EPEAT

How EPA Conserves Energy

When one hears ‘information technology’, often times their first thought is not about climate change. But electronics, electricity, and changing hardware or software versions have the potential to be environmentally friendly. As Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Environmental Information (OEI), I am charged with leading the Agency’s information management and information technology programs to provide the information, technology, and services necessary to advance the protection of human health and the environment.

EPA is committed to taking a common sense approach in addressing climate change and promoting a clean energy economy, but what do we do on a daily basis to ensure the information technology services and equipment that are provided to our employees conserve energy resources? More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Toyota Drives Toward Zero Waste 

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing environmentalists in government and business, but some people really stand out as extreme environmental leaders.

Each year our senior managers locked themselves in a conference room with hundreds of award nominations to find the most cutting edge, innovative, and inspirational people and groups working towards environmental protection. Ryan McMullen and his colleagues at Toyota Motor Sales were recognized by EPA’s Pacific Southwest award winners.  They are my heroes — they are living the dream of zero waste.

image of a cart full if plastic wrapping material in an automotive factoryRyan, an enthusiastic Toyota environmental expert in Torrance, CA, spearheaded efforts to eliminate waste through upstream thinking and complex lifecycle analysis. As a result, Toyota’s vehicle distribution centers send less than 4 ounces of waste to the landfill for each vehicle processed.

Toyota Motor Sales started using returnable shipping containers to conserve 17.6 million pounds of wood and cardboard in 2008.  And, there’s more —

  • Toyota’s Headquarters and nine facilities are sending Zero Waste to landfill,
  • Ten plants are achieving 95% waste reduction, and
  • Twelve distribution centers achieving over 90% recycling rates.

image of flattened cardboard boxes in a gray cart in an automotive factoryThese efforts have kept 118,990 trees from being cut down and conserved the energy equivalent of 1.6 million gallons of gasoline by providing recycled materials to industry.

Toyota worked with the University of California – Santa Barbara to develop and apply the Environmental Packaging Impact Calculator (EPIC) to measure and justify shifts in the company’s packaging and logistics.  They even use EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to improve green computing.

Toyota certainly deserves the EPA award. Do you have any zero waste tips to share?

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team promoting waste reduction, recycling, and green building for 10 years in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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More Holiday Cheer, Less Holiday Waste

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Communications Specialist in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a M.S in Media Management.

This is always a crazy time of year. In my family, the holidays are all about large quantities: lots of food, lots of gifts, and lots and lots of relatives. This year, I’m going to simplify one part of the holiday experience (and help the environment at the same time) by reducing the amount of material that gets thrown out after the holidays. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce waste around the holidays – here are a few:

Find the greenest tree. You can save a tree (and reduce greenhouse gas emissions) by buying a potted tree that you can plant after the holidays instead of cutting a tree down. If you do decide to dispose of your tree, look for ways to recycle it instead of sending it to a landfill; your community solid waste department may collect the trees for mulching.

Send personal, paperless greetings. Save paper by creating your own greeting cards from scrap paper – this can be a fun family project or a way to give your cards a personal touch. You can also skip the paper altogether and e-mail an electronic card. If you do plan to buy cards, look for ones containing a high percentage of recycled content.

Reuse wrapping paper. Not every piece of wrapping paper gets ripped to shreds; some can be saved and used again next year, which saves money and trees. You can also “wrap” gifts in reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper. And if you want to avoid wrapping paper altogether, give gifts that need little or no packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.

Look for Earth-friendly electronics. Electronics are a popular gift, and some electronics purchases are more environmentally-friendly than others. For example, before you buy a new computer, ask yourself if the performance you’re looking for can be gained by upgrading your current computer, perhaps by upgrading your hard drive or RAM. If you do decide to buy a new computer, make sure you buy one that is Energy Star-qualified, which can save both energy and money. Also, an online tool called EPEAT (exit disclaimer) makes it easy to find the computer with the best environmental attributes. Finally, don’t throw away the electronics that get replaced; there are lots of opportunities to reuse or recycle old electronics.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.