labor day

Back to School Time

Brittney Gordon-Williams

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Labor Day is upon us. Nothing illustrates the end of summer better than seeing kids back at the bus stop in the mornings, and if my Facebook feed is any indication, kids across the country are already strapping on those backpacks and heading back to class. For many parents, this time of year brings a sigh of relief, as the whole family gets back to a normal schedule. But, the coming of the new school year can also mean the return to higher energy costs. Here are a few ways that EPA can help your whole family save energy, save money and help prevent climate change as you head back to school.

  • These days kids of all ages use the computer to complete homework assignments, and your child will undoubtedly spend countless hours in front of the monitor. Make sure that your computer is ENERGY STAR certified, and you will use 30-65 percent less energy depending on how it is used. Take your energy-saving a step further and activate your computer’s power management settings. You can save up to $50 each year.
  • The return to school may also mean the return to late nights spent studying. Make sure that your family is saving energy as the kids burn the late night oil by using ENERGY STAR certified lighting. Bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR use 75 percent less energy and last 10 to 50 times longer. Cool fact: If you placed an ENERGY STAR certified LED in your child’s nursery room today, it would last until they were in college.
  • Do you have a student heading to college? Make sure they don’t forget all of the great energy-saving education you taught them, and be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR when outfitting their room. From TVs and soundbars to the mini-fridge and light bulbs, ENERGY STAR’s certified products have everything you need to make sure your student is being a good environmental steward, even when away from the nest.
  • Did you know that school buildings can earn the ENERGY STAR? In fact, Demarest Elementary in New Jersey won the ENERGY STAR National Building Competition last year, reducing its energy use by over 50 percent. Check out this year’s competition, and work with your child’s school to save energy all year long. Saving energy leads to saving money, which will add up to an even greater education for the students in your life.

Before the kids get too bogged down with homework, don’t forget to join Team ENERGY STAR! By joining the team, your family will get access to fun and educational resources from EPA to help make saving energy a lesson that lasts a lifetime.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team.

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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Recognizing Hazardous Materials Workers on Labor Day

By Nicholas Alexander

As Labor Day approaches, I’d like to honor the men and women who do the dangerous and difficult labor required to protect the health of our communities and natural environment from hazardous waste and toxins. When millions of gallons of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico, these individuals were there to clean it up. When lead paint chips were discovered in an elementary school in my neighborhood, these folks stepped in to make it safe again for children. While most people avoid industrially contaminated “brownfield” areas, hazardous materials (hazmat) workers don safety gear and seek out the sources of danger. These situations require not only extraordinary courage, but also significant training on chemical reactions and the ability to work quickly and safely under duress. Hazmat workers and emergency responders are unsung heroes of the environmental protection and environmental justice movements.

“RichmondBUILD trainees suit up in full protective gear for the first time.”

Working conditions in the hazmat sector are taxing, to put it mildly. The physical exertion required for most jobs is similar to a construction zone, which includes routinely lifting 75-pounds or more. This work must be accomplished while wearing personal protective equipment that is heavy and restricts breathing and movement. A typical hazmat suit is an impermeable garment that covers the whole body and is combined with a breathing apparatus to filter unsafe airborne particles or provide clean air from a tank. In comparison, your Monday morning blues don’t seem so tough.

So why do people decide to do this work? When I talk with graduates of the RichmondBUILD Careers Academy, a hazmat job-training program funded by the EPA, these jobs provide economic opportunity to those who need them most. Folks who have been hit especially hard by the economic recession and have been unemployed for months or those who face discrimination in more traditional job markets can earn living wages and climb career ladders in the hazmat industry.

I’d like to celebrate hazmat workers from RichmondBUILD and around the country for both the critical services they provide to our nation and their economic success earned through hard work. Labor Day is a time to recognize the contributions of those workers who often go unseen and unheard, so let’s all be grateful for the men and women who put their lives at risk to protect us from past, present and future environmental hazards.

About the author: Nicholas Alexander manages the EPA-funded hazmat training at RichmondBUILD Careers Academy in Richmond, California. He is also an advocate for workers’ rights, communities of color and the poor.

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.