Tips to Celebrate Earth Day 2020 While Social Distancing

Earth Day gatherings around the world have been cancelled due to COVID-19, but we can still do our part to honor this important occasion. We’ve put together a list of fun ideas and helpful tips to celebrate Earth Day 2020 safely and responsibly:


Get Outside, Safely

Illustration by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Getting outdoors is a great way to celebrate Earth Day, and it can boost your mental and physical health. While remaining mindful about maintaining safe social distancing practices, we can still get outside to take advantage of the spring weather and enjoy the outdoor adventures in our own backyards.

Earth Month Scavenger Hunt from Eco Promotional Products

For more tips on social distancing while visiting parks and natural areas, check out this helpful info from NJ Department of Environmental Protection.


Clean-up Your Neighborhood

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle

Although large volunteer clean-up events are postponed due to social distancing guidelines, we can still do our part to pick-up trash and protect our local waterways. Here are a few ideas:

  • When you go outside for an afternoon walk, bring gloves and a garbage bag so you can pick up any trash you see along the way.

  • Check the storm drains in your neighborhood and remove and discard any debris that you find. Get started by reading these DIY tips!


Get Crafting & Birdwatching

Here are some simple DIY crafting ideas to help you pass the time and improve your backyard birdwatching.

  • Orange Feeder: Oranges are a tasty, energizing snack loved by several bird species, especially the Baltimore Oriole. Follow a few simple steps for building an orange feeder, and then sit back and enjoy your backyard bird watching experience!

  • Hummingbird Nectar: Bring more hummingbirds to your backyard this season in a few easy steps! By filling your feeder with this DIY delight, you can watch these beautiful little birds feed and flitter all day.

  • Heart-Shaped Feeder: Show your local songbirds some love with this DIY heart-shaped bird feeder. It makes a charming decoration for your backyard trees.

If you’re interested in taking your birdwatching adventures beyond your backyard, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation offers a variety of information and online resources to help you do so.


Get your Yard Spring-Ready

Residential homes and neighborhoods can benefit from the implementation of green infrastructure in more ways than many people realize. Planting native flower beds reduces runoff and attracts important pollinators.

  • Reduce Invasives, Plant Natives: Tulips will soon be emerging from the ground, buds blossoming on trees and, unfortunately, invasive plant species will too begin their annual growing cycle. Invasive species create major impacts on ecosystems near and far, but we can all do our part to reduce the spread. To learn more about aquatic invasive species and how to address them, check out our blog.

  • Prepare your Pond for Spring: If you have a pond on your property, check out these six steps for taking your pond out of hibernation mode, sprucing it up for Spring, and ensuring it remains healthy all year long.


Be Water-Wise

Now that we’re all spending more time at home, this is a great opportunity to incorporate better water-conservation practices into our daily lives.

  • Reduce water waste by checking for leaks that have been caused by winter freeze. Check garden hose spigots and sprinklers, and replace valves, washers and other components as necessary.

  • Install a rain barrel and use the captured rainfall to irrigate flower beds. This is another fun and inexpensive way to reduce runoff and save water. You can order a rain barrel online or search online for DIY rain barrel ideas. Remember to cover your barrels to keep mosquitoes at bay.

  • Go here for more water conservation tips.


Let’s Talk Toilets

According to the USEPA, toilets account for more water use than any other water-consuming product in your home. Toilets are estimated to be responsible for upwards of 30% of household water consumption. Additionally, flushing anything besides toilet paper has major negative impacts on the environment.

  • Eliminate toilet leaks: 79% of water lost in the home is through toilet leaks. Often silent, these leaks can waste up to 300 gallons of water per day. Check for leaks using food coloring. Replace the refill valve or flush valve when necessary.

  • Flush Responsibly: NY State Department of Environmental Conservation recently issued an email requesting more responsible flushing habits. As a reminder, disinfectant wipes, diapers, baby wipes, personal hygiene products, and any paper products other than toilet paper should never be flushed! These materials create significant damage to sewer systems, water treatment plants, and septic systems. Learn more.


Go Digital

Earth Day 2020, which also happens to be the 50th anniversary, will now be the first-ever Digital Earth Day. Here are a few ways to celebrate from the safety of your home:

  • Participate in a global Citizen Science effort! Download the Earth Challenge 2020 smart phone app to submit observations of the environment around your home. The data you submit will be validated, and the resulting database—of over one billion data points—will be displayed on a public map for researchers to use.

  • Participate in the Rutger’s Cooperative Extension “Earth Day at Home” free webinar series! Every Monday at 6:30pm EST, starting April 20 through June 29, the live and interactive 1-hour sessions will focus on steps everyone can take to protect the environment. Topics include environmentally friendly lawn care, backyard composting, reducing plastic and food waste, and so much more.

  • Sign-up to be a part of the largest environment mobilization in history: EarthDay.org’s EARTHRISE initiative, which includes social media campaigns, online teach-ins, performances, and more. Find a digital Earth Day Event!

Inspire others to celebrate Earth Day 2020 responsibly by documenting your activities and sharing on social media with hashtags: #EarthDay, #EarthDay2020, #EARTHRISE, and #RecreateLocal. To read about Princeton Hydro’s past Earth Day celebrations, go here.

Sediment Testing on the St. Lawrence Seaway

Way up in Northern New York, the St. Lawrence River splits the state’s North Country region and Canada, historically acting as an incredibly important resource for navigation, trade, and  recreation. Along the St. Lawrence River is the St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of locks, canals, and channels in both Canada and the U.S. that allows oceangoing vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Great Lakes.

Recently, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) contracted Princeton Hydro to conduct analytical and geotechnical sampling on material they plan to dredge out of the Wiley-Dondero Canal. Before dredging, sediment and soils have to be tested to ensure their content is suitable for beneficial reuse of dredged material. In August, our Geologist, Marshall Thomas and Environmental Scientist, Pat Rose, took a trip up north to conduct soil sampling and testing at two different sites within the canal near Massena and the Eisenhower Lock, which were designated by the SLSDC. The first site was at the SLSDC Marine Base, which is a tug/mooring area directly southwest of Snell Lock. The second location was directly northeast of the Eisenhower Lock, which is also used as a mooring area. Both of these sites require dredging in order to maintain mooring access for boat traffic navigating the channel.

During this two-day sampling event, our team, which also included two licensed drillers from Atlantic Testing Laboratories, used a variety of equipment to extract the necessary samples from the riverbed. Some of the sampling equipment included:

  • Vibracoring equipment: this sampling apparatus was assembled on Atlantic Testing’s pontoon boat. To set up the vibracore, a long metal casing tube was mounted on the boat more than 10 feet in the air. The steel casing was lowered through the water approximately 17-20 feet down to the mudline. From there, the vibracore was then vibrated through the sediment for an additional 4-6 feet. For this project, vibracore samples were taken at 4 feet in 10 different locations, and at 6 feet in 3 different locations.

  • A track mounted drill rig: this rig was positioned along the shoreline to allow advancement of a standard geotechnical test boring close to existing sheet piling. Advancement of the boring was done by way of a 6-inch hollow stem auger. As the auger was advanced, it resembled a giant screw getting twisted into the ground. This drilling method allows the drilling crew to collect soil samples using a split spoon sampler, which is a 2-foot long tubular sample collection device that is split down the middle. The samplers were collected by driving the split spoon into the soil using a 140 lb drop hammer.

For our team, conducting sampling work on the St. Lawrence Seaway was a new experience, given most of our projects occur further east in the Mid-Atlantic region. The most notable difference was the hardness of the sediment. Because the St. Lawrence River sediments contain poorly sorted, dense glacial till, augering into it took a little more elbow grease than typical sediments further south do.  The St. Lawrence River is situated within a geological depression that was once occupied by glaciers. As the glaciers retreated, they were eventually replaced by the Champlain Sea, which flooded the area between 13,000 and 9,500 years ago. Later on, the continent underwent a slight uplift, ultimately creating a riverlike watercourse that we now deem the St. Lawrence River. Because it was once occupied by a glacier, this region is full of glacial deposits.

For this project, our team was tasked with collecting both geotechnical and analytical samples for physical and analytical testing. Physical testing included grain size analysis, moisture content, and Atterberg limit testing. Grain size analysis helps determine the distribution of particle sizes of the sample in order to classify the material, moisture content testing determines exactly that — how moist the sediment is, and Atterberg limits help to classify the fines content of the materials as either silt or clay. Analytical testing included heavy metals, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and dioxins.

Our scientists were responsible for logging, testing, and providing a thorough analysis of fourteen sampling locations. The samples collected from the vibracore tubes filled with sediment were logged and spilt on-shore. In order to maintain a high level of safety due to the possible presence of contaminants, all of the sampling equipment was decontaminated. This process involves washing everything with a soapy water mixture, a methanol solution, and 10% nitric acid solution.

The samples collected at each vibrocore location were split into multiple jars for both analytical and physical testing. The physical test samples were placed into air and moisture tight glass sample jars and brought to our AASHTO accredited soils laboratory in Sicklerville, New Jersey for testing. The analytical samples were placed into airtight glass sample jars with Teflon-lined caps. These samples were then placed into an ice-filled cooler and sent to Alpha Analytical Laboratories for the necessary analytical testing.

Once all the laboratory testing was completed, a summary report was developed and presented to the client. This report was made to inform the SLSDC of the physical properties of each sediment sample tested and whether contaminants exceeded threshold concentrations as outlined in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Technical & Operation Guidance Series (TOGS) 5.1.9. This data will ultimately be used by the SLSDC to determine the proper method for dredging of the material and how to properly dispose of the material.

Princeton Hydro provides soil, geologic, and construction materials testing to both complement its water resources and ecological restoration projects and as a stand-alone service to clients. Our state-of-the-art Soils Testing Laboratory is AASHTO-accredited to complete a full suite of soil, rock, and construction material testing for all types of projects. For more information, go here: http://bit.ly/2IwqYfG