reducing waste

Tackling the First R

By Lina Younes

I’ve always encouraged my family to abide by the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Personally, I’ve always made an effort to recycle while I’m at home, at work or on the road. If I don’t find a recycling bin readily available, I’ll hold on to the soda can or bottle and then discard it in the recycling bin I have at home. I’ll do the same with the free newspaper I read on the metro.

Frankly, recycling seems to be the easiest of the 3R principles to live by. In my opinion, the most difficult one to implement is the first one: reducing waste from the outset. It’s ironic that the most difficult principle to live by, reducing waste, is the one that has the greatest impact on the environment.

What are some of the benefits of reducing waste? Well, they include preventing pollution, saving energy and using fewer natural resources in the big scheme of things. But, one of the benefits that we can all understand at the personal level is that reducing waste actually saves us money!

How can you save money at home and have fewer things to throw in the trash? Well, buy products with less packaging. I know that individually wrapped items might seem practical, but how much paper or plastic wrapping will end up in the trash in the long run? Seems like an unnecessary waste to me. Another idea: choose reusable silverware, plates and cups at home and in the office.

Before you go grocery shopping, do you check your refrigerator and pantry to see what you really need? Are you sure that the vegetables in your refrigerator need to be thrown away? Can you, instead, make them into a casserole or freeze them so they won’t need to be thrown in the trash? Remember: we should feed people, not landfills.

With some planning, we all can work to make a difference in our environment. Do you have any tips to share with us? Have you done anything special lately to reduce your carbon footprint? We 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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Time to Recycle, MTA

A woman reaches out for a newspaper in front of the Astor Place Station in the East Village before heading down the stairs for her morning subway commute.

By Donna Somboonlakana

New York City, with its magnificent people, structures and convenient transportation system, is in need of recycling bins for glass, plastic, cans and paper, just about everywhere.  The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has the ultimate opportunity to make significant improvements in the way everyone views and manages the waste we all generate each day by living and working in NYC.  In an effort to create a more pleasant environment for everyone, the MTA could easily reduce enormous amounts of waste, produce green jobs, generate income, and make NYC a more livable city by simply placing recycling bins onto the platforms…what an incredible thought!  So, how can we get the MTA to give us a recycling program?

A recycling program appears to work best when there is a continuous supply of recyclable material.  In 2010, the annual ridership on the NYC subway systems was 1.6 billion people. I say that is a match! I understand that change is a hard thing to do, but sometimes it pays off. I made a simple commuting change when I first began working for EPA 21 years ago which resulted in my saving over $40,000.  Born, raised and still residing in New Rochelle, I used to take Metro North, then take the 4 or 5 subway to work.  Now, I drive only one extra mile to the Bronx, park for free and take the 5 train all the way downtown without having the stress of rushing to catch another train. Sweet. More

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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Green Offices

By Lina Younes

During last week’s blog I focused on the fact that with simple actions at home we can all contribute to environmental protection. One of individuals who left comments to that blog pointed out that many office buildings in the DC area leave the lights on after office hours and weekends. What an enormous waste of energy!

Did you know that the combined annual energy costs for US commercial buildings and industrial facilities is $202.3 billion? Did you know that about thirty percent of the energy used in buildings is done so inefficiently? So, what types of steps could we take to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings?

Many of the things we can do to improve energy efficiency in the office are not that different from some of the steps we take at home. How about turning off the lights when you’re not in the office? Replacing the bulbs in desk lamps with compact fluorescent lights will also use about 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. How about creating a green team among your co-workers to identify additional energy saving methods in the office?

In addition to energy, reducing waste is another way to make the workplace more environmentally friendly. We should all do our part to make a difference. How have you contributed to a healthier workplace?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. 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 in Greenversations 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.

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.