reuse

Green your Halloween

Many things we buy or use during Halloween are disposable, used only once, or synthetic. Here are some tips on how you can green your Halloween:

-Make a homemade costume out of recycled materials or spare clothing.

-Carry a reusable bag to trick or treat.

-Hand out recycled pencils or giveaways instead of candy.

-Swap costumes with friends each year before Halloween.

-Make homemade decorations out of recycled materials.

-Be sure to only use LED or solar lights to decorate.

-Reuse your decorations next year.

-Donate your costume if you are not going to wear it again.

    Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

    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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    “Fashion Show! It’s what I do…”

    By Lorna Rosenberg

    It’s what I do with friends and family when I come back from shopping at my favorite consignment stores with bags of fashion potential. The things I love most about consignment shopping are that it fits my style, my budget and my environmental ethic — keeping great clothes out of landfills, supporting local economies, and reducing the need for mass producing even more clothes, shoes and accessories.

    I like keeping my wardrobe up to date with outfits that are new to me. I find department stores dizzying with too many choices that don’t interest me. Clothing in a consignment shop has already been selected twice, once by the original buyer and next by the shop owner, so I find the choices are better. Because the prices are much less than a retail store, I have been known to take fashion risks, like the lime-green leopard jacket that I couldn’t resist or the “flapper” sequined cocktail dress that has now been demoted to Halloween-wear. Depending on the shop, I have been known to clinch famous designers, like Betsy Johnson, Halston and Escada for a fraction of the original prices.

    Consignment shops tend to have one-of-a-kind and size (unless they are re-selling stock from a closed boutique) so there is a great opportunity to mix and match for your own body type, for what looks best on you. With rare exception, I only make purchases that are in perfect condition, don’t need major alteration, and that complete an outfit. My latest cost-saving strategy is to start my shopping in the $10 and $20 rack and build my outfit from there. Environmentally, consignment shopping helps me hang onto some of my existing favorites by purchasing a new accessory or complementary item to update my look for the next season.

    So now that you know how to spruce-up your fall wardrobe in a cost effective, eco-friendly way, get out there and do some shopping.

    About the author: Lorna Rosenberg is the Green and Healthy Schools Coordinator in Region 3. She is grateful to have been located in Center City Philadelphia with EPA for 28 years which has contributed immensely to her clothes consigning acumen, office couture and the local economy.

    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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    Blood, Sweat and Dirty Fingernails

    Most middle school students don’t usually spend their time growing their own food.  Green Cove Spring Middle School’s 7th and 8th graders are challenging that perception: they started the BSDF Garden, otherwise known as the Blood, Sweat, and Dirty Fingernails Garden.

    The inspiration to grow an edible school garden started with the kids’ desire to learn firsthand about where food comes from and to literally enjoy the fruits – and veggies – of their labor.  At Green Cove Spring middle school, gardening has become a way to encourage students to work together, form a community, and learn.

    The 7th and 8th graders began collecting a variety of vegetable seedlings and decided to reuse clean paint buckets as the planters.   By getting involved in gardening at school and creating garden classrooms, they were provided with real experiences on how food grows, where it comes from and how important gardens are for the environment.  For many of the students, it was an experience they will never forget because it introduced them to gardening and cultivating food. It may have been messy but they are already noticing results.   In fact, they have a tomato plant that has grown quickly and is producing several tomatoes already.  Some of the students have really taken an interest in planting and caring for the garden that they are taking some of the stronger plants home to care for after school lets out.

    Despite not knowing how to start, these students have been pretty successful.  Can’t wait to find out what the students at Green Cove Spring Middle School come up with next!

    Yvonne Gonzalez recently finished an internship  with the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She recently moved to Washington, DC to work at EPA permanently.  She received her dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

    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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    One Man’s Trash or Treasure?

    paperWhat do you do with a ton of used paper?

    No, this is not a trick question and the answer isn’t “throw it away.”

    Recently, a group of 6th grade students in Hebron, Nebraska taught me a new way to use all that extra paper. They’ve come up with a way to use shredded paper and turn it into pulp.  Using little cups as molds, they shaped the pulp into starter pots. The pots would dry for a week and then they would add a second layer of pulp to make the pot sturdy and strong.

    After the pot would dry, the students would add soil and plant flowers to grow.  These students then adopted a “grandparent” at the local elder care community center, where they gave away the potted plants.  The neatest thing was watching the students share their recycling and reuse art project with their new friends.

    The students are diverting hundreds of pounds of paper waste with this project.   What are some ways you can reuse paper in the community?

    Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received a dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

    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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    Confessions of a Shoe-Aholic: How to Make Your Shoe Obsession Eco-Friendly

    By Heidi Harrison

    I am a girl who loves shoes. Flats, sandals, sneakers, and heels—I don’t discriminate. Recently I began to feel guilty for this un-environmentally friendly, consumerist obsession. I started to wonder—is there any way to be environmentally friendly and love shoes? The answer is yes, there are several ways to maintain your shoe addiction and minimize your carbon footprint. Here are the rules:

    1. Don’t buy shoes on a whim – if there is a pair you’ve been dreaming about take a while to see if you really need them. Impulse shopping is always a big environmental and financial no-no. You might find that a pair you already have will do the job just fine.
    2. Or, if they don’t, swap shoes with your friend for a month (given that you two have the same size feet). It’s just like getting those new shoes from the store, except the excitement won’t be tainted by guilt. You can even have a shoe trading party with all of your girlfriends (Yankee-swap, anyone?)
    3. Check out the thrift store shoe department before you hit the mall. You may find a pair you love for a fraction of the price—and carbon footprint. (Here’s a jingle to remind you: When it comes to shoes, always reuse!)
    4. When you have thought about it and still want that new pair make sure you’re looking in the right place. A month ago I bought a pair of Rainbow Sandals and I have worn them every day since. I bought them because the Rainbow company hand-makes their products using eco-friendly hemp and leather. Make sure that when you buy shoes, they have been made to last a long time—that way you won’t be needing new ones for years. By getting all of the use out of them that you can, you are decreasing your shoe-related carbon footprint.
    5. You may be thinking there are types of shoes you just can’t buy used, or made of eco-friendly materials because they will not be as functional as their non-eco-friendly prototypes. One example you may be thinking of is running shoes. I am an avid runner and so I can relate to this concern. As a runner, the important thing is to have the support and durability you need. However, there are ways to find “green shoes” that will last mile after mile. Running shoes with minimal environmental impact include those built with eco-friendly materials and fewer materials in general (such as “barefoot” running shoes, made with Vibram soles and environmentally-friendly materials).

    I’m certainly not carbon footprint-less yet but I’m working on it. Who knew that my favorite apparel could also be an opportunity for me to get creative and kinder to the environment? And just so you know, I’m a size 9 ½ in case you want to invite me to your next shoe swap!

    About the author: Heidi Harrison is a volunteer intern in the EPA’s Public Affairs Division. She is a rising senior at Bowdoin College in Maine, her home state. She is majoring in Government and Legal Studies as well as concentrates in Creative Writing (so she is very excited to contribute to this blog). She has also interned at the United States Attorney’s Office in Portland, Maine for the last two summers. Upon graduation she hopes to enter into politics, marketing, or public relations – largely dependent on where she can get a job.

    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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    Look what I Can Do!

    What do you do with old wood planks or pieces when you don’t need them anymore? Throw them out? Nope, I’ll tell you.

    My name is Josh and I’ve been building things since I was 9 (I’m 11 now) from old wood and lumber. It’s my hobby because I like the feel of it, nice and worn in like a broken in soft baseball glove that I’ve used for the past 3 years.

    This spring, my dad was getting ready to replace our back deck. It was in pretty bad shape with cracks and some warping because of the weather and snow. When he started the new deck, he was going to throw out the pieces of the old one. I had learned about the 3 R’s in school and tried to convince him for days not to throw away any pieces. They could be reused. He finally said yes, as long as I did the picking up and sorting.

    I spent an entire spring break sorting the wood into piles so it could be recycled. There was some lumber that was rotted and unusable too. This pile was ground up for mulch in our backyard. My dad loved that idea because he wouldn’t have to buy any – saving money- and he wouldn’t have to haul it from the store home-saving his back.

    I liked it because we were not only reusing it but the mulch would still smell like cedar, especially after it rained.

    The wood that could be recycled, I used to make a swing using our front tree for my sister and me to share. I helped my dad make my little sister’s book shelf with some of the lumber. The rest was hauled off by people who could use it. One person used it to make some outdoor chairs.

    I think when I grow up, I’d like to design and build things from reused lumber. It’s better for the environment and looks really cool.

    Joshua is a 5th grader in Evanston, IL who loves playing middle school rugby, rollercoasters, and camping outdoors.

    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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    Trayless Tuesdays in NYC Schools Inspired by a 7 Year Old

    cartoon image

    Three years ago, I took my children to the Climate Change exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. The kids raced in and out of rooms and three quarters of the way through, my seven-year-old suddenly stopped mesmerized, contemplating a diorama of a polar bear standing on a pile of trash. She turned to me and said,  “I’m not eating school lunch anymore so I can save the polar bears.” In that pile of trash was a polystyrene foam lunch tray.

    I always asked my kids, “What did you eat today?” But I had never asked, “What did you eat ON today?” I was totally unaware of the 850,000 polystyrene trays used per day in NYC public schools.

    My kids did the math. That adds ups to153 million trays per year and almost 3 billion trays over the past 20 years. I did the research. These trays, composed of polystyrene, known commonly as Styrofoam, are used for only 20 to 30 minutes and then thrown away, exported to out-of-state landfills.

    Several NYC parent groups switched out polystyrene trays in their schools by self-funding the extra cost of alternative products, a prohibitive option for most schools. With the help of other parents and the inspiration of NYC’s 1.1 million public school children, we founded the grassroots organization, Styrofoam out of Schools.

    We scrapped our initial plan, to create a media blitz about the environmental concerns, when we learned that 75% of school meals served per day are either free or reduced. The possibility of adding to the already existing stigma around school food participation prompted us to find a different strategy.

    We became determined to find a solution for a 20% tray reduction by working with the Department of Education, rather than fighting them. The idea of Trayless Tuesdays developed out of this partnership. It’s simple: by not using polystyrene trays one day per week, we could quickly reach a 20% reduction goal.
    ________
    To hear more from Debby Lee and her partners in NYC and to learn how to implement Trayless Tuesdays in your school please tune in to the EPA Region 2 webinar Reducing Waste in Schools: Trayless Tuesdays,” on March 1 at 1:30pm. Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/649234322.

    Debby Lee Cohen is a public school mom, artist, educator, and co-founder and director of SOSNYC/Cafeteria Culture.

    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 Three R’s

    Every so often I wake up with the “The Three R’s” by Jack Johnson stuck in my head. Given where I work it’s an appropriate mantra to be bopping around to. I guess that part of my brain that runs on kids tunes doesn’t need coffee.

    “Reduce, reuse, recycle…”

    There are worse tunes to have on repeat in your brain, way worse! I’m grateful the catchy number exists on the less than glamorous subject of waste disposal. Perhaps it’s the warm-up to my workday. Fitting.

    The concept of the three R’s has been around for a long time and the three arrows are a recognizable icon, but there’s a new kid in town and they need to make some room.

    How about accomplishing all three, while making something really cool? Two weeks ago I posed a challenge to encourage readers to submit photos and accounts of an upcycled product they created. As promised, it’s time to show off your goods! Congratulations to Dennis Mijares who submitted this photo on January 31, 2012 on Flickr of purses made from plastic bags.

    nescafe

    Upcycling is like a landfill diet, why toss what we can use? Who knew that waste could look so good? I hope these photos inspire you to give it a try, do share photos of what you create! Professionally constructed to kids crafts alike are welcome. I must admit, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t see any cardboard mantelpieces…

    Talk to a friend about it and ask them if they’ve heard of the concept. Be sure to share that it’s good for us by cutting down on waste, helps spread environmental awareness and action and can even support local artisans and communities.

    It’s a great idea for a community or school fundraiser, start an upcycling project and let us know how it goes!

    If you haven’t Picked the 5 actions you can do for our environment where you live, get on it! Join the 4,000 likes on Facebook and the 8,222 others around the world who have made the official pledge. Share your story and inspire others to do the same!

    About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

    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 View from Vermont

    By Jeffrey Levy

    Ah, Vermont. Where I go to get away from my job, but also where I’m reminded of why I do my job.

    Every summer, we go to “camp,” the cabin on a Vermont lake built by my wife’s great-grandfather in 1913.  Think “rustic,” not “luxury.” The walls are plywood, the floors creak, there’s an abundance of spiders and usually a few mice, and it smells musty.  I try to convince my daughters that spiders help keep the mosquito population down, to mixed success. When I sit up late at night reading, or we stargaze, the world outside vanishes.  In other words, it’s heaven.

    Camp is where we take stuff like furniture and appliances when we buy new things for home. The recliner chair where I’m sitting to write this is at least 50 years old. Some of the books on the shelves date to the 1930s. The cupboard is full of plates from when my mother-in-law grew up. People here were reusing long before we started talking about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

    Our water is another subject related to EPA’s mission. For the first 15 years I came up here, we couldn’t drink the water from the tap because it came out of the lake; we had to buy water. Now we have a well, but I worry about getting it tested regularly. There’s never been heavy industry here, so swimming has always been ok. But when I consider how many lakes and rivers were seen as places to dump toxic chemicals, I can see how most U.S. water bodies weren’t fit for swimming or fishing when EPA was founded in 1970.

    One of the best things about camp is the clean air. We come in August, when DC is at its hottest and haziest. No code red days up here! When we hike up nearby mountains, and I’m sucking in lungfuls of air, I appreciate EPA’s efforts to make sure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

    I don’t mean to say that I’m constantly thinking about EPA when I come to Vermont. But it’s good to be reminded so directly why EPA’s mission is so important.

    Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you ever think about the environment when you do?

    About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993. Before becoming Director of Web Communications, he worked to protect the ozone layer and end acid rain.

    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 post.

    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.