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Eco-Friendly Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

Posted on May 26, 2016 by | Comments (0)

Toddlers having ice cream on the beach --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisMemorial Day weekend marks the official kick-off of the summer season for many people. Nevermind the fact that summer doesn’t really start for three more weeks! One of the perks of living in a southern, coastal region is that summer can start as soon as the temperatures creep up to 80 degrees – whether that happens in April or June. So if you’re planning to kick-off your summer this weekend, keep in mind these eco-friendly ways to enjoy Memorial Day with a nod to the natural resources that define Hampton Roads.

• Plant a Memorial Tree (or plant) –  Let’s not forget the true meaning of Memorial Day. Honor those who gave their all for this country by planting a special tree or plant. Once in the ground, make sure your new tree or plant is watered daily until roots are established.

• Donate an Old Cellphone - Take some time from your long weekend to dig out your old cellphones for a good cause. Cellphones for Soldiers gives your old, unwanted cellphone a second life while helping a soldier keep in touch with his or her family. There are over 30 drop off locations in the Hampton Roads area, find one near you now!

• Stay Local – There’s no need to travel out-of-town for a great vacation when you live in Hampton Roads. Visit one of our local beaches or parks to save the gas and frustration of an out-of-town trip. If rain showers cloud your plans, take the fun inside with a trip to a nature-themed attraction like the Virginia Living Museum or the Virginia Aquarium!

• Host a Green BBQ – If the party is at your place, make sure your festivities are easy on the environment. Choose beverages in recyclable containers such as metal cans or glass bottles and place a recycling container predominately so that your guests can find it easily. It’s always best to use reusable plates and silverware, but if you’re going with disposable picnic wares, choose products that are compostable or made of recycled content. Last, don’t let your trash get caught up in the wind! Secure loose napkins and food wrappers so they don’t end up in your neighbor’s yard or a nearby storm drain.

Protecting our natural resources, waterways and beaches starts with the small choices we make each day. Be an environmental steward all year long by making small changes to your everyday routine and protect our natural resources for many summers to come.

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Holidays, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Let’s End Illicit Discharge!

Posted on May 24, 2016 by | Comments Off

Storm Drain with MedallionStorm drainage systems are very helpful in the way that they prevent roads and highways from flooding when there is heavy rainfall. They allow the rain water to drain from urban areas safely back into the environment and into natural bodies of water. Unfortunately, materials other than rain water make their way into the drainage systems. They are called illicit discharges. An illicit discharge can be any material that enters a storm drainage system other than natural precipitation. This includes dirty water from laundry or a carwash; hazardous waste like lawn care chemicals, oil, paint; sewer overflows and yard debris such as leaves, grass clippings and animal waste. These pollutants can enter the stormwater drainage system directly by entering through connective drains and pipes or indirectly by seeping through the joints of the pipes or street openings of storm drains. Illicit discharges make their way into the storm drainage systems and out to nearby bodies of water like streams, rivers, bays and the ocean. Contaminated discharges can be harmful to the health of the plants and animals living in the water, the wildlife that may drink or eat from the water, and humans that may swim in the water. Illness, defects, and death can result from this serious pollution. Companies and businesses can monitor and fix faulty connections and cracks in the piping to prevent contamination of stormwater. As a community we can also take action to prevent illicit discharges from entering the storm drainage system.

Some possible actions:

  • Pick up pet waste.
  • Pick up litter and secure trash cans lids.
  • Dispose of liquid hazardous waste like oils, gasoline, paint, etc. through your local hazardous waste collection.
  • Avoid blowing, raking, sweeping, or hosing yard debris like leaves and grass clippings into storm drains. 
  • Don’t apply lawn chemicals near curbs, streets and driveways.
  • Use fertilizers and chemical pesticides sparingly and only when and where they are necessary.
  • Spread awareness and educate others of the effects of illicit discharge and how to prevent it.

Not only do these suggested actions protect against water pollution, they also keep our local land environment clean. Recognition, elimination and prevention are key to resolving this illicit discharge problem. If we join together and each do our part this will soon be an issue of the past.

Guest blog submitted by Natalie Prevette, Environmental Intern with James City County Stormwater Division.

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Don't litter!, Keeping storm drains free, Waterways

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Pet Waste Stations Back for Local Grant Program

Posted on April 4, 2016 by | Comments Off is once again accepting applications for free pet waste stations in an effort to reduce bacteria in stormwater runoff. If your neighborhood, HOA or community association is ready to make ‘scooping the poop’ a priority, then you are invited to apply online at

To date, the City of Suffolk has used this regional program to grant 13 stations to neighborhoods across Suffolk. Regionally, more than 200 stations have been installed through the pet waste station grant program. The most recent pet waste station application in Suffolk was received from Suffolk Parks & Recreation for a second pet waste station to install at the new Seaboard Coastline Trail. The first station is located near the Driver entrance of the trail and the new station will be near the center of the trail. “We are getting TONS of usage!” says Helen Gabriel, Assistant Director, Suffolk Parks & Recreation. If pet waste is left on the ground, bacteria will be carried by rainwater to our waterways. Pet waste stations encourage citizens to pick up after their pets by making it easy and convenient to do so. 

Adding another station to the Seaboard Coastline Trail will prevent the overuse of any one station. “The overuse of a pet waste station creates a problem of its own.” says David Keeling, City of Suffolk Environmental Specialist. “Instead of being a benefit, it could become an eyesore and concentrate pollution sources.” 

askHRgreen-PetWasteStation-HomepageSlideSuffolk and other cities and counties will be granting stations to appropriate community associations that meet application requirements such as, emptying the garbage can when full, ensuring pet waste bags or garbage can liners are stocked and available for use, and ordering replacement pet waste bags or garbage can liners in a timely manner.

For more information, apply online at or for Suffolk properties you may call contact Alacia Nixson at 757-514-7073.

This blog contributed by Alacia Nixson, Environmental Technician with Suffolk Public Works.

Posted in: Don't litter!, Keeping storm drains free, Pets, plastic bags, Waterways

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askHRgreen Wins National Award for Cigarette Litter Prevention Program

Posted on February 17, 2016 by | Comments Off


Members of the accept award. From left to right: Lisa Renee Jennings (Norfolk), Wayne Jones (Suffolk), Linda Minner (Virginia Beach), Jennifer Jehn (KAB President); and John Deuel.

Last summer, we announced our exciting plans to work as a region to significantly reduce cigarette litter in Hampton Roads. Using a proven project model developed by Keep America Beautiful (KAB),, its local government partners and community volunteers organized the “Cigarette Butts = Litter” campaign. We are happy to report that our efforts resulted in reducing cigarette litter by an average of 74 percent in our study areas!

As a result of the unique regional approach used by and the meaningful reduction in cigarette litter, KAB presented with a National Program Award. Members of the Recycling & Beautification Committee were on hand to accept the award at KAB’s national conference, Feb. 1st in Orlando.

The “Cigarette Butts = Litter” project included seven diverse study areas across Hampton Roads. During the project, local teams and volunteers analyzed their sites, installed cigarette waste receptacles in strategic locations and conducted outreach directly to smokers encouraging them to be mindful of their disposal habits and offering them a pocket ashtray or auto ashtray for the cup holder of their vehicle. Study areas for this project included:  

  • Hampton – Buckroe Beach
  • James City County –  Commuter parking off Interstate 64 at Croaker Road
  • Newport News – Hilton Village at Warwick Blvd. and Main St.
  • Norfolk – Civic Plaza
  • Portsmouth – nTelos Wireless Pavilion
  • Suffolk – Downtown in the Main Street area
  • Virginia Beach – Lake Smith/Lake Lawson Natural Area, off Northampton Blvd.

Pre-scans of a portion of each study area revealed a total of 3,223 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips had been littered on the ground. The post-scans showed that all project sites saw a dramatic decrease in cigarette litter after implementing the project. 

City/County Type of Project Site Decrease in Cigarette Litter
Hampton Park/Natural Area 58%
James City County Commuter Lot 46%
Newport News Business District 83%
Norfolk Civic Plaza 73%
Portsmouth Entertainment District 95%
Suffolk Business District 93%
Virginia Beach Park/Natural Area 69%
  Regional Average 74%

NN Go Green Auto Care

Go Green Auto Care in Newport News shows support for Cigarette Butts = Litter

Each study area had it’s own challenges. Worth mentioning was the trend of lower rates of change in the study areas that were more natural or less populated. This leads one to believe that smokers may be less likely to dispose of their litter correctly when they are visiting an area or feel like no one is watching their behavior. It’s like that saying “ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching.” Also worth noting is the fact that areas with a strong sense of ownership, namely the business districts, saw fantastic reductions due to the support the program received from local champions: the business owners, workers and community organizations like churches and libraries.

To learn more about reducing cigarette litter and what you can do to help, head over to the Cigarette Butts = Litter program or download resources from our Online Media Toolkit.

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, HR Green campaign updates, Waterways

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Suffolk Farm Days

Posted on November 10, 2015 by | Comments Off

Suffolk_LacieAbout 1,200 second-grade students from Suffolk Public Schools recently got some hands-on experience at a farm.

Farm Days is a two-day hands-on farm experience that takes place at the Virginia Tech Research Extension Farm on Hare Road. “It’s a very good experience for the kids,” said Julie Moyer, science instructional specialist for the school system. “It’s their only field trip. The students look forward to it every year.”

The event has been held annually for 12 years and features several learning stations for children to rotate through. Some of the topics covered by the stations were the water cycle, pollution prevention, recycling, and animal care.

The City of Suffolk Public Works Engineering Department attended the event to help educate the children about the effects of litter and other pollutants on our waterways and wildlife. “The kids were great listeners and very compassionate when they were shown pictures of harmed wildlife,” remarked Wayne Jones, City of Suffolk Litter Control Coordinator, “one student said it made him feel mad that people litter and hurt the animals”. At Wayne’s station, the kids talked through the top 5 litter items found around the world including cigarette butts, food wrappers, bottle caps, plastic bottles, and drink straws. Afterwards the students put their skills to the test with a recycling knowledge game. The students were asked to distinguish between common items to figure out which of the items could be recycled. “It was very reassuring to hear so many of these children know what to and not to recycle” comments Wayne Jones.

The next station ran by Alacia Nixson, City of Suffolk Environmental Technician, focused on how pollutants affect our waterways. Using an Enviroscape, the students watched how our actions affect the Chesapeake Bay. An Enviroscape is a fun portable model that helps to visualize and better understand the sources and prevention of water pollution. Through this hands-on playful interaction the children discussed practical ways to prevent pollution at the source. 

“We were able to reach over 1,000 kids in two days!” says Kathy Russell, education coordinator for TFC recycling. “A key component to changing behaviors is teaching citizens, while they’re young, how to be environmentally responsible”.

Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!, Gardening, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Reduce reuse and recycle

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