reuse

Another Way to Act on Climate: Getting Smart on Brownfields Reuse

For 20 years, the brownfields program has worked with local communities to help support reuse and development of former and current contaminated lands. Cleaning up brownfields has put a lot of land back into use, helping communities and boosting local economies. This work has another huge benefit, too: as we redevelop brownfield sites to significantly reduce the impact of climate change.

In Milwaukee, a 5-mile strip that was once the site of several industrial facilities is going through an extensive cleanup. Over 60,000 tons of contaminated soil and more than 40 underground storage tanks have been removed. One of the community’s ideas for the land’s next use is building a green, linear park, with bike trails to encourage lower-impact forms of transit. The park will use green infrastructure elements to reduce stormwater runoff, protecting local waterways during storms that can be made more intense by climate change.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Crushed Couch on Broadway

By Linda Longo

Sanitation workers crush a curbside couch.

Sanitation workers crush a curbside couch.

The other morning just outside my EPA office building at 290 Broadway in Manhattan on my way to get my morning coffee I saw a perfectly good couch being crushed by a solid waste truck. I wondered why someone would not want that couch. Then on my way back from coffee I saw the same solid waste workers crushing perfectly good office chairs, the kind with wheels and adjustable seating! I don’t need a new office chair and I don’t need a blue couch, but there’s got to be someone in New York City that does.

I had a long conversation with the solid waste worker (I regret not asking his name) and he told me this stuff is nothing compared to what he crushes in other, wealthier neighborhoods, like leather couches and oak tables and fine china. Seriously? Now I didn’t get the sense he was pulling my leg because I’ve seen good stuff out on the curbs with the piles of garbage too often. It’s commonplace in NYC maybe because we have small apartments or we get a better one or it has a rip or it just doesn’t fit out needs. I’ve tried to donate good items and it’s actually harder than you think. Places that sell used items only want things that are not ripped or stained. And my solid waste friend said he even crushes items from these stores on a regular basis because if they don’t sell it, then eventually they need to get rid of it, hence call the solid waste truck guy, and crush it, and pile it up in a landfill.

I wish I had the time and wherewithal to buy a big truck and follow my friend around to save the good items from being crushed. I’d have a big warehouse to store these items too and it’d be open 24 hours a day for anyone to come and take for free. I’d even have a free delivery service – because I know that’s always an issue in NYC too – many of us don’t have cars. If you have a similar reaction, here are a few websites for getting rid of unwanted items:

Reuse Marketplace

Build It Green NYC

About the Author: Linda started her career with EPA in 1998 working in the water quality program. For the past seven 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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What will you rethink?

by Jaclyn McIlwain

 

rethinkI love rocking a brand new pair of shoes, feeling fresh as I walk through Rittenhouse Square on my way to lunch at a hip restaurant. But, wait. Don’t I already have a pair of blue suede shoes? Didn’t I just go grocery shopping last night?

If you’re lucky enough to have the luxury of dining out and shopping in Center City, do you ever stop and think about where all of these products are coming from? The exotic food, the jeans you’re wearing. What went into these goods? Answer: natural resources, materials, and energy. In fact, 42% of carbon pollution emissions in the U.S. are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. To build a more sustainable future, we almost certainly will need to rethink how we source, consume, and dispose of goods.

Don’t be disheartened! There are a million ways to rethink your daily practices. By simply reexamining the choices you make day-to-day, you have the power to affect change and work toward a sustainable future: from shopping (“Could I borrow this from someone instead? Can I reuse something I already have in my home?”) to your daily routine (washing clothes in cold water and turning off the tap when brushing your teeth) to how you dispose of products and materials that you just can’t use any more (think: recycling and composting!) There’s no better time than Pollution Prevention Week to commit to actions that improve your health, help the planet and save money.

EPA is highlighting steps you can take toward sustainability during Philadelphia’s 2014 Park(ing) Day. Park(ing) Day is a national event held on the third Friday in September, where mundane metered parking spaces are converted into temporary miniature parks throughout the city. Park(ing) Day re-imagines the possibilities of 170 square feet of public space, celebrates parks and public spaces nationwide, and raises awareness of the need for more pedestrian-friendly spaces in urban areas.

Visit EPA’s temporary park and explore how you can save water, reduce waste, prevent pollution, and act on climate. There are a few more sustainability surprises waiting for you this Friday, September 19 at 18th and Sansom Streets, but I won’t give it all away. You’ll have to come see (and learn) for yourself!

What if we could transform the city for just one day? What if we could transform the way we make our purchases, for good? We can, and we are.

What will you rethink?

 

About the author: Jaclyn McIlwain has worked at EPA since 2010 in the Water Protection Division. A Philadelphia native, Jaclyn studied environmental science and is a graduate of the 2012 Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program. When not in the office, she can be found hiking, camping, or practicing yoga.

 

 

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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Earth Month Tip: Reuse!

The most effective way to reduce waste is to avoid creating it in the first place. The process of making a new product creates carbon pollution. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment, and save money.

Ever heard the old refrain, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure? Instead of discarding unwanted appliances, tools, or clothes, try selling or donating them. Not only will you be reducing waste, you’ll be helping others.

Check out more tips for reusing.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

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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Let’s Celebrate America Recycles Day Together!

 

America Recycles Day

 America Recycles Day is November 15, and we want to celebrate with you. On Wednesday, November 13, at 12:30 p.m. EST, join us on Twitter to talk about what you and your community are doing to help reduce waste and conserve resources. 

Experts from our Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response will be with us to listen to your ideas and answer your questions. Be ready to share what you and your community are doing to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  Does your community have curbside recycling? Are you creatively reusing stuff? What’s your best thrift shop or garage sale find? Perhaps the kids in your community are starting environment clubs. Or has your community created a sharing library for things like tools, seeds, and more?

You can participate on November 13 at 12:30 p.m. EST by following @EPAlive and the #AskEPA hashtag on Twitter. If you don’t use Twitter, you can still watch the discussion at @EPAlive and #AskEPA. We look forward to chatting with you!

About the author: Ellie Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She is inspired by cool people doing cool green things.

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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New England Students Recycle

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

by Jeri Weiss 

After cataloguing every pen and binder in my son’s school supply pile, we’re still left with a long list of things to buy before he heads back to college.  Could it be true that none of last year’s binders could be used again? Didn’t we just buy him a fan for his room last year? What happened to the extensions cords and that plastic bin for his extra school supplies?

Last week I saw how college students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) are changing how we can think about back-to-school shopping.  A few years ago, a group of UNH students were appalled at the amount of furniture, clothing, and useful stuff being tossed out at the end of the school year.  They learned four times as much trash got picked up in May as in other months throughout the year.  They realized lots of stuff tossed out was in good condition.  And they saw thousands of items that could be cleaned and re-sold in the fall to a new crop of students.

The UNH students raised $9,000 and developed a plan to collect unwanted items in the spring and store them.  Student volunteers helped clean and organize items before the Trash 2 Treasure yard sale in fall. The first year the sale was in a tent and raised $12,000. The next year they needed a larger space and made $20,000. This year, the third Trash 2 Treasure sale was so big it was moved to the UNH Hockey Arena.

According to UNH, the sale diverted 45 tons of waste last year, bringing the total amount diverted over three years to 110 tons. This has saved UNH about $10,000 in disposal fees. The total raised over the three years was $54,000. Through the sale, parents and students saved about $216,000 at the sale.

This is Reuse at its finest.

The students who started the Trash 2 Treasure sale have expanded. They have gotten themselves a board of directors and advisors. They call themselves the Post-Landfill Action Network and hope to support other colleges and universities. Schools that don’t have similar programs can get funding and resources to start one. And the network will support schools that already have move-out programs to help them improve.

It’s great to see students taking action, and to watch as they work to help other colleges and universities reduce their waste.  Maybe next year my son will buy some gently used binders and plastic bins at his own school’s yard sale rather than buying new supplies he won’t need in a year.

Learn more about Post-Landfill Action Network: www.postlandfill.org.

UNH

About the author: Jeri Weiss works in EPA’s Boston office, where she is one of the region’s experts on recycling and waste management issues.

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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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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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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Gray is the New Green

By Elisa Hyder

Reduce, reuse and recycle. Did you know this common phrase referring to “green” or environmentally friendly practices applies to water?

Every day, water goes down the drain when taking a shower, washing dishes, or simply washing hands. This “gray water” generated from these domestic activities can be recycled for other uses. Gray water is different from tap water that is safe for drinking (white water), and the water from flushing a toilet (black water). Though not suitable for drinking, Gray water contains considerably lower level of contaminants than black water, making it easier to treat and recycle.

The cleaned gray water can be put back into the home for some domestic activities such as watering plants or suppling toilet water. Reusing just a gallon of gray water a day for a year can save enough water for up to 36 showers! And it reduces the amount of drinking water needing to be treatment for human consumption.

However, gray water is not perfect – definitely not safe to drink – and needs to be handled carefully.

  • Gray water should only be stored for a limited time.  The nutrients and organic matter in gray water start to break down after about 24 hours and can start to emit a foul odor!
  • In some cases, the water should not be used unless it has been treated properly with a cleaning system or filter to prevent contamination. This treating process can be done in a variety of ways, some doable in the home or business place. There are both man-made filters and natural systems that gray water can go through for treatment, like distillation and membrane filtration.
  • Local public health agencies may have requirements to follow when developing and implementing a gray water system, so make sure you check with local jurisdictions to fully understand local requirements if you’re interested in your own system.
  • Check out these helpful FAQs for more on how to use gray water safely.

Learn more about water recycling and reuse here and here!  Interested in even more detailed info?  Check out EPA’s 2012 Guidelines for Water Reuse – Chapter 2.4.2.1 focuses on Individual On-site Reuse Systems and Graywater Reuse.

Some handy homeowners have installed diversion systems to reuse their own gray water, particularly in drought-prone and remote areas.  Water reuse also gets larger buildings points in the LEED certification process; buildings like the Solaire residences in New York City use recycled water from the building for toilet flushing, landscape irrigation and cooling towers.  There are even cases where wastewater treatment plants provide their treated water to local businesses for commercial or industrial use, such as Google’s data center in Douglas County, Georgia (check out the video!), irrigating golf courses, and others from a list of reuse projects in New Jersey.

Have you heard of gray water being reused near where you live?  Would you try this at your house?  Always take care to ensure that you are reusing gray water safely, and check with your local health department if you’re not sure.

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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