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New Bill Works to Promote Use of Recycled Materials

Posted on October 8, 2014 by | Comments Off

shutterstock_70004710_WEBA bill recently introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives aims to increase the national recycling rate by requiring manufacturers to use more recycled materials in their products.

Mike Honda, representing California’s 17th District in Silicon Valley, introduced the Land Based Marine Debris Reduction Act of 2014.  It would give the EPA the authority “to require the manufacturer of the product or packaging to use recovered materials of that or another category in the product or packaging.”  If enacted, these new regulations would go toward achieving a 50 percent national recycling rate by 2020 and a 65 percent recycling rate by 2030 and lead to reductions in landfilling and littering.

Rep. Honda said “Making people aware of the problem is the first step.  The second is letting people know they can be part of the solution.  By encouraging industry to use more recycled materials, we safeguard the sustainable use of our precious natural resources.”

Chaz Miller, the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Waste & Recycling Association indicated that this was the first municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling bill to be introduced on the Hill in 20 years.  He said, “It’s a statement from Congress to get the U.S. EPA to focus on MSW.”

Robin Wiener, President of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), said “ISRI commends Congressman Honda for his efforts to keep recyclable materials, including product packaging, out of solid waste landfills and waterways.”  “Directing these materials to recycling facilities where they can be recycled into secondary raw materials used to make new products is good for the environment and creates jobs.”

The bill, not likely to be taken up until next year, has been referred to the Committee on Energy & Commerce and will likely head to the E&C subcommittee on the Environment and Energy led by Illinois Republican John Shimkus. We’ll keep our eye on this bill and keep you updated with the latest developments.

Posted in: Reduce reuse and recycle

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Don’t Miss the Ultimate Family Event this Weekend!

Posted on October 6, 2014 by | Comments Off

Goodwill Fall is excited to be a part of the inaugural Peninsula Fall Festival (aka the Ultimate Family Event) sponsored by Goodwill and SKY-TV 4! Goodwill and other secondhand retailers do a LOT to help support the 3Rs in Hampton Roads. They help us reduce waste by making it easy and convenient to donate unwanted items instead of tossing them into the trash. They also help people reuse by selling used items to people in the market for all types of clothing, home goods, sports equipment, and electronics. I love getting new (to me) clothes at local consignment and secondhand stores because you can go green and save green at the same time! Last, Goodwill recycles whenever possible - if something can’t be resold, they always look for ways to recycle the materials. Best of all – most secondhand stores support much needed community programs. In this case, Goodwill provides long-term employment solutions for persons with disabilities and individuals with social and economic disadvantages.

So come join us for a day of seasonal fun on Saturday, October 11th from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. This FREE, outdoor event will have more than 40 vendors on-site for interactive children’s activities and giveaways!  The event is open to the public with plenty of local food vendors and free parking. Bring the little ones in costume for some trick-or-treating and then join in the fall excitement with games, face painting, live music, pumpkin carving contests, arts and crafts, and a Halloween fashion show. You can even go green and create your families original Halloween costumes when you visit the Goodwill’s pop-up retail shop instead of buying new at the big box store. The first 500 event attendees will also receive a reusable bag giveaway. 

There will be plenty of fun for the grown-ups as well including:

  • Get Organized! Organizing expert, author, and Goodwill International spokesperson Lorie Marrero will share tips on how to de-clutter, organize your home and get ready for the holidays! Lorie will conduct two 30-minute sessions which will include giving away a limited number of copies of her bestselling book, “The Clutter Diet”, as well!
  • Get Started! Goodwill Job Search Experts will be on-hand to conduct 3 mini-workshops, each free and 30 minutes in length:
    • Job Interviews Made Easy: Come learn the top 10 job interview mistakes to avoid in this highly interactive and fun session! Attendees can volunteer for one of two teams and vie “Family Feud” style for prizes, while learning what to avoid and what to do in an interview. And don’t worry, if you’d rather just watch and learn, that’s okay, too.
    • Resumes That Work:  Come learn the top 10 resume mistakes to avoid in this highly interactive and fun session! Attendees can volunteer for one of two teams and vie “Family Feud” style for prizes, while learning what to avoid and what to do in an interview.  And don’t worry, if you’d rather just watch and learn, that’s okay, too.
    • The Game of Life: In this session, attendees will get to make some “real world” decisions in a not so real setting and learn how those decisions impact their lives.  The leader will also share an overview of the ways Goodwill can help individuals be successful in life. Be sure to grab a seat for this eye-opening, entertaining, and educational seminar.

 Check out the complete list of festival fun and call (757) 268-7463 for more information. We’ll see you there!

Posted in: Community events

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A Windy New Energy Source

Posted on October 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

wind-generator-1184115-mThere’s a breath of fresh air blowing through Chesapeake and it’s coming from Grassfield High School.  It’s a wind turbine!  The new structure has been in the works for years but finally came to fruition over the summer.  The turbine is expected to help power the concession area at the football stadium, greatly reducing electricity costs for the school.  Plus, students in the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Academy will get to study the benefits of this alternative power.  The wind turbine was funded by the Chesapeake Public Schools Educational Foundation, with support from many business partners and of course, a strong fundraising effort by the students at Grassfield High.

So how exactly does wind become electricity?  Let me break it down for you in a way that even my own non-science brain can understand.  The main components of the turbine are the blades, the shaft and the generator.  When the wind blows, it moves the blades.  Those blades are connected to the shaft which spins inside the turbine.  The spinning shaft is connected to a generator which then produces the energy!  (You know that generator you bought in case of hurricanes?  It probably requires gas to produce energy.  This one doesn’t need gas but uses the power of the wind instead.)   Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  I’ll admit there are a few more details to that process but you get the gist! 

Here’s a quick math problem to throw in there for good measure.  Wind + Turbine = Electricity to cook you a hotdog on game day. 

Now that’s a delicious and efficient use of energy.

Posted in: For educators, Going Green, Service Learning, Uncategorized

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Happy New (Water) Year!

Posted on September 30, 2014 by | Comments Off

Resolve to pay less in 2013, New Year's ResolutionsDid you know that we start a new “water year” on October 1? Water year is a term used by hydrologists, the scientists who study the water cycle (how water moves between rivers and lakes, groundwater, and the atmosphere). In the U.S., the annual water year starts in October because that is generally when the low flow period of late summer ends and autumn rains start to replenish rivers and lakes.

So why is the water cycle important? Water is the stuff of life on which we depend. Our bodies are 60% water and we quickly die without water. While the overall amount of water on the planet doesn’t change (we are drinking the same water the dinosaurs did), the amount of fresh water is quite limited.  Of all the Earth’s water, 97% is salty and 2% is frozen, leaving only 1% available to us and the fish and aquatic life that also need fresh water to live. That’s not much water to take care of 7 billion people and all the critters!

The average American uses about 100 gallons of water a day in our homes – or 146,000 gallons per year for a family of four. Most of our household water goes to flush toilets and for baths and showers. But we use water in many other ways. About 40% of water use in the U.S. is for generating electricity (steam generation and cooling towers), and another 40% is used in agriculture. Your burger, fries and soft drink required about 1500 gallons of water to produce – enough water to fill a small swimming pool. The pair of jeans and shirt you bought took about 800 gallons of water.

In the U.S., we have an abundance of clean water, but much of the rest of the world is not so lucky. There are many water shortages and conflicts over water around the globe. In fact, the U.S. military has identified water conflicts and global climate change as two of the most significant threats to international security.

Norfolk’s water system treats about 72 million gallons a day and serves over 820,000 customers – including the Navy, businesses, and customers in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Our water comes from a number of lakes and wells in Isle of Wight County, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach.  Some of our water is even piped from Lake Gaston and the Nottoway River, over 70 miles away.

Because fresh water is such a precious and limited resource, there are a number of things we can do to reduce our water use. Fixing plumbing leaks is important since 6% of the water in an average home is lost to leaks. When buying new appliances and faucets, look for the “Water Sense” label, which means they have been designed to use less water. In the shower, install a water reduction aerator and turn off the water while soaping up. Turning off the water while brushing your teeth will save 3 gallons a minute. Install a rain barrel to collect water from your roof to water outside plants. Better yet, reduce the size of your lawn so you don’t have to water so much. Less lawn also means less time mowing – and we all have better things to do than mow the lawn!

Blog post contributed by Karen Mayne. Karen is a biologist retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who resides in Norfolk and enjoys writing about environmental issues.

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Using water wisely

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Got drugs? Don’t flush them!

Posted on September 26, 2014 by | Comments Off

Medication DisposalThis Saturday, September 27th from 10am – 2pm is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Take a look through your medicine cabinet and I bet you will find at least 1 container of unwanted or expired medication that you should get rid of.    I went through mine and I found not 1, not 2, but 3 containers of expired medication!  Unused medication in your home can be accidentally ingested, stolen, misused, and abused.  According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 6.5 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs and the majority of these drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from – you guessed it – the home medicine cabinet.  Those are scary facts if you are a parent like me.

So why can’t we all just flush our unused medications?  Wouldn’t that be the easiest way to get rid of them?   Well, yes it’s easy, but it’s not responsible or green – so let’s talk green for a moment.  For about 1.6 million people in Hampton Roads, what you flush down your toilet, or put down any drain in your home, ends up at a HRSD wastewater treatment plant.  These plants are great at reducing biodegradable materials, pathogens, and the nutrient content of our waste before it is discharged into local waterways.  However, they were not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).  Some of the chemicals in medications and personal care products, like sunscreens and soaps, can get right through these treatment plants and into the environment, and at high enough concentrations, they can harm aquatic organisms.  You may have needed that medication – but the fish certainly do not!  HRSD’s PPCPs in Wastewater brochure provides more information on local and national research efforts surrounding pharmaceuticals in wastewater, but don’t forget that YOUR FLUSH COUNTS.  One of the EASIEST things to do to reduce the concentration of pharmaceuticals in wastewater is to properly dispose of unused medication.  

Participating in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is a great way to safely dispose of drugs.  Just find a collection site near you.  If you can’t make it to a collection site on Saturday don’t worry, we’ve got 2 other options for you:

1.  Find a pharmacy close to you that offers a take back program.  Currently, many local pharmacies are restricted from accepting controlled medications – but this is about to change!  Next month, new DEA regulations will allow pharmacies to become registered collectors and accept unwanted medication via a collection receptacle or a mail-back program.

2.  If you don’t want to wait you can dispose of medications properly at home.  Just follow these 5 steps:

  1. Keep medications in the original bottle.
  2. Mark out all identifying personal information.
  3. Crush solid medications or dissolve them in water.  Mix all medications with kitty litter, sawdust, or another substance that will make it unsuitable for human or animal consumption.   
  4. Seal the bottle with a lid.
  5. Conceal the bottle within a non-recyclable container and put it in the trash for landfill disposal.

I know what you are thinking ….”but Sarah, 5 steps is a lot, I don’t have time for that”.  Oh yes you do!  And to prove just how easy it is, my 3-year old is going to show you how to do it.  Remember those 3 expired bottles of medication I found tucked away in my medicine cabinet?  Madelyn is about to dispose of them – check it out!  And keep in mind while watching that you can probably do this much faster without a toddler!

Posted in: Going Green, Research, Uncategorized, Waterways

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