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5 Ways to a Greener Holiday Season

Posted on November 30, 2016 by | Comments Off

christmas-734866_960_720For many Americans reducing, reusing, and recycling is as far from their thoughts as starting a holiday diet. With very little effort and a few tips you can trim down your holiday waste.

  1. Reusable Bags - Don’t have one of those fancy store bought totes? No worries! Grab any reusable bag, even that beach tote you retired for the winter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. So as you can see, any bag is better than a plastic bag!
  2. Recycle While You Cook - Make food prep a snap by keeping a recycling bin nearby. Recycling while you cook is easier than you think. Tin and steel cans, clean aluminum foil and pie pans, glass bottles and jars, cardboard, clean mixed paper and in some cities you can now recycle cartons too. Not sure what is accepted? Check out your city’s waste management website.
  3. Dust Off the Fine China - Pull out grandma’s china and linens and treat your guest to a holiday meal that they will remember. Using what you have or even borrowing items eliminates disposable plates, drinkware, utensils, and napkins from going into the landfill.
  4. Grab a Growler - It’s no secret that Hampton Roads has amazing breweries as well as growler filling stations available. Opting for growlers over bottles and cans will aid you in your quest to be greener this holiday. Growlers reduce the need to buy cans and bottles and can be repurposed to hold other refreshments such as water and sweet tea.
  5. BYOC - Inviting guests? Have plans to be a guest? BYOC, otherwise known as “Bring Your Own Container”, to reduce your carbon footprint and be more eco-friendly by preventing the use of plastic storage containers, plastic wrap, and other single use plastics this holiday season.

With a little pre-planning and consideration for doing the right thing you can make small changes that produce big results.

Guest blog contributed by Kristi Rines, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach.

Posted in: Beautification, Going Green, Holidays, Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Getting My Feet Wet – The International Coastal Cleanup

Posted on November 29, 2016 by | Comments Off

TWayne Joneshe City of Suffolk, for the first time, took part in the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy.  In Virginia this initiative is coordinated locally through Clean Virginia Waterways based at Longwood University.  The initiative is designed to raise awareness about and reduce ocean marine debris.  However, it’s more than just a traditional cleanup.  It is an effort to understand what type of debris and how much is getting into our waterways.  To understand it, a survey must be taken to find out how many tires, plastic bottles and kitchen sinks etc. are found within the area surveyed.  This makes this initiative more complicated than your traditional cleanup.  As Litter Control Coordinator for the city and veteran Clean the Bay Day Captain I knew that conducting a debris survey of the downtown section of the Nansemond River shoreline in kayaks and canoes would be challenging.  Not challenging because it’s mentally complicated, but practically, as it’s not easy cleaning out the wetlands, reaching for plastic bottles, completing a survey whilst trying not to drift or drop something. 

So being our first year, and as a seasoned kayaker, I knew it would be literally a juggling act and so I wanted to “get my feet wet” before we really promoted it and recruited volunteers.  I registered our cleanup with Clean Virginia Waterways, but I kept it exclusive to people I knew with the goal of getting feedback so that next year when we roll it out to the public it would run smoothly and give us a good foundation to build on year-on-year.  As an experienced volunteer coordinator it’s essential that an event runs smoothly and is well-organized.  Nothing frustrates a person donating their time more than a poorly organized and executed event. 

Debris CollectedSo what did we learn from our 3 hour pilot effort on a beautiful Saturday morning in October?  To do this in canoes and kayaks it takes two people.  One person has the litter grabbers and one person with the pencil and clipboard to record the data.  I had originally thought that we would do the cleanup and then do the survey by emptying the bags and recording all the debris using the app developed by Ocean Conservancy.  However, it quickly became apparent by the rate of bags we were filling that this method would be extremely time consuming and, in addition, I realized there was a lot of larger items we had to leave behind, but needed to include in the survey.  The largest of these items was an ice refrigerator like the ones you find outside any gas station.  I suspect this came from the gas station washed out by Hurricane Mathew the week before and then marooned in the wetlands.

David KeelingHaving the right equipment is also important.  I purchased four sets of six feet long litter grabbers and tested them out during this cleanup and they are great at reaching into the wetlands and grabbing plastic bottles and other types of consumer packaging.  I would highly recommend these for this type of a cleanup.  It’s also important to have a larger canoe or small boat to go between teams offloading the collected debris, providing supplies and dropping the debris at the collection point.      

I’m thankful for having done a test run before actively recruiting volunteers next year.  It’s a fun and an educational experience as well as rewarding to be part of an international effort to collect data and contribute to a global picture of what type of debris is finding its way into our oceans.  With quantitative data, governments, businesses, non-profits, individuals etc. can begin to address the problem and work towards solutions and hopefully we will see a downward trend in marine debris. 

One of the highlights for me was meeting a guy named Bill Farrell.  Bill was enjoying a morning stroll by the river as we were in the middle of the cleanup.  He shouted out to me “thanks for doing this, I have a kayak, how can I get involved?” so I told him I’m the Litter Control Coordinator in Public Works.  Monday morning when I was back in the office he called me and gave me his details and said his wife would like to help as well.  I never expected to be recruiting for next year so soon but I’m looking forward to it and making this an annual Suffolk event which will be fun and educational for all. 

For more information about Clean Virginia Waterways and the International Coastal Cleanup

So what did we find?

Items Found

Number of Each Item Found

Plastic Bottles


Aluminum Cans


Glass Bottles


Styrofoam Cups / Food containers


Plastic Bags




Wooden Planks


Yard Signs


Oil Cartons


Traffic Cones






Ice Refrigerator


House Insulation


Tool Box


Trash Can Lid inscribed “Please Don’t Litter”


Guest blog contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!, Keeping storm drains free, Waterways

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Gifts That Keep On Giving

Posted on November 17, 2016 by | Comments Off

Green Holiday WrappingAs hard as it is to believe, Thanksgiving is just one week away and that means we have a month to go until the “gift-givingist” time of the year. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to get the right presents for all those special people in your life. There’s also still time for you to put a plan together for how you can give responsibly this year.

Show someone you care by purchasing memberships or event tickets to give someone an experience instead of something that may just end up sitting on a shelf or in a closet. If you are shopping for someone who has it all or just really doesn’t need anything, consider making a donation to a charitable organization in their name. Shop small and local with businesses and artisans/entrepreneurs to support our local economy with your holiday spending instead of sending your hard-earned money elsewhere. Seek out companies with Fair Trade CertifiedTM products to let your loved one know that their gift is helping to ensure healthy, safe working conditions and improving communities the world over. And finally, think about supporting companies that give back, like Toms or Warby Parker, by donating products to someone in need for every product they sell. 

Get creative and show someone you care in a special way this holiday season. There are plenty of ways to give a gift that gives back in some way, shape or form. Happy shopping and happy holidays from the team! 

Posted in: Going Green, Holidays

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Winterize Your Home to Reduce Heating Bills

Posted on November 10, 2016 by | Comments Off

insulationWinterizing a house is a two-step process that includes sealing the many gaps and holes that allow heat to escape and upgrading insulation levels. The two work together to stop different types of heat loss.

Step One: Air Sealing

Heated air rises and looks for ways to escape through the top of the house. As it escapes, the pressure difference pulls outside air through cracks around windows, doors and other areas into the house. You can save energy by interrupting the cycle and attending to the escape routes in the attic.

To work in an attic, wear long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, safety glasses and a hat. Be sure to take a flashlight with you. Caution: Once in the attic, walk on the ceiling joists only. The spaces between the joists will not hold you, and you may fall through the ceiling. You can also create walkways by placing boards or sheets of thick plywood on the joists.

Plug Large Openings First

Sealing large openings will provide the biggest energy benefit. Make sure the attic hatch or attic door is not only insulated but also has foam weather-stripping around the edges. Other areas to check include:

  • Dropped soffits. Soffits are often found in kitchens and bathrooms to hide ducts or pipes. If they are installed under the attic, they are often left open. If the attic is insulated, the soffit may be covered with a fiberglass batt. However, the insulation does not prevent air movement. To seal the soffits, remove the insulation and cover the opening with a sheet of rigid insulation board. Seal the edges with caulk and reapply the insulation.
  • Flues, chimney and pipe openings. There is usually a space around any type of pipe or chimney that comes through the floor of the attic. Seal the opening around masonry chimneys or metal flues from furnaces with aluminum flashing and high-temperature silicone caulk. Seal around plumbing pipes using caulk or expanding foam. Be sure the sealant you use is made for the material it will come in contact with.
  • Recessed lights. These fixtures provide a path for air and in some cases moisture if they are installed in a kitchen or bathroom under an attic. Standard recessed fixtures are difficult to seal, and doing it wrong can be dangerous. One solution is to replace the fixtures with Insulation Contact Air Tight (ICAT) fixtures. Unlike standard fixtures, these can safely be covered with insulation in the attic and are airtight.

Plug Small Openings

Apply caulk around electrical junction boxes that go through the attic floor. Once the attic is sealed, make sure windows and doors throughout the house are caulked and weather-stripped. If you have an unfinished basement, use caulk or expanding foam to seal where the house framing meets the concrete or block foundation. Seal around any pipes or wiring that goes through the basement ceiling to the floor above.

Step Two: Upgrade Your Insulation

Most attics contain some insulation. But there is a good chance that the insulation that is there does not meet current R-value recommendations. If you can see the tops of the ceiling joist, you need to add insulation. You can find the current recommendations here.

If you install fiberglass batts, place unfaced batts perpendicular to the joists to reduce heat loss through the joist. If you opt for loose-fill insulation, it is best to have a contractor apply the material because installation requires special equipment. The depth of the final application should be even throughout the attic.

No matter what type of insulation you install, be sure to keep it at least three inches away from recessed can lights if they are not rated for insulation contact. If there are soffit vents, install insulation baffles between the rafters. These provide a path for fresh air into the attic above the insulation. When used in combination with ridge or gable vents, they help exhaust moisture-laden air and ventilate the attic.

Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority and writes on energy-saving tips for The Home Depot. Fran’s insulation tips are geared to provide you with numerous options for your home during the winter months. 

Posted in: Household tips

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Virginia Recycling Association Recognizes Newport News Recovery Operations Center

Posted on November 8, 2016 by | Comments Off

2016 Award winners groupThe Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) has awarded the Newport News Recovery Operations Center (ROC) with their annual Outstanding Government Agency Award.  This award recognizes a state or federal government agency, institution or non-profit organization that has developed and implemented a sustainable waste reduction and prevention program to include reuse, recycling and buying recycled products.

The purpose of the ROC is to capture unwanted material and recover, re-direct, beneficiate or dispose of the material in the most effective manner possible. The VRA award recognizes the center for the variety of services provided including recycling drop off, household hazardous waste and electronic waste collection, metal and appliance collection, and collection of leaves and woody material from which mulch and compost is produced for sale.  Additionally methane gas produced by the old Denbigh landfill is provided to the Denbigh Community Center and to Mary Passage Middle School as a fuel for their boilers.  The ROC also coordinates with schools and civic groups across Hampton Roads to provide recycling and environmental awareness education.

Click here to learn more about the services offered by the Newport News Recovery Operations Center.

This is a guest post by Dan Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator, with the City of Newport News Public Works, Solid Waste Resource Recovery Unit.

Posted in: Beautification, Reduce reuse and recycle, Uncategorized

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