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Earth Day Tips

In the spirit of Earth Day, the Agency will be celebrating all week long. Here are a few tips for each day of the week:

Monday, April 22

Ready to take your recycling and composting skills to the next level this Earth Day? Or to help your community manage their materials even better? Get started with these resources:

  1. Learn about composting options in Vermont and the basics of composting in bear country in the newly released Compost with Confidence guide.
  2. Make sure you’re not wish-cycling things that shouldn't go in the recycling bin in the Vermonters’ Guide to Recycling or at
  3. Explore Vermont’s free special recycling programs and learn what to do with other banned and dangerous items in the VT Waste Not Guide or from your local solid waste district or town.
  4. Buying lunch?  Order meals “for here” on real dishes or bring a reusable plastic container to get meals to go. 
  5. Easy upgrades to your zero-waste kit: In addition to carrying around a reusable water bottle, bag, and coffee thermos, throw a cloth napkin and a metal spoon in your bag so you can skip the single-use silverware and napkins. It’s helpful to keep a spare washcloth at work to clean up spills (so you can skip the paper towels) and to bring a Tupperware to restaurants so you can take home your leftovers without any trash.
  6. Hole in your sweater? Rip in your jeans? New puppy chewed through a lamp cord? Before you give up on these items, try a repair! Visible mending is back in vogue, and re-wiring a lamp can be easy as pie. Cool! And if you don’t know how to do this yourself? No problem, just bring your items to a repair café!
  7. Follow @VTrecycles on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, April 23

If you’ve ever been to the Natchez Trace in the deep south, you’ve seen an extreme example of the effects of walking on unstable soil. Used over centuries, sections of the ‘sunken trace’ have worn 15 feet (!) below the level of the surrounding land – caused from nothing more than foot traffic.

It’s easy to forget when you head out on a beautiful spring day but, if made thoughtlessly, our footsteps and wheel tracks can cause major erosion and water quality issues.  This year consider making a commitment to getting outside without trashing the trails!  Follow these tips from the NorthWoods Stewardship Center and  Green Mountain Club to help you tread a little more lightly on the earth. 

In fact, there are lots of ways to spend time outdoors while still avoiding those muddy hiking and biking trails. Consider these options:

  1. Spring fishing rocks! F&W can help you find a spot to wet a line.
  2. Vermont State Parks has a great list of hikes for mud season across the state.
  3. Bike the durable surface of a rail trail such as the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail from Morrisville to Cambridge.
  4. Watch wildlife! Leaping steelhead trout, migrating hawks and spring peepers – spring is a feast for the senses.
  5. Paddle on the serene waters of the  Clyde River or capitalize on the white water release at Jamaica State Park for a wild ride.

Wednesday, April 24

Each September, the Agency highlights Septic Smart Week - a fun opportunity to spread the word about the importance of septic systems. Why do we care?  Because over 50% of Vermonters rely on a backyard system to treat wastewater properly thus keeping our drinking water safe.

These are complex systems that, ultimately, rely on beneficial bacteria to remove harmful pathogens before allowing water to disperse back into the ground. Failed systems have a real impact on the environment – they can impact well water or, if close to lakes or ponds, can contribute to algae blooms and harmful bacteria in our swim waters.  Gross!

Just because septic systems are out-of-sight, don't let them be out-of-mind. If you rely on an on-site septic system, here are a few things you can do to keep it working properly:

  1. Think at the sink because bacteria can’t do their work if they’re coated in latex paint or bacon grease.
  2. Protect your pipes by flushing only what you should down the toilet. Spoiler alert: it’s a short list.
  3. Near a lake? Organize a septic social for your neighbors so you can all pitch in to keep your beloved body of water clean. 
  4. Don’t do two week's worth of laundry on one day. That can overload your septic system. It’s better to spread loads of laundry, showers and other water-intensive chores over time to allow your septic tank enough time to treat waste and avoid flooding your drainfield.
  5. Use water efficiently by switching to low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, look for one with an Energy Star rating.
  6. Get tips on how your system works and how you can treat it kindly from the EPA – because the replacement cost of a failed system can run in the tens of thousands of dollars. Yikes!

Thursday, April 25

Your office photocopier automatically switches to the power-save mode when not in use. But do you remember to turn your computer and monitors off when you leave work? What about ‘ghost loads’ when the power is still flowing to the charger even after you’ve disconnected the cell phone or recharged the toothbrush? And how much power does a television use in standby mode, anyhow?

Honestly, the answer is not much – until you aggregate our collective usage. LED bulbs and increasingly efficient appliances are making a dent in energy use, but we all have more and more things to plug in. Standby power is now estimated around 5 – 10% of the power used in the US (and growing).

Although it might appear energy use in the US is plateauing, much of our manufacturing load has shifted overseas. It still takes energy to make a car, a pair of shoes or a ream of paper, but if the item wasn’t manufactured in the US, the power used to make it will be attributed to another country.  Add it all up, and our energy use is truly surging.

Some food for thought if you want to go on an energy diet:

  1. If it’s warm to the touch, has a remote control, charges a battery or displays a light and it is plugged in, it’s drawing power. When it comes to electronic devices, consider unplugging them, using a power strip that can be totally turned off, or just not buying them to begin with. Buy Energy Star products if you can and borrow a watt-meter to measure the power used by devices in your home so you can make informed decisions.
  2. Electric can openers and pencil sharpeners are wonderful tools for those with physical limitations but do you, yourself, really need one?  Instead of buying a treadmill that plugs into the wall, consider a stationary bike or rowing machine that generates its own power to display how many calories you burned. In the kitchen, chop veggies or stir cookie batter by hand instead of breaking out the electric appliance. And talk about bang for your buck, hang clothes to dry (indoors or out!) instead of using the dryer.
  3. For a dose of inspiration, check out Running the Numbers from artist Chris Jordan who uses statistics to visually represent social and environmental issues. (And this is slightly off topic, but if ‘Plastic Cups, 2008’ doesn’t make you cringe, I’m not sure anything will.

Friday, April 26

In Vermont, motor vehicles are the largest source of a number of air pollutants. Even small emission increases in individual vehicles, when multiplied by the size of the overall vehicle fleet and the ever-increasing annual vehicle miles traveled, place a significant burden on public health, our environment, and even the general global climate.

If you drive, reduce your personal pollution contribution with these clean air tips for the road!

  1. Whenever you can, opt to bike, walk, use public transportation, or carpool.
  2. Eliminate unnecessary idling. It harms human health, pollutes the air, wastes fuel, causes excess engine wear, and costs you money. And it’s against the law.  We estimate that if every car and truck in Vermont reduced unnecessary idling by just one minute per day, over the course of a year, Vermonters would save over 1 million gallons of fuel and over $2.5 million in fuel costs, and we would reduce CO2 emissions by more than 10,000 metric tons. 
  3. Prevent gas spillage; don’t top off your tank.
  4. Plan ahead! Combine errands or activities with necessary driving to avoid extra trips altogether.
  5. Inflate tires properly. Cars with soft tires can take up to 5% more energy to operate.
  6. Purchasing an electric or a more fuel-efficient vehicle can conserve energy and save money. To compare electric vehicle models available in Vermont, visit Drive Electric Vermont's website.  To compare vehicle efficiencies, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's and Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy website.  Electric cars are good – and they’re getting better, but they do still produce emissions elsewhere. Nothing beats walking or biking.
  7. If your “check engine” light is on, repairing your vehicle before more extensive problems occur can save money, increase vehicle performance, and help to protect the air we breathe.  Vehicle Emissions Warranties exist to help protect our health and environment.  Although you (and your mechanic) may not realize it, Vermont law requires significantly more extensive emissions system warranty coverage than that required under federal law.


Federal Warranty

VT Warranty

VT PZEV Warranty

All emissions components

2 yr. / 24,000 miles*

3 yr. / 50,000 miles*

15 yr. / 150,000 miles*

High cost emissions components other than computer and catalytic converter(s)

2 yr. / 24,000 miles*

7 yr. / 70,000 miles*

15 yr. / 150,000 miles*

Computer and catalytic converter(s)

8 yr. / 80,000 miles*

8 yr. / 80,000 miles*

15 yr. / 150,000 miles*

* whichever comes first.

See if your vehicle is covered under Vermont’s PZEV Warranty!

Vermont’s Vehicles with a 15 Year or 150,000 Mile Emissions Warranty Factsheet

Find more information on vehicle emissions warranties in Vermont.

Vermont’s Vehicle Warranties Explained Factsheet