Buy me some peanuts and (water-efficient) Cracker Jack

As a lifelong baseball fan, I’m proud that in 2008, Major League Baseball became the first professional sports league to partner with the National Resources Defense Council, teaming up with the respected environmental organization to launch a wide-ranging sustainability initiative. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig declared at the time that “caring for the environment is inextricably linked to all aspects of the game,” and that baseball “is in a unique position to exert positive influence in the area of environmental stewardship.”

That might sound like pure publicity, but over the last five years MLB has consistently turned its words into action, particularly in the area of water conservation. It’s all too easy to take water for granted, and baseball—America’s national pastime—could play a key role in instilling the idea of water stewardship in the national consciousness.

For  three teams—the Miami Marlins, the Minnesota Twins, and the Washington Nationals, all of which have opened LEED-certified ballparks—the minimization of water use has been particularly impressive.* Continue reading

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A day at the aquarium: part 1

The National Aquarium in Washington, D.C., is a hidden treasure, tucked into the basement of the Department of Commerce building just a stone’s throw from the White House. When we visited the aquarium on Sunday, we found it to be charming, intimate, and highly educational, full of young children buzzing with excitement to see and learn about an array of dazzling undersea creatures.

The National Aquarium in Washington, D.C., is going to close at the end of this summer. For the first time since 1878, there will be no aquarium in our nation’s capitol.

More on that in a moment. First, some highlights from the aquarium:

AnemoneThis beautiful pink-and-purple sea anemone was one of the aquarium’s most eye-catching sights. It has a commensal relationship with that lone clownfish you see in the center, which is protected from potential predators by the anemone’s stinging cnidae. The evolutionary biology behind this relationship is pretty fascinating.

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Water on the Mall

I’ve been living in Washington, D.C., this summer, and if there’s one thing that’s amazed me about the National Mall, it’s this: There are fountains everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong—pretty much everything about the National Mall is amazing, which is kind of the point. If you haven’t been there before, the Mall is a seemingly endless collection of museums and monuments, stretching from Congress at one end to the Lincoln Memorial at the other. Highlights include the Jefferson Memorial, the National Museum of Natural History, and the gorgeous United States Botanic Garden (which, incidentally, has a pretty neat sustainability initiative.)

I’ve spent several weekends walking up and down the Mall, and even with all of the great museums and historic sights, the thing that’s really caught my attention is all the water. There’s hardly a memorial that doesn’t use water as a means of paying homage, and I’ve started to joke that no government building could possibly be important if it doesn’t have at least three fountains. (I know, I’m hilarious.)

At this point you probably want examples. Some of the best fountains I’ve seen:

ImageYes, that’s the White House! Specifically, it’s the North Lawn. And there’s a second fountain on the other side. Continue reading

Welcome to 44 Water St.

Engulfed by the intoxicating aroma of coffee beans, we stand in line in cafés, hoping to jump-start our mornings with a caffeine jolt and a sugar rush. At this base of this strange concoction—coffee—is water.

WaterFootprint.org estimates that growing, transporting, and processing the coffee plant requires 140 liters of water. (That’s almost 37 gallons!) When we drink coffee, we are responsible for the water that makes it possible for this hot, energizing beverage to reach our cups each morning.

Every part of our world begins with water, but so often we take it for granted.

We depend on water to survive—as has every single person who has ever lived, and as does every other species on the planet. This truth is both humbling and unifying. We drink water, we’re made of water, and we bathe in water. We use water to dispose of our waste, to irrigate our crops, and to create electricity.

The world’s most prosperous cities have formed along the banks of great rivers, and civilizations throughout history have risen and fallen on the tides of their water fortunes. Water makes possible every fountain, every swimming pool, and every ocean, river, and lake. It is the subject of scientific study, and anthropogenic inquiry, and seemingly meandering blog posts.

All of which is to say, we’re here to write about water. Continue reading