Chesnut Changer’s Report: Aaron Frank, Kindergartener

Chesnut Changer's Report

Ms. Bonny Putney from the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers came to our Ecology Club meeting this month. She told us that our drinking water is six feet deep and many states are fighting for Georgia’s water. Aaron Frank, kindergartener, suggested that we should build another lake.

The same day we went outside to view Chesnut’s rainbarrels. The rainbarrels collect the water when it rains. We used the water in the rainbarrels to water the plants. This was really cool!

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When It Rains, It Pours – Into Chesnut’s New Rainbarrels!

At Chesnut’s February Clean & Beautiful Day, Chesnut Changers added a new element of sustainability to Chesnut’s grounds: four 60-gallon rainbarrels. The water they collect is not for drinking (we labeled them as such) because rainwater coming off the roof may be contaminated; rather our vegetable and butterfly gardens will be the happy recipients of the rainfall the rainbarrels capture.

These were graciously donated by two local environmental heroes:  Advance Drum, Inc. in Marietta who provided the drums, and the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers (UCR). who gave the kits necessary to daisy-chain the barrels off the downspout. Our thanks go out to these organizations, as well as Chesnut parent Daryl Pitts, who nearly single-handedly leveled, assembled and secured the four rainbarrels on Clean and Beautiful Day.

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Advance Drum helps the Earth by recycling or reconditioning industrial containers to be reused. In a previous life, our rainbarrels were containers that carried syrup for Coca-Cola. Now they have a healthier purpose:  conserving water and growing vegetables!

Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers (UCR) — whose Headwaters Outreach Manager Bonny Putney orchestrated these donations — generously provided the EarthMinded installation kits, which are specially designed to keep out mosquitoes, and to allow the normal flow of water to continue out the downspout once the rainbarrels are full. UCR works to protect and preserve the Chattahoochee River, its lakes, and its tributaries through its programs, one of which is a Rainbarrel Workshop!

AT-HOME ACTION: Install your own rainbarrel(s)! Save yourself upwards of 5 laundry loads’ worth of water by watering your outdoor garden with captured rainfall. While a rainbarrel drum and installation kit goes for more than $100 on the Internet, taking UCR’s Rainbarrel Workshop gives you the rainbarrel, installation kit and informative crash-course on Atlanta’s watershed – all for $40! Have room to add more than one rainbarrel? Bonny Putney may have extras you can purchase at her UCR workshop, or go to Advance Drum, who sells the 60-gallon drums for $25 (1835 Dickerson Drive, Mableton, Georgia  30126).

Questions about rainbarrel installation? Email us at

Where Did It Come From? And Where Is It Going?

Harrison Thomas' "AWESOME Lunch Box"

At our after-school meeting last month, the Chesnut Changers considered the origins and destinations of the “stuff” we use every day. First we educated ourselves about what happens after we throw something in a garbage or recycling bin, by watching snippets of the following videos:
(The first made the kids laugh) Funny Recycling PSA

We paused along the way to talk about best practices to reduce pollution and waste. The kids answered questions such as:
1. What uses less resources such as water, electricity, oil, gas, quartz, aluminum, trees – creating new products or recycling?

“Recycling aluminum reduces the need to mine fresh bauxite ore to meet demand, lessening environmental damage caused by the mining process. Plastic may not be as repeatedly recyclable as aluminum, but finding new uses for reclaimed plastics conserves petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Glass production uses common raw materials like quartz sand, but the energy saved by manufacturing with recycled glass reduces carbon emissions.”– US EPA: Communicating the Benefits of Recycling)
2. Landfills
– What if a landfill’s liner leaks?
– Decomposing garbage releases methane gas, some of which is captured for energy – what happens to methane that leaks out?
– Do plastic and glass break down in a landfill (under best conditions plastic takes over 500 years and glass takes over 4000)?
– Do the compostable materials (like paper, food scraps, plant-based disposables) in a landfill get enough oxygen to break down and does its liner allow them to return to the Earth?

3. Out of what do YOU usually drink and eat your snacks – something reusable or disposable?

4. Better than recycling, which also uses water and energy; what can we do to keep things out of landfills? (The kids supplied:  reuse before buying new; turn trash to treasure; clothes and toy swap before throwing away; use reusable things rather than disposable.)

Then we got to work, repurposing milk and juice jugs into reusable food and snack containers. Here’s the method we used.

Chesnut Changer Miyah Jones devised a simple way to align the Velcro latch:  put the hook and loop pieces together first, next affix one side to one of the flaps, then close up the container and press down to affix the remaining sticky side to closing flap.

Chesnut Changer Harrison Thomas dubbed his creation “HARRISON’S AWESOME LUNCH BOX.” He’s right. It is pretty awesome to give new life to something you were going to throw away.


Storm Sewers “Waste” Water?

Rainbarrels capture rainfall via any downspout

This evening Chesnut Ecology Club Parent Sponsors Elizabeth Davis and Angela Renals attended a rainbarrel workshop given by the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR), an organization that protects the Chattahoochee. Far beyond presenting a simple “how-to” on rainbarrel construction (it really is so easy), UCR’s Bonny Putney opened our eyes to Atlanta’s watershed issues and how we can help conserve water. Did you know?

  • The Chattahoochee River watershed (which captures water from many creeks, streams, Lake Lanier, rainfall, etc. to supply all our water) is the smallest in the country serving a metropolitan (densely populated) area.
  • All of the lakes in Georgia are man-made to contain water for our consumption because otherwise it just flows downriver to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Ideally rainwater is absorbed into the earth, soaking into a natural underground reservoir, and then seeps back into the river as water levels go down.
  • In our developed areas, rainwater rolls off concrete, pavement and bare earth, eventually finding its way to storm sewers that lead to the Chattahoochee. Rather than being naturally captured and stored underground for times of drought, this water empties into the Gulf before it can be absorbed into the earth (ultimately to supply our watershed).
  • Power plants use a lot of water (so energy efficiency = water conservation). For example, it takes two bathtubs of water to run your fridge for one day.
  • One sprinkler running for one hour uses 360 gallons of water!

UCR’s Bonny Putney did such a good job teaching us about our watershed, we had to invite her to our April 10th after-school ecology club meeting about the water cycle. She’ll be there!


  1. Watch “Tapped Out: The Drying Up of Atlanta” to learn about North Georgia’s water crisis and what you can do at home to help (
  2. Visit the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper website ( for tips about water and energy conservation
  3. Get a rebate from Dekalb County when you replace your old toilet with a water-conserving toilet (