The Poop Log: A New Holiday Tradition You Have to Add

Today’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, who is definitely starting a new family tradition today

There are several types of logs you might associate with the Christmas season. Perhaps the burning ofChristmas fruit cake decorated with holly and berries the yule log is the first to come to mind. Maybe you are the fortunate recipient of a fruitcake log in its 34th year of rotation. Or possibly your mind fills with warm memories of an adorable poop log.

Yes, I said “poop log.” Working for a public utilities department, you may think I have seen my share of poop logs at the water reclamation facility. The truth is I don’t really see the stereotypical solid waste you expect at our facilities. In fact, less than 1% of municipal flush water is human poops. Most of what we flush down the drain and toilet is water.

The poop log I speak of is something entirely different. In the Catalan region of Spain, households christmas-logcelebrate the Tió de Nadal starting on December 8, the Day of the Immaculate Conception. Families introduce the “caga tió,” a hollowed out log with a cute face added to give it personality.  A cork or stick goes into the hole of the log to create a nose. This is very important because you definitely want to give the impression your poop log will smell. Two to four legs are attached to the log and it is covered with a blanket. No one wants their poop log to get cold.

From the day you plop the Tió de Nadal into the family room, you must care for and feed it like a pet. I recommend giving this job to the children in your home. They can leave food by the log before going to bed. In the morning the food will have “disappeared” or, if in my house, been eaten by the dog. The better they care for the tió, the better the gifts the log will give the children on Christmas morning.

Traditionally, families in Spain also tell the children the log will grow when fed. If you have the time to replace your log with a new one every few days to represent growth, go for it. I don’t have that many logs outside my home.  Instead, I will encourage my child to feed the log junk food.  I can then sneak in a nutrition lesson by pointing out that it didn’t grow due to the lack of fruits and vegetables in its diet.

If you live in the US, you can think of the Tió de Nadal as a twist to the Elf on the Shelf.  Mash up these traditions by moving the wooden chunk around the house after the kiddos have gone to sleep. Personally, I am not sure which is creepier: knowing an elf is watching your every move or that a poop log is clinging to your every move.

Now for the real fun. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you decide, move the full grown caga christmas-log-2tió and position it so half is in the fireplace and the other half hangs out as if it is squatting.  In Spain, children sing a wonderful carol to the log. Here is a sampling of the lyrics, which I have edited to make less explicit:

“Poop log,
Poop nougats,
Hazelnuts and mato cheese,
If you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
Poop, log!”

The log really doesn’t have a chance. No matter what it does, the children take turns hitting the log they have cared for with a stick. A side note, before the singing begins, the children are to go into another room and pray for good presents before the beating begins. During this time, sneaky adults put tiny prizes under the blanket at the rear end side of the log. After the children sing and spank the caga tió, they reach under the blanket to pull out a prize. This continues until someone pulls out an egg or piece of garlic. This clearly signals that the fun is over.

I like this Spanish tradition for many reasons, one which relates to my work. Poop and the act of creating it is a very taboo subject, especially in polite company gathered for the holidays. (Heck, I don’t even admit that I do it, because I don’t.)  We need to break the taboo surrounding poo.  This topic needs to be discussed because there are real consequences to not discussing this bodily function. This holiday season 2.4 billion people will not have access to a toilet and improved sanitation. If we don’t talk about this because we are embarrassed by the subject, we are creating a barrier to prevent us arriving at a solution. The poop log could help to lighten the mood and get people talking about a serious matter. Improving world sanitation is a gift worth beating a log for.

I hope you consider adding the Tio de Nadal tradition to your home. I only learned of this tradition today, which means I need to go out and make a poop log to present to my child tonight. This family tradition is one guaranteed to not be a stinker.


Some have doubted the authenticity of this holiday tradition.  Here is video proof.  I can’t make this up.

My Project WET Certification Experience: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

 This blog was written by WCO intern Elise McDonald

What is Project WET?

      Project WET is a program developed in 1984 in response to the intense water misuse and pollution that reached an all-time high in the 1970s. WET is an acronym that stands for Water Education for Teachers.  Its mission is “to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues.”(Project WET Foundation site). Project WET provides workshops for educators focusing on fun and comprehensive ways to integrate water activities (many of which incorporating conservation-heavy concepts) into any subject, curriculum, or grade level. Participating in the workshop gains you certification as a Project WET educator, an entire curriculum book jam-packed with multi-faceted and highly adaptable hands-on activities, and a deep understanding of why water education and outreach are so important in our global pursuit of sustainable water use.

My Experience

      First off, I have wanted to become Project WET certified for a couple of years. I have a background in environmental education and am very passionate about it. Needless to say, when the opportunity presented itself to be certified through my job as a water education intern, I was immediately on board!

The structure and schedule of individual workshops vary depending on the facilitator, but my workshop was split between two consecutive Tuesdays, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM.

Day 1: After doing a warm-up exercise to introduce workshop participants to one another and establish the importance of water in our lives, we learned about the history of water use and all about Project WET and the resources it offers. The facilitators then walked us through how to use our exclusive Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guides, complete with over 60 activities organized by subject, curriculum, and grade level compatibility. We also learned about the online Project WET resources available to us, one of the most valuable of which I will describe further down. We also discussed the Urban Watershed Guide and the international art and poetry contest River of Words (link). Before leaving, the workshop participants were divided into groups and assigned one of the activities in the book to lead the following Tuesday.

Day 2: The second workshop day was reserved primarily for experiencing each activity lead by the different groups and learning to modify the outlined lessons. My group was assigned “The Incredible Journey,” a water cycle activity where students become a water molecules that spend time in up to 9 different destinations as they travel through the water cycle. As detailed in “The Incredible Journey,” there is more to the water cycle than just precipitation, evaporation, and condensation. Water spends a lot of its time in places such as bodies of water, the atmosphere, and living organisms. In this educational activity, students are dispersed among the 9 stations, each with a large cube that determines where the next water cycle destination will be for every individual.

The four activities lead by other groups were just as fun and impactful, each focusing on a different aspect of water. We received advice and feedback from the facilitators about each activity, and discussed how they could be modified for different class settings. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves, and the time passed very quickly!


So what did I think about it?

Well, first of all, the activities in the curriculum guide are INCREDIBLE. They really are just as adaptable as they claim to be. Regardless of the circumstances you will be teaching under, the activities will bend around them. Plus, THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN! Along with the activity guide that is only available to those who attend a WET educator workshop (to ensure the quality use of the materials), there are thousands of adaptations uploaded by Project WET educators all over the world available on the Project WET online portal. You gain access to this exclusive portal when you become certified!

If you have been considering getting certified, just do it! The price of the workshop is usually around $20-$30, which will cover the cost of your guide (and possibly food and supplies), as the instruction is free. The knowledge and resources you will gain are invaluable regardless of your subject or educational platform, and the certification is a well-recognized asset to any skill set or resume.

      If you are interested in becoming certified, click here to access the map of contacts for WET facilitators in your area!

En-Gauging in Your Community: the Streams of the University of Georgia


Many are unaware of the extensive watershed that spreads through the University of Georgia’s campus. If you had to guess now, how many streams would you estimate there are on the premises? How many have you actually seen?

If you guessed three streams, then you are correct! It may have been difficult to guess though because portions of these streams are located underground, beneath the campus. The streams that run through UGA are Tanyard Creek (arguably the most well-known of the three), Lilly Branch, and the Steam Plant Stream. Additionally, Lake Herrick and the Founders’ Spring are also contributors to the UGA storm drainage system and watershed. All of these streams and sources empty into the North Oconee River, which is a major drinking water supply source for Athens, Georgia.

Tanyard Creek begins flowing from the intersection of Milledge Avenue and Broad Street, and is piped underneath the UGA campus before it reemerges at Baxter Street and Lumpkin Street near the Tate Center and new Bolton Dining Commons. Tanyard Creek then travels via pipe under Sanford Stadium and into the North Oconee River (about a 1 mile long distance in total). It is perhaps the most well-known stream due to the Chew Crew’s involvement here. The Chew Crew began in 2012 when a College of Environment and Design student, Zach Richardson, wrote a grant proposal and was funded to use goats as a method of prescribed grazing along the stream. The prescribed grazing aids in removing invasive plant species from the creek such as kudzu, privet, and English ivy, and helps to reestablish the health of the stream’s ecology. The program has been very successful, with the goats coming every spring, and hundreds of students gathering together to volunteer in stream cleanups, sampling, and vegetative surveying. The Chew Crew loves any and all volunteers so be sure to check them out if you are interesting in volunteering with them!

funny goat puts out its tongue

Lily Branch, formerly known as “Stinky Creek,” is roughly 2 miles long and flows above ground near South Five Points and the Lamar Dodd School of Art; it flows beneath the University in pipes between these two areas. Due to the stream’s lack of riparian buffers and therefore poor water quality, the Odum School of Ecology Environmental Practicum Course created a collaborative initiative to clean and manage the stream starting in 2014. While this has been a difficult task, monitoring has shown that Lilly Branch exhibits signs of improvement; however, it is still far from ideal conditions.

Lastly, Steam Plant Stream is a little less than a mile long. It begins on South Campus near Boyd Hall, flowing near the UGA Steam Plant and Facilities Management Area. It is then piped through campus and daylights along River Road. The Steam Plant Stream watershed has a lot of issues with overgrown invasive species and appears yellow, which may be due to an iron-oxidizing bacteria.

For a map showing UGA’s watersheds click here and proceed to “Campus Watershed Maps”.

River pollution - Stock Image

We can reverse and prevent pollution that has accumulated like this on campus- we just have to do our part! (not a photo of a UGA stream)

All of these streams are heavily urbanized and need our help! Now that you have been enlightened on the not so fresh, not so clean facts about UGA’s streams, what is there that you can do about it??

  • Always clean up after your pets!! Animal waste is a major contributor to “poo-llution” in stream runoff that ends up in streams.
  • Don’t litter! You would think this is common sense people, but you would be amazed at the amount of trash volunteers pick up along these streams!
  • Do your part- Volunteer, help remove invasive species, and pick up trash whenever you see it! Become a stream steward! Check out Watershed UGA’s latest initiative- Daylighting the Watersheds
  • Educate! Educate those around you, especially children, to understand the importance of keeping our streams safe.

So get out into the community and let’s all promote the betterment of our local watersheds!

Laughing girl showing thumbs up.

Other sources: here under Watershed Management Plan Fall 2014 Update

Tread Lightly -Reducing Your Daily Water Footprint (in ways you may have never thought of…)

   Written by WCO intern Elise McDonald

   Last month, I wrote about water use in the production of food. But what about the water footprint left behind by the other goods and services that are part of our daily lives? When we think about reducing our water usage, oftentimes we have hard time thinking beyond the faucets in our homes. We also use immense amounts of water in the creation of items such as t-shirts and cars, not to mention that which is consumed indirectly by using other forms of energy, such as gasoline. An individual’s water footprint “includes direct use at home through toilets, taps, and hoses, but also the water embedded in the production of food crops, electronics, paper products, electricity, transportation fuels, and more.” (Quote source: )

Nearly everything we do, use, or eat consumes water, and in ways many of us never considered. Take clothes for example. A single pair of jeans requires around 2,900 gallons of water, including the water needed for the amount of cotton in the jeans, and the entire manufacturing process . A cotton shirt uses about 700 gallons, and tennis shoes average 1,247 gallons of water per pair. So that means a brand new outfit could be worth around 4,850 gallons of water, not including undergarments and accessories!

Let’s go beyond what we wear. We all have to go places right? For most Americans, ‘going places’ often entails a vehicle that uses gasoline. The manufacturing of the average new car requires 39,090 gallons of water, and it takes one gallon of water to produce ¾ of a gallon of gasoline.

The list of how we indirectly use water goes on and on. Think about the things you use every day. The production of your cell phone, computer, toothbrush, and most other items required water. Something that has become a big part of consumer goods is plastic, and it takes 24 gallons of water to produce just 1lb of it! Although we rely on water to sustain our everyday lives, there are many ways we can greatly cut down on water use.

Some everyday tips to reduce your water footprint:

  • Carpool, bike, or walk more often
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing dishes, check for and fix leaks, and take shorter showers
  • Eat locally grown and produced food! Water is used in the production of fuel, and the farther your food has to be transported, the more fuel it takes.
  • Don’t put fats, oils, or grease (F.O.G) down the drain! This stuff hardens in the pipes and creates blockages that lead to sewer spills and take a lot of extra water to flush out. (For more information on F.O.G clogs, follow this link: )
  • Buy second-hand clothing! This has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, and for water conservation purposes hopefully it sticks around! The majority of Americans (donate, stop wearing, whatever) items (long before they wear out) When you purchase these goods at thrift or consignment stores, (many of which appear to be fresh off the assembly line), you get a new-to-you outfit without the tremendous water waste – and you also save money!
  • RECYCLE! So much of what we use can be recycled, yet many people negligently toss everything into the garbage instead. “In 2008, for example, we threw out 34.48 million tons of paper and 27.93 million tons of plastic — both of which are water-intensive materials that could be re-used and/or recycled” (
  • Buy used cars! Like clothing, it takes a while to wear out a well-maintained car.
  • Borrow from your friends! Sometimes things come up and you suddenly need a tool, a certain outfit, etc. Before running out and buying something, see if you can borrow it from someone else (and return the favor sometime). This will save the water resources used to make the item as well as money!

The bottom line is that we use a tremendous amount of water to fuel our daily lives, and a large chunk of our water consumption is done indirectly through the food we eat and the things we buy. Being more conscious of our water footprint can greatly conserve our water resources, and in many cases save money, too!

   Want to get a better idea of how you can use less water? Follow the link to use the National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator and do your part to “Change the Course” of our water consumption! rint-calculator/



Get Fired Up: Fire Up the Hydrants Unveiling Just Around the Corner

This blog was written by WCO intern, Emily Swift.

Cel-e-brate good times, c’mon!! Join us in celebrating Athens’ 80th anniversary of clean drinking water delivery service from the JG  Beacham Drinking Water Treatment Plant this Saturday, October 8th, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on College Avenue by City Hall (between Hancock Avenue and Washington Street).


So how do you celebrate a water treatment plant’s birthday?? In celebration of this milestone, over 75 artists and organizations from the Athens-Clarke County community submitted their own unique designs to be painted onto fire hydrants located throughout the downtown area. Of these 75, 20 winning designs were chosen for implementation. During the month of September, selected local artists transformed ordinary, life-saving fire hydrants into truly amazing works of art. Saturday will be the grand unveiling of the painted hydrants and a great opportunity to learn more about the importance of fire hydrants and clean water, while also engaging in your community.

crop-mystery-images-jpgA sneak peak of all of the designs. This will also be used as a fun scavenger hunt activity!

What else will there be to look forward to?  Activities galore!

  • A reading of a proclamation by Commissioner Mike Hamby, recognizing the value of water in our community
  • Opportunities to meet the artists responsible for adding their own flare to the downtown hydrants
  • An artist market highlighting the works of our hydrant painters (a great place to get a head start on your holiday shopping!)
  • Arts and crafts for the kids
  • Cake for all!!
  • A water truck viewing (we depend on these trucks for maintaining our hydrants!)
  • The chance to vote for your favorite hydrant (the 3 artists with the most votes will win prizes!)
  • The H2.0 Water Walk, a 2 mile route that takes you past all of the painted hydrants (take it twice if you’re feeling extra energetic or wanting to warm up for the AthHalf! Most people in developing countries have to walk 4 miles daily to collect water for household use!)


But what if I can’t make it on Saturday and still want to see the hydrants?? Don’t worry! While we would love to have you there for all of the festivities, the hydrants won’t be going anywhere! Voting for your favorite hydrant will be open until February 2017 and ballots and maps of the H2.0 Water Walk will be located at several locations around downtown. Some of these locations include the Water Business Office, Athens Downtown Development Authority, The Classic Center, the Visitor’s Center, and participating Certified Blue  locations such as Cine, Hendershots, Ben & Jerry’s, Papa John’s, Kumquat Mae, Gyro Wrap, and Beef O’ Brady’s. Ballots and maps will also be available online at

It’s going to be a beautiful day to observe amazing artwork and learn about the importance of water to our economy, health, environment, and fire safety! We hope to see you there!


Consuming Food Also Consumes Water!

This blog was written by WCO intern Elise McDonald. 

    Many studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet low in processed food, dairy, and meat can do wonders for your health. But what about how our diet effects our water resources? Whether we are aware of it or not, everything we eat utilizes water in its production. The more steps involved in the process of a food’s creation, the more water was used to make it.

Take cattle, for instance. The average beef cow spends the first 6 to 14 months of its life grazing in a pasture, then finishes its last 3 to 8 months of existence eating a diet of corn and soy designed to bulk it up for harvest. A cow can consume over 1,000 pounds of food in just a few months. It takes 146 gallons of water to produce one pound of corn and 257 gallons of water to grow one pound of soybeans. On average, a single cow drinks 30 gallons of water and consumes 100 pounds of plant material per day. Once they are ready for harvest, the cleaning and processing of the animals uses up to 450 gallons of water per animal. All this boils down to an unnerving result; 1,800 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of conventionally grown beef.

What about processed foods? These are the foods which normally come in boxes, cans, or other packages with a long list of ingredients, likely some with nearly impossible pronunciations. In short, the longer the list of ingredients a food has, the more processed it is. Just like the name suggests, creating these things is a process. There is water involved in the growth, harvest, and (in many cases) chemical development of virtually every ingredient in the product. Then there is subsequent water use involved in putting all these ingredients together at the factory to form the final product. Dark chocolate is one of the most highly water consumptive products on the market, requiring as much as 3,170 gallons of water to make one pound! Wheat bread is a much more modest offender, using 193 gallons per pound, or about 11 gallons per slice.

We hear a lot about ways to be water conscious by reducing the amount of water we waste directly, such as reducing the amount of water we let come out of our faucets at home. But another great way to make a big impact on not only the health of our bodies but also the health of our invaluable freshwater resources is to be food-wise. Let your concern for water resources be another incentive to watch what you eat!


Sources and Additional Resources:

How Water Can Pay Your Bills: UGA Prepares for Careers in Water Resources

This blog was written by WCO intern, Emily Swift.

For many, protecting the environment is a passion that is incorporated into day-to-day life. But what if this passion of yours could be turned into more than just the habits and choices you make every day? By enrolling in one of the various water,sustainability, or natural resource related programs at UGA, your love for the environment could blossom into a flourishing career filled with countless opportunities, numerous paths to pursue, and of course the opportunity to succeed and make a living.

Environmental jobs are on the rise as America, and the developed world as a whole, are becoming more environmentally aware;  citizens are being provided with more and more opportunities to make “green” decisions every day. Specifically, there are a wide variety of careers in the field of water resources, which all show promising futures as water resource issues are becoming vastly important economically, ecologically, and socially.

UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Odum School of Ecology, Office of Sustainability, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, College of Engineering, and several others all offer superb programs that can prepare you for a future in this field. Check out the following careers in water resources and see if any might be of interest to you or someone you know!

  1. Water Resource Engineer: If you’re looking to make big bucks, with average salaries around the country ranging from about $65-$95,000 a year, then this is the career for you! They are responsible for creating efficient systems that provide citizens with clean water. Some engineers have the opportunity to work abroad on large engineering products, especially in developing countries. Senior engineer in hardhat standing on waste water treatment unit
  2. Water Conservation Specialist: (aka what our very own Marilyn and Laurie do!) If you are looking to be an expert in water conservation and how to efficiently use water, then consider becoming a water conservation specialist! Much of what their jobs entail include creating programs and events for local schools and businesses. They also engage with the community through additional outreach efforts, such as putting on special workshops or tours of water facilities. By collecting, interpreting, and analyzing water use data, Water Conservation Specialists have the power to influence citizens to adopt water-wise behaviors and increase awareness about water conservation throughout the community.
  3. Water Resource Manager: The goal of a water resource manager is to optimize water use and minimize its environmental impact; managers must make use of their extensive knowledge in both economics and environmental issues in order to accomplish this daunting task. Water management opportunities exist in both agriculture and urban settings.
  4. Water Rights Lawyer: Water resource law is becoming huge out west and around the ACF Basin as water rights issues continue to create major tension among states and citizens. These lawyers help clients legally gain, defend, challenge, and transfer water rights, as well as impose and enforce local/regional water resource law.Allegory of  justice
  5. Hydrologist: If you love science and having the opportunity to be out in the field, a career in hydrology may be of interest to you. Hydrologists typically work for government agencies to solve water related problems by collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data, testing water quality, and using computer program technologies to create models explaining their findings.hydrologist.jpg

As a final note, being a Georgia Dawg myself, I am biased towards the amazing academic programs that UGA offers to prepare you for a career in water resources. If you have any interest at all in pursuing a career in this rewarding field, some great programs to check out include undergraduate certificates in Water Resources, Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering, and Sustainability; minors in Ecology, Environmental Soil Science, and Environmental Law; majors in Crop and Soil Sciences, Environmental Engineering, and Water and Soil Resources; as well as Master’s and PhD programs in Natural Resources, Sustainable Development and Conservation Ecology, and Geology. Good Luck!