A Different Way to Connect

By Curt Spalding

The calendar finally tells us that spring is coming and a long, cold winter is ending. With this welcome season of change and growth, we at EPA New England are excited to offer a new way for you to stay in touch with our office and get the latest updates on our work: our brand-new regional Facebook page.

We’re looking forward to finding new, creative, and interesting ways to broaden our environmental dialogue with our neighbors in New England, as well as with other citizens interested in how EPA works for a cleaner and healthier environment in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

While we’ve had a successful regional Twitter account for several years now, and we regularly discuss New England issues on the EPA blog, we’re only now joining “Facebook Nation” as a way to have a less formal discussion on New England environmental issues. Social media provides interesting and effective new ways for us to stay in touch with you, and vice-versa. We hope we can better explain EPA’s work to you: the citizens, who rely on our good work for clean water, good air quality, and healthful land. We’re interested in talking with you, not talking at you.

New England is home to intelligent people who care deeply about their environment. How could it not be so, when you consider our beautiful landscapes, ranging from the towering sand dunes on Cape Cod to the rocky coast of Maine, from the Berkshires to the Green and White Mountains, and everything from pastoral towns to major cities.

We hope you will check out both the EPA New England Facebook page and Twitter account. Let us know what you think, and please feel free to “Like” or “Follow” if you want to keep up to date on our work or view the latest terrific photo taken by one of our folks in the field.

About the author:  Curt Spalding is the Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office, located in Boston.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Don’t Trash Your Old Clothes

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 Gina Snyder

The public schools in my town now host smart new boxes that collect unwanted clothing and textiles for recycling. Not only do these boxes look really sharp, they actually are “SMART” – they are from Baystate Textiles, a member of the “Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.”

I’ve seen clothing collection boxes before, but this new program will accept almost any fabric (even things like handbags, shoes, and stuffed animals). Stained, torn or ragged, as long as a textile is clean and dry, they’ll take it.

With 25.5 billion pounds of useable textiles thrown away each year (70 pounds per American), there is a lot of waste that can be prevented. Contrary to popular belief, donations in any condition are welcomed by both for-profit and non-profit textile collectors.

You can even donate items with stains, rips, missing buttons or broken zippers because textiles are a valuable commodity. Items that don’t sell in a thrift store are baled and sold to brokers or graders who sell to other markets. This income helps thrift stores support their mission.

The boxes at my town’s schools provide work for local companies, which turn about 30% of the donated textiles into industrial wiping cloths. A Massachusetts company cuts used clothing and other textiles into rags and sells them to commercial garages and public works operations. The remaining 20 percent is sent to fiber converters -another local textile recycler – where textiles are broken down into their basic fiber components to be re-manufactured into insulation for autos and homes, carpet padding, or sound-proofing materials.

Reusing textiles uses less energy and less water than any competitive products made from newly produced paper or textiles, according to SMART. You may even have used wipes made from recycled fabric in your home or for your car (for example, soft lint-free wipes or super absorbent rags). By recycling my old or unwanted fabrics, I can help my town save trash disposal costs, help generate revenue for the schools and have a positive impact on the environment.

When cleaning out your closets, donate your textiles rather than throwing them away!

More EPA info on textile waste and recylcling

More EPA information on Trash and Recycling

About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A New Tradition for Holiday Lights

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 Amy Miller

It’s that wonderful time of year again. Along the country roads and city streets of New England, our real-life world of brown leaves, brown grass and gray skies turns into a captivating fairyland. Twinkling icicles line rooftops and color radiates from evergreen trees.

When it comes to the energy consumed by holiday lights, though, I’m hoping this year marks the tipping point. I can feel it when walking through the aisles of my local big box store, and I can see it as I drive along streets sparkling with a bluer shade of white.

In fact, we Americans are finally making the jump to becoming an LED nation when it comes to our holiday light strands.

According to the Associated Press, one major national retailer is selling no incandescent Christmas lights at all this year. General Electric also expects two out of every five strings of lights sold this year will be LEDs. The drop in prices has been a major factor in ushering this trend forward.

LED lights will last far longer than our old lights. The LEDs can last up to 40 seasons, while the Department of Energy predicts three seasons for your old mini lights. LEDs are also less likely to break and don’t get hot.

According to the US Department of Energy, holiday lights use enough electricity to power 200,000 homes for a year. EPA calculates that if all decorative light strings in America met Energy Star requirements, national electricity usage would drop 700 million kilowatt hours a year and we would save about $90 million on electric bills.

Over 10 holiday seasons, the savings for one tree could be $105 for the large LED bulbs and $22 for the minis. Multiply that by a yard full of strands lit up all season, and it really adds up.

Many stores now display a variety of LED lights. Some are warmer in color, while some are brighter. EPA’s Energy-Star label on some boxes can also guide your decision.

All these lights are out there waiting, vying for our attention and waiting for us to come to our senses.

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

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Bounty of the Sea

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 Phil Colarusso

Thousands of silver fish flashed around my head in every direction. The school of pollock seemed to be everywhere at once and their sheer abundance was disorienting. It’s easy to understand how difficult it must be for a predator to pick out individual fish in this incredible moving mass of life.

I’ve only had the pleasure of being enveloped by large schools of fish a few times in my diving career. Even so, today’s schools are typically small compared to historical accounts of fish abundance. Mariners in the 19th century and earlier reported schools streaming past their boats for hours at a time, so they probably had millions of fish. In 2013, it’s rare to find these massive congregations.

We used to believe the bounty of the seas was endless. We’ve since learned that fish, like other natural resources, are finite. Slow declines in abundance can go undetected by fishermen, scientists and the public. But, if these changes continue over a long time, lower levels of abundance become the new normal state.

Scientists have coined the term “shifting baselines” to describe this phenomenon. Each generation of scientists regards the state of the natural world during their career as the normal state, but in reality, small changes over multiple generations result in dramatic differences. The ocean that I swim in now is a very different place than the ocean of Jacques Cousteau in the 1960s.

The logical question to ask is: “Where did the bounty go?” Unquestionably, a large percentage of it went into fishermen’s nets to feed the world’s growing human population, but that’s not the only thing that’s going on. The oceans are part of a system with a large number of interlocking components involved in an elaborate balancing act. A significant change in one piece inevitably has implications (both positive and negative) for others. For example, in New England, the overfishing of cod resulted in skate and dogfish populations exploding. Simply stopping the fishing of cod may not be sufficient to restore populations to their historic levels: cod fishing ended on the Canadian side of Georges Bank more than a decade ago with little population recovery.

However, while my oceans are different than the oceans of Cousteau, they’re still special places. As I was surrounded by pollock, it was impossible not to be filled with hope.

More information about the work of EPA’s scientific divers.

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

How Dark is Your Nighttime Sky?

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 Amy Miller
When my sister cancelled our trip to Carter Notch this summer, it was not the mountains or hike I was saddest to lose. It was the darkness. Our annual pilgrimage to the White Mountains is the one night a year when I can sit in darkness among the stars.

Most of the year, I see the glow of a streetlight out my window. Behind my house, I can get in the shadow, but the light from my neighbor’s spotlight, the empty church parking lot, and the school up the road all add light pollution to the night sky.

We have had dark nights and light days through most of history. Today, however, two thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way at night from where they live. And, just about all of us live within the glare of some nighttime illumination. Even places like Acadia National Park are threatened by light from nearby cities. A friend of mine told me recently that people travel to Lyford Pond, in Maine, just to experience dark skies.

Each August, stargazers look to the skies to see meteor showers. Although you can see some of this yearly light show nearly everywhere, how much you can see depends on where you are: 50 or even 100 shooting stars an hour in Maine’s logging country, but only a handful in downtown Boston.

Some research suggests that night light creates stress, headaches and anxiety as our circadian rhythms are disrupted. And there are ecological costs, including disoriented migrating birds fly into buildings and sea turtles losing nesting areas.

In 1992, few towns had outdoor lighting laws. One of the first was written by Peter Talmage in Kennebunk, Maine. He was a member of the New England Light Pollution Advisory Group, a stargazer, and an engineer with experience in outdoor lighting. That law limited the intensity of outdoor lights and regulated the addition of new street lights.

Today, many communities nationwide are passing nighttime lighting laws. Others are voluntarily turning off street lights. Beyond light pollution, avoiding over-lighting at night saves several billion dollars a year and eliminates an estimated 38 million tons of carbon dioxide.

I rarely take the time to enjoy night skies. And when I do, artificial lighting prevents me from gazing into the starry universe I remember from childhood. Losing naturally dark skies is as sad as losing forests, fresh air or clean water.

Here’s some more information on enjoying a nighttime sky in a national park.

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, eight chickens, one dog and a great community.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Adding Up the Impact of a Coastal Weekend Run

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 Amy Miller

We ran the whole 200 miles of the Reach the Beach relay. Well, not each of us, but all of us together – 12 women from my town – ran the distance between Cannon Mountain and Hampton Beach, NH.

Staying up two nights; cheering on teammates; eating energy bars and date balls for a day and a half; and running three legs in the relay, in my case totaling only 14 miles, were really a blast.

But by the end, I started to wonder about the environmental impact of the relay and the string of vehicles and water bottles it involves. Each of the 450 or so teams had one or two vans and, each of those vans traveled slowly over the New Hampshire roads, dropping off runners, picking up runners, and pulling over to give the runners water. This, I thought, was one of the more frivolous uses of gasoline I had been part of in a while.

So, I decided to find out more about this relay and its environmental impact. Lo and behold, the web site indicates the organizers’ commitment to sustainability. Now in its 15th year, they pledge to ensure the race leaves the “smallest footprint possible on the environment.” To this end, they work with Athletes for a Fit Planet.

Fit Planet provided recycling bins, which were managed by volunteers. Race organizers suggested that teams use giant cloth bags, handed out at registration, to collect bottles, cans, glass, and paper, and then toss these items into bins at transition areas. The race course also hosted portable toilets that used non-toxic chemicals and recycled paper.

The Reach the Beach crew estimates vans and staff vehicles produced about 125 tons of CO2 during the race. To keep that total as low as possible, they urged racers to carpool, come by bus, and purchase $3 tags that offset an estimated 300 lbs. of CO2 – the equivalent of driving 150 miles in a 10-15 mpg passenger van. The offset comes from the wind, biogas, solar, and other carbon-reducing projects funded by proceeds from these tags. Finally, relay folks encouraged us to use bulk water and reusable bottles, which we did. I still feel a bit sheepish about all those miles just for a crazy physical stunt, but I was glad to see the organizers addressing these issues.

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, eight chickens, one dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Gift from the Sea

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 Phil Colarusso

“Let’s go to the beach,” my wife said hopefully. I looked out the window at the dark threatening skies and hesitated. It was Labor Day, and the last hours of summer were quickly running out. As I have gotten older, the end of summer has become a melancholy time for me. More so than birthdays, summers mark the passage of time for me. Labor Day brings the end of another summer and the prospect of another long New England winter. “All right, let’s take a chance,” I replied.

 

Photo curtsey of NOAA/NEFSC/PSB.

Photo courtesy of NOAA/NEFSC/PSB.

We arrived at a completely deserted beach. Apparently, all the other potential beachgoers looked at the sky and opted to stay home. We had a three-mile stretch of sandy beach virtually to ourselves – no walkers, no swimmers, no boaters, just us and the seagulls.

Halfway down the beach, I looked out to the water and saw a dog swimming towards us. We stopped and watched, and as it got closer we realized our “dog” was actually a harbor seal. It came ashore and wriggled up above the water line a mere 20 feet away from us. Three miles of deserted beach, and this seal chose to beach itself at our feet.

The seal eyed us suspiciously for a moment, then deeming us to be harmless, closed its eyes and went to sleep. Harbor seals routinely come ashore to rest and regulate their body temperature. Seals are capable of sleeping underwater or bobbing at the surface, but those are only catnaps. To get any real rest, they need to emerge from the sea away from predators.

Photo curtsey of NOAA/NEFSC/PSB.

Photo courtesy of NOAA/NEFSC/PSB.

A few raindrops began to fall and it was time to make a run for the car. The seal sensed our movement and looked in our direction as we began to reverse our course. I looked back at the lone figure on the deserted beach and I swear he gave me a nod as if to say, “see you next summer.”

At the exit point of the beach is a sign that reads “Take Just What You Need.” On this last day of summer, my wife and I got just what we needed: a gift from the sea to sustain our spirits through the next long New England winter.

Editor’s Note: All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This law makes it illegal to touch, disturb, feed or otherwise harass marine mammals without authorization.

More information if you encounter a seal or another marine animal on a beach in New England is available from the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team.

More information on seals found in New England is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Be It Ever So Humble, There’s No Place Like Home

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 Phil Colarusso

Wednesday had been a long day in the field, and it was great to be home. It was early evening and I was processing the last seagrass sample. Seagrasses provide habitat for many organisms, so it is not unusual to find small invertebrates crawling around in our eelgrass samples.

I poured the last sample bag onto the sorting tray and separated the small rocks, shells and other material from the shoots of eelgrass. It was at this point I saw it: a small hermit crab lay motionless. It had ditched the snail shell it had been living in, which I subsequently found among a small pile of rocks. The crab was dead and I was immediately overwhelmed with guilt. Hermit crabs only leave the safety of their adopted shells, their homes, under periods of extreme stress. As I contemplated the poor crab’s fate, I wondered what extreme event it would take to make me leave the security of my home. I have lived in homes that survived hurricanes, the snow and coastal flooding of the Blizzard of 1978, and countless other events.

A sense of discomfort gnawed at me as my tired mind wandered. Our oceans are home to millions of species. Global climate change, ocean acidification and eutrophication are some of the processes making our waters inhospitable to many plants and animals that live there. Warmer water temperatures change the normal distribution of animals and plants. Shellfish, which use calcium carbonate to build shells, will find that harder and harder to do as ocean pH levels continue to become more acidic. Sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds, rapidly decline as waters near shore get over-enriched with nitrogen. What happens to all the fish that depend on those habitats? What do you do when you can’t go home?

Photo by Giancarlo Lalsingh (Tobago_Pictures on Flickr)

Photo by Giancarlo Lalsingh (Tobago_Pictures on Flickr)

As I was putting away my scuba gear, something fell out of my fin. In the dark it looked like a small rock. I picked it up off the garage floor with the intent of throwing it into the backyard. I realized it was not a rock, but another hermit crab, still tucked snugly in its snail shell. There was but one thing to do. I hopped in the car and drove the 15 minutes back to the nearest salt water. I returned this crab back to a safe location and he scrambled away. As he wandered away, I marveled at the resiliency of life. It reaffirmed to me the importance of the work I do. Nothing is more important than that place we call home.

Read more info on EPA’s work to protect ocean and coastal areas in New England.

Connect with EPA Divers on Facebook

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham, Massachusetts with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Morning By The Lake

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 Amy Miller

My family arrived at our campsite to a gray, evening drizzle. Not too wet to enjoy a kayak, nor too wet to keep us from making a fire and eating turkey dogs off sticks. The beach umbrella propped against a picnic table was ample protection. And we got our reward for persevering. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” remarked a woman on the lake trail as she ogled the double, 180-degree arch of vibrant color like you only expect in children’s books. I looked for the pot of gold.

The rain stopped in time to set up in the dark. The winds whispered above, sending droplets onto our tent. By morning the sky was clear and the islands of Pawtuckaway Lake were calling us out in our kayaks.

Pawtuckaway State Park sits in the middle of southern New Hampshire. Straddling the towns of Raymond and Nottingham, Pawtuckaway has trails, waterfront campsites, rock walls, marshes and a lake with nooks, crannies, big islands, little islands, blueberry-filled islands and a beach.

Unfortunately, it also can have contamination. The beach was half-closed when we were there. Not totally closed, but trimmed with yellow warnings signs that it might not be safe to swim. The problem, according to a nice woman who got my phone call, is that sometimes the bacteria count is too high at the beach. It was only 125 counts per 100 milliliters of water, close to the 88 count cut-off. Outside the beach area the lake was fine, and a few days later, by August, it was all fine again. The bacteria is caused by people and animals, mainly geese and recreating crowds. Beavers and other animals that love the marshes don’t help, nor does rain. But the warning signs didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of people grilling recipes from India, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Maine. The sun blazing overhead, dozens of people were splashing about happily.

The state tests the water every other day or so. Since 1996, and more regularly since 2000, they have taken 461 samples. Of those, 34 have come back above acceptable standards. The geese, and people who feed them, are apparently among the first offenders.

When we tumbled out of our tent in the morning, a great blue heron was sitting comfortably at the water’s edge, as if to say “Welcome to my campsite; you may stay, if you like.” We stared at him for about 30 minutes.

Then we decided to make breakfast, smokey toast and hot cocoa. We knew not to share it with the ducks, and the heron knew not to ask.

More EPA info on beach monitoring in New England states, including New Hampshire lakes.

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, eight chickens, dusky conure,  dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

How I Do the “3R’s” in a Local Store

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 Amy Miller

I walked into my neighborhood second-hand shop recently to shuffle through the dress rack, but the owner had a different idea for my visit.

“Amy, what do you think of us becoming a non-profit organization?” the local proprietor asked me.

Her notion of a non-profit thrift store reminded me that secondhand shops are actually one element in national efforts to reduce waste. No longer just destinations for bargain hungry and hip shoppers, thrift stores have a role to play in environmental protection.

Remember the three Rs of environmentalism – reduce, reuse, recycle? Reuse, as in wear other people’s clothes, or use other people’s dishware.

This local owner had no idea I am working on zero waste materials as a writer for EPA. And she had no idea that I have become smitten with the thought of communities encouraging second-hand stores. By the time I finished talking, the poor woman had a glazed look that said, “TMI!” in no uncertain terms.

Thrift stores and consignment shops represent the best of reuse. Shoppers happily reuse each others’ clothes, shoes, mugs and books. That means one less dress, coffee cup or dictionary is manufactured and shipped, and one less product heads for the landfill or transfer station.

Although second-hand clothing has been trendy for a while, these shops are not part of environmental policy in South Berwick, Maine, or anywhere else I’ve been lately. EPA encourages shopping at re-use shops and buying used or recycled when possible.

Yes, we have a small swap shop at the dump, as we call it. And yes, some residents have created a local “swap, sell or give” Facebook page. But, these are still not part of town environmental policy.

Later, I wondered if the next generation has internalized the importance of reuse faster than adults. I asked my son if he knew why it is better to reuse than recycle a bottle, for instance.

“Yes, Mommy,” my son told me. “It is better to reuse than recycle because it takes oil and energy to recycle the bottle.”

Plus, I noted, “It takes energy to transport the bottle to the recycling plant, and then back again to another customer.”

He had heard it all before.

Perhaps the owner of my second-hand clothing shop wasn’t ready to turn her store into the cutting edge of waste management policy. But, I am still dreaming of a thrift shop promoted or subsidized by the town. Maybe she will be ready to see me again next week.

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, eight chickens, dusky conure dog and a great community.

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