Construct A Rain Barrel at Mobile Workshop

Future rain barrels

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, in partnership with the Coastal Alabama Clean Water Partnership and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, will hold a rain barrel workshop from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N, in Mobile.

Workshop participants will learn about important water quality and conservation issues and practical measures they can take to reduce their impact on coastal Alabama’s water resources. During the workshop, they will construct a rain barrel that will allow them to harvest rainwater for gardens, landscaping or other uses. They also will learn how to install the rain barrels at their homes.

To attend the workshop, interested individuals must pre-register with the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center office by Wednesday, Oct. 17.The registration fee for the workshop is $40 and includes all materials required to construct a rain barrel.

For more information or to register, contact Christian Miller, extension specialist with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center, at 251-438-5690 or

More information about rain barrels and water conservation.


Giving: Support a Waterkeeper

Hi everyone! For our last Make-A-Difference Sunday we want to give a shout out to the Waterkeeper Alliance and all our fellow Waterkeepers, both in the United States and abroad.

Waterkeeper Alliance is an international organization with 200 Waterkeepers worldwide in 6 continents and 19 countries. Waterkeepers empower their communities to stand up for their right to clean water and ensure that our waterways are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Waterkeeper Alliance’s goal is to protect every river, creek, bay, and lake in the world through research, education, partnership, grassroots advocacy and dogged determinism.

Waterkeepers fill in when agencies don’t or aren’t able to monitor and enforce pollution permits.  We use the rule of law to stand up for our waterways and fight to insist that clean air, clean water and healthy communities are a public right – the public trust – not just an afterthought.


You should consider supporting a Waterkeeper if:

(1) You like going to the beach, swimming, and boating.

(2) You support access to safe, clean drinking water.

(3) You live on or near a body of water that is important to you.

(4) You want to protect our waters for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

How to Support 

(1) Find a Waterkeeper in your area.

(2) Get involved with your local Waterkeeper. Find out what their issues are and if there are volunteer opportunities or projects coming up.

(3) Make a donation to your local Waterkeeper. Nonprofit organizations depend on financial support and in-kind donations to keep doing what they do.

Together we can make a difference!

100 Uses for Baking Soda

Baking Soda: 100s of Household Uses - Diane Sutherland


It’s no secret that we love baking soda at Mobile Baykeeper. It is an effective cleaner, odor-neutralizer, and can be used in all sorts of hair and beauty care recipes. As a bonus, it is also much safer to wash down the drain than many of the soaps and chemicals that are traditionally used for cleaning.

Check out this list of 75 Extraordinary Uses for Baking Soda and let us know in comments how many you have tried! As a bonus, tell us in comments other Earth-tastic ways that you use baking soda.

Let’s make a difference!

Weekend Project: Plant A Rain Garden

Your future rain garden?

We have talked about stormwater several times this month, and for a good reason. Stormwater is a huge source of non-point source pollution, meaning pollution that enters waterways from many places and is difficult to pinpoint and quantify. It is also something that we, as homeowners, have the power to influence.

Because run-off water can become polluted from multiple sources, addressing it requires a multi-front approach. We have discussed the two main ways to avoid contributing polluted water to the world. Broadly they are:

(1) Don’t pollute the water. This means not putting chemicals or pollution in the water in the first place, and not putting pollution in the path of water.

We have already talked about several of these:

(2) Clean up the water. As water travels, it will always pick up pollutants, but we have several ways to clean it up before it reaches our waterways or groundwater. We have talked about Rain Barrels and the hydrological and ecological benefits they have. Today we are talking about rain gardens and the way they benefit you and the environment.

Nature is pretty good at filtering water. Plants soak up water, excess nutrients, and minerals, and can help break down compounds in the water. Different layers of soil help scrub water clean as it makes its way to natural reservoirs of surface or groundwater. All we have to do is make sure we give nature a chance to work its magic. That’s where rain gardens come in. Much like the rainwater collection system you use for a rain barrel, one of the ways you can set up a rain garden is by connecting a tube to your roof gutters that directs rainwater towards the garden. Once there, the plants will soak much of the water up as they need it, but they will also hold the water in place and allow it to infiltrate naturally into the ground, which is all it really wanted in the first place.

This brings us to a second important point about rain gardens: what to plant. There are many excellent guides out there about planning and planting a rain garden, and about selecting native species, which you can find below. The main thing to keep in mind is to pick plants that are (a) native to your area, and (b) will function well in a rain garden. Pick plants that thrive in wet conditions.

Finally, location is crucial. Consult the guides below and local master gardeners or green landscapers to make sure you are situating your rain garden in the best possible place for your yard.

Now go get started! What better way to celebrate Earth Day Weekend than by reinvesting in your yard and the world around you? This weekend promises to be beautiful, so let’s get out there and make a difference!

Also, check with local garden stores or extension services–many of them offer workshops on a variety of topics, including rain gardens! In Mobile in particular, check with the Auburn Extension, they have several rain garden workshops scheduled over the next few months.

Learn More and Get Started!

How A Rain Garden Works

How to Build A Rain Garden

Native Plants

Water Wednesday: Clean Counters, Clean Water

25 Green Household Cleaning Recipes

Who doesn’t dread cleaning day?  There are a hundred things I would rather do than clean, but alas it must be done.  However, sometimes when we clean we also pollute our waterways.  When we clean our sinks, toilets, showers and tubs, all the chemicals and industrial cleaners have the potential to end up in our waterways. I think there is an assumption that to really get something clean you need to use harsh chemicals and antibacterial products. In fact, there are many household items that you already have in your home that are much less toxic and are still great cleaning agents.

It seems that nowadays there are hundreds of products to clean different parts of your house.  There’s a cleaner for your oven, a separate one for your countertops, a special formula for your sinks and showers, and yet another for your toilets.   The list goes on and on and your cupboard gets fuller and fuller.   But did you know that you can get all of that cleaning with just a few items?   If you have some baking soda, vinegar/lemon juice and tea tree oil you have all the fixings for a clean, healthy home.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a wonderful multipurpose cleaner.   You can use it to hand wash dishes by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with the juice of ½ a lemon in a sink of hot water.   You can use it to clean your sinks and counter tops (it can remove stains and polish granite, too).   It can banish smells in trash cans and refrigerators as well help clean your laundry.   It can clean your toilets when mixed with a little white vinegar.  One of our staff members even made an air freshener by placing baking soda in a jar and adding her favorite essential oil.   A great book called Baking Soda by Diane Sutherland is a great resource for ways to use baking soda.   You can Google search cleaning with baking soda to find the best recipes to suit your cleaning needs.

Vinegar/Lemon Juice

The high acidity levels in vinegar and lemon juice make them effective cleaners and antiseptics.   Vinegar has dozens of household and garden uses including cleaning countertops, windows and bathroom surfaces.   You can also add vinegar to your wash to boost cleaning or remove odors by leaving vinegar out in your kitchen overnight.  If you are concerned about your home smelling like vinegar, don’t worry.   The smell should dissipate within and hour or you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your vinegar/water solution. Also, one Baykeeper has found that apple cider vinegar is equally effective for banishing odors without the harsh small of white vinegar.

Lemon juice can also be used to clean countertops and bathroom fixtures.  You can actually cut a lemon in half and rub it on your shower handle to remove hard water spots (if you do this, please test in a small area….if you have a special finish it may alter the appearance).  Again, you can find dozens of websites that will give you more details and recipes for vinegar and lemon cleaners.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a wonderful anti-fungal/antiseptic cleaner.   It got me through many years of potty training with my kids.   But it does so much more than disinfect clothes.   Tea tree oil mixed in a spray bottle of water will get rid of mold and must smells.  It will also freshen and inhibit mold in your laundry.   A spray mixture of tea tree oil, water and a little liquid soap will disinfect your counter tops.  It is the little oil that has many purposes.

So there you have it…three household items for your cleaning cupboard rather than a collection of harsh chemicals!   And if making cleaners isn’t your thing, there are also a number of environmentally friendly multi-purpose cleaners like Seventh Generation, Bon Ami and Method.  Many of these (and other earth friendly) products can be found at your local health food store, as well as Target and Winn-Dixie.

Check out more ideas for Earth-friendly cleaning on our Make-A-Difference Month Pinterest Board!

Good luck with your water-friendly cleaning.  I don’t know about you, but I am actually a little excited about cleaning my counters tonight!

Saturday: Buy One Thing Organic

Many of us at Mobile Baykeeper strive to buy local or organic foods, and we know that many of you do too. We also know that buying organic food expensive. In some places a gallon of organic milk is twice the price of conventionally-produced milk. We’re going to share a few reasons that we shop organic, and then we’re going to challenge you to start integrating organic food into your household by starting with one thing.

(1) Healthier for you. Eating organic produce lessens your consumption of pesticide and herbicide residues, while organic dairy and animal products are free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Many sources also indicate that organic produce, meats, dairy, and eggs are more nutritious and contain higher levels of healthy fats, nutrients, and antioxidants. Read more about this here.

(2) Healthier for livestock. Livestock and poultry that are raised organically (including their dairy and eggs) are not given growth hormones and preventative antibiotics, and generally it means they are raised in more humane conditions.

(3) Healthier for the environment. Organic production uses alternative methods for weed and pest control, which means fewer harmful chemicals entering into the environment. Every chemical that is sprayed on agricultural fields has the potential to run off into our waterways. The fewer harmful chemicals used, the less impact our food production has on the environment.

Again, we know that there are countless reasons to eat organic; the higher price is the biggest thing standing in the way. So instead of asking you to start buying everything organic, we’re challenging you to start buying just one thing organic. Maybe that means buying organic milk or organic strawberries from now on. We have some articles below that can help guide your decision of the produce and food items that are most important to buy organic. Let us know what you decide to start buying organic! We want to hear from you!

Happy shopping! Together we can make a difference!

Some guides for shopping organic:

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods To Buy Organic

What Foods Should You Buy Organic?

Why Buy Organic Dairy Products?

Wednesday: Lawn Care

Today we are talking about fertilizer, specifically fertilizer used on lawns and in gardens. We are talking about this on Water Wednesday because anything you put in your yard has the potential to end up in rivers, lakes, and waterways when it rains. In particular, the concern about fertilizer is excess nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus.


These nutrients are essential to plant growth and health, but in excess they can cause environmental problems, the biggest ones being algae blooms and eutrophication. Essentially, when excess nutrients reach a waterway, algae populations can rapidly boom and bust. The “bust” is problematic because when the algae die off and decompose the oxygen in the water is consumed and depleted. Waters that are low in oxygen are unable to support healthy populations of other species. You can read more about eutrophication here.

The main sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are yard waste and leaves, and fertilizer and other soil amendments.

Yard Waste

Yard waste and leaves that fall or are blown into the streets end up in storm drains, and eventually end up in our waterways. Instead of putting yard waste in the street, you can collect it for other uses in your yard. Leaves and lawn clippings make excellent additions to a compost pile, or can be used as mulch. Also, many cities offer free or low-cost yard waste pick up.


As previously mentioned, the fertilizer nutrients that are not taken up by plants and grass can end up in out waterways after a rain event. There are several alternatives to traditional fertilizing that can make your lawn just as lush and healthy, among them: leave clippings on the lawn, use time-release fertilizer, limit herbicide/pesticide use. See below for some great resources for environmentally-friendly lawn care.

Resources for Organic/Low-Impact Lawn Care:

Rain Garden

Another option is to survey your yard to figure out where most water runs off and plant a garden there. These plants will take up excess nutrients before they leave your yard and enter the stormwater system. A rain garden reduces the amount of water running off your lawn, and improves water quality, therefore limiting the impact on your local waterways.


This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning compost. Check back tomorrow for Part 1 of a guide on how to start your own compost pile. In addition to keeping nutrient-rich food waste out of the landfill, composting also gets a second use out of food scraps and yard waste. Compost and mulch are great additions to any garden and can reduce your use of traditional fertilizers, and even reduce the need to buy potting soil.


Remember, everything you put on your lawn can end up in your water. It’s also important to remember not to overwater. Water early in the morning (between 4am and 8am) or later in the evening. Keep an eye on the sprinkler and make sure it doesn’t run all day or during the heat of the day. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, make sure to override it so it doesn’t go off when it is rainy. You can also install a rainwater collection system for your yard!

How are you making a difference in your lawn and garden care?

P.S. Click here for an update from last week about the two Baykeepers who challenged themselves to only wash their hair with baking soda for a week.