recycling

Free Newspapers Saved From Becoming Litter

By Linda Longo

"I thought to take the photo after I picked up the papers, but notice the green NYC recycling box in the background."

On many New York City street corners you’ll see those free newspaper boxes.   There’s one on my block in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.   Every so often I’ll notice our box is tipped over and the wind has scattered the free papers and everyone walks past oblivious. I’ve done it too. I’ll walk past thinking “well, I should pick it all up because a garbage can is right there”,  then I’m two blocks past and figure someone else will do the good deed.   This Sunday on my way to the local farmer’s market on 5th avenue and 4th street I saw that the wind was really enjoying the free papers.  The entire box was tipped over and the flimsy lid was open.  I placed my grocery cart off to the side and began to pick up the heaps of newspapers.  I quickly noticed the papers were not badly damaged so I righted the tipped over box and proceeded to place the papers back inside.  The few that were muddy I conveniently placed in the green NYC newspaper recycling box just feet away.   No one pointed and laughed at me like I secretly imagined they would.  People kept to their business, but I hope they noticed me because maybe the next time they see spilled free papers they’ll do the same.

I don’t go around picking up trash on a regular basis because I don’t want to get dirty, but that’s my hang up.  We need to understand that trash makes it way to the streets and into the sewer openings where it clogs our drainage system.  And when as little as 2” of rain happens our NYC sewers can get overwhelmed and sometimes this trash ends up in our waterways.  So if we all take a little effort to think about putting our gum wrappers in our pockets till we pass a trash can, or picking up the spilled newspapers, we’ll all contribute just a little to the welfare of our city.  And by the way, on the way home from the market I saw a lady open the free newspaper box and take one.  That made my day.

About the author: Linda started her career with EPA in 1998 working in the water quality program. For the past 7 years she’s helped regulated facilities understand how to be in compliance with EPA enforcement requirements. Outside of work Linda enjoys exploring neighborhoods of NYC, photographing people in their everyday world, and sewing handbags made from recycled materials that she gives to her 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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Proud to be a Green Panda

By Mrs. Rebecca Bedard
One of the best things about being a fourth grader at Gilford Elementary School is being able to be a Green Panda!  Green Pandas play a very important role at our school.  We help keep our school green and promote recycling to our friends and families!  At the start of our fourth grade year we are given the opportunity to volunteer to be a Green Panda.  Most of us have wanted to be Green Pandas since third grade!  We believe in helping the environment, recycling at home and at school, and want to help others to learn about recycling and become a part of the program.

Every Wednesday morning a group of Pandas gets dropped off before the school day even begins, and make our way to the art room, where our adventure begins.  We are led by Ms. Valpey.  With her help, and the help of many other adults in our building, we are sent in groups of two to three to collect recyclables.

There are maps that show the building and we are all given an area we are responsible for. Our task is to collect the recycling bins and bring all recycled paper and bottles back to the art room.  After collecting all the bins the fun begins.  We get the privilege of dumping the containers into the dumpsters.  Each week we fill the dumpster up, and every Thursday our dumpster is emptied and our paper is on its way to be recycled and used again as something new!

A bonus to being a Green Panda is that we get totally awesome t-shirts to wear, so everyone knows what we are doing.  We are so lucky to be a part of the Green Pandas and we know we are completing a very important task.  We have formed friendships and we have a fun time together, while helping to make the earth a better place – one recycling bin at a time!

About the author: Mrs. Rebecca Bedard is a fourth grade teacher at Gilford Elementary School in Gilford, New Hampshire. She grew up in Gilford and now lives there with her husband and two dogs. She loves anything outdoors and you can always find her with her dogs!

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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Diving Green for Science

By Sean Sheldrake

EPA’s Seattle dive van loaded up with a full ton of dive gear—plus a bicycle.

In previous blog posts, we’ve shared how EPA diving scientists support cleanups in the nation’s waterways.  In this post, I’ll talk about how we are working to “dive green” while undertaking EPA’s mission.

Getting On Site

Getting on site to conduct a scientific survey usually involves using some kind of vehicle.  So, we do it as “greenly” as possible:

  • Our gear and our divers like to travel together! The dive van gets virtually the same mileage whether it carries one diver or four – travelling together saves tax dollars.
  • Van pooling this way lowers our environmental footprint – fewer emissions of air pollutants protect the air we breathe and there’s less pollution to wash into our waterways and ocean ecosystem when it rains.
  • Did you know most brake pads contain metals that hurt fish?  Fewer vehicles on the road also lowers the amount of pollution from brake pads getting into the environment and washing into the ocean ecosystem.
  • And we try to be creative – one of our divers bicycled to and from the boat launch to a friend’s house! You can see the bike tucked into the van in the photo above.

No American Idle

EPA vessel at anchor with divers below.

Whether it’s our van or our vessel, we cut the engine whenever possible. After all, what’s good for kids riding on school buses is good for diving scientists carrying out EPA’s mission.  Many of our van drivers are surprised to learn that it’s more efficient to turn the engine off than let it idle for even 30 seconds!

Reducing engine use is important for our vessel, too, since it’s mainly powered by diesel engines, which can generate large amounts of particulates as well as sulfur and nitrous oxides. Anchoring and turning off the engine helps keep the air and our waterways cleaner.

Diving Scientists Need to Eat

EPA diver with a wireless communication unit.

Once out on the vessel divers are a hungry bunch! We pack meals and plenty of snacks, and carefully separate out all compostable material and recyclables to bring back to the lab for proper disposal. On one recent trip on the Elwha, our crew kept some 60 pounds of trash out of the landfill!

“Scotty, I Need More Power!”

Our underwater lights, communications systems, and scientific equipment run on a lot of ‘juice,’ so to cut waste we use rechargeables.   Just one diver using a wireless communications unit to talk to their buddy diving and to their “tenders” topside can go through up to forty AA type batteries per week! Rechargeable batteries that conk out after a few hundred charges get added to the recyclables we take back to the lab rather than sent to a landfill where they might leach heavy metals.

EPA divers make a positive impact on the ocean environment in the work that we do, and the green way we do it.  It’s also a positive example that we hope inspires divers and diving scientists elsewhere!  What else can you think of to reduce our footprint?

Read more about the latest in EPA scientific diving at facebook.com/EPADivers.

About the author: Sean Sheldrake is part of the Seattle EPA Dive unit and is also a project manager working on the Portland Harbor cleanup in Oregon.  He serves on the EPA diving safety board, responsible for setting EPA diving policy requirements.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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P.S. 166 is a Green Elementary School

P.S. 166 Cafeteria Composting Setup

By Karen O’Brien

How much garbage does one school cafeteria generate each day? At P.S. 166, the Richard Rodgers  School of the Arts and Technology on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, elementary school children and school staff have teamed up to reduce their cafeteria garbage from 12 bags per day to just one!  With the assistance of school staff and student monitors, everyone from kindergarteners through fifth graders separate liquid, compost, recyclables and garbage from their breakfast and lunch.  The school has also switched to biodegradable bagasse trays, as an alternative to Styrofoam.  P.S. 166 participated in a 2012 composting pilot project with seven other local schools in Manhattan District 3, reducing the volume of cafeteria waste by 85%, and diverting food waste from landfills each day.

Under the leadership of the Green and Wellness Committee, and with the cooperation of teachers and custodial staff, P.S. 166 has implemented environmentally sustainable practices throughout the school.  Each green program is an excellent opportunity to engage students, teachers, school staff and parents, learning about recycling, pollution prevention, climate change and sustainable living.  Waste reduction and recycling programs at the school include composting food, and recycling bottle caps, electronics, and textiles.

P.S. 166 participates in the Green Cup Energy Conservation Challenge each year, challenging .  students to reduce their energy consumption by turning off lights and unplugging appliances in the class room.  Each class room is assigned two “Climate Captains,” who assume a leadership role ensuring the school does its best to conserve electricity and reduce greenhouse gases.

P.S. 166 won the Green Cup Challenge in 2010 with a reduction in electricity useage over a six month period of 17.75%.  In subsequent years, P.S. 166 has reduced energy consumption even more, but as a mark of progress, this was not enough to take the Cup! In 2011, PS 166 won 4th place and a $10,000 prize for reducing its electricity consumption by 23.3%, saving $2,403 on their electric bill in one month, and prevented 19,815 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment. Other schools are catching on, making the competition fierce for this year’s Green Cup challenge! For more information about greening schools, check out greenschoolsny.com and P.S. 166’s Green page.

About the author: Karen O’Brien is an Environmental Engineer in the Clean Water Division of EPA Region 2.  She holds Master and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from the Cooper Union in New York City, and is a licensed Professional Engineer.  At EPA, Karen works to regulate discharges of wastewater under the Clean Water Act, and has performed temporary assignments in the fields of climate change, pollution prevention, and air quality monitoring.  Karen has three children, two of whom attend P.S. 166!

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 Catalog Conundrum

By Dave Deegan

We’re not exactly sure when it was, but we made a big mistake in the realm of “Murphy’s Law of Unintended Consequences.” You see, we bought some stuff from a Web and catalog retailer.

The problem wasn’t with the outdoor furniture – or was it something for the garden? Or maybe it was from that kitchen supply store? Whatever it was, the stuff we bought was fine. The problem is, once we bought something, we ended up on the mailing list to get catalogs from dozens of places we’d never shopped with or even heard of.

It’s not that all these places sell things we don’t really want or need – some of the goods look just fine. It’s just that, especially this time of year, we are getting buried under the daily mailbox delivery of catalogs. Dozens of them. Pounds of them. It feels like the scene from “Fantasia,” during the Wizard’s Apprentice, when the magic broomsticks just keep multiplying over and over again. Here come more catalogs. Sometimes we receive two copies of the same catalog, one addressed to me and one to my wife. Help! Please make it stop!

Sure, we dutifully separate them from our normal trash, and put them with our recyclables for curbside pickup. But it feels like an enormous waste of paper, ink, energy to produce and transport, postage costs and human effort to compile all these pages and pages (and pages and pages) of things we don’t particularly want to buy. All of these resources, and taxpayer-subsidized postage, for us to quickly put them into the recycle pile.

My wife, who has a bit more patience and practicality to solve this sort of thing than I do, got on the Web and discovered that consumers can remove their names from mailing lists to keep unwanted mail from being sent in the first place. A Web search shows that there are places that can help. Some of them are even free.

EPA has some recommendations for how you can reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive.  Do you have any good strategies to reduce unwanted mail?

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

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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Tis the Season to Recycle

By Stuart Reed

As the nation’s largest seller of appliances, Sears Holdings Corp. has long championed initiatives and programs that save energy, and respect and protect the environment. That’s why, as the first and largest retail partner to join EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program back in 2007, today we’re proud to commemorate RAD’s sixth anniversary, and celebrate RAD’s accomplishments in protecting the climate and ozone layer.

As a RAD partner, Sears is committed to providing our customers an environmentally friendly appliance disposal service, where we recycle your discarded refrigerator, freezer, air conditioner, or dehumidifier when you purchase a new one – in California, we’ll pick up your old appliances for recycling even if you don’t buy a new one. We recover the refrigerants from these old appliances and make sure they aren’t released to the atmosphere, where they could harm the ozone layer and climate system. Did you know that Americans dispose of more than 9 million fridges and freezers every year? In 2011 alone, Sears’ recycling of refrigerant, insulating foam, metals, plastic and glass helped prevent the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 200,000 cars for one year.
We are also proud to be an Energy Star Partner of the Year Award recipient. By buying ENERGY STAR®-qualified appliances, customers can save money on their utility bills, and become more energy efficient.

In 2010 Sears began The Big Switch, a program aimed at helping families remove and recycle 5 million older, less efficient appliances from the energy grid, with the benefits of saving energy, responsibly disposing of material and keeping it out of landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately saving families money on their utility bills.

Protecting the environment and inspiring others to do the same is a high priority for Sears. You can learn more here about how you can do your part to become more energy efficient. Changes come in all sizes, not just appliance-sized ones – if every American home replaced just one light bulb with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save about $680 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of emissions from 800,000 cars for one year. So this holiday season, whether you’re buying new appliances or just decorating your home, remember that everyone can play a role in protecting our environment.

About the author: Stuart Reed is the Senior Vice President and President – Home Services, Sears Holdings Corp.

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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Help Put the “E’s” in E-Cycling

By Grace Parrish

Since childhood, recycling has been an effortless task that was part of my daily routine. Using five bins labeled: aluminum, plastic, glass, paper, and tin, I thought I was the bee’s knees when it came to being eco-friendly. During my internship at the EPA this fall, I realized that although it is beneficial to keep these items out of the waste stream, I was mistaken in thinking my responsibility ended there. I always recycled my yogurt cups, pizza boxes, and cell phone boxes, but never thought about where the phone itself ends up. My role in recycling must extend a bit further to “e-cycling,” otherwise known as the recycling of electronics.

In this era, everyone’s buzzing with the newest laptops, cell phones, TVs, cameras, you name it! I am guilty of getting caught up in this hype. As a student at the University of Maryland, I must keep up with the latest trends and I rely on my cell phone and laptop daily to receive emails, check class information, research, and of course for everyone’s favorite, Facebook.

Now I find myself questioning where these devices end up once I’m done with them. During my time with the EPA, I gained a fresh perspective on electronics beyond tearing apart the box to a new cell phone received during the holidays.

According to the EPA, we generate almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics every year in the United States. By recycling electronics, we can do our part to improve the health of our environment. E-cycling lessens pollution, shrinks landfills, saves resources from manufacturing, and conserves precious metals, including gold and silver, and other materials used in production. EPA is working with big retailers and manufacturers in its Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge to make sure they are recycling electronics in a safe and responsible manner.

So next time you bee-line it to the store for a gadget that is luring you in, think first if you really need it; when the urge inevitably takes over, rethink your options about where your previous electronics will go. Is donating to a family member, friend, or charity an option? If not, check out an electronics take-back location near you, simply visit: “Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Used Electronics?” We can do our part to put the “e’s”—electronics and environment, in e-cycling!

About the author: Grace Parrish is an intern for the EPA office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, and is intrigued by the impact of recycling electronics. She hopes that her pursuit of an Environmental Science and Policy degree at the University of Maryland, College Park will facilitate her in promoting the ideal of sustainability in a future career.

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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Celebrating Six Years of RAD Partnership

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By Gene Rodrigues

They say that you can judge a person by the company he or she keeps. That’s true for businesses as well, and it’s why we’re so proud to be one of 50 utilities, retailers, manufacturers and states that have a strong commitment to appliance recycling – among other energy efficiency programs — that will lead the country to its great green future. Today we celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program.

California utilities were on the forefront of appliance recycling programs more than 20 years ago (we’ve been a RAD partner since 2006), and in May, Southern California Edison customers recycled their 1 millionth refrigerator or freezer.

Through this program, everybody wins. The customer’s electric bills are lowered when they replace an old, inefficient refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR-qualified one that doesn’t have to work as hard to keep food cool. The utility wins because the cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you never use. And the environment wins because there are fewer greenhouse gases and other pollutants that enter the atmosphere, as well as less material that’s sent to landfills. Consider that SCE customers saved a total of 7.9 billion kilowatt-hours when they recycled their 1 millionth refrigerator. That is equivalent to avoiding emissions of 1.1 million cars for a year, planting 140 million trees, and saving enough energy to power 13.5 million homes for a month. And of course, collectively, those customers saved around $1 billion.

There are more opportunities than ever to become energy efficient, no matter who you are – homeowner or renter or business, country or city dweller. Take the first step today and visit your utility’s website to find out how you can contribute to America’s great green future.

About the author: Gene Rodrigues is Director of Customer Energy Efficiency & Solar for Southern California Edison. Gene serves on the boards of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, the China-US Energy Efficiency Alliance and California’s Low Income Oversight Board. He also serves on the advisory board of USC’s Center for Sustainable Cities, the strategy committee for the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Energy Efficiency and the steering committee for the Alliance to Save Energy’s Global Action Network for Energy Efficiency Education. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented Gene with its 2012 Climate Leadership Award for individuals.

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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How to Have a Green Holiday Without Environment Blues

By Kelsey Sollner

‘Tis better to give than to receive, but that doesn’t mean you should make the environment pay the price. Here are some tips I’ll be doing this holiday season to reduce waste, save energy and spend less money.

  • Before going gift shopping, I make a list of exactly what I need and plan my route so I will make as few stops as possible. A successful shopping trip is one where I can buy what I need all in one shot. This saves me time and gasoline.
  • We’re switching to decorative LED holiday lights in my household. They use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent lights. We also use a timer to automatically shut them off during daylight.
  • When hosting big holiday parties, I turn the thermostat down a few notches. As guests trickle in, the temperature becomes comfortable and not too stuffy.

Here are some more things you can do for a greener holiday:

  • Skip disposable flatware when entertaining. Use cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses and silverware.
  • Buy a live cut tree or a potted one you can plant after the ground thaws. Check with your local solid waste department about recycling trees after the holidays are over.
  • Instead of buying new rolls of wrapping paper, wrap presents in old posters, maps, calendars, sheet music, wallpaper scraps, reusable cloth bags, kids’ drawings or newspaper. Give gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates. If you must use wrapping paper, avoid foil and plastic-wrapped paper, as they are not recyclable.
  • Consider the durability and usefulness of a gift before you buy it. Cheaper items may wear out more quickly, making waste and costing you money.
  • Compost your food scraps whenever possible.
  • Consider using a digital camera instead of a disposable one. You will save money on film and reduce waste.

Incorporate these tips into your holiday routine and you can have a greener, cleaner home this season. Remember, spending time with loved ones is what the holidays are about, not material things. How will you make your holiday greener?

About the author: Kelsey Sollner is a senior from Susquehanna University majoring in journalism. She works as an intern in the EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

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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Recycling is Still RAD – Reflecting on Six Years of EPA Partnership

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By Melissa Fiffer

Behind the wheel of a pick-up truck, driving the cardboard recycling route, is not where you would typically expect to find an undergraduate environmental science and policy major from New York City. But in my college days I was determined to figure out how I could help improve the environment, and decided I had to experience it for myself. That’s why I chose to do my work study assignment with the recycling service on campus. Sure enough, I learned a lot about the practical and financial ins and outs of recycling options. Perhaps more important, though, was the experience of collaborating with the recycling service and the students to reach common goals.

Nowadays I no longer drive a truck, just a compact car, but collaborating on recycling goals to protect the environment is a major part of my job here at EPA. I manage a voluntary partnership called the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program. On a typical day, I talk to appliance recyclers about the trends they’re seeing in components of old fridges, freezers, window air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Like recycling cardboard or aluminum, recycling appliances makes sense to minimize waste, and there are other important reasons, too. Refrigerants and foams, for example, often contain substances that can harm the ozone layer and climate system if they’re released rather than recovered at an appliance’s end-of-life. Or, I might chat with a partner utility about an upcoming campaign to collect and properly recycle old, inefficient fridges sitting in customers’ basements. Did you know that getting rid of a 20-year-old fridge could reduce your electricity bill by more than $115 per year?

Today, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the sixth anniversary of the RAD program, and welcoming our 50th partner, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. RAD partners include 43 utilities, four retailers, one manufacturer, and two state affiliates. Since 2006, partners have helped recycle nearly three million appliances, providing a climate benefit equal to keeping about 1.3 million cars off the road for one year, and can you imagine how much material they’ve kept out of landfills? There are 160 pounds of recyclable metals, plastic and glass in just one fridge. So, what are you waiting for?

If you’re buying a new, Energy Star qualified fridge this holiday season, the feeling of properly recycling your old one through a RAD partner would really add to your holiday cheer.

About the author: Melissa Fiffer has worked on environmental policy and partnerships for the federal government since 2007, when she signed on as a Presidential Management Fellow. She holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Her most RAD achievement was the day that her grandfather, still working in bulk food sales, gave in to her grandmother’s urging and recycled the fridge and chest freezer in their basement.

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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