The key to green living and sustainability most often lies with grass roots efforts by dedicated individuals with personal vested interests at stake. A situation such as this gave birth to the Shell Recycling Alliance. This group consists of members of the local oyster shucking community with family legacies of care and commitment to the Chesapeake Bay. They recognized that the tons of oyster shells discarded at events where they shucked could serve a useful purpose, and they got together to do something about it.

Oyster shell is a limited natural resource that provides a habitat for new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Hatchery uses it for its oyster setting process. This program spawns oysters taken from the wild, creating larvae or spat, which is released into large tanks with cages of oyster shells to set. The newly spawned oysters are fed algae and upon reaching maturity, are returned to the Bay. The Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA) has teamed up with area seafood restaurants throughout Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Delaware to save oyster shells, which are collected and delivered to the hatchery to be used for setting to replenish the bay oyster population. To date, the SRA has provided around 75,000 bushels of reclaimed oyster shells to the program.

In addition to being a food attraction, oysters play a major role in the health and survival of the Chesapeake Bay, as the filtering capacity of the entire oyster reef community is vital to the Bay’s water quality. By virtue of its algae consumption, an oyster filters water at a rate of up to approximately two gallons an hour. This filtration clarifies the water, allowing bay grasses to receive more sunlight and become more plentiful. As a result, oxygen levels in the water increase, which in turn, leads to reduced wave energy and shoreline loss. The end product is a healthy habitat for aquatic life.

Thanks to the actions of concerned people committed to the protection of our waters, oyster replenishment programs now operate not only in the Mid-Atlantic States, but also up and down the east coast. A small green movement has led to a large green revolution. A great way to get involved is to support the restaurants that participate in this program. A list of participating businesses can be found at Let’s live green, be green.

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After spending a considerable amount of time browsing the Internet, reading magazines and researching “green” initiatives, I am convinced that most people are aware of measures they can take to promote a greener life.  I also believe that most people do some things, either voluntarily or as a result of demands made by employers, neighborhood associations or government mandates that impose taxes or even penalties for failure to comply with environmental regulations.  However, I have noticed some extreme practices or procedures that are being investigated through experiments now but may become a reality.

  • Some scientists have proposed putting a ring of sunlight-scattering particles around the equator to reduce the radiation effects of the sun hitting the planet and thereby reducing greenhouse gas effects.  This idea would be tried in the most extreme circumstances and would cost trillions of dollars.
  • Other research has focused on the ocean and includes the manipulation of plankton growth through fertilization to create larger growth to suck up excess carbon dioxide or even “stirring” up the ocean with large pipes to bring rich nutrients to the surface to feed and produce huge algae blooms that would in turn suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and bury it on the ocean floor.
  • Some local jurisdictions, such as the city of Los Angeles, have worms in bins in eating areas.  The worms eat discarded food particles and turn them into compost that is used in gardens.  Imagine worms becoming a kitchen staple.
  • Researchers have consistently emphasized the impact of changing our diets and exercise regimens. Statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization indicate that the meat industry is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse emissions through the use of fertilizer, animal manure, energy used to transport food.  If all Americans between 10 and 74 walked a half hour a day, carbon emissions in the U.S. would be reduced by 64 tons.  Eating less red meat also would help.
  • Most jurisdictions are looking towards banning the use of plastic bags and incandescent light bulbs.  We all are becoming accustomed to the transition to fluorescent light bulbs.  Also the use of paper bags or reusable cloth bags is gaining momentum in most communities.
Going green ranges from practical to extreme solutions to protect the environment.  Maybe if we all read the Live Science countdown to craziest ideas, we would be more motivated to incorporate practical green measures to avoid resorting to extreme measures down the road.  Let’s be practical– live green, be green!