UC Merced celebrates conservation on Earth Day

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comApril 21, 2014 

  • AT A GLANCE

    Easy conservation tips:

    •  Start a compost pile in the backyard, using grass, leaves, and fruit and vegetable rinds.

    •  Water your lawn for no longer than five to 15 minutes.

    •  Any amount of runoff is too much. Fix leaky sprinklers.

    •  Consider xeriscaping.

Whether it’s starting a composting pile in the backyard, thinking up ways to recycle or cutting back on watering the lawn, there is no shortage of ways for residents to participate in Earth Day.

Earth Day is essentially a celebration of the planet that highlights ways to treat it better.

UC Merced’s Earth Day events, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the 5200 Lake Road campus, is one place to find some ideas.

Composting, for example, might sound like a complicated process, but each homeowner can decide how much he or she wants to do, said Matt Hirota, waste reduction and recycle coordinator for the university.

Hirota is known as the “go-to guy” for conservation at UC Merced. About half of the university’s waste is compostible, Hirota said. City residents can make it as easy or intricate as they like.

Composting can include worms that break down food waste or can be as simple as a pile of grass and leaves. For more on composting, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, www2.epa.gov.

UC Merced’s Earth Day is aimed primarily at students, but Merced residents are welcome. The day offers a carnival-like atmosphere, along with important conservation information and tips.

Some of those tips will include simple changes that can help conserve water. David Doll, a farm adviser from the University of California Cooperative Extension, said reducing the amount of time a lawn is watered is a start. The greatest water savings will come from residents fixing broken sprinklers and assessing if they allow their sprinklers to run too long, he said.

Doll, who specializes in master gardening, said grass can use more water than most agricultural crops in a year, including almonds, walnuts and tomatoes. That is mainly because grass is photosynthesizing all year.

Lawns can withstand the water reduction and stay green, Doll said, and generally need just five to 15 minutes of sprinkling. Most people water excessively, he added, and any water that runs into the gutter is wasted.

A simple test for excessive watering, he said, is pinching soil between the thumb and index finger. If the dirt crumbles and falls away, it needs water, but if it forms into a ribbon one-inch wide or longer, it can go another day or two without water.

Doll also recommended residents consider xeriscaping, a type of landscaping that uses little or no water. He said xeriscaping is not “all or nothing,” that residents can take on as little or as much of the yard as they like.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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