recycle

Go Green this Spring!

By: Kelly Siegel

Although it still feels like winter in parts of the Midwest, spring is officially here!  As we gear up for the start of spring and plan spring activities it is important to remember to keep these activities green.  Here are some ideas to make the most of the season:

  1. Get your hands dirty and plant a vegetable garden.  It takes some work and patience now, but when you are eating your home grown tomatoes this summer, it will all be worth it.
  2. Get outside.  Go for long walks, bike rides, or runs and explore your neighborhood you have missed over winter.
  3. Many of us associate spring with spring cleaning.  Go through those old boxes and your closet and donate, recycle, or reuse anything you don’t need any more. You never know what you might find!
  4. On the topic of spring cleaning, use green cleaning supplies.  There are even ways to make your own.  It is very simple and not only better for the environment, but your wallet as well. 
  5. Use reusable water bottles – You can get some with cool designs and not waste plastic water bottles. 

Do you have other tips to go green this spring?  Please share.

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends

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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Tips for a More Environmentally-Friendly Spring Cleaning

By Ashley McAvoy

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Spring has arrived! It’s time to say goodbye to the cold weather and hello to new life once again. The flowers are just breaking through the soil, the birds are singing, and the trees are growing new leaves. These are familiar images and usually mark the beginning of longer days, picnics in the park, riding bikes and more than anything else, enjoying the warmer weather. If you’re like me, one annual task looms in the way of that fun: the dreaded spring cleaning. This chore is tedious and incredibly time consuming, but it’s necessary after months of being cooped up indoors. There are so many things to do: tidy up the garden, wash the car, dust the curtains, sweep the floor, etc. Don’t forget to use cleaning methods and cleaning products that are the safest for your family, your home, and the environment. Here are some reminders before you get started.

Reuse whenever possible

  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Give your unwanted clothes a new life by donating them to your local thrift shop or charity. By reusing clothing and other goods, we can cut down on waste entering landfills.

Recycle all that you can

  • Always check with your local recycling center for any recycling restrictions in your area. Some places only accept certain types of plastic or metal. You should check the bottom of any glass or the back of any plastic container for the recycling number. This number will indicate the type of plastic that it is.
    Check out more at the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle website.

Use cleaning products that are safer for your family and the environment

  • Look for products that are labeled biodegradable, eco-friendly, or non-toxic

Find more information about environmentally safe cleaning products at the Protecting Your Health website

  • Avoid products with labels that read toxic, corrosive, irritant, flammable, or combustible

Conserve water

  • To water the lawn, consider using grey water or even rainwater. An average family typically uses 30% of its water for the garden or the lawn. By using alternative water such as rainwater from a rain barrel, you can cut down on wasted water and even lower your water bill.

For more information about safer cleaning methods for your home and the environment, please visit the Green Homes website.

Happy cleaning!

About the author: Ashley McAvoy is an Intern with the Office of Web Communications for spring 2013. She is a double major in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

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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Black History Month: Generation Green

By Kuae Kelch Mattox
National President, Mocha Moms, Inc.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember being concerned much about the environment. We didn’t scrutinize labels, all our trash went into one can and we never considered buying “organic.” But now I’m mother to three children who remind me every day what I should be doing to be a kinder, gentler friend to this world in which we live.

My nine year-old daughter tells me I waste water when I let it run while brushing my teeth. My thirteen year old son regularly reminds me he can’t bring anything but a reusable water bottle onto the lacrosse field. He’s also the resident scholar on which plastic is recyclable, and which is not. My teenage environmentally conscious daughter chastises me for putting groceries in plastic bags and points out suspicious chemical key words on cosmetic labels. At our local elementary school, Waste Wednesday is a school tradition. Classes compete to see whose lunchroom trash weighs the least.

Our children are growing up in an era of unprecedented environmental consciousness. The environment is an important part of science and social studies curriculum, science fairs are hot ticket events and extracurricular programs remind our children how their actions impact the environment.

I have always seen myself as my children’s first teacher, but when it comes to the environment, I find that my children are often the ones teaching me. It is a source of great pride that they see taking care of the environment as a serious matter. I see it as my role, particularly as an African American mother, to guide them along the way, to serve as a reminder that it does feel good to treat the place that we call home with honor and respect. Each moment that they teach me is an opportunity for me to show them that I am listening and I, too, care. I also want them to understand the unique needs of the African American community, and that in many communities people of color suffer from disproportionate levels of environmental risk.

For my son, who has asthma, he needs to understand in particular the importance of breathing clean air. For all children, we must be ever vigilant, making sure that their natural curiosity and desire to do good for the earth continues as they grow into adulthood. Let’s talk about the issues – dirty water, polluted air, leaking pesticides, dangerous toxins, health disparities, and let’s explore solutions. Let’s teach our children to be environmental advocates and help this generation to “green” the next one. Let them know, it isn’t just about recycling plastic bottles and paper products. It’s about giving love to the planet – the grass, the trees, the birds and yes, the bees. It’s about planting vegetable gardens, beautifying the landscape outside your school and leaving that odd shaped stinkbug on your wall alone. It’s also about understanding the environmental justice battles of our African American forefathers, knowing how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

The baby steps we take with our young environmental stewards today will help the next generation to take even bigger steps in the future.

About the author: Kuae Kelch Mattox is the National President of Mocha Moms, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports stay at home mothers of color with 100 chapters in 29 states.

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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Are We Planet-Friendly?

By Lina Younes

During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, everywhere we look we find messages and merchandise

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urging us to share our love with family, friends, significant others and even with our pets. But, on this special day and other days of the year, are we truly showing our appreciation to the Planet? Are we making sure that we don’t litter and that we conserve Mother Earth’s precious natural resources?

How about some simple things that we can do at home, at work, or in our community to protect our earthly home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Are you planning to buy a Valentine’s Day card today? Make sure it was made with recycled materials or even save more resources by sending an electronic card instead!
  • Reduce wastes and recycle the 365 days of the year.
  • We can’t live without water so don’t waste it! Close the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers instead of baths. Use WaterSense products to use water more efficiently.
  • Save energy in the home by using a programmable thermostat. Use EnergyStar appliances. These energy-efficient appliances save you energy and money and protect the Planet, too.
  • Combine your daily errands to save gas. Give your car a break and take public transportation.
  • In the spring, how about planting a tree? Planting trees will improve air quality and give you shade in the summer months.
  • Want to avoid problems with pests at home? Don’t give them anything to eat, drink, or shelter. These integrated pest management techniques will go a long way to create a healthier home environment for you and your family.
  • We’ve all heard the expression “cleanliness is next to godliness.” A clean home is essential for good health. So why don’t we use the greenest chemicals that are safer for us AND the Planet? Check out those with the Design for the Environment label. They perform well, they are cost-effective, and safer for the environment, too.
  • Do you want more additional Planet-Friendly tips to show your appreciation of Mother Earth? Visit our website .

Would you like to send us your green tips? We look forward to your comments on this blog or through our social media pages at Facebook and Twitter.  Looking forward to hearing 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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A Green Valentine

By: Shelby Egan

While celebrating this year’s Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to show the environment some love!  Valentine’s Day festivities often include exchanging cards with friends and classroom parties full of sweets.  As a kid, I remember my mom buying me my favorite Disney character cards to pass out in class, which often meant multiple trips to the store to find the perfect Cinderella or Little Mermaid card.  Along with this came candy hearts, chocolate goodies and decorating our house with colorful window decals.  You can still have just as much fun, but now there are ways to do so in an environmentally friendly way.  You can do so by:
1. When buying Valentine’s Day cards at the store, check the label of the box and see if the cards were made with recycled content. If so, buy cards that were made with recycled content instead of non-recycled. You can also make Valentine’s Day cards at home with recycled construction paper.  This will help save the amount of resources used and can be fun to decorate and personalize your own cards.

2. As a party activity, take old magazines and newspapers to make a Valentine’s Day collage with friends.  You can have fun creating a project using materials that would otherwise be recycled or thrown out.

3. Create re-used, homemade bookmarks as gifts for family and friends. Take an old tissue box or cereal box and cut 2”x 5” strips.  Color or paint these with red, pink and white and write a message to a friend.

4. If you are baking treats to share with friends, ask your parent or guardian to buy organic ingredients locally.  Sweets will taste just as good but will also be good for the environment.
Have fun celebrating the day with the ones you love, and don’t forget how easy it is to be environmentally friendly.

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman. 

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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My Environmental Resolutions

By: Shelby Egan

Now that the holidays are over and the New Year has started, most students have taken the start of 2013 to reflect on the past year and make a list of positive resolutions for the new one.  I know 2012 was a big year for me.  Having graduated college and moved to a new city have definitely made me want to start 2013 on a positive note.  Now that finals are over, one way I am pledging to make worthy changes in 2013 (besides vowing to not procrastinate with reading assignments in school) is to be more active in protecting the environment.  There is no better time to become more environmentally aware than the start of the New Year.  Here is a list of some of things I am planning to do to help protect the environment:

1.   Using reusable shopping bags when I go to the grocery store instead of plastic bags.

2.   Unplugging appliances when I’m not using them, like my computer and cell phone charger.

3.   Making sure to recycle aluminum cans, plastics, glass, newspapers, paper and cardboard.

4.   Reusing binders and notebooks that are still in good condition.

5.   Taking a walk with a friend to a nearby park, or better yet, going ice-skating to enjoy the outdoors, rather than staying inside and watching TV.

6.   Shopping at local thrift stores that sell second- hand clothes.  Not only is this more environmentally friendly, but it’s helpful on my budget and makes for a vintage wardrobe.

To make your 2013 environmental New Year’s resolutions complete, spread the word to your family and friends in taking steps, like the ones listed above, to make a big difference in protecting the environment.

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

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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Veronika Scott and Her Amazing Dream Coat

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By Tom Murray

I don’t know about you, but when I watch the nightly news, I look forward to the last news item of the broadcast. You know the one. It is usually a heartwarming story of how one individual is reaching out to another, oftentimes in the most inventive way imaginable. Well, I didn’t hear about this story from my nightly news but it does fall into the same category.

This story comes out of Detroit and is about a young lady who is literally stitching together new hope and dreams for the homeless. Her name is Veronika Scott. Veronika, who is only 23 years old, had a radical idea, and she is now acting on that idea to the delight of many in the city of Detroit. She makes coats out of scrap material and delivers them to the homeless. But this is no ordinary coat and the scrap comes from no ordinary source. You see, this coat converts to a sleeping bag. Further, the scrap material she uses is unused material from the production of vehicles donated by General Motors Corporation. John Bradburn of General Motors tells me that he gave 2,000 yards of scrap sound-deadening material used inside select GM cars — enough to make 400 coats. Oh, and did I mention that these coats are actually stitched together by women in Detroit, who just months ago were homeless?

John is GM’s Global Manager of Waste Reduction and is also a member of the Suppliers’ Partnership for the Environment, an organization of automotive manufacturers and their suppliers who work together to advance the sustainability message throughout the automobile supply chain. This is where I met John, as EPA attends the Suppliers’ Partnership meetings as a federal liaison.

John and Veronika’s efforts here are a classic example of sustainability. Unused scrap material is diverted from the landfill (environment) and is being used instead to help a fledgling non-profit enterprise grow (economy). Further, it is offering a helping hand to the homeless (social). John hopes to invite Veronika to the next Suppliers’ Partnership meeting, and I intend to be the first in line to shake her hand.

Veronika’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by those outside of Detroit. The word is that she will become the youngest person ever to receive the New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. See more on Veronika’s remarkable efforts..

About the author: Tom Murray is a senior scientist with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and is currently Chief of the Prevention Analysis Branch in the Agency’s Pollution Prevention Division.  Tom has 40 years in government service.  Tom and his staff are the architects of several environmental partnership programs including the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment program, the Green Suppliers Network and the new E3 (Economy, Energy and Environment) initiative, a cross-agency collaboration with industry focused on manufacturing growth, energy efficiency and environmental.

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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What Should We Do With Our Old Phones?

By Lina Younes

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With the advances in mobile technologies, it is hard not to buy one of these new smartphones. The marketplace has numerous mobile tools with the latest applications in wireless communication. These smartphones promise to do everything faster,  with a longer battery life and a higher resolution. So, when you finally decide to purchase a new mobile phone, what do you do with your old one that is still in good condition? You have two options:  You can donate it or even better yet, recycle it!

Cell phones have precious materials such as copper, silver, gold and palladium that can be recovered and recycled. By recycling these materials, you are conserving natural resources, avoiding air and water pollution as well as the emission of greenhouse gases that are generated during the manufacturing process of virgin materials. Did you know that in 2009, discarded electronics such as cell phones, TVs, computers, scanners, fax machines, and keyboards, among others, amounted to 2.37 million tons of electronic waste?

Many retailers across the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam have programs where you can drop off or mail in your used mobile phones. Also charitable organizations have cell phone recycling programs. So, find out more about cell phone recycling programs in your community. By recycling your used phone, you’ll be also protecting the environment and preventing precious resources from reaching your local landfill.

So, once you’ve bought your new mobile phone, are you interested in some apps and widgets that will help you learn more about your health and the environment? Here are some suggestions: Envirofacts Widgets,  AirNow Mobile app, UV Index appIndoor airPLUS,  Just some suggestions of great information technology at your fingertips.

Do you have any favorites that you would like to share with us? We always like 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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Back to School Going Green!

Well it is back to school shopping time so let’s talk about saving some green (a.k.a. cash) and going green with the 3-Rs—Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Reusing school supplies from last year will reduce the amount of items you need to purchase and decrease your environmental impact.  Look around the house, in your book bag, and under the car seats for pencils, pens, and partly used spiral notebooks.

After you have gathered up last year’s left over school supplies it is now time to go shopping!  Use your environmental consumer super power to purchase recycled versions of items you still need.   There are lots of choices to “make a statement” with your green school supplies purchases.  Purchase brands with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.  Become an instant Eco Fashionista!  Recycled purses and bags made from juice boxes, seatbelts, magazines, newspapers, and more.  My favorite is recycled paper with flower seeds imbedded in it for those special notes.   I also stop in at my local zoo’s gift shop to get a Poo Paper fix.   It is paper made from elephant (or other animals) manure; no it doesn’t smell, but it does make a great conversation starter.

Make textbook covers from recycled paper grocery sacks, crayons and markers or an old T-shirt. 

Retro is in!  Stop by your local gently used store to buy a new look and donate stuff from your closet that no longer fits your style or your body.  Purchasing gently used clothing is a huge way to decrease your ecological footprint.

If you take snacks or your lunch to school, remember to purchase regular- sized bags and then put what you need for the day into a reusable container.  With snack-sized bags you pay more for smaller portions AND the extra packaging creates more waste

If you drive, start a carpool!  It will not only save some cash but you and your friends can get a head start on “whatz up!” gossip before arriving at school.

Denise Scribner has been teaching about environmental issues for over 35 years.   For her innovative approaches to teaching to help her students become environmentally aware citizens, she won the 2012 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Her high school was also one of the first 78 schools across the USA to be named a Green Ribbon School in 2012.

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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Make School Lunches Healthy and Green

By Lina Younes

Like many parents, I’ve been looking for bargains in school supplies to get my youngest ready for the new school year.  As we do our shopping, I’m especially interested in looking at lunch boxes and the like. This year, I want to make sure that I make healthier food selections for my child and reduce the amount of waste in the process.

When you come to think of it, disposable items might seem “practical,” but they just generate waste in the long run.  Picture an average school lunch:  a drink, a sandwich, some chips, something for desert all packaged in a brown bag. If your child takes this food to school in disposable containers and wrappings every day, how many pounds of garbage will be generated per month? Per year? Not a pretty picture at all.

Here are some Waste-Free Lunch tips for the new school year:

  • Use a reusable lunch box instead of a brown bag.
  • Package sandwiches and food in reusable containers.
  • Give your child whole fruits without packaging in their lunch box. Not only is it greener, but it is healthier too!
  • Purchase snacks in bulk and package them in reusable containers.
  • Include reusable forks and spoons in your child’s lunch box.
  • Don’t use disposable water bottles. Use a reusable bottle instead.
  • Use reusable napkins, not paper ones.

In fact, I found some napkins made of recycled water bottles! When I bought them I felt that they were truly green! Increasingly, you can find numerous school supplies and consumer items made from recycled materials. So, with planning you can make sure your child’s school year gets off to a good start. You can work together with your school and community to make waste reduction a part of their daily lives. Remember, environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility.

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.

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.