2020 OLWC Soil Your Undies Campaign

Goals of OLWC’s Soil Your Undies Campaign

  • Develop community understanding of the importance of microorganisms to healthy soils.
  • Develop community understanding of the importance of soil in carbon sequestration.
  • Encourage the community to embrace development and maintenance of healthy, living soils as a community climate action.

Soil Your Undies!

Have you ever had the urge to bury a brand-new pair of 100% cotton underwear under (at least) 6 inches of soil, wait 60 days, and then dig them back up to see what happened? Now may be your chance! Oswego Lake Watershed Council (OLWC) is encouraging our community to get their hands dirty and participate in the nationwide Soil Your Undies challenge!

Healthy soil contains billions of microscopic organisms that break down organic material for food, which means that burying a pair of cotton underwear (or any material made of 100% cotton) and giving it time to break down can provide us with an idea of how healthy your soil is. The more your undies break down over the span of 60 days, the healthier your soil is! 

 

During OLWC’s Soil Your Undies campaign, we encourage participants to engage with their community online via Facebook and Instagram  to learn more about soil health. We will be sharing fun soil facts, quizzes (some with sticker prizes!), and before and after photos of the “soiled” undies!

We have created easy-to-use instructions, online and printable data sheets to log conditions where the undies were buried, and the opportunity to create an optional weekly science journal documenting and sharing observations about the soil and environment where the undies were buried.

At the end of the 60-day period (likely in September, depending on when you buried your undies), we encourage our community to share their before and after photos of the underwear using #SoilYourUndies #LOBuriedTreasure #LOBriefs #OLWC and #ClackBriefs, or by sending an email to our Community Outreach Specialist, Kat Maloney (kat@oswegowatershed.org).

After we have received results from everyone, we will share a report with everyone who participated that contains results, before and after photos, and reflective writings about the project.

It’s Time to Bury Those Undies!

We know you have questions! Click on a topic below to get started.

How Do I Properly Bury My Undies?

It’s easy! First, make sure that the undies you are burying are undyed and made of 100% cotton, otherwise the experiment may not work. It is important to have something that is not 100% cotton attached (the nylon band in undies will work just fine) in case you have really active soil- you want something attached that will not be easily digested by microbes in the soil. Once you have the appropriate materials, it is time to record data, and then say goodbye to those undies for two months.

We will be creating a community-wide Soil Your Undies map and will be keeping track of the data (we are all scientists, after all!), so please share information about your undies by visiting https://arcg.is/1en4jy, or downloading  THIS PRINTABLE FORM. If you elect to use the printable data sheet, please email the results to kat@oswegowatershed.org.

Before burying your undies, give them a name (for identification within the community), then take a photo of what they looked like before you buried them. Don’t forget to share photos with us on social media using #LOUndies #ClackBriefs #OLWCUndies #LOBriefs and #SoilYourUndies. You can also email your photos to our Community Outreach Specialist, Kat, at kat@oswegowatershed.org .

Here are some tips to make your experiment a success:

  • Bury your undies in approximately 6-8 inches of soil. This is the root zone, where most of the biological activities occur.
  • Lay the undies flat in the hole you buried- avoid any crumpling or wrinkling.
  • Mark the site so you can find it again.
  • Take a picture of the site where your undies are buried.
  • Let us know that you are participating by sharing your photos! Tag us on social media using the #LOUndies #ClackBriefs #OLWCUndies #LOBriefs and #SoilYourUndies. You can also email your photos to Kat at kat@oswegowatershed.org
  • Check on your site at least once a week, without unburying the undies. If the soil isn’t irrigated and looks dry, you may need to water the area. Water the area as needed to keep the soil moist (or don’t and see how it impacts your experiment!). Make sure to document when you irrigate the soil where you buried your undies.

Now that you have buried your undies, it is time to mark the date you will unbury the undies on your calendar! Wait at least 2 months (approximately 60 days) before digging up the soiled underwear. OLWC will be sending out a reminder email 2 months from now to all participants.

How Do I Find My Latitude/Longitude?

This is all locational data for our community map. 

While there are apps for smartphones,the easiest way is probably to use Google Maps. Instructions for doing this using various devices HERE.

You can also just put the street address on the printed form. Latitude and longitude is better for a more accurate location, but an address can be converted to latitude / longitude easily.

What Can I Expect While I Wait?

OLWC will be posting interactive content, soil trivia, and fun facts about soil health throughout the next 2 months on Facebook and Instagram. For those who prefer not to use social media, we will be sending similar engaging content (articles, photos, ETC) to participants via email. To receive emails about the Soil Your Undies community-wide experiment, please email our Community Outreach Specialist, Kat, at kat@oswegowatershed.org

What’s Happening in My Soil?

In healthy soil, there are millions of microscopic organisms that break down and eat organic material (such as leaves, decaying plants or animals, or 100% cotton underwear) over time. Think of how leaves that fall onto the ground during the Fall season seem to disappear before Spring arrives- that is because many of the leaves have been digested by tiny insects and other microorganisms. The leaf litter that was present during the Fall and Winter seasons have become part of the soil. Cotton is an organic material (it comes from a plant!), so this process is what will “soil” your cotton undies while they are buried. The less recognizable your undies are when you dig them up in 2 months, the more active your soil’s microbes are

Why Should I Care About My Soiled Undies?

If when you unbury your undies in 2 months, you pull up ragged undies that are full of holes, you have healthy soil. There are many benefits to keeping healthy soil, here are just a few:

  • Healthy soil with active microbes are more likely to be rich in nutrients needed by plants. This means that having a healthy soil will make it easier for plants to thrive in your garden.
  • Soil with high amounts of organic matter can hold more water, which prevents excess runoff and increases the soil’s resilience to drought. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS), organic matter can hold 18-20 times its weight in water!
  • Soil with high amounts of organic matter can help mitigate climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in a carbon “pool” (carbon sequestration).

It’s Time to Bury Those Undies!

We know you have questions! Click on a topic below to get started.

How Do I Properly Bury My Undies?

It’s easy! First, make sure that the undies you are burying are undyed and made of 100% cotton, otherwise the experiment may not work. It is important to have something that is not 100% cotton attached (the nylon band in undies will work just fine) in case you have really active soil- you want something attached that will not be easily digested by microbes in the soil. Once you have the appropriate materials, it is time to record data, and then say goodbye to those undies for two months.

We will be creating a community-wide Soil Your Undies map and will be keeping track of the data (we are all scientists, after all!), so please share information about your undies by visiting https://arcg.is/1en4jy, or downloading  THIS PRINTABLE FORM. If you elect to use the printable data sheet, please email the results to kat@oswegowatershed.org.

Before burying your undies, give them a name (for identification within the community), then take a photo of what they looked like before you buried them. Don’t forget to share photos with us on social media using #LOUndies #ClackBriefs #OLWCUndies #LOBriefs and #SoilYourUndies. You can also email your photos to our Community Outreach Specialist, Kat, at kat@oswegowatershed.org .

Here are some tips to make your experiment a success:

  • Bury your undies in approximately 6-8 inches of soil. This is the root zone, where most of the biological activities occur.
  • Lay the undies flat in the hole you buried- avoid any crumpling or wrinkling.
  • Mark the site so you can find it again.
  • Take a picture of the site where your undies are buried.
  • Let us know that you are participating by sharing your photos! Tag us on social media using the #LOUndies #ClackBriefs #OLWCUndies #LOBriefs and #SoilYourUndies. You can also email your photos to Kat at kat@oswegowatershed.org
  • Check on your site at least once a week, without unburying the undies. If the soil isn’t irrigated and looks dry, you may need to water the area. Water the area as needed to keep the soil moist (or don’t and see how it impacts your experiment!). Make sure to document when you irrigate the soil where you buried your undies.

Now that you have buried your undies, it is time to mark the date you will unbury the undies on your calendar! Wait at least 2 months (approximately 60 days) before digging up the soiled underwear. OLWC will be sending out a reminder email 2 months from now to all participants.

How Do I Find My Latitude/Longitude?

This is all locational data for our community map.

While there are apps for smartphones,the easiest way is probably to use Google Maps. Instructions for doing this using various devices HERE.

You can also just put the street address on the printed form. Latitude and longitude is better for a more accurate location, but an address can be converted to latitude / longitude easily.

What Can I Expect While I Wait?

OLWC will be posting interactive content, soil trivia, and fun facts about soil health throughout the next 2 months on Facebook and Instagram. For those who prefer not to use social media, we will be sending similar engaging content (articles, photos, ETC) to participants via email. To receive emails about the Soil Your Undies community-wide experiment, please email our Community Outreach Specialist, Kat, at kat@oswegowatershed.org

What’s Happening in My Soil?

In healthy soil, there are millions of microscopic organisms that break down and eat organic material (such as leaves, decaying plants or animals, or 100% cotton underwear) over time. Think of how leaves that fall onto the ground during the Fall season seem to disappear before Spring arrives- that is because many of the leaves have been digested by tiny insects and other microorganisms. The leaf litter that was present during the Fall and Winter seasons have become part of the soil. Cotton is an organic material (it comes from a plant!), so this process is what will “soil” your cotton undies while they are buried. The less recognizable your undies are when you dig them up in 2 months, the more active your soil’s microbes are

Why Should I Care About my Soiled Undies?

If when you unbury your undies in 2 months, you pull up ragged undies that are full of holes, you have healthy soil. There are many benefits to keeping healthy soil, here are just a few:

  • Healthy soil with active microbes are more likely to be rich in nutrients needed by plants. This means that having a healthy soil will make it easier for plants to thrive in your garden.
  • Soil with high amounts of organic matter can hold more water, which prevents excess runoff and increases the soil’s resilience to drought. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS), organic matter can hold 18-20 times its weight in water!
  • Soil with high amounts of organic matter can help mitigate climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in a carbon “pool” (carbon sequestration).
Soil Health demo using undies

Other Resources:

Special thanks to Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), and the USDA/NRCS Oregon. Check out additional resources and see other Soil Your Undies Campaigns here!

Soil Your Undies Campaign