Written by Emily Mullins
For Fanilya Gueno, Mission 4/1 Earth is really just an extension of her daily life. So the eco-conscious member of St. John's United Church of Christ in Red Lion, Pa., has made an effort to report her earth care activities nearly every day. From organic gardening, to installing a rain barrel, to recycling, to using a manual lawn mower, many aspects of Gueno's life are already green. But one of her most recent Mission 4/1 Earth endeavors is unique even for her – planting a certified pollinator-friendly garden to help protect the declining bee population.
"Bees are really important," Gueno said. "People don't realize what bees do and what we wouldn't have if they didn't exist. We are losing too many and they need our help."
Native pollinators, like bees and butterflies, are being threatened by habitat loss, disease and pesticide use. Pollinators are the key element in facilitating the transfer of pollen from one plant to another, and are vital to the food supply. In fact, scientists say one out of every three bites of food taken is the result of the work of pollinators. The garden certification program, part of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, aims to educate the public and protect native pollinators by encouraging the planting of gardens that provide them food, water, habitat and a safe place to reproduce.
Using what she learned, Gueno created a pollinator-friendly garden in her backyard that includes organic plants that attract and shelter creatures like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths and bats, as well as accessible sources of water. The plants are mostly native varieties that require less water to survive. One of the most important things she discovered from the Penn State program is that the garden can't just have plants that attract pollinators for sources of food – they also need plants that attract pollinators to lay their eggs in order for the population to thrive.
"The hardest part for me was trying to figure out the plants," Gueno explains. "A lot of people plant for butterflies and bees, but you also need host plants for them to lay eggs."
Gueno hopes that Mission 4/1 Earth encourages others to live greener lifestyles long after the 50 days are over. She says simple changes can make a big difference, and small efforts can be stepping stones to larger results. She mentions her rain barrel – a simple device that just sits in her yard and collects rain – which has provided more than 150 gallons of water in less than two months. She uses it to water her garden and flower beds, and has collected more than enough to share with her neighbor as well.
"There is a Native American quote that says, 'Whatever happens to the earth happens to the children of the earth,'" she said. "I'm hoping in the future that earth care is something everybody does as second nature. Everyone needs to think about the environment a bit more and take care of the earth like you take care of yourself. I really don't see any other way."
For more information on Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 Great Days, visit ucc.org/earth.
You can still count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board. Report your earth care hours, trees planted and letters written here.