recycling

Be Green and Save Green this Holiday Season

blog Samantha Nevels

Samantha Nevels, CEA

By: Samantha Nevels

In a recent study, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® found that 60 percent of consumers are concerned about their energy bill. The first step in cutting your bill is understanding your energy use. CEA has made this easy through an interactive consumer electronics energy calculator available at GreenerGadgets.org. In just a few easy steps, the calculator will estimate the amount of energy used by your consumer electronics devices based on what electronics you use and how often you use them. The calculator determines your energy cost per month and per year, and compares your energy use to that of the average U.S. household. It also provides some easy tips to save energy!

Here are some tips on how to be green during the holidays: 

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR: Electronics are a popular gift and now you can give a great present that also gives back.  Look for the ENERGY STAR  when shopping for electronics. The trusted blue label indicates energy efficient products that will save you money on your energy bill and help protect the planet.
  • Recycle your old Electronics: Whether you get or give electronics this holiday season, be sure to recycle the old one, allowing the valuable materials inside to be used again in new products and to save natural resources. Find an electronics recycling site near you at GreenerGadgets.org.
  • Read the Fine Print: Check your owners’ manuals to make sure you are taking full advantage of any energy conservation capabilities that your electronics may have.
  • Plug and Unplug: Plug electronic devices like televisions, game consoles, set-top boxes, and even your holiday lights into eco-friendly power strips. Also, unplug those holiday lights during the day!

With these quick and easy tips you’ll be on your way to having more money in your pocket and contributing to a better, more sustainable world. Visit GreenerGadgets.org to learn more about how you can live green, buy green and recycle responsibly.

Samantha Nevels is the coordinator of Policy Communication for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  CEA is a consumer electronics authority on market research and forecasts, consumer surveys, legislative and regulatory news, engineering standards, training resources and more.  CEA works closely with EPA through the ENERGY STAR program, to promote greater adoption of ENERGY STAR certified consumer 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.

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Auraria Campus Celebrates America Recycles Day

By Virginia Till

My school, the University of Colorado Denver, is part of the Auraria Higher Education Center. At Auraria, we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty. In fact, we enjoy it. As part of our participation in the EPA-led Food Recovery Challenge, and in celebration of America Recycles Day, we did the first-ever waste audit of the Tivoli Student Union.
 

Americans tossed out more than 36 million tons of food in 2011, and nearly all of it ended up in landfills or incinerators. The Food Recovery Challenge asks participants to reduce as much of their food waste as possible – saving money, helping communities, and protecting the environment.
 

With EPA-supplied bench scales, we weighed 26 bags of compost, recycle, and landfill materials gathered from the Tivoli’s 3-bin collection stations. This was then resorted to determine potential for improvement.

By looking at how we were recycling, we learned that we’d do a lot better by sorting properly. Knowing this will help Auraria determine strategies for improving recyling in the Tivoli Student Union and reduce the amount of waste sent to local landfills. It was fun getting our hands dirty and finding out how the campus can improve its waste management. How much of your food and money are you literally throwing away?

For more information:
http://www.epa.gov/smm/foodrecovery/
http://americarecyclesday.org/

About the author: Virginia Till is a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, pursuing a master’s in integrated sciences. She studies and works on sustainable building operations and is a Recycling Specialist for EPA Region 8 in Denver.

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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Don’t Let That Used Phone Go To Waste

By Lina Younes

The other day, I was looking through the newspaper ads checking out cell phones, computers, TVs and other electronics. Even though I’m not planning to buy anything special right now, I like to see what the market has to offer. The latest developments in mobile technology and electronics are hard to resist, though, even for the most frugal shopper. It’s funny, but when I even hint at getting new cell phones for the family, my children quickly declare that the new features are “must-haves.”

While the new features and available applications might be great, think carefully about whether you really need a new phone. Is your current phone damaged beyond repair, or can you still use it? Have you thought of donating or recycling it?

Electronic products, like cell phones and computers, contain valuable materials like precious metals. By recycling them, you can conserve natural resources and avoid water and air pollution generated during the manufacturing process. Recycling a million cell phones means we can recover 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. In turn, these recovered materials can be reused to manufacture new products.

Some retailers offer the option to donate or recycle electronics at their stores. You can check out which companies have recycling centers in your area.  Community organizations also work with retailers to host e-cycling events. You’d be surprised how many electronics are recycled at these events.

If you decide that your current cell phone is perfectly fine and you don’t need a new one, we might have a green mobile app available for you. Check out our site for nearly 300 apps that will help you understand and protect the environment. This green technology is just a click away.

 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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Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

By Lina Younes

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit several sites in Maryland and Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay. I marveled at the beauty of this important watershed. Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay watershed covers six states and Washington, DC? In fact, it’s the largest estuary on the U.S. mainland.

Even if you don’t live along the coast, did you know that what you do at home, at school, at work or in your community affects the water quality and well-being of this important ecosystem? So, what can you do to protect the bay or your local watershed? Here are some tips:

  •  Use water wisely. Start by turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving. Also, take shorter showers instead of baths. Make sure that you have a full load of laundry or dishes before using the washer and/or dishwasher. Repair leaking faucets and toilets.
  • If you like gardening, plant native plants. They require less water and nutrients and are more resistant to pests.
  • As part of your next landscaping project, consider planting a rain garden. It’s a great way to reduce water runoff.
  • Keep your car in shape to avoid oil leaks, which contaminate water. If you change your car’s oil yourself, take the used oil to a service station for recycling. Did you know that used oil from one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water?
  • Use greener cleaning products with the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. They’re safer, they protect our water and they’re better for the environment as a whole.
  • Get involved in your community to increase awareness of water quality. Participate in a stream or park cleanup activity.
  • Pick up after your dog. Don’t let his waste pollute our water.

If you’re still doubtful of the link between your activities and water conservation, I recommend you watch this video so you can be part of the solution.

What did you think? Do you have any suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

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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Spotted: a Big Belly….

By Mike McGowan

Big Belly Compactor

Big Belly Compactor

No, it wasn’t that long beaked bird with the big appetite…nor was it that fellow on the train, but rather an innovative trash bin system. It’s a Big Belly Solar Waste Compactor system on the corner of West Broadway and Barclay, just up the block from the World Trade Center Path Station. It showed up with little or no fanfare and it doesn’t carry much in the way of information. So, we did a little digging.

It turns out that Mayor Bloomberg announced the arrival of 30 Big Belly units with three bins – one each for cans and bottles, garbage and paper – this past March. At the launch, the Mayor promised that there would be more than 1,000 units in place in all five boroughs by year’s end. The first 30 Big Bellys were scattered around Times Square, replacing 53 standard trash cans.

Trash Overflow

Trash Overflow

Tested in other American and European cities, the system promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent through a combination of compacting trash (each bin can hold five times the amount of trash than the standard bin), reducing pick-ups and increasing recycling. The quantity of material in each bin can also be remotely monitored.

Rumor has it, there are some Big Bellys in Union Square. If they’ve made it to your New York neighborhood, let us know and we can help spread the word. For more information on the organization behind Big Belly go to www.bigbelly.com.

About the Author: Mike is Chief of the R2 Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Branch in Public Affairs. He is a nine-year veteran of EPA and travels thru the World Trade Center station as part of daily his commute.

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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Switzerland – The Land of Alps, Watches, Chocolate and …. Extreme Recycling

By Paula Zevin

Garbage Ball Geneva

Garbage Ball Geneva

Everyone knows how serious we are about recycling and its benefits at EPA. The past decade has shown that we can change our mindset and adapt to change: throwing things away without a second thought is a thing of the past. If you need a reminder, check out the EPA community website, which contains so much valuable information on helping to protect our environment and our recycling resource page.

We also have heard or even seen how much more serious Europe in general is about the 3-R mantra. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” is not just a buzz phrase; it is a way of life in the Old World, which in many cases is way ahead of the United States. Switzerland was one of these revelations. The occasion to visit this beautiful country came about almost as an afterthought to attending my 40th high school reunion in Heidelberg, Germany in June of this year. Reunions can be fun, but also stressful, so a little R&R in the beautiful cities of Zurich and Geneva seemed just what the doctor ordered. And it was! Past and present blend seamlessly, the scenery is truly breathtaking, the friendly locals made us feel welcome and it didn’t hurt to be able to sample delicious chocolate, raclette and Movenpick ice cream!

As an EPAer, I never quite leave the environmentalist behind. The sight of so many distinctive bags all over Zurich piqued my curiosity. So I asked at our hotel. The answer, “Oh, they are our special waste/recycling bags” led to some investigating and some illuminating answers. They’re called “Züri-Säcke” or “Zuri-Bags” and according to the city’s website, about 30,000 are picked up daily. What Zurichers don’t recycle at the ubiquitous drop-off points for plastic, glass, etc, must go into these special bags. The catch is that they are quite expensive. The bigger the bag, the more you pay. If you’re not already so inclined, the incentive to reduce, reuse and recycle becomes purely economic. In addition to familiar advice, such as dropping off your electronics, textiles and other household items at recycling centers, such as we have in my home county of Somerset, NJ, you are encouraged to take all your outdated or broken electrical appliances back to the store where you bought them – they are obligated to accept them at no charge to you! The advice is given in a gentle, yet firm way. Check out the English website for how to deal with modern life’s trappings.

Recycling Advertisement

Recycling Advertisement

Geneva does things in a similar manner, noting with pride that “Genevans recycled 45% of their waste in 2011 up from 37% in 2003 (recycling in the city of Geneva is lower, at only 36.2% in 2011).” For more information on this and on Geneva’s recycling programs visit the English language website.

Geneva took the visual impact of being environmentally responsible to a different level. They are displaying a ball of garbage weighing 35 tons at Place du Plainpalais in Geneva. This was after officials started a campaign to encourage citizens to dispose of their garbage responsibly. The 35-tons of garbage represent the amount of waste that is collected from public trash cans over a period of three days.

We are doing so much already in New York City and in the surrounding areas to reduce, reuse and recycle. These glimpses into another culture remind us that the work is never done and that it is upon us to do it.

About the Author: Paula Zevin is currently an Environmental Engineer in the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment at the Edison Environmental Center. Her work is centered on the technical and programmatic aspects of ambient water monitoring. She is also the volunteer water monitoring coordinator for EPA Region 2. Paula has been with EPA since 1991, and has worked in the chemical, pharmaceutical, textile and cosmetic industries prior to joining EPA. 

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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The Bronx High School of Science’s LEAP Club Strives to Reduce our Negative Environmental Impact on the World

By Richard Yue

 

Reused Cartons

Reused Cartons

Students in the League of Environmental and Animal Protection (LEAP) club at the Bronx High School of Science are working on raising awareness about the school’s recycling program, educating  students about the importance of conservation, promoting the use of less energy and making the school a more environmentally friendly place. These efforts will not only benefit the school by saving money and resources, but will also benefit the environment.

The LEAP club has worked on implementing a recycling program throughout the school. Each classroom was provided with a special bin for paper recycling. The organization, GrowNYC, has been instrumental in helping the school in setting up the recycling program and donating the recycling bins. In addition to promoting recycling in the classrooms, three recycling stations have also been placed in the school’s cafeteria. Each of these stations includes a bin for plastic bottles and milk cartons, a bucket where any remaining liquid from the containers can be emptied, a desk where lunch trays can be stacked, and a bin for any remaining garbage. The club is also reusing old trash to make something useful – and fun! Students bring in old paper and use it in paper making activities. They also use old juice cartons and turn them into wallets.

 

Earth Day

Earth Day

Currently the club is trying to raise awareness about the implemented recycling system and to encourage students to cooperate.

In order to further raise awareness about environmental issues, LEAP organizes an annual Earth Day celebration in the school. The event does not take place exactly on Earth Day, April 22. Instead, it is usually scheduled in early June when the weather is warmer and the festivities can take place outside in the courtyard. The Earth Day celebration includes a number of activities: paper making, selling of plants, selling articles made from recycled and reused materials (i.e., wallets made from old juice cartons), educational games, and speakers to talk about environmental issues. Proceeds from the Earth Day celebration are donated by LEAP to an environmental organization chosen by the club’s members. Every year, there is a big turnout for the Earth Day celebration, which is something the LEAP club is proud of in helping to make a positive impact on the environment.

About the Author: Richard Yue is an Environmental Engineer in the Region’s Clean Air and Sustainability Division. Mr. Yue has been with the EPA for over 22 years and is a graduate of Polytechnic University of New York. 

 

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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Missing: One Smelly Old Garbage Gremlin

By Felicia Chou

Today, I found out that our office’s beloved Garbage Gremlin costume is M.I.A, after being “borrowed” by someone from another office. While I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere soon, its disappearance eerily coincides with the release of our new report that tells us what our nation’s recycling rate is, what is in our trash, how much of it ends up in landfills and incinerators, and how we’re doing compared to previous years.

Perhaps the missing Garbage Gremlin (a grumpy monster that hates recycling) is a sign of how far we’ve come as a nation when it comes to recycling. Maybe we’ve moved past needing a grumpy, stinky ol’ monster to remind us that most of what we throw away is actually recyclable, and that creating less waste in the first place is really the way to go. On average, Americans create 4.4 pounds of trash per day, and we’ve kept 87 million tons of garbage from landfills and incinerators, compared to 85 million tons in 2010 by recycling and composting. But even so, more than 60% of our trash still ends up in landfills. So while we might not need the Gremlin as much as we used to, we’ve got some work ahead of us.

This infographic gives us a general overview of our nation’s progress, the environmental impact we’ve made through recycling, and what we can do to continue to make a difference.

There’s also the new report, along with the fact sheet, where you can learn all sorts of other neat things.

Learn more about the stuff we throw away, how it impacts climate change, and what you can do to make a difference.

About the Author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She is currently organizing a manhunt in search of the missing Garbage Gremlin, and is considering offering a reward of eternal gratitude with a three-month expiration date.

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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Career Advice from Dolly

 

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Every summer my family would take a vacation to a small town in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior to visit my great aunt.  My great aunt would love to take us to visit the Red Cliff Reservation just outside her town.  It’s not every day you meet someone who is familiar with this area, but Dolly Tong is.  She has even done a dumpster dive there!  I sat down with her to learn more about her position at the EPA.

 

 

What is your position at the EPA?

 

I am the Regional Tribal Solid Waste and Pollution Prevention Coordinator.  I work with the 35 federally-recognized tribes in our Region to manage waste issues.

 

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

 

No, but I started as an intern at the EPA in what was called the Technology Transfer Program back then.  This eventually evolved into EPA’s Pollution Prevention Program which I have been involved with over many years.

 

What is a typical day like for you?

 

I work with a team to assist tribes in whatever waste management issue comes up, and analyze what kinds of technical assistance we can provide to tribes over the long term. I also communicate as a liaison for other tribal solid waste coordinators in the other EPA Regions with Headquarters to address national tribal waste issues.  I oversee two part-time Senior Environmental Employees’ work and monitor their work status. 

 

Sometimes I get to do field work on tribal reservations as well.  This is the most interesting part of my job.  We have done dumpster dives with tribes and visited their recycling facilities and household hazardous waste collection events.  When you visit tribal reservations, you can better understand what the tribes are doing, what they need, and how you can help.

 

What is the best part of your job?

 

Because EPA has a direct government-to-government working relationship with federally-recognized Indian tribes, I feel like my work directly impacts tribal communities. It is great to see the positive impacts with the work you do and see the immediate results. In addition, at the EPA we are encouraged to be creative and think of solutions on our own.  If you think something is workable, you can try it.  I like the independence and creativity.

 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

 

Yes.  When I was little, the other kids used to call me “nature freak.”  I just loved animals and nature.  My whole family was actually like that as well.

 

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

 

I majored in Environmental Studies, which was a multidisciplinary program.  I took advantage of a variety of classes, to get a feel for what interested me.  I wish I could have taken classes on Native American Law.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

 

It is important not to use so much stuff or buy a lot of things.  Everything you purchase has an impact on the environment because of all the pollution that comes from the extraction of materials, manufacturing, and transportation to bring you the finished product.  Using less has a direct impact on avoiding the generation of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

It is really important to learn about community based social marketing to promote sustainable behaviors in people. It is more than just handing out flyers to get people to change their ways.  We need more people to learn how to apply community-based social marketing techniques to get to the root causes of why people don’t practice certain sustainable behaviors, and come up with effective ways to encourage positive behaviors that are better for the environment.

 

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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Helping Rural Guatemala… One Stove at a Time

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Ever wonder how you might be able to make a difference in another country? Recently, the environmental team at West Geauga High School had the same question. We had already helped our own community in many ways relating to the environment, like organizing a battery recycling program, hosting seminars about hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” and sponsoring “Go Green Nights” at our school, but wanted to make an impact in the wider world.  After making a few phone calls to several environmental organizations, our team finally decided on partnering with another group to help with our project. We contacted the Social Entrepreneur Corps, an organization focused on micro consignment in Guatemala and other Central American countries. Once our team settled on an organization and agreed on goals, we put our plan into action. Because our other projects focused on water and air issues, we wanted to keep the same theme in Guatemala. With previously won grant money, our team was able to sponsor the installation of water purification systems and distribution of cook stoves. Our water purification systems provided Guatemalan children access to clean, fresh water in their schools, which allows them to stay healthy and stay in school, receive an education and break the vicious cycle of poverty. The systems were sold to schools and community centers for a small fee, ensuring that the recipients’ dignity stays intact and also creates commerce in these villages. The water purification bucket has a ceramic element inside that removes common contaminants such as E-coli and silver. The filter removes 99.5% of E-Coli. The filtration device holds up to 8 liters of water and the rate at which the element filters the water is 2.5 to 3 liters per hour. Villagers who purchased our locally made cookstoves from the initial recipients made their investment back in the first two months at a reduced rate in which these cookstoves use firewood. The firewood efficiency of the stoves resulted in total savings of about $140, or the cost of corn for 9 months and 10 days for a family, 3 months of a child’s college fees, or 2 goats. Of paramount importance, the cookstoves reduced the amount of smoke inside of homes that the inhabitants would ordinarily inhale on a daily basis by 70%, benefitting the health of residents and substantially reducing CO2 emissions.  Our team helped rural Guatemala has become a cleaner, greener environment.  We received immense satisfaction from seeing our goals realized. 

Lilly  is a sophomore at West Geauga High School in Chesterland, Ohio. She has been an active member of her school’s environmental team, the West Geauga Environmental Discovery Project, for about three years now. Lilly enjoys helping and promoting sustainability in as many ways as she can.

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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