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EPA's Top-Five Keys to a Green and Healthy Summer

Release Date: 07/17/2006
Contact Information: Roxanne Smith, (202) 564-4355 / smith.roxanne@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - July 17, 2006) Here are tips from the Environmental Protection Agency to make this a healthy and safe summer. This information can help the wallet as well as protect the environment.

"Although school may be out, our environmental responsibility never hears the dismissal bell," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "By learning the environmental ABC's of summer, we can keep green in our wallets and help green our communities."

The tips in this release are divided into five categories that can be featured by your news organization over the course of a week. Each also can stand alone.

More information on all these steps: epa.gov/epahome/hi-summer.htm


1. Monday – Conserve Water to Keep it Flowing

During the summer it is especially important to save and protect water. Drought conditions in certain parts of the country and activities that increase its use can cause water to be more scarce.

WaterSense. EPA's new water efficiency program helps consumers make smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance. Easily corrected household water leaks frequently rob consumers of eight percent of their water bill. At least 30 percent of water used by household irrigation systems is lost through wind evaporation and improper design, installation or maintenance. The average household adopting water efficient products and practices can save 30,000 gallons per year – enough to supply a year of drinking water for 150 of their neighbors.
http://www.epa.gov/watersense/

Water Saver Home. Learn what you can do to reduce water use in your home -- take a virtual tour of this Water Saver Home: http://www.h2ouse.net

Volunteer Monitoring. Spend extra summer vacation time doing environmental volunteering. The summer growing season is when a lot of vegetative restoration activities (seeding, planting trees, aquatic grasses, removal of invasive species, etc) take place; most of these restoration activities rely primarily on citizen volunteers to succeed. Find out how you can get involved.
http://www.epa.gov/owow/monitoring/vol.html

Look for the Energy Star label when you buy new appliances. Depending on the appliance, products with this label will consume between 13 percent and 40 percent less energy than conventional appliances. Learn more about Energy Star products: http://www.energystar.gov

Enroll in a green energy program. More and more utilities across the country are offering consumers the option of having some or all of their household or business energy purchased from renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and biomass.


2. Tuesday – Protect Yourself in the Sun and Heat

Summertime means more time outside, in the sun, in the heat and in the water. Being aware and informed make for a healthier summer:

Sun Protection. By following a few simple steps, you can enjoy your time in the sun while protecting yourself from overexposure to the sun's harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays.
http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/actionsteps.html

Air Quality. Before you go outside or exercise check the air quality in your community.
http://epa.gov/airnow/

Check Local Beach Water Quality Conditions. There are several things that you can do to improve the quality of water at the beach. For example, you can learn more about the quality of the water at your local beach, become involved as a responsible citizen to reduce pollutants that can wash into the water, and find out what state or local agencies or departments are responsible for protecting the quality of the water at your beach.
http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches/goer2.html

Use Insect Repellents Safely. Mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks can be annoying and sometimes pose a serious risk to public health. In certain areas of the United States, mosquitoes can transmit diseases like equine and St. Louis encephalitis. Biting flies can inflict a painful bite that can persist for days, swell, and become infected. Ticks can transmit serious diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. When properly used, insect repellents can discourage biting insects from landing on treated skin or clothing.
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/mosquitoes/insectrp.htm


3. Wednesday – Road Trip Wisely

Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount of gas you use on the road and at the pump. If you are already following these tips, you are probably getting the best gas mileage your car can deliver.
http://www.epa.gov/air/actions/drive_wise.html

Maintaining Your Vehicle - Watch your dashboard light to prevent pollution
Making sure you service your vehicle whenever the Check Engine light is illuminated can help you:
Prevent more costly repairs.
Improve your vehicle's fuel economy.
Ensure that your vehicle is ready to pass an emissions inspection.
Reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants.

Green Vehicle Guide Smog is at its highest levels during the summer. Tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks account for almost half of the air pollution in the United States. You may be surprised to know that you have cleaner more fuel-efficient choices in any vehicle size you need, even an SUV. Find out for yourself. Go to the Green Vehicle Guide to find the cleanest, most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs.
http://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles

Refueling your vehicle Gasoline vapors are harmful to you and the environment. Not only are they toxic to breathe, they contribute to ozone formation in the atmosphere. Since gasoline vapor production increases during the hot summer months, it is important to be careful when refueling your vehicle. Here are some simple measures you can take at the gas station:
Secure the gas cap after refueling to prevent vapors from escaping.
Avoid refueling on Ozone Action Days.
If you must refuel on Ozone Action Days do so in the early morning or evening.

By making some fairly simple changes in your daily or weekly routine, you can help to clean the air. Try taking an alternative form of transportation to work, such as a bus, train, bike, or even walking. This simple action can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 1,500 pounds each year.


4. Thursday – Keep Your Cool Inside and Out

Cool Change Campaign.
Keeping your house cool when it's hot is important because energy use increases in the summer. Learn about the "Cool Change Campaign" in Energy Star.
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_consumer_cool_change

Summertime Recycling Activities. You can recycle all year long but in the summer there are special things that you can do in your yard such as composting. To learn more: epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/reduce/catbook/tip10.htm

Recycling Around the Home Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials and decrease the amount and toxicity of the waste produced in and around your home.
http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/home.htm

When it is hot, postpone chores that use oil-based paints, solvents, or varnishes that produce fumes and, if you are barbecuing, use an electric starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid.

Use Pesticides Safely
If you decide that the best solution to your pest problem is a pesticide, follow these tips when selecting and using a garden product:
Identify the pest problem
Find the product that solves the problem
Buy the right amount for your needs
Read the label carefully and use the product the right way
Pay attention to warnings
Prevent harm to the environment - never pour lawn and garden products down a drain

Information about how to store pesticides safely: epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/store.htm
Information about how to dispose of pesticides safely: epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/disposal.htm

Learn more pesticide safety tips: epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/pest_ti.htm

Lawn and Garden
A beautiful and healthy lawn is good for our environment. It can resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. Pesticides can be effective, but need to be used according to the directions on the label and should not be relied on as a quick-fix to lawn problems.

Develop healthy soil. Make sure your soil has the right pH balance, key nutrients, and good texture. You can buy easy-to-use soil analysis kits at hardware stores or contact your local County Cooperative Extension Service for a soil analysis.

Choose the right grass for your climate. If your area gets very little rain, don't plant a type of grass that needs a lot of water. Select grass seed that is well suited to your climate and other growing conditions such as the amount of sunlight and rain your lawn receives. Over-seed your lawn each Fall by spreading seeds on top of the lawn. A thicker lawn helps to crowd out weeds. Your local County Extension Service can advise you on which grasses grow best in your area.

Longer is Better. Make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp. Grass that is slightly long makes a strong, healthy lawn with few pest problems. Weeds have a hard time taking root and growing when grass is around 2 to 3 inches for most types of grass.

Water Early. It is time to water if footprint impressions stay in the lawn and do not spring back. Water early in the morning and only for short periods for time so the soil may absorb the water. Longer grass has stronger roots and retains water better.

Correct thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead plant materials between the grass blades and the soil. When thatch gets too thick, deeper than 3/4 of an inch, water and nutrients are prevented from getting into the soil and reaching the roots of the grass. Overusing synthetic fertilizer can create heavy layer of thatch, and some kinds of grass are prone to thatch buildup.

Recycle grass. Don't pick up the grass clippings after you mow. Clippings will return nutrients and moisture to the soil. Consider buying a mulching lawn mower. This will cut the grass clippings finer and blow them into the lawn.

Let your lawn breathe. Once a year, remove small plugs of earth to allow air and water to aerate the grass roots.

Invite a few weeds and insects into you garden. Think of you lawn as a small piece of nature where pests have their place. Often, nature provides its own pest control in the form of birds or other insects that feed on the insects we consider nuisances.

Use manual tools. Tools that don't require electric or gasoline engines are especially handy for small yards or small jobs. There are hand tools available that will meet a wide variety of lawn and garden needs, like lightweight, quiet, easy-to-use reel push mowers that generate no emissions.


5. Friday – Keep Money in Your Pocket

Many of things already mentioned on other days not only help the environment and keep you healthy, but also save you money.

WaterSense. Saving water is simple and smart. Follow these five easy tips so you can spend your money on summer fun.
Be smart when irrigating your lawn or landscape.
Use your appliances wisely.
Don't flush your money down the drains/toilets.
Conserve around the house.
Stop those leaks.
http://www.epa.gov/watersense/pubs/simple.htm

Energy Star. Last year alone, Energy Star helped Americans save $12 billion in energy costs. Why don't you join the people who are already saving money? Using Energy Star qualified products, from compact fluorescent light bulbs to energy efficient appliances, the average household can save about 30 percent in utility bills – that's about $450 per year.
http://www.energystar.gov/