reuse

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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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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