Trumbull group plans week-long Earth Day celebration

TRUMBULL — As the 51st Earth Day approaches, a local group is planning a week-long series of events to make Trumbull greener and cleaner.

“We’ve got a really robust agenda that we’re really excited about,” said Pam Roman, a member of the town’s Sustainable Team. “Starting April 18, we have at least one event each day, and it all culminates in the annual Tidy Up Trumbull with Trumbull Community Women.”

Events during Earth Week include guided hikes of the Pequonnock River Valley and a series of webinars including wildlife sketching, creating a pollinator pathway, vegetable gardening and recycling. To sign up for any of the events, and for a full schedule, visit the Sustainable Trumbull website.

Mary Hogue of Fairfield, who will host a composting webinar April 21, said people attending her seminars are always surprised to learn that her ultimate goal is not to get people composting as much as possible.

“The idea is to find the highest possible use for your food,” Hogue said. “According to the USDA food hierarchy, there are eight steps, and composting is second to last.”

For example, Hogue said, Step 1 is to buy what you need. Step 2 is to reduce, reuse, recycle.

“Make leftovers or soups,” she said. “Can you give food to your mother or the neighbors or a soup kitchen? Can you give it to your dog?”

Composting, she said, is the last step before tossing food into the garbage.

“So the aim is not to do as much composting as possible, but if you can’t do all the other things, then composting is a great way to keep food out of the garbage,” she said.

Hogue also encourages people to start small with their recycling.

“Any old bowl will work,” she said. “I use a container that I got from Bed Bath & Beyond.”

The little containers of compost will go a long way toward feeding the microbes and other little critters that feed on decomposing vegetation, she said.

“As time goes on, they’ll get busy and the pile will start to warm up,” she said. “And no matter how much you keep adding, the pile will never get very large because the critters keep eating the pile down, down, down. It actually disappears right before your eyes, and the finished soil is living and breathing. Spread some compost on your garden bed. It’s amazing how alive it is.”

Chris Petherick, who owns Wild Birds Unlimited in Fairfield, is hosting a webinar April 20 on making lawns attractive to birds.

“Over the last 30 years, the loss of wild birds is estimated to be in the billions,” he said. “Most of that is due to habitat loss.”

Population growth drives a need for housing, and the first thing builders do when they build a house is to plant grass, he said.

“So instead of trees and shrubs and a multi-level canopy, you have manicured Bermuda grass,” he said.

To make matters worse for wildlife, residential homeowners also spread pesticides on their lawns, further eliminating the grubs and worms that birds feed on, Petherick said. But a yard that is attractive to wild birds tends to keep itself in balance, he said.

“Bats eat mosquitoes, some birds eat ticks, it can cut down on the bugs in your lawn if you just let them do it,” he said.

Much like composting can begin with a barrel-sized bin, making a bird-friendly environment doesn’t require 20 acres of land, Petherick said.

“Every yard matters,” he said. “Just plant a few native trees and shrubs. Birds aren’t going to come to a decorative tree that’s native to Japan”

Even a small garden can help wild bird populations, Petherick said.

“Birds are always flying over your yard and if it’s attractive, they’ll stop,” he said. “If not, they have to keep going and that increases the risks. And it doesn’t take 50 or 100 acres. A small garden will break up the habitat desert.”