How EcoAction Arlington Helped Me during the COVID-19 Crisis

Posted on April 23, 2020

By Jill Barker, EcoAction Arlington Board Chair

The coronavirus thrust unpredictable challenges into my daily routine, but through it, I increased my action and awareness about our environment because of EcoAction Arlington. Here are a few of the small but enlightening moments helping me find meaning in this chaotic time.

More time for reading and watching movies:

  • EcoAction Arlington’s Author’s Night held in 2019, featured a book called, Treevolution by local author Tara Campbell, that I finally found time to read. It is thoroughly enjoyable, suspenseful, humorous and engaging, causing me to think more deeply about human interaction with our natural world.
  • By subscribing and reading EcoAction Arlington’s newsletter, I found out that the DC Environmental Film Festival is screening its featured movies online.
  • I enjoyed watching Wild Thing, about a father who tries to get his kids outside more by becoming the ‘marketing director’ for nature. It is a fun romp and includes information about the benefits of the great outdoors, a topic brought front and center by the pandemic with children home from school.
  • Birders of NYC: The Central Park Effect inspired more birdwatching during my solitary walks. This enjoyable film is about the amazing numbers of migrating birds that rest in Central Park each year on their miles-long migrations.

Pruning and appreciating my yard:

  • In the second week of the pandemic, I received a very large, healthy Black Gum Tree thanks to the Arlington County Tree Canopy Fund administered by EcoAction Arlington. The tree delivery lifted my spirits immeasurably, was totally free to me, and the contractors even planted it.

From EcoAction Arlington I also learned about “biophilia” and the importance of native plants. So, this year we didn’t rake our leaves to allow insects to hatch and attract more birds and wildlife, but we did plant native species – golden ragwort and mayapple – to attract pollinators and birds. EcoAction Arlington will offer an online presentation on biophilia on May 13. It replaces the talk initially scheduled at the Annual Meeting canceled due to the pandemic.

  • As a gift from the 2018 EcoExtravaganza Celebration, I received a packet of wildflower seeds that I never got around to planting. I selected a sunny spot in the yard, created a new flowerbed, and put the seeds in the ground. Let’s hope they sprout!

Increasing the energy efficiency of my home:

  • Once a month from September to May, I enjoy installing energy efficiency devices in the homes of persons living in affordable housing, thanks to the Energy Masters program operated and managed by EcoAction Arlington, in partnership with Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension Office. Rarely, however, do I take my own advice.

The forced isolation caused by social distancing left me no excuse, so I cleaned my refrigerator coils—a job I neglected far too long. Using a special refrigerator coil cleaning brush (yes, you can order them online for about $6), a vacuum cleaner, and a smaller brush, I finally got them clean. Now, my compressor should work much less hard, reducing my electric usage, because the refrigerant can more easily release heat through the cleaned coils.

Reducing, reusing and recycling:

  • About a year ago, thanks to EcoAction Arlington’s R4 Group (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot = R4), I stopped using cling wrap and commenced using wax cloths for wrapping sandwiches, veggies, and other foods. But, now it is time to refresh my cloths with wax, which I intend to do as next week’s housebound project.

Also, in the “reuse” category, I am sewing face masks for first responders and others for the using fabric scraps I already have on hand.

As I walk around the neighborhood taking isolated exercise, I carry a bag and gloves to pick up trash as EcoAction Arlington teaches at its periodic trash removal events. I intend to join this year’s Virtual Community Earth Day Cleanup during April by taking an inventory of the types of trash collected. The information obtained from this drive may influence advocacy efforts regarding plastic reduction and perhaps a new plastic bag tax. You should join me.

Enjoying original libations:

  • Thanks to the 2018 EcoAction Arlington EcoExtravaganza Celebration, I learned about the Falls Church Distillery, whose owner co-sponsored the Celebration and designed a signature cocktail for the event. I keep their products on hand to give as gifts, but when we welcomed the new board members at a virtual social hour, I poured myself a drink.

Working to decrease climate change:

  • EcoAction Arlington’s local focus on the global problem of climate change always prompts the question, what can I do locally to influence this global issue? The pandemic has given us new eyes to see fresh ways to do previous activities with much less stress on our natural world. I am hopeful that many of these practices can be applied to address climate change once the pandemic has ended. Our human health is intertwined directly with the health of Planet Earth. May this crisis teach us to change, in Arlington and throughout the world, to heal both ourselves and our planet home.