Green Neighbors Program

The Clark County Green Neighbors Program was developed and is maintained by Clark County Solid Waste and Environmental Outreach to assist citizens with developing more sustainable lifestyles and building a strong environmental community in Clark County. Solid waste regional planning and programs are a cooperative effort of Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt. Funding for this project provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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Soil

  • Pet Waste

    Clark County has almost 110,000 dogs, of all shapes and sizes, and their poop adds up to about 15,000 tons per year. Pet waste left on the ground can be washed into storm drains that lead directly to our streams and wetlands. This waste carries harmful bacteria, which can affect the health of aquatic wildlife, ourselves and our children.

     

    Related articles: Clean Water | Legacy Lands

  • Clark conservation district

    A great local resource is the Clark Conservation District, whose mission is to protect, conserve, and improve natural resources. The District focuses on water quality, soils management to limit erosion and run off, and critical habitat areas. Staff conduct outreach and education of best management practices, enhancement, and development to benefit present and future citizens.

  • You can help

    We all play a role in keeping those waters clean in our everyday actions at home, work, school and play. Simple stewardship actions can help keep pollution from reaching our waterways. In Clark County, our stormwater drains go directly to stormwater facilities or the creeks themselves. It is important to realize what could get into a storm drain, besides rain water. Learn more to make sure your everyday actions are protecting our watershed. 

    Read more

    clean water help article

    Pick up pet waste

    Pet waste left on the ground can be washed into storm drains that lead directly to our streams and wetlands. This waste carries harmful bacteria, which can affect the health of aquatic wildlife, ourselves and our children.

    More resources

    Fix auto leaks

    If you see discoloration (like a rainbow) in the water running down the street during a rainstorm, there is pollution up stream. Check your vehicle for leaks and get it fixed. When your car leaks fluids, it is often a sign of a larger problem that can lead to major engine damage and possibly an expensive repair bill.

    Oil and other vehicle fluids from cars are toxic. Fix your leak so that vehicle fluids don’t end up in puddles where kids and pets like to play!

    Vehicles drip millions of quarts of motor oil into the Columbia River basin every year. Oil and other petroleum products can harm wildlife and habitat. When it rains, stormwater runoff carries pollution to creeks, streams and rivers.

    Only rain down the drain

    In your neighborhood, streets drain downhill to a storm drain. These drains are connected to pipes that carry the water to a local creek, stream or river. It is important to remember that we need to keep all contaminants and pollution OUT of the storm drains.

    Make sure you properly dispose of waste materials like paint or motor oil. Many of these items can be recycled or reused. Also keep soaps, herbicides and pesticides out of water by following directions on the product labels and not using on hard surfaces that can wash to the drain.

    Help educate your neighbors by volunteering to mark a message on your neighborhood’s drain “Protect Water – Only Rain in Drain.” Clark County loans out stencil kits for free! These are a great community service, school or scout project.

    Water wise farms

    If you are a small acreage or farm property owner, there are number of steps you can take to protect the health of your property and your watershed. Our partner at WSU Extension hosts workshops on topics to benefit your property, such as understand your soils, managing stormwater runoff and tips for healthy animals.

    Your landscape is part of the solution

    Everyone loves a lush lawn, beautiful plants and a healthy hard for you to call home. There are lots of great ideas to help you protect stormwater runoff from pollution while creating your dream landscape. Learn about Grasscycling, use of native plants, healthy plant care, gardening tips, and water conservation techniques.

  • Conservation resources

    Water Resources Education Center

    Whether exploring Vancouver’s Water Resources Education Center’s website or visiting their beautiful facility overlooking the Columbia River in Vancouver, you'll find a world of information designed to inspire us to become better stewards of our water resources. Teaching people of all ages how to wisely use this important, life-giving natural resource is what the Water Resources Education Center is all about. Visit the Water Resources Education Center: 4600 SE Columbia Way Vancouver, WA.

    Nature Conservancy

    The Nature Conservancy also has great information about the average water footprint in America and the “hidden” water we each consume.

    Clark Conservation District

    A great local resource is the Clark Conservation District, whose mission is to protect, conserve, and improve natural resources. The District focuses on water quality, soils management to limit erosion and run off, and critical habitat areas. Staff conduct outreach and education of best management practices, enhancement, and development to benefit present and future citizens.

    Washington State Department of Ecology

    Water is a valuable resource in Washington. Using our resources wisely will help us fill the needs of people, industries, businesses and farms, while also keeping fish and other aquatic life alive and well. Across the state these water users have diverse needs and goals; we must find a way to share limited, fluctuating supplies. For tips and conservation ideas for your home and business, see the Department of Ecology’s water conservation website.

  • Naturally Beautiful Backyards

    Naturally Beautiful Backyards (NBB) is a program that can help you be as green in your yard as you are in your house. There are things you do in your indoor life to be green, likewise, there are things you can do in your yard to be green as well. And not just in your backyard!

    The NBB program encourages:

    Make It Naturally Beautiful

    Learning about how to work with nature will make you a better and more confident gardener. Encouraging birds, bees, and wildlife into your yard by using native plants, tolerating insects and a little damage, building great soil, recycling and composting waste materials, and using fewer chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) will enable your yard to contribute positively to a healthier environment.

    Browse our pages and learn how to make your yard naturally beautiful.

     

    Related articles: Natural Garden Tours | Composting

  • Good soil

    The most important thing we can do for our yards and gardens is to provide healthy soil. Healthy soil produces healthy plants. No matter what type of soil is in place when you acquire your yard, it can be made better with the addition of compost and/or mulch. If your funds are limited, good quality mulch is the best investment you can make in your backyard.

    Soil contains billions of micro-organisms that eat rotting organic matter and transform it into nutrients available for plants. Compost and mulch figure heavily into feeding the soil biota. Compost may be incorporated into the soil to immediately start feeding the soil life. Mulch should be used on top of the soil and/or compost. Over time, mulch turns into compost on its own.

    Read more

    nbb healthy soil article

    How to build good soil:

    Understand Soil Types

    Soil has many components, and it is generally broken down into three types: Clay, silt, and sand. Clay has the smallest size, Because of this, it packs together densely which limits how much air is contained within the soil. Sand has the largest particle size. Because of this, it has very large spaces. This is great for air flow, but it also means that water flows out of it very easily. Silt sits somewhere between the extremes of clay and sand.

    Generally, a blend of the three soil components is deemed the best for most gardening needs. This pleasant blend is called loam, and in Clark County, it is very difficult to find. We have more than our fair share of hard, dense clay soils. You don't need to try to make loam out of raw ingredients.  If you have mostly clay or sand soil, add compost to your soil.

    Use Compost

    You can make your own compost from the yard debris created in your own backyard. The Clark County Master Composter/Recycler Program is an excellent source of information. Through their workshops you can get started on your own compost pile. The Master Composters can also recommend composting demonstration sites so you can see firsthand how the compost cycle works.

    We understand that not everyone has the space for (or their neighborhood association may not allow) composting. What to do? You may be able to get compost from or a friend, but you can also buy compost.

    Even if you don’t have a garden in need of it, composting is a good way to keep kitchen waste and other organic materials out of the landfill. Here are some things you can do with unwanted/unneeded compost. We encourage everyone to compost. 

    Use Mulch

    Mulch is an under-used and under-rated commodity in the garden environment. In ornamental gardens in our region, mulch should always cover both bare soil and compost. Mulch helps the soil in ornamental gardens by: moderating temperature, retaining moisture, providing nutrients as it slowly composts in place, and preventing weeds.

    Mulch can be a variety of materials, but we recommend high-carbon, un-composted, woody material. In our area, tree bark is most commonly used. But the Naturally Beautiful Backyards program advocates using fall leaves as mulch. And why not? They fall from trees into the garden requiring minimal-to-no cost or work in accomplishing the task of mulching. Leaves and other woody debris are the same materials a natural forest uses for mulch, and that system has worked well for millennia.

    An added benefit of mulch is that it eventually turns into compost all on its own, thus providing food for the soil biota.

    Recently we have seen arborist wood chips used as mulch. This is a great way to recycle arborist leftovers. Learn more about wood chips, where to get them, and how to use them in the Information Archive.

    The benefits of mulch far outweigh their simplicity in the garden. The addition of three inches of mulch in the spring around early vegetables provides shelter from freezing temperatures. Mulch in perennial and garden beds deters weeds, increases moisture retention, and stabilizes soil temperatures during extreme hot or cold spells. Mulching garden beds before the winter rains provides protection of garden soil from compaction and provides an available nutrient source to turn into the bed in spring. Three inches of mulch applied in the spring before weed seeds have matured will save hours of weeding in the summer months.

    Some guidelines for using mulch:

    • Mulch depth can vary between 3"–6" for most ornamental garden needs. Finely textured mulch can be toward the lower end of that range. Coarse, arborist chip mulch can be toward the higher end. Less than 3" depth doesn't supply adequate weed suppression.
    • Apply mulch any time of the year when soil or compost can be seen through the mulch, or any time the mulch depth is less than listed above.
    • Before applying mulch, either new or refreshing old, make sure the soil below is well-watered. Mulch is an insulator, and if the soil below it is dry, the mulch will keep it dry until a very large quantity and duration of rain occurs.
    • Keep mulch away from woody-plant root crowns to avoid damage from pests and disease.
    • Gravel and other inorganic materials are not good mulches for gardens/landscapes. These things ARE good for creating walkways, patios and other hardscape features. In most cases, use a weed barrier between the inorganic material and the soil.
    • Organic mulches decompose and need to be replaced. Replacement is based on the type of mulch used: fall leaves last about a year; 3–4" of bark typically last two to three years; 5–6" of arborist chips may last three to four years.

    Learn About the Soil Food Web

    The soil food web is a complex collection of living organisms in the soil that work together to create healthy soil. It is a lot more complex than that, and you can learn more by reading Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.

    Nutrient cycling is the process organic matter cycled from living to non-living and back to new living matter through an ecosystem and is regulated by the soil food web.

    Learn more

    Explore the entire Information Archive