EPA Region 3
Topic: Back to School 2010
Date: August 20, 2010
Mike Frankel: If one of the things you're shopping for is a printer, be sure to get one that prints double-sided. That way, you're saving paper every time you print.
Host Bonnie Smith: Speaking with us today about ways to conserve waste and save money is Mike Frankel of EPA's Land and Chemicals Division. I'm Bonnie Smith of EPA's mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.
Mike, what are some of the most important ways we can think and act green to prepare for the new school year?
Mike: Well, if you do a little advanced planning, you really can save money and help the environment when you do your back-to-school shopping. You know, the National Retail Federation found in a survey that this year the average consumer expects to spend more than $600 on back-to-school needs. So, where do you start? Well, look around the house, because before you go out and buy something new, you may already have supplies from previous years packed away—such as backpacks, notebooks, folders, even binders, can all be reused. When you do need to buy some new products, choose products that are made from recycled materials. Such as pencils made from recycled blue jeans, binders made from old shipping boxes, and of course always buy recycled paper. In addition to preserving our trees, it takes over 1,300 gallons of water to make one 500-sheet ream of paper.
If your kids are a little bit older, in college, you know that text books are a major expense. There's really a large secondary market for college texts. So be sure that you check with your campus bookstore, local bookstores in the community, as well as searching the Internet for a number of resale sites for college texts. And for your younger kids, there may be an opportunity to pass those books on to younger kids or to charitable organizations, libraries, etc.
Bonnie: Electronic devices will be in more backpacks and pockets than ever before this year. What advice do you have about buying and disposing of electronics?
Mike: If you're looking at buying electronics this year, be sure that you look for those that are energy-efficient. Look for the EnergyStar mark when you're looking for new electronics. If one of the things you're shopping for is a printer, be sure to get one that prints double-sided. That way, you're saving paper every time you print. Many of the other electronic devices that you're looking for this year—monitors, computers, cell phones, televisions—can all be disposed of properly through what we call e-cycling. Check with your retailer because many are partnering with EPA to be sure that these electronics are disposed of properly. If you don't know ways to dispose of your electronics, call your local street or sanitation or environmental agency, or contact EPA to learn of proper ways to dispose of electronics. There's more information available at www.epa.gov/ecycling, that's e-c-y-c-l-i-n-g, and you can find resources in your community for proper disposal.
Bonnie: Mike, what are some general tips that can mean a lot this time of year?
Mike: Well, some things that everyone can do, if you're bringing your lunch to school, why not package it in a reusable container instead of a disposable one? Bring drinks in insulated bottles instead of buying from machines or using disposable bottles. This saves money and it reduces waste. If your school really doesn't have anything in place, well, encourage them to start a recycling program. It really is easy and schools may find that it's beneficial to them financially. If you're going to drive to school, why not try carpooling with some friends, or it's a nice day walk or take a bike. By changing your transportation routine, you can change on fuel costs, lower air pollution and decrease traffic in your community.
You know the best way to prevent pollution is not to create it in the first place. For more information on preventing pollution, go to www.epa.gov/p2 -- that's the letter p and the number 2.
Bonnie: Thanks, Mike, for sharing your thoughts on how some simple planning can go a long way to saving money and helping the environment. And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.