My Attempt To Be Greener For The Holidays

xmas.1By Larry Teller

Although changes in public taste have made it somewhat less courageous in recent years, it’s still tough to minimize wasteful gift-giving during the holidays. And as an EPA public affairs veteran, I’ve even had a hand in promoting best green practices—whether for the holidays or back-to-school —but haven’t always done as well as I’d like by what we’ve sensibly preached.

I resolved a few weeks ago to try to be greener this year for one, very noticeable, aspect of gift-giving: wrapping. I was especially interested to see how family and friends would react to, for instance, a book placed simply in a bookstore bag, a box of cookies adorned with nothing but a snippet of ribbon, or a bottle of wine in recycled 2009-vintage wrapping.

I anxiously readied myself for smirks, remarks and looks, hoping that the sweet thought behind each gift wouldn’t be negated by people thinking I was either not thoughtful or cheap. This being an EPA-sponsored blog, here’s the peer-reviewed data: for 20 gifts, 1 smirk, 3 good-natured comments—one truly complimentary—and 16 (but it’s hard to know for sure, right?) apparent nothings.

Relief, and success worth, I think, building on next year. Please share how you try to balance holiday gift-giving with waste reduction.

May I add that I especially like one of my co-worker’s green gifting: donations for us to a worthy charitable organization.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

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.

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Green Your Way Back to School

As the end of summer approaches, I find myself not basking out in the sun, but preparing for the school year. While most of the nation’s children head back to school in September, in our neck of the woods school starts in August. With four school age kids in our household, the list of needed school items is quite extensive. This year I decided to get ahead of the game. With some careful planning, we are greening our way back to school.

As with previous years, the girls will be wearing hand-me-down uniforms. I usually buy one new uniform a year for one of my daughters and the rest are traded with a colleague whose daughter goes to the same school. A pair of shoes will be refurbished for one of the girls.

This year I decided to look first for the required school supplies at home instead of hitting the mall. So far, my eldest daughter’s backpack will be reused and our youngest daughter will use her older sister’s rolling backpack from the year before last. One quick cleaning was all it took to make it look brand new. Pens, pencils, rulers, staplers and binders, among others are being reused from last year. I was surprised to learn that six billion pens are thrown away every year!

Since books are another big ticket item in the “back to school” budget, I buy them from online retailers that specialize in used books. Only updated editions of specific books and workbooks are being bought new.

Furthermore, I have decided that all new items we purchase this season will be made from recycled or sustainable sources.

Here are some brief pointers to make your back to school a green one:

  • Take inventory before going to the stores–this will save you time and money and it will be good to our Earth.
  • Buy quality materials when available, (i.e. backpacks, shoes, etc.) to ensure durability.
  • Refillable pens and pencils are a small change with a large impact. Fourteen billion pencils are manufactured every year, some from ancient trees.
  • Reuse everything that remains in good condition. Limit disposable supplies.
  • Make your kids a greener, waste-free lunch.
  • Use recycled paper to protect our trees and cut down on waste.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

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.

Un regreso a la escuela más verde

Ya se acerca el fin del verano y en vez de estar disfrutando el tiempo que me queda, me estoy preparando para el regreso a clases. Aunque en Estados Unidos muchos niños regresan a la escuela en septiembre, acá en Puerto Rico nuestros chicos comienzan clases en agosto. Con cuatro niños en edad escolar asistiendo a una escuela privada, no es difícil imaginar que nuestra lista de materiales escolares es extensa. Sin embargo este año decidí organizarme para hacer de este un regreso a la escuela más verde.

Como en años anteriores las niñas utilizarán uniformes usados. Generalmente les compro un uniforme nuevo y el resto los intercambio con una colega cuya hija asiste a la misma escuela. Un par de zapatos recibirá suelas nuevas, evitando así la compra de un par nuevo para mi hija mayor.

En vez de salir a comprar los útiles escolares comencé revisando las cosas que tenía en casa. Mi hija menor reutilizará el bulto que su hermana mayor no utiliza desde el año antepasado y la mayor el que le compré el año pasado. Con una lavada ambos lucen nuevos. Algunos lápices, bolígrafos, grapadoras y carpetas del año anterior se volverán a usar. Me sorprende saber que en el mundo 6 mil millones de bolígrafos terminan en la basura cada año!

Los libros son los artículos de mayor valor en nuestro presupuesto de vuelta a clases por tal razón los decidí adquirir, en su gran mayoría, de varios sitios electrónicos que se especializan en libros usados. Sólo adquirí nuevos aquellos de nueva edición y los cuadernos de trabajo.

Los artículos nuevos que me faltan por adquirir para este año escolar serán reciclados o de fuentes sustentables.

Adjunto una breve lista para hacer de su vuelta a clases una más verde:

  • Tome inventario antes de salir a compara–esto le ahorrará no solo tiempo y dinero, sino que ayudará al Planeta
  • Compre la mejor calidad que pueda para asegurarse que los artículos le duren (zapatos, bultos, uniformes)
  • Los lápices y bolígrafos con reemplazo son un cambio pequeño de gran impacto. En el mundo se manufacturan 14 mil millones de lápices, algunos de árboles centenarios
  • Reutilice todo lo que este en buen estado. Limite los útiles desechables.
  • Prepare a sus niños una merienda verde, libre de envases desechables.
  • Utilice papel reciclado para evitar desperdicios y proteger árboles

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

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.