The Cataylst Newsletter
Fluted Kidneyshell Mussell in the Wolf River, TN
Fluted Kidneyshell Mussel, Wolf River, TN by Jack Fetters
Endangered Species Day
By: Joelle Ciriacy
Ever heard of the Rock Pocketbook? How about the Fatmucket? Purple Lilliput? These colorful names may sound like something from a strange kid’s book, but they are in fact the names of endangered animals in Tennessee.
The Pocketbook, Fatmucket, and Lilliput belong to a particularly endangered group, called freshwater mussels. Freshwater mussels look much like oysters, but they are incredibly diverse. Most mussels can be found half-buried in river or lake bottoms as they filter-feed by drawing water through their bodies, cleaning our waters with shocking efficiency and earning them the nickname “the liver of the river.”
Tennessee and Alabama are home to the most diverse community of mussels in the world, but many of these species are endangered. Mussels in the US were decimated by overharvest for the pearl and button industries between the mid-1800s and the early-1900s. Scientists also believe that pollution, disease, the introduction of invasive species, and habitat fragmentation continue to contribute to freshwater mussel declines.
Endangered Species Day is celebrated annually on the 3rd Friday of May. This year, on May 17th here is what you can do to show some love for our favorite water-purifying river critters:
  1. Try snorkeling in a local creek or river to learn more about the world beneath the surface. Remember: never swim immediately below a dam and look carefully for sharp objects. Check HERE for more safety tips.
  2. Join, start, or donate to a local river or land conservation group to advocate for responsible management of rivers. Some organizations in Tennessee include the Cumberland River Compact, TennGreen, and the Nature Conservancy.
  3. Learn about rivers in the southeast and how you can help protect them at the American Rivers website.
Go Green With Us
This Earth Day, Tennessee State Parks celebrated a record-breaking achievement in sustainability! On April 22nd, the annual Go Green Recognition levels were announced, and an impressive 45 out of 57 parks received the highest honor – Platinum.

The program recognizes parks for their ongoing achievements in various sustainability categories, including energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and wildlife habitat preservation. Earning a Platinum designation signifies a park's exceptional commitment to protecting our planet.

To discover individual park results or learn more about the Go Green With Us program, visit the Tennessee State Parks website. Let's all join Tennessee State Parks in their mission to be responsible stewards of the environment!

One way to boost the growth of your spring plants and reduce waste is by applying compost and worm castings. Compost can be created at home or purchased from local composters that recycle food scraps into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Worm castings can also be purchased, but producing your own castings through vermicomposting is very accessible, even for apartment dwellers.
Vermicomposting involves feeding food scraps to worms in a bin, often kept under a sink in the home or outside in a shady spot. If you want to give vermicomposting a try:
  • Purchase a bin or make your own
  • Prepare your bin with appropriate bedding
  • Obtain red wiggler worms from a neighbor, garden center, or online
  • Start feeding food scraps to your worms; feeding in moderation at first will help prevent odors
Learn More
 Solar For All
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) announced that Tennessee has been selected as a recipient of the Solar for All Grant, along with 48 other state applicants. Tennessee’s Solar for All Program will help deploy solar energy infrastructure to benefit low-income households and disadvantaged communities while also supporting Tennessee’s many urban, suburban, and rural communities across the state. 
 Small Business Environmental Assistance Corner
Flowers and trees are in bloom, pollen is everywhere, and many of us feel the need to clean our living spaces to complete that transition from winter to spring. When you are cleaning, it’s important to know how to properly dispose of certain waste products to protect our environment and water and land quality. Household hazardous waste is defined as:
  • any unwanted or spent household products that catch fire easily (flammable),
  • eat away at or irritate living tissue (corrosive),
  • react violently with water or other chemicals (reactive),
  • or is poisonous to humans and animals (toxic).
Common household hazardous wastes include oil-based paints (but not latex paint), cleaning fluids, pesticides, mercury thermometers and thermostats, swimming pool chemicals, paint thinner and automotive fluids. TDEC’s Household Hazardous Waste program worked with the Tennessee Aquarium to develop this informative video to help explain what household hazardous waste is and how to correctly dispose of it to protect Tennessee’s land and water.
Recipe of the Month
Repurpose strawberry tops by making strawberry infused vinegar for use in salads and more!
Pro tip: Exchange white vinegar with balsamic to whip up a stawberry balsamic vinaigrette
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