Minnesota Wants to Pay Homeowners to Create Bee-Friendly Lawns

iStock/GoodLifeStudio
iStock/GoodLifeStudio

Bees are an important part of our agriculture, helping to pollinate around 30 percent of all the world's crops. That means humans have a vested interest in protecting bees from insecticides, predation, habitat loss, and other factors that have caused populations to drop worldwide in recent years. In Minnesota, legislators are taking steps to help bees by incentivizing homeowners to plant food sources for the insects on their property, the Star Tribune reports.

The new bill, which was recently approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz, sets aside a yearly budget of $900,000 to be used to help state residents convert their lawns into bee sanctuaries. The program specifically aims to boost the rusty patched bumblebee, a pollinator native to the Midwest whose population has declined by 87 percent in the past two decades.

When the law goes into effect, homeowners will be able to apply for financial assistance to plant their bee-friendly lawn, with 75 percent of the cost being covered for most projects and up to 90 percent being provided in areas especially suited to rusty patched bees. Approved properties will be planted with "native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes," according to the bill. Small common flowers that many homeowners try to eradicate, such as Dutch white clover and dandelions, are some of the most appealing sources of pollen to bees.

It’s still unclear when Minnesotans will be able to take advantage of the new law. The state's Board of Water and Soil Resources will give grants to local conservation groups, who will distribute funding to individual landowners. The state representative who introduced the bill, Kelly Morrison, has said she hopes the law goes into effect by next spring.

The bee-friendly lawn program is just one way people around the world are taking action to save struggling bee populations. In 2017, the UK announced it would ban pesticides that hurt bees, and in Amsterdam, bees can take refuge at strategically placed "insect hotels."

[h/t Star Tribune]

10 Simple Ways to Waste Less This Holiday Season

iStock.com/Allkindza
iStock.com/Allkindza

According to Washington University in St. Louis, “Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year. This extra garbage amounts to 25 million tons of trash.” Here are a few everyday ideas for reducing waste.

1. Use reusable bags when shopping.


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Before you hit the mall or begin shopping for your holiday groceries, remember to bring along a reusable bag or three. Plastic bags are petroleum-based products and—let's face it—few of us use them more than once, and many end up in our oceans. Make bringing a bag a habit.

2. Send Christmas cards judiciously.


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According to Washington University, the “2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 [stories] high.” Of course, your grandmother will be delighted to receive a handwritten note—and so may plenty of your friends—so feel free to mail away! But be honest with yourself: If there’s anybody on your list who is probably going to toss your thoughtful note into the trash five minutes later, just send them a digital greeting.

3. Buy light strands that are wired in parallel.

Red and white lights on a Christmas tree.
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Few things are more annoying than watching the whole strand of Christmas lights go dark just because of one cruddy bulb. According to the EPA, strands that are wired in parallel will still work if a bulb bursts, “so you won’t be throwing away ‘bad’ strands.” And if you’re the type of person who worries constantly about whether you turned the lights off, put your displays on a timer: It saves energy, money, and worry.

4. Skip the Secret Santa if you don’t know the people well.

A wrapped present on a desk with a tag that reads "Secret Santa."
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We don’t want to sound like Scrooges here. A gift exchange with your colleagues or acquaintances can be a delightful way to get to know people better. But let’s be real: If you don’t already know the people well, chances are you’ll give—and receive—something that will be thrown away within days. It’s OK to just say no.

5. Quit guessing (and stop other people from guessing about you).

A blank piece of paper labeled "gift list" surrounded by an iPad and candy.
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Here’s a tip: If you need a second or third opinion on a gift—"Do you think so-and-so would like this?"—don’t buy it. We all love planning a thoughtful surprise, but few things are as wasteful as buying somebody something they don’t want or need. Be forward and ask people what they’d like. And give helpful suggestions when people are shopping for you.

6. Buy experiences instead of things.

The legs and feet of a man and woman taking a dance class.
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Tickets to a concert or game, dance lessons, a reservation at a hotel, and other experiential gifts don’t require wrapping or packing peanuts. Besides, many people insist that they find experiences more meaningful than physical objects (and there are even some scientific studies that back that observation up).

7. Stop wrapping gifts.

A big teddy bear peeking out from behind a wall.
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Hide them instead! If you have small children, one of the most fun (or evil) things you can do is create a scavenger hunt. (This also works on adults who have refused to grow up.) Searching for gifts in mundane-yet-unexpected places like a pillowcase, a cookie tin, or in the pocket of a coat buried deep in the attic closet can be more surprising and fun than unwrapping them.

8. If you choose to wrap, use recyclable wrapping paper.

A woman holding a present wrapped in brown paper.
Kikovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Every year, millions of pounds of wrapping paper end up in the trash. “Some wrapping paper is recyclable—but it has to be not metallic, textured, or have glitter or ribbon on it,” Tim Donnelly writes in a great guide at Lifehacker. If you do buy recyclable paper, make sure to use it correctly and remove all the tape before recycling it. In fact, why not just skip the tape entirely and bundle the present the old-fashioned way with some string or ribbons (which you’re reusing, right)?

9. Make your own wrapping paper.

Wrapped presents, including one that's wrapped in newspaper.
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If you’re the creative type, gifts wrapped in old catalogs, newspapers, butcher paper, magazines, and other paper products lying around the house can actually look quite handsome. According to one oft-cited statistic, “If every family in the U.S. reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet."

10. Don’t pop that bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap on a blue background.
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We know. This one is nearly impossible—but resist the urge to pop any bubble wrap you receive. Save whatever packaging you get to be used later. (That includes those pesky packing peanuts!)

China Wants to Build Its Own Version of Yellowstone National Park on Tibetan Plateau

Chang Jung Yu/iStock via Getty Images
Chang Jung Yu/iStock via Getty Images

Since being named the nation's first National Park in 1872, Yellowstone has become one of the most iconic sites in America. Now, China is looking to establish its own version of the park. As the Associated Press reports, China is developing a national parks system inspired by the program in the U.S., starting with a preserve partly modeled on Yellowstone.

Sanjiangyuan will be China's first national park and it's expected to debut in 2020. The park sits in the Qinghai province in Western China's Tibetan Plateau, which is home to rapid urban development as well as some of the last truly remote places on Earth. The region also contains many of the last snow leopards living in the wild. Snow leopards are a vulnerable species, and the location for China's pilot park was partly chosen to provide them a safe haven as well protect the 1500 other species of endangered and threatened animals and plants that live within its borders.

Conserving species and natural wonders are the main goals of the country's new parks system. When the plan was in development, Chinese officials visited American sites like Yosemite and Yellowstone to see what a successful national park looks like. They also invited policy makers and scientists from the U.S. and elsewhere to Qinghai province to consult on the project.

China's program won't be an exact replica of what's already been done in the United States, of course. There are currently 128,000 people living in or around the land set to become Sanjiangyuan, and they will continue to reside there when the park opens next year. Officials plan to work with local communities to manage the site; one program called “One Family, One Ranger” hires a member from each local family to be a trash collector or ranger for the park for about $255 a month.

[h/t AP]

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