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Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: January 2021

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Home Green Home

January brings cold weather and a winter wonderland. While everything may be cold, snowy, and white outside, now is a good time of the year to focus on greening the inside of your home. Make it a resolution to continue simple habit changes throughout the New Year to make your "home sweet home" into a "home green home" in 2022. Here are some tips to get started:

Person shoveling snow to clear a path
Save on fuel and cut down on air pollution
by shoveling or going electric, if possible.
  • Use an electric snow blower to clear your walkways and driveways this winter. Or better yet, shovel when possible. You will get some exercise and help the environment. Of course, keep your health in mind and clear snow safely.
  • Reduce food waste and if your home doesn't already compost - if possible, invest in a composting set up or service. You will not only help our environment, but you'll also benefit by creating compost to use in your gardens. Learn how to reduce wasted food (leaves DEC's website) in your home.
  • Increase your energy efficiency by using a timer or a scheduler on your thermostat -- set the temperature lower if you'll be gone for four or more hours. The air is dry this time of year but by air dry your clothing, you can add moisture back into the air to help humidify your home and save energy.
    If you're in the market for new appliances, look for ones with Energy Star® certification.
  • Plant a tree. They help to lower heating and cooling costs by offering shade to your home, provide food and shelter for native wildlife, improve water quality by filtering runoff, prevent erosion, and increase overall public health and well-being. You can purchase a tree or shrub seedling through the spring seedling sale, now through May 13.
  • Close the recycling loop and buy recycled. Post-consumer recycled content items to look for in the grocery store include paper napkins, paper towels, toilet tissue, writing papers, greeting cards, envelopes, paperboard packaging (this includes cereal, cake, and cracker boxes), paper bags, and containers made of recycled glass, aluminum, and steel. Be sure to check the products "recycled content" information on its packaging when making your purchases.
  • Recycle used electronics properly -- not with your household recycling. Items such as keyboards, televisions, printers, game consoles, photocopiers, fax machines, etc. should be disposed of as e-waste at designated facilities. Read more about the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act.
  • Properly dispose of used oil. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, make sure to take your used oil to an authorized service or retail location for recycling at no charge. The law requires establishments that sell at least 500 gallons per year of new oil and perform vehicle servicing to accept up to five gallons of used oil per person per day. Read more about what to do with used oil.
  • Correctly dispose of all types of batteries. From car batteries to alkaline - make sure you dispose of batteries properly. Vehicle batteries and rechargeable batteries can leak contaminants, so it is illegal to throw these in the trash. Best for the new year - transition to rechargeable batteries and consider electronic lawn care items, and e-vehicles.
  • Dispose of unused prescriptions safely. This will help keep New York's water clean by not flushing prescription drugs. DEC offers information on safe household medication disposal in addition to a map to find a nearby collection site.
  • Go Foam Free New York. As of January 1, 2022, disposable food containers containing expanded polystyrene foam will not be able to be used. New York state law puts certain restrictions on the use of expanded polystyrene containers. This includes certain packaging peanuts -- alternatives include using kraft papers and other reusable, recyclable, and compostable items. Learn more about going foam free.

DEC provides additional information on how to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost.

Did you know that…

  • Propylene glycol anti-freeze is safer than ethylene glycol anti-freeze. It is less toxic for children, pets, and wildlife. Anti-freeze based on ethylene glycol is highly poisonous, even in small amounts. Plus, spills attract animals because it smells and tastes sweet.
  • This year marks the 40th anniversary of the New York State Returnable Container Act. Over this time, container litter has been reduced by 75 percent. Visit your local store or redemption center and get your 5 cent deposits back.
  • You could be eligible to receive assistance to lower your energy bills and reduce your environmental impact. Check out New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's (NYSERDA) programs for renters and homeowners (leaves DEC's website).

Being a friend of the environment

Burning at home - Remember not to burn wet wood or household trash in your outdoor wood boiler or wood-fueled furnace. Smoke and soot from inappropriate or illegal fuels can be harmful to the health of your family and neighbors. Only burn clean, dry, untreated wood to reduce air pollution in your neighborhood.

Safety first - Going out on foot to ice fish? Four inches thick is a standard safety minimum and that is only for new, clear ice, on non-running waters. Otherwise, ice thickness recommendations change based on what you're using to be on the ice. Ice thickness can vary and is not uniform on a body of water - that's why you must frequently check conditions and make safety the priority. It is always best to err on the side of caution.

a do-it-youself weekly calendar on a dry erase board
Get organized and reduce your paper waste.
A dry erase board can be used to track your to-do lists, grocery
items, or your weekly and monthly plans.

Creative calendars -- Instead of buying a disposable paper calendar for 2022, consider other options. Your computer, tablet, or phone can be used to keep track of appointments and important dates. If you do have a paper calendar, repurpose it once the year is complete by framing the pictures -- this will extend usage and life well beyond the year.

Stop sewage overflows - Do not put fats, oils, or grease down your drains because they build up in pipes and can cause sewers to overflow or backup into homes and businesses.

Less taxing - Getting ready for the April tax deadline? Request your forms and documentation digitally to reduce paper waste. Also, try going digital with your receipts and paying and receiving bills. This can help to promote organization and reduce paper waste.

Class act - January is also the start of a new semester for many. Try renting used or digital versions of college textbooks. This can save money and resources. Just type "rent textbooks" in your search engine to find vendors.

Follow NYSDEC on social media and use #LiveGreenNY to share any habits you'd like to change this year to be a better friend of the environment and we'll share tips to help you meet your goals.

Like our tree planting tip? Then make sure to visit this page next month as we show our love for New York State by celebrating the state symbols, including the official state tree.

You Asked, We Answered!

With the new year comes resolutions. We asked you to tell us about the green actions you're hoping to adopt in 2022 and gave you tips to help you stick to your goals.

  • Composting
    • A: Reduces landfill waste and turns your trash into a rich, dark, soil-like substance for use in gardens. Learn how to get started!
  • Walking to work
    • A: A great way to lower fuel emissions. Long commute? Combine walking or biking with public transportation.
  • Using more glass/silicone reusable containers
    • A. Here for it! Using these can really help to minimize your use of single-use items.
  • No more single-use coffee pods
    • A: We get it, caffeine is a necessity! Try out a refillable pod paired with coffee beans or tea leaves from a local shop.
  • Planting more native plants
    • A: Love this! Helps to bring in pollinators, saves water, and requires little care.
  • Whatever you got!
    • A: Funny you say this! Each month we share tips on how you can be a friend of the environment - follow us to keep up with various monthly topics.