The Planet Room is a collection of imaginary planets that are made in a nearly 100% sustainable practice using hand-made recycled paper, magazine clippings, scrap fabric, plastics, and other mixed media that would otherwise end up in a landfill. All water that I use in the project is collected from warming up my shower.
These planets are identified as potential backups for our planet, Earth. Each planet is scored based on livability, with a description of conditions. However, as the viewer explores the planets, they come to the realization that there are no other viable planets to sustain life the way Earth does. The project seeks to remind us of the fact that we only have one Earth, and that we need to do everything in our power to sustain it, so that it can continue to sustain us and our plant and animal neighbors.
Each planet in the Planet Room is beautiful in its own right; we are disappointed time and time again that none are able to support us and our variety of plants and animals. However, all is not lost; there is hope if we work to preserve what we still have. The project itself is nearly 100% sustainable as an example of what can be done to reduce environmental impact. I challenge viewers to rethink their daily activities in a similar way, in order to live more sustainably. View the Planet Room gallery here.
St. Petersburg, FL, is a peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico with 35 miles of beaches. There are many environmental concerns with so much coastline and coastal waters, and there are countless natural formations and processes that drive marine life and health. Human activity adds another element of stress to these ecosystems.
The beaches in Pinellas County have been named the best in the world by travel magazines and websites for years. Waterfronts in cities like St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Tarpon Springs, to name a few, offer unique and interesting activities and gorgeous vistas. For this reason, tourism has become a major source of economic richness in this area.
And these waterfronts and beaches are home to our wildlife neighbors. It’s important for all of us to protect these environments that provide us with so much enjoyment, safety, and life.
County, state, and federal governments join together to provide beach nourishment, which includes adding sand, raking, and cleaning to ensure the beaches remain a certain width in order to provide coastline protection. In addition to providing residents and tourists with beautiful beaches to enjoy recreationally, beach nourishment provides nesting places for sea turtles and shorebirds, plus foraging for birds. Local organizations work to protect sea turtle nests and ensure the young survive at least the trip to the water.
Barrier islands serve as coastland protectors from storms, provide habitat for numerous species of plants and animals, and serve recreational purposes for humans. These islands are subject to alteration from human activity, sea level rise, and storms, and must be constantly monitored and managed to ensure their resilience. Restoration of these islands is essential to their endurance.
Dunes are important features of the Pinellas County coastline that have been destroyed by tourism. Some natural dunes are still in existence and artificial ones have been constructed on a few beaches in the county. Local residents and officials have begun to recognize the value of dunes and have organized the planting of sea oats, which help to build dunes. These plantings have encouraged dune formation along the coast. Pinellas County even provides sea oats to volunteer groups willing to plant them.
Protecting the Environment
You can imagine that with so many residents and tourists enjoying our beaches, there is a significant potential for pollution. Plastics are one of the worst offenders, as they take thousands of years to break down and thus can live in our waters for many lifetimes. They are dangerous to sea animals and humans alike. One simple way to protect our beaches is to make sure your plastics make it to a recycling bin - never leave any sort of waste on the beach. Better yet, choose something besides plastic like glass or metal drinking bottles and straws.
Other ways to protect our environment:
- Beach cleanup - get involved in a local beach cleanup. Some organizations even offer beach cleanup events where you are given a kayak for a few hours and can kayak the waterways picking up refuse. It’s a fun way to give back. Check out https://www.kpbcares.org/cleanups
- Reduce waste - one of the easiest ways is to bring your reusable cloth bags to the grocery store. If you happen to forget them, keep the plastic bags and recycle them. Some Winn Dixies recycle plastic bags. This website lets you search for places near you that recycle plastic bags: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/find-drop-off-location/. When you buy groceries, purchase fewer boxed or bagged items. It’s better for you and the environment. Shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store is a good way to remember this - that’s where all the fresh produce is located.
- Reuse - use glass jars from pasta sauce to hold screws and nails in the garage. Or you can fill them with dry goods like nuts and dried fruits at local health food markets. Reuse paper when you can. All those junk mail envelopes make perfect paper for grocery shopping lists or to-do lists. After all, these are just for your reference, so they don’t have to look perfect!
- Reuse paper, cardboard, and plastic whenever you can, and recycle what you don’t use. If you reduce, reuse, and recycle, you will find your landfill garbage shrinks to a fraction of what it used to be.
- Join a local farm co-op to receive locally grown vegetables and support your local farmers - visit https://www.localharvest.org/saint-petersburg-fl/food-coops or just Google “local farm co-op” with your city to see what’s available locally
- Compost your vegetable waste and egg-shells. You don't even have to officially "compost." Just throw it in a flower bed or in your yard and it will break down within weeks. If you do decide to compost, St. Petersburg offers free compost bins to residents: https://www.stpete.org/residents/utilities/residential_trash___recycling/composting_waste_reduction.php. Check your local municipality’s website to see what types of programs they offer.
- Capture rain water with a barrel and water your plants with the water you collect. St. Petersburg periodically offers free rain barrels and rain water collection classes for residents. The classes are interesting and offer great advice on how to use the rain to your advantage, while simultaneously protecting the city’s waterways.