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Make March a Month of Green

St. Patrick’s Day brings visions of green – from four-leaf clovers to little green leprechauns. So why not continue that green theme in by planting a garden? Since we are lucky enough to live in Florida, planting a garden in March is absolutely doable.

vegetables growing in roof gardenBesides the green beans or green peppers, what else is green about planting a garden? First, plants improve air quality by filtering the air to remove airborne toxins. Plants release oxygen. Also, walking outside to pick fresh berries, fruit and vegetables instead of driving to the grocery store produces zero auto emissions and uses zero gallons of gas.

Make your garden even greener by collecting rain to water plants instead of watering from the hose. Growing some of your own vegetables and herbs also eliminates the energy and products used to package and transport foods to your table.

Along with the satisfaction that comes with the harvest, green gardening is also a good way to protect air quality, reduce waste and conserve resources.

Learn more easy actions for gardeners.

March 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm Leave a comment

Green Your Holiday Season

It’s the time of year when you squeeze in last-minute holiday shopping after a long day at work, when you wrap gifts up secretly so your children won’t peek, or when you frantically clean your home for family and guests.

It’s the time of year when hustle and bustle is expected, so we’ve compiled great simple tips to keep in mind for a green-and-clean holiday.

1. Use green cleaners. When preparing for holiday guests, trade in harsh household cleaners for cleaners that are safer for human (and pet) health and the environment. Find green cleaning tips.

2. Choose reusable shopping bags. Only 12 percent of plastic bags and 37 percent of paper bags are reused or recycled. Read DEP’s Retail Bags Report to learn more about how disposable bags impact the environment.

3. Share leftovers with guests or compost food waste. Send guests home with reusable containers of leftover feast or create compost instead of letting kitchen scraps and food go to the landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers helpful tips for composting organic waste.

4. Wrap it green. gift tag with recycling symbolWrap gifts in paper made with recycled content or reuse wrapping paper. Or get creative with newspapers, old maps, magazines. Scarves, holiday linens or bandanas are excellent alternatives to paper wrapping. Reusable holiday bags are also a greener option than one-time-use paper. Try giving gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates or gift cards.

5. Choose green lodging. If traveling or hosting out-of-town guests for the holidays, consider using a Florida Green Lodging designated property. Green Lodging facilities adopt cost-saving green practices to conserve energy, reduce water consumption, protect air quality and reduce waste.

6. Buy rechargeable batteries. About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run. Learn more about rechargeable batteries on EPA’s website.

7. Visit a state park. Santa with deer at Homosassa Springs State Park, FloridaEntertain guests in one of Florida’s state parks. Many state parks host holiday events with lights, decorations and activities. Open 365 days a year, Florida’s state parks span more than 700,000 acres and 100 miles of sandy white beach, offering a glimpse into natural Florida. You can follow state parks on Twitter @FLStateParks.

8. Avoid idling in holiday traffic – Dial 511. Crawling traffic can contribute eight times as much air pollution as traffic moving at regular highway speeds. Call the Florida Department of Transportation’s 511 traffic information hotline or check the 511 website to learn about traffic, road closures and construction to avoid idling and reduce air pollution when holiday traveling.

9. Create your own decorations.rosemary Christmas tree in painted pot Create holiday decorations such as ornaments with old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, and potpourri made from spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Paint terracotta pots with holiday theme. Plant rosemary or other savory herbs in the holiday pots to serve as decoration and a tasty addition to the spice rack.

10. Consider the tree. Real or artificial, your Christmas tree impacts the environment. Read “Buying Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees” on the Earth911 blog.

December 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Household Hazardous Waste: What Happens to It?

By Richard Lobinske
Hazardous Waste Manager
Leon County Solid Waste Management Division

Many things happen between the time you drop an item off at the Leon County Solid Waste Management Division’s (SWMD) Hazardous Waste Center or at a collection event, and it reaches final destination. Each step is guided by the need for personal and environmental safety.

First, after items are dropped off, each item’s condition is inspected. About a quarter of the items received are good, usable products in their original containers. You can pick up the items like this that you need for free at the Swap Shop, which keeps them out of the waste stream and avoids disposal costs.

The remaining items are then sorted by hazard. The Leon County Hazardous Waste Center has the proper storage areas and equipment to handle materials such as flammable liquids, corrosives, oxidizers, liquid or solid pesticides and waste oils. After items are sorted, they are prepared for disposal, depending on type of hazard.

Fluorescent lamps of all types are sealed in cardboard boxes. About every six to eight weeks, a contractor picks these up for transport to their facility. There, the lamps are shredded in a forced air system that separates the mercury, glass and aluminum. All three materials are collected and sold for reuse.

Latex paint is sorted to usable and waste paint. Usable paint is bulked into five gallon pails and distributed to the public once a week at no charge. With a little staff creativity, there are usually a good variety of colors. Waste paint is bulked into 55 gallon drums for either disposal in a lined landfill by our primary waste contractor, or used by a roofing company to make a low weight alternative to tar and gravel on flat roofs.

shelves with common household hazardous waste, such as paintsOil based paint is bulked into 55 gallon drums for disposal through SWMD’s contractor. The liquid portions of each drum are used in blending industrial fuels. The solids are either burned by high-temperature incineration or put in a hazardous waste landfill.

Aerosol paints are handled on site. Cans are sealed into a device mounted on a 55 gallon drum. The cans are punctured and the contents drained into the drum. Vapors are captured in a carbon filter mounted on the drum. After draining, the metal in the can is recycled though SWMD’s recycling program while the collected paint is handled like oil-based paint.

Waste motor oils, cooking oils and fuels are collected weekly by a used oil recycler. They filter the oils and sell them for the making of lubricants and fuels. The same recycler extracts oil from filters and recycles the metal.

SWMD’s electronic scrap recycler does all work in Florida, using some of the newest gear to break e-scrap down to its components. These include precious metals like gold and platinum, toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium, plus large amounts of aluminum, copper, steel, glass and plastic. These are sold to be reused in making new products.

The cardboard boxes that people often use to bring items to the center are handled by the recycling program. Non-recyclable containers and other non-hazardous waste are sent to the Leon County Transfer Station for disposal in a lined landfill.

This is just an introduction to the many ways staff handle hazardous materials for recycling or proper disposal. It keeps us busy. SWMD knows that there is a lot more household hazardous waste out there. Bring it on. Staff would like to be even busier.

Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection Event

Bringing your hazardous waste to your local household hazard waste center or off-site collection is one easy way each of us can protect our air and water quality and reduce waste.

On Saturday, Oct.1, Easy As One will join Leon County Solid Waste Management Division at the Leon County Public Works Operations Center 2280 Miccosukee Rd from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Easy As One will collect used cell phones (working and non-working) along with stray chargers. Leon County will collect household hazardous waste. Participants will receive a Florida State Park day pass. While supplies last.

Location: Leon County Public Works Operations Center 2280 Miccosukee Rd, Tallahassee, Fla.
Date and time: Oct. 1, 2011, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Contact: Richard Lobinske at or Leon County Hazardous Waste at (850) 606-1803

September 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment

College Football Fans Compete to Protect the Environment

 from the EPA…

This fall, colleges across the country will compete to see which schools can reduce, reuse and recycle the most waste as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2011 Game Day Challenge. Registration for the competition is now open, and champions will be crowned this December.

Any college or university in the United States with a football team can compete. The challenge is for schools to design a waste reduction plan for one 2011 regular season home football game and measure the results. Schools can collect common materials for recycling including paper, beverage containers, cardboard, and food to be donated and composted. The amount of waste generated and recycled will determine which school is the greenest on the gridiron.

Schools can win in several categories:

•           Least amount of waste generated per attendee

•           Greatest greenhouse gas reductions from diverting waste

•           Highest recycling rate

•           Highest organics reduction rate (i.e., food donation and composting)

•           Highest combined recycling and composting rate.

The competition is sponsored by EPA’s WasteWise program, a voluntary program through which organizations eliminate costly municipal solid waste and select industrial wastes, benefiting their bottom line and the environment. Reducing waste generated at collegiate sporting events can save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, more than 75 participating schools kept 500,000 pounds of waste out of landfills, which prevented nearly 940 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 180 cars.

Register for the Game Day Challenge.

September 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm 1 comment

Rolling in the Sunshine State

I occasionally get curious about fairly odd topics. This morning, I decided I needed to know how many vehicles I passed on the way to work. After half a mile and 178 vehicles, my curiosity shifted to tires. How many tires are rolling across Florida right now? What happens to all those gazillion tires when they go flat or bald?

trafficTurns out, DEP keeps track of that sort of thing. An estimated 15,250,000 automobile, light truck, and smaller tires plus 850,000 medium truck and larger tires were removed from vehicles in Florida in 2008, according to the “Waste Tires in Florida, State of the State” report.

Sixteen million tires take up a lot of landfill space. Stockpiling isn’t particularly helpful – retired tires, especially piles and piles of them, provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes that transmit nasty diseases such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. We’ve learned that dumping them into the ocean as a pseudo reef is a bad idea. And we for sure don’t need that many tire swings. So what do we do with the tires? DEP keeps track of that, too.

• Waste-to-energy facilities used 54 percent of our old tires to enhance combustion temperature control and generate electricity.

• Nearly 600,000 tires were shredded and used instead of soil and aggregate in projects such as landfill drainage layers, methane gas collection systems and septic system drainage trenches.

• Crumb rubber made of tires from the Polk City Waste Tire Site was used to produce rubber modified asphalt (RMA) for paving the Withlacoochee and Van Fleet state trails in 1995, the first use of RMA for a trail in the U.S. (BTW, the Withlacoochee State Trail was recently designated a National Recreation Trail.)

• Recycled tires are used as fuel in cement kilns and pulp and paper factories.

• Tire shreds can be used to stabilize soil when constructing road embankments.

• Ground rubber is used in rubberized asphalt to pave playgrounds, running tracks and roads.

In small quantities, old tires can also be used as crash barriers around race tracks and boat bumpers at marinas. If you just need to dispose of a tire or two, check with a local tire center or contact your city or county waste management department.

pile of tiresIn any case, 18-wheeler or 4-wheeler size, tires are on our list of things to count. DEP’s Waste Tire Management Program addresses how waste tires should be moved, stored, processed, used or disposed. Staff assist in cleaning up illegal tire piles and work with potential buyers to develop markets for waste tires. In addition, DEP distributes grants to counties to help manage waste tires. In Florida, that’s the way we roll with tires.


2010 numbers provided by Daniel M. Kuncicky, Ph.D., Environmental Manager, Solid Waste Section, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Waste Tire Management Program
The waste tires report online
Withlacoochee State Trail
General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

August 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Make Your Fridge More Efficient

It’s summer in the way deep south, which means we frequently reach into our refrigerators for cold beverages to help us keep our cool. Refrigerators are responsible for approximately 14 percent of a home’s energy use, more than any other kitchen or cleaning appliance. Making your fridge more energy efficient is one easy way to conserve our resources – and your money.

  • Allow hot foods to cool before refrigerating or freezing.
  • A new ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator uses about 40 percent less energy than refrigerators sold in 2001.
  • Set your refrigerator temperature to 37-40 degrees and your freezer temperature between 0-5 degrees. A refrigerator colder than necessary uses up to 25 percent more energy.
  • Clean a refrigerator’s coils every six months. Dirty coils cause the refrigerator to use more energy. Brushing or vacuuming the coils can improve efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
  • Keep a full refrigerator. Your appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to keep food cold.
  • Check door seals to make sure they’re airtight. To test them, close the door on a dollar bill and try to pull it out. If the dollar slides out easily, you’re losing energy and money.


July 18, 2011 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

Book Your Summer

In conjunction with First Lady Ann Scott’s recent announcement of the Summer Literacy Adventure, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are encouraging students to head outdoors with a book from DOE’s Just Read, Florida! 2011 Recommended Summer Reading List.

Reading, indoors or outdoors, no matter the season, engages the imagination of both children and adults. Reading is also a green activity.

Woman on couch readingOnce produced, a book requires no additional resources to enhance its function. Books require no batteries, no chords, no chargers, no accessories, no electricity. Books do not require upgrades. Though sequels are sometimes produced, the original functions just fine without it.

Books require little maintenance. No fuel, oil, or hoses to refill, change or inspect.

Books are durable and can last under a bed for months, on a bookcase for decades, even centuries, and be just as functional as the day they were printed.

Books are easily shared. Books can be passed around to a multitude of friends and family members and still be read by yet another generation. Reading aloud is another green option for sharing a book with others, and doesn’t require downloading an app.

Books are portable. They fit easily into a beach bag, carry-on luggage, backpacks and pockets.

Reading is powered by the human mind, and during the long days of summer, reading light is provided by sunshine. The grass doesn’t get much greener.

Find more easy actions to stay cool and stay green this summer.

June 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

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