? What does one tree provide for the earth, for humanity? Well to determine this, we are going to have to make a little detour into the realm of SCIENCE (yes, my favorite realm in which to explore). Stay with me here.

As heat radiates upwards from the earth it gets trapped in the atmosphere due to high levels of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gasses like methane. These gasses act as a barrier preventing the heat from being released into space. This phenomenon is called The Greenhouse Effect and is the most direct contributor to Global Climate Change.

Trees, the beautiful perennial woody plant mostly falling into the angiosperm or conifer groups, naturally combat The Greenhouse Effect. They do this by sequestering (sucking in) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Trees (and other plants like moss) convert carbon dioxide to sugars via carbon fixation. Trees use these sugars to perform functions and for building plant structures and then returns oxygen to the atmosphere as a byproduct. Hence, trees act as a carbon sink, removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in their trunks, leaves and roots until death.

Ok. So lets get back to our question of what one tree can do for the earth. One mature tree can store 13 lbs. of carbon annually. Which means that Peconic Dunes’ 1.5 trees is storing 19.5 lbs. of carbon annually and 195 lbs. of carbon in a decade. This may still seem small but if every American family saved the same number of sheets of paper as we did (11,232) or simply planted a tree, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be reduced by 1 billion lbs!

When fighting climate change, every act, no matter how small can have a big impact - especially when you convince others to join you. Peconic Dunes invites you to join us in the fight against climate change. Planting trees and saving paper isn’t the only way you can help.

Instead of driving a mile to the post office or bank, leash your dog up and go for a walk. You’ll feel great afterwards and it won’t take as long as you would expect!

· Start composting. It helps return depleted nutrients to the soil.

· Ditch disposable! Instead of using plastic baggies use reusable containers.

· Recycle everything you can; plastics, aluminum, cans, glass and paper.

· Reduce the amount of meat you eat per week. Meat production, from rearing to transportation contributes even more to The Greenhouse Gas Effect than driving does. Consider being a vegetarian just one day a week.

Every little act can make a difference. Together we can help save Bjorn and the home we share with him.

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