traveling

“Don’t Bring Unwanted Guests Home From Vacation”

By John Butler

Summer is here, and that means vacation. Warm sunny days, relaxation, and maybe that family vacation to a seaside hotel or mountain resort. In hotels large and small, a problem is lurking: bed bugs. The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest – feeding on blood, causing itchy bites, and generally irritating its human hosts.

Experts believe the increase in bed bugs in the U.S. may be due to more travel, lack of knowledge about prevention, and ineffective pest control practices by hotels.

So, I want to share some easy ways to avoid bringing bed bugs home from vacation.

  1. When you travel, take a flashlight along to inspect your hotel room. The most common place for bed bugs to hide is on the mattress and box spring. When not feeding, bed bugs can be found around the bed; near piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring; and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. Check furniture, the floor around the bed, behind the headboard, and even the closet and drawers.
  2. Look for warning signs. Other than seeing actual bugs, warning signs to look for include dark spots about the size of a pencil point on bedding, which could be from their fecal matter. Also, look for small white specks, which may be eggs. Being aware helps avoid spreading these excellent hitch hikers.
  3. Keep your luggage off the bed and floor.
  4. Inspect, inspect, inspect! If you find signs of bed bugs, notify the hotel immediately. If they aren’t giving you any satisfaction, you can call the local or county health department. Last October, a couple of co-workers and I stayed at a hotel that at first glance was not top-of-the-line. I thought for sure I’d find bed bugs. We looked high and low and when we were finished it looked like a wild boar had run through the rooms. But, we didn’t find any signs of bed bugs and my colleagues and I felt much better during our stay.
  5. When you return home from a trip, it is a smart idea to wash your traveling clothes as soon as you can to kill any stray hitch hikers. You might want to also dry them on high heat. Also, do a final inspection of your luggage before storing it away.

For more information on protecting yourself and your family from bed bugs.

About the author: John Butler is the Pesticides Expert for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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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To Drive Or Not To Drive. How Will I Get To My Family?

By Amy Miller

During the holidays we drive. I personally drive to see my mother at Thanksgiving and my in-laws at Christmas. I drive to find presents for my loved ones and I tend to be on the road for movies, sibling visits and snow fun during school breaks.

Most of the time I don’t even consider the options. Like staying home, for instance. Or taking a bus or a train as a family. My loved ones await. And the convenience of door to door service is too much to give up.

But what if I were to add up the cost. In dollars, yes, but not JUST in dollars. As the new lingo goes, it would be interesting to know the embedded costs as well.

To visit my mother is 270 miles, times two. That’s 44 gallons of gas and one quart of oil. That’s $5 in tolls and, in my case, $100 in parking fees (yup, those old NYC roots popping up again.) So, let’s call it $260.

And then the environmental costs. Taking my car just that once will create the amount of carbon that 10 tree seedlings can sequester in ten years. Or a tenth of an acre of pine forest in a year.

And besides the air pollution, there is the traffic congestion to which I contribute and the use of a car that will need to be repaired and replaced a little bit sooner with each journey it makes.

The bus might have cost $250 round trip; the train $400. The environmental costs? I’d like to say nothing, since these vehicles were going anyway, but of course the more of us who travel by public transportation, the more trains and buses will be on the road. Still, with the costs divided, we will call it negligible.

So what is the numerical value of protecting the environment? What is the worth of relaxing instead of fighting traffic? How many angels fit on a pin? These numbers are elusive, but real. We are already paying to fix pollution problems we created. And we are already suffering health costs born of our ailing environment. Someday, we will be able to see those numbers in black and white, and perhaps then we can make driving decisions more responsive to reality. In the meantime, I realize I am running up the bill.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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.

Celebrate the environment: Your holiday shopping list can be eco-friendly

About the author: Andrea Drinkard is Web Content Coordinator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

If you’re like me, when you go shopping the environment isn’t always the first thing on your mind. I’m always worried whether they’ll have my size or if it’s going to be on sale, but not necessarily what the environmental impact of my purchases will be.

On my last shopping trip, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye-a sticker that asked me to shop smart. Smart shopping doesn’t just mean finding the best deals, taking the most efficient route, or finding what you’re looking for as soon as you walk in the store. But it also means keeping the environment in mind while you shop.

With the holidays coming up and lots of shopping in my near future, I started to think how easy it would be to put Mother Earth on my gift list. I mean, a lot of the things I’m already doing to be eco-friendly at home, at the office or on the road could be done while shopping for holiday gifts. I take public transit to work; why not take it to the mall? I use the energy-save mode on my computer; why not buy one that has earned the new ENERGY STAR? I reuse and recycle at home; why not make a gift out of reused or recycled materials instead of buying a new one?

These small, but important, choices also have a positive impact on your wallet. Planning ahead to reduce the number of trips you take saves gas and saves you money. Buying ENERGY STAR products reduces your energy bill year-round. And that all adds up to a gift that keeps on giving.

So, this holiday season, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the environment by traveling, shopping, decorating and cleaning up in an environmentally friendly way. Check back with us at www.epa.gov this week and throughout the season to find out how you can turn your holiday green.

To see how others are being green this holiday season and to let us know what you’re doing, check out EPA’s question of the week about greening your holiday.

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.