Make a Difference
Green Living - Tips and Resources for Making Environmentally Responsible Choices in Your Daily Life
fiddleheads by Joanne Hihn
Bookmark this page and check the "10 Things" list below for seasonally updated actions you can take to live greener right now!
Subscribe through GovDelivery to get an email when new seasonal tips are posted!
Watch the Green Tips videos on DEC TV
Ten Things You Can Do to Help The Environment Right Now - Spring
- Spring cleaning - for the birds?
Hate to break it to you but you should clean bird feeders every two weeks regardless of season. Droppings, winter-tolerant bacteria and moldy seeds can make birds sick. Wash feeders thoroughly in hot, soapy water, rinse in a 1:9 bleach solution and dry thoroughly. Rake up old seed from the ground below feeders, too.
- The art of burping your trout
If you are catch-and-release fishing for trout and salmon in very deep water (60 feet), the pressure drop as a fish is brought up causes the swim bladder to expand and may prevent the fish from diving back down to colder water when you release it. Left in this condition, many die. Find out how to tell if a fish needs "burping" and how to do it.
The agile long-horned bee prefers
- Plant a bee garden
New York's 450 bee species are actually two- to three- times more effective at pollinating than the honeybee (which gets all the credit). To attract them, don't use pesticides and plant the native flowers and herbs that they prefer. Learn more about native bees, and how to identify and attract them on the Great Pollinator Project website (see link at right).
- Earthworms - forest foe
If you use earthworms for bait when fishing, don't dump leftover worms onto the soil at the end of the day. Throw them in the trash. They are not native and can harm our forests by consuming organic matter needed by young tree seedlings. See "Ten Things to Know about Earthworms" at right.
- Yelp, gobble and drum
If you're out in the woods hunting turkey this spring, you might want be part of DEC's Ruffed Grouse Drumming survey. Survey forms and instructions will be available in April. The survey helps DEC monitor the size and location of grouse populations.
- High efficiency washers need high efficiency detergents
If you have a high-efficiency clothes washer, always use a high efficiency (HE) detergent for best performance. HE detergents are low-sudsing and quick-dispersing and are designed to work with less water. Using regular detergent creates too many suds which, over time, can lead to odors and mechanical issues. HE detergents have the symbol at right on the box or bottle. Do not use products that say "HE compatible"as some are just regular detergents.
These dryer balls (wool-covered, reclaimed
tennis balls) reduce static and help
- Sustainable products: You already know the basics.
You asked us to kick it up a notch, so each Green Living will include at least one kicked-up tip. Here's the first (you may be sorry you asked): Tired of the ever-increasing cost and decreasing quality of an item you use for 10 seconds and then flush? You may be ready for an alternative. Google "cloth wipe challenge" and see if you are.
- Sustainable products two-fer:
Skip buying fabric softener sheets and try reusable felted wool dryer balls. They reduce static and help dry laundry by separating items as they bounce around your dryer.
- What to do with wood ashes
Have a can of left-over ashes from your wood stove and wonder if they'd be good for your garden? They likely won't do any harm unless your soil pH is already over the top. But they're not nutrient-dense either. If you're using large quantities, test your soil every two years. Bottom line, if you're just aiming for convenient disposal of your cold wood ashes, a garden is a good choice. Just don't count on them to work miracles.
- Adirondack eye candy
Planning your spring or summer vacations? Be sure to visit the newly launched "Visit Adirondacks" website (see link at right), filled with trip ideas, information and gorgeous photos that will inspire first-time visitors, and long-time fans alike. Explore by region -and find events and places to stay - all in one place!
Common Environmental Misconceptions and Myths Exposed and Explained by DEC Experts
Myth: Torn, stained or otherwise unwearable clothing can't be taken to Goodwill.
Busted: Charities will accept all sorts of textiles, including those that you think are too worn or damaged to donate.
If you're thinking of throwing out a wine-stained blouse, socks with no mates, or the jeans that you loved to death-don't do it! Clothing and other textiles (sheets and towels for example) that are clean and dry, but otherwise unusable, can be donated to Goodwill.
How textiles get recycled and reused
Color-sorted bales of textiles await
reuse. (Photo: Kansas State Univ.)
According to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, such textiles still have value:
- 45% is re-used as apparel. These items are generally processed into large bales that are then sold in the U.S. to the secondhand clothing industry or are exported to emerging market nations where demand for top quality secondhand clothing is particularly high.
- 30% is cut into wiping rags or polishing cloths used in commercial and industrial settings.
- 20% is reprocessed into its basic fiber content. The fibers are put to new uses. Cotton can be made into rags or used to make new high-quality paper. Knitted or woven woolens and similar materials are "pulled" into a fibrous state for reuse by the textile industry in low-grade applications, such as car insulation or seat stuffing. Other types of fabric can be reprocessed into fibers for upholstery, insulation, and even building materials. Buttons and zippers are stripped off for reuse.
- 5% is wet, moldy or contains oil or solvents and cannot be used.
It's a win-win for everyone. Charities make money selling the textiles, a useful product is kept out of landfills and 95% of the textiles are put to good use.
Where to drop textiles
Use the large collection boxes at the Goodwill.
More about Make a Difference:
- Keep Water Clean - Tips for protecting New York's water resources from all forms of pollution
- Save Energy and Water - A selection of tips to help you save energy and water around the house and in your yard
- Keep Air Clean - Tips to use every day to prevent air pollution
- Use Less-Toxic Products - Suggestions and tips for less-toxic and non-toxic products for use in your home and yard
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Compost - Tips on recycling, reducing solid waste, reusing and composting
- Protect Fish, Wildlife and Open Space - Tips for creating wildlife habitat and preventing the spread of invasive species
- Connect To Nature - Different ways to experience and learn about the natural world
- Green Your Commute - Ways to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases generated on your daily commute.
- Myth Buster Archive - previous Myth Busters