Protecting our ecosystem: Why we should care and the biggest threats to our local environment

Chesapeake drone river
Posted at 10:06 AM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 10:54:11-04

It's around us...and connects us — the "Roads" in Hampton Roads. What we do in one place is sure to affect somewhere else downstream or downwind.

And, just as we've learned since we were kids, it's up to us to keep our ecosystem clean. April 22 being Earth Day is a great reminder.

"In April, I think, all across the country, we're thinking about our environment, but in Hampton Roads, we can think about our waterways all year round," said Christy Everett, Hampton Roads Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an organization that restores, educates about and advocates for the bay and the waterways that feed it.

The Foundation's Clean the Bay Day, scheduled for June 4, is part of that effort, but work continues year-round too. Right now, an oyster restoration project is helping replenish nature's natural water filters.

But Everett says the biggest threat to our local environment right now might come from what we do to keep our yards healthy.

"A lot of the problems that happen in our waterways is just too much nutrient pollution," she told News 3. "A lot of times this time of year, people will be fertilizing their lawns. We would really suggest people minimize that fertilizer."

She also suggests planting native plants, as they absorb excess nutrients.

It's all about being sustainable, which is how Christina Trapani tries to live her life. Her business, Eco Maniac Company, helps other people live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Christina Trapani
Christina Trapani owns Eco Maniac Company selling sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics and products.

"We specialize in alternatives to single-use plastics, also plastic-free alternatives," said Trapani, standing beside her truck at a farmers' market in the Virginia Beach ViBe District.

Then there's Trapani's organization Keep It Beachy Clean, which does...just as the name suggests. Sometimes, she visits remote beaches to pick up trash.

"Balloons and bottle caps are right at the top of the list of what we're finding out there," she tells News 3.

Trapani says balloons, in particular, along with plastic bags can be a real problem for the animals that call our area home. She points to the leatherback turtle, for example, which eats jellyfish and can't always tell the difference between a bag and the real thing. Ingestion can lead to injury or death.

Last year, Trapani helped get a law signed in Virginia that could see those who release balloons fined. But, she's quick to point out that you don't need to visit Richmond or Raleigh to make a difference.

"If you can avoid a single-use plastic item, like a plastic shopping bag, like a sandwich bag, like plastic utensils, plastic straws. There's lots of alternatives out there that are reusable and will last you a lifetime," she says.

And opportunities to learn more about sustainable products are frequent in April. Trapani says April 10 at noon, she and others will participate in an Earth Day Pop-Up Market outside Coastal Edge at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach. REI will collect shoes and other items for recycling.

There's also an Earth Day celebration event at Mount Trashmore scheduled for June 23 at 11 a.m.