holidays

An Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

By Marilyn Jerome

Travel, shopping, dining and gift-giving are activities that are generally more pronounced during the holidays. Unfortunately, these activities may inadvertently prove challenging to the environment. On a redeeming note, there is an opportunity to partake in seasonal festivities and tradition while also practicing environmentally friendly behavior for the holidays and beyond. Holiday activities such as gift giving and dinner parties needn’t be environmentally harmful if we take deliberate steps toward conscientious behavior. Here are a few tips that one might adopt to create a holiday season that simultaneously supports tradition and environmental stewardship.

Holiday DecorationChoosing to hand-craft gifts rather than purchasing them may hold more meaningful value for some people while providing a more environmentally friendly outcome. Homemade edibles are thoughtful and offer an opportunity to utilize locally grown foods and recyclable materials. For those who enjoy arts and crafts, such as knitting, painting and jewelry making, special customized gifts are always great ideas that reduce the need for intense shopping. Skipping gift wrap for simple bows or useful baskets is also another environmentally conscious choice. A talent may even be given as a gift, through private informal performances among friends and families. There are countless ways in which we can give without creating traffic congestion and overconsumption. These are only a few examples which may further spark your own imagination.

Holiday parties can incorporate environmentally friendly elements through the use of eco-friendly trappings such as, re-usable dinnerware, edible decorations such as popcorn strings and recyclable aluminum foil rather than plastic wrap. If steps like these are collectively adopted huge impacts may be realized in the context of resource management, sustainability and environmental protection, especially so during seasons of historically high economic activity. More conscientious holiday celebrators in the New York Metropolitan area, for instance, may translate into decreased consumption, increased recycling activity and less traffic.

 

About the Author: Marilyn Jerome is a volunteer intern with EPA’s Region 2 Public Affairs Division. She is currently an environmental studies major at Queens College in Flushing, NY.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Greening Your Home for the Holidays

By Lina Younes

 As the holidays are fast approaching, now may be a good time to make some green repairs before the festivities. Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that here on the mainland many people consider spring to be the ideal season for giving the house a good cleaning or overhaul. I remember growing up in Puerto Rico, where the favored time for home makeovers was the fall. One of the main reasons for the different home improvement habits might be the changing seasons. Since in Puerto Rico we had summer virtually all year round, the motivation to fix the house usually was linked to the anticipated arrival of guests over the holidays.

So what can you do to make your home a more welcoming, healthier and greener environment for your family and friends? Here are some suggestions.

  • Clean your air filters regularly to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
  • Look for mold in your home: it’ll grow in areas where there’s water or moisture. Clean the mold on hard surfaces. Discard those items that cannot be cleaned and make necessary repairs to solve the moisture problem to prevent it from reoccurring.
  • Paint your home to brighten it up. However, if it was built before 1978, it might have some old lead-based paint which can hurt you and your family. Make sure painting and repairs are done safely to prevent lead poisoning
  • If you’re renovating your bathrooms or kitchen, consider installing toilets and water fixtures with the WaterSense label. They’re more efficient, so they’ll save water and money while protecting the environment.
  • Heat and cool your home more efficiently with Energy Star. You’ll reduce your energy bills and make your home more comfortable while reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Think of ways you can reduce waste during the holidays, like using reusable plates and silverware and storing food and leftovers in reusable containers.

Are you planning any green repairs for the holidays? Let us know.

 About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

 

 

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Light and Darkness, Part II

By Amy Miller

My affinity for winter’s darkness is inseparable from my love of light, including the cacophony of colored, white, LED, incandescent and just plain discordant bulbs that turn on the landscapes of New England each December.

As I drive through my bejeweled town, though, niggling questions flicker along with the icicles.

Questions like: How much does it cost to light up a house like Fenway Park? How much would a restaurant laced in traditional yellow white bulbs save by switching to the bluish and still much-reviled LEDs? How much do we spend on our decoration if we do a tree full of lights and a single outdoor strand? And most important of all, how long will it take for us to stop seeing the LEDs as cold and ugly?

Millions of lights are purchased each year and millions of dollars spent electrifying our yards. Statistics given by Dow Jones say lighting a six-foot Christmas tree 12 hours a day for 40 days can cost anywhere from $25 for the larger incandescent bulbs to under $1 for LED strands. Lighting your lawn can cost in the hundreds (or more), depending on your taste, budget and bulbs.

A typical house full-out decorated with tons of incandescent lights, motorized characters and lots of lit objects might use, say 2,500 watts, which costs 28 cents an hour. Over 40 days that would cost the homeowner with incandescent lights about $135.

But the equation changes with LED lights. Most incandescent bulbs last about 1,000 hours, while the majority of LEDs burn for 50,000 hours. And each bulb gives up to 10 times more energy. For example, the amount of electricity consumed by just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs — enough to light two 24-foot strings.

Furthermore, LEDS don’t break nearly as easily and many of them come with a three-year warranty. Oh, did I mention that LEDS stay cool, reducing the risk of fire.

So, what I really want to say to all of you – all of us – who resist the hues on the LEDs is: Get Over It!
Yes, I still have the mini incandescent bulbs on my tree. And yes, the strand was cheaper in the short-run so I was pound-foolish. But those .4-watt lights will run me 10 times as much in electric bills.

On paper, there is no comparison. Back in the real world of Main Street, however, change will be slow and creeping. Eventually, though, we will come to see the icy LED lights as just as pretty as the muddy old yellow ones.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Winter Tips: Make Your Home Warm and Green

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. As we create a welcoming environment to entertain family and friends during the holidays, let’s think of some tips that will warm up our home while saving us energy and money, too.

  • First, in order to maximize the efficiency of your heating system, you should clean the air filters regularly.
  • Secondly, seal air leaks throughout the home to stop drafts. By sealing and insulating properly your outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors, you will improve the energy efficiency and comfort in your home. You can actually save up to 20% on heating costs on your annual energy bill if you follow this tip.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to automate your heating and cooling system and avoid wasting energy unnecessarily when there is no one at home.
  • Use Energy Star appliances and electronics to save money and use energy more efficiently.
  • Are you installing decorative lights at home to get the family in the holiday spirit? Consider LED decorative light strings. Did you know that for every three Energy Star qualified decorative light strings purchased, you could save $30 over the lifetime of the lights?
  • And, don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room to save energy! I know that is something that I have to remind my youngest all too often.
  • Are you in the mood to sit around the chimney this evening? Remember to burn wisely! For example, choose the right firewood. Keep your chimney clean. And use the right type of wood-burning appliance. By following these simple tips, you can protect your health, reduce air pollution and save money.

So, do you have any special plans for the holidays? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Enjoying the Parade

By Amy Miller

My friend has dubbed her friend who regularly and proudly boasts of seeing the sun rise and hearing the first birds chirp one of those “special early morning people.”

Well, I have my own version of “special people” – they are the “special I-don’t-drive-over-the-holidays people.” To them I say “Ha”.

Ha, because I joined some 43.6 million other people on the highway Thanksgiving weekend and never got stuck in traffic. Leaving at 8 pm on both sides of the trip, my family made the 270-mile drive between Maine and New York City in 4.75 hours.

And while the special “I don’t drive over the holidays people” were among the 44 million people watching the parade on the tube, my family was among the elite 3 million who saw the Pillsbury Doughboy, Dora the Explorer AND the entire women’s Olympic gymnastics team in real life.

Even more thrilling than seeing the annual Macy Day Parade, though, was being among the people crowding 10 rows thick but nonetheless keeping their humor. We talked to the Cuban American from Miami, at her first parade; the couple from Rockville, who came for the umpteenth time even as their 20-something boys slept at home, and the 4-foot 10-inch grandmother visiting from Ecuador who waited quietly until someone gave her the same right of way normally afford only to children.

The Macy’s Day Parade has to be one of the most wonderful displays of humanity. Yes, there is some pushing and shoving and frustration. But so little of it. Mostly, whether it is pouring rain or 5 degrees above zero, whether people are in the front of the pack or stuck in back catching little except the helium-filled balloons that have defined the parade since Felix the Cat arrived at the third parade in 1927, the crowd is friendly and festive. Together we share stories, knowledge of passing celebrities and crackers for hungry children.

After several decades of parade attendance, it was the first time I ever went early and staked out a spot along the 2.5-mile route. (No, it was not my idea but with temperatures expected to reach 60 in Central Park, I ceded to my kids’ wishes.)

Two days later, as we rolled into our quiet Maine village at midnight, my husband and I congratulated each other on our peaceful journey through the crowds of a holiday weekend.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: What’s number one on your green holiday gift list?

We love to give – and get – gifts at holiday time. With so much to choose from it’s hard to know where to begin! But with a little searching you can find gifts that use less energy, are made with environmentally friendly materials, or can be reused and last a long time.  Share your ideas for greener gifts!

What’s number one on your green holiday gift list?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: What does a “green” holiday mean to you?

There are almost as many holiday traditions as people who celebrate them, and as many ways to help protect the environment as we enjoy the holiday season. Share your thoughts on a green holiday.

What does a “green” holiday mean to you?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: What are you doing to use less energy during this holiday season?

At this time of year we travel more to visit friends and family or take more shopping trips. We also decorate with extra lights and turn up the heat to ward off the early winter chill.  Share how you conserve energy.

What are you doing to use less energy during this holiday season?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: How are you traveling green for Thanksgiving?

To be with friends and family on holidays, we drive across town and fly across the country. But most forms of travel can affect the environment…  Share how you go “over the river and through the woods.”

How are you traveling green for Thanksgiving?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Question of the Week: How will you handle holiday waste?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

One of the “gifts of the season” we usually overlook is the amount of STUFF we have left over – food scraps, dead batteries, old fir trees, and more.  But most of these things can be recycled or reused in some way, or at least disposed of properly.

How will you handle holiday waste?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.