holidays

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 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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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 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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Winter Tips: Make Your Home Warm and Green

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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 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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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 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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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 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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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 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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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 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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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.

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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?

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Celebrate the environment: Your holiday shopping list can be eco-friendly

About the author: Andrea Drinkard is Web Content Coordinator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

If you’re like me, when you go shopping the environment isn’t always the first thing on your mind. I’m always worried whether they’ll have my size or if it’s going to be on sale, but not necessarily what the environmental impact of my purchases will be.

On my last shopping trip, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye-a sticker that asked me to shop smart. Smart shopping doesn’t just mean finding the best deals, taking the most efficient route, or finding what you’re looking for as soon as you walk in the store. But it also means keeping the environment in mind while you shop.

With the holidays coming up and lots of shopping in my near future, I started to think how easy it would be to put Mother Earth on my gift list. I mean, a lot of the things I’m already doing to be eco-friendly at home, at the office or on the road could be done while shopping for holiday gifts. I take public transit to work; why not take it to the mall? I use the energy-save mode on my computer; why not buy one that has earned the new ENERGY STAR? I reuse and recycle at home; why not make a gift out of reused or recycled materials instead of buying a new one?

These small, but important, choices also have a positive impact on your wallet. Planning ahead to reduce the number of trips you take saves gas and saves you money. Buying ENERGY STAR products reduces your energy bill year-round. And that all adds up to a gift that keeps on giving.

So, this holiday season, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the environment by traveling, shopping, decorating and cleaning up in an environmentally friendly way. Check back with us at www.epa.gov this week and throughout the season to find out how you can turn your holiday green.

To see how others are being green this holiday season and to let us know what you’re doing, check out EPA’s question of the week about greening your holiday.

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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