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September-October 2016
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Leaf Disposal 101
Fall is a great season but there is the small issue of those pesky leaves that are swirling through the air all across Hampton Roads. They may be beautiful, but boy can they make a mess! And not just in our yards, but in our waterways, too. Fallen leaves can become a source of pollution when homeowners or landscapers blow or dump them into storm drains. When leaves enter storm drains, they can clog the pipes and cause street flooding. After a while, the leaves will also start to decay, sending a whole lot of nutrients into our waterways. Our local fish and crab populations can't thrive when nutrient-fueled algal blooms choke the waterways. We know you want to do your part to protect our waterways so follow this simple cheat sheet to keep your leaves from polluting this fall:
Let them lay
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is nothing at all! A carpet of crunchy leaves provides important habitat and food sources for turtles, frogs, birds and insects.
Mow them
If you need a tidier look for your yard, mulch mowing leaves is a great alternative. It elevates your curb appeal while returning nutrients to your soil for a lush yard next spring.
Compost them
Collect the leaves and drop them in your composter. In return for your manual labor, your leaves will turn into compost for feeding your plants and lawn.
Send them off
Your final alternative for leaf disposal is sending them off to your city or county. Leaf collection requirements may differ by city or county. Some require leaves to be bagged, for instance, and others use suction to collect the leaves. For details, check with your locality's program.
Now that you're armed with these great tips, put your fall gardening know-how to the test with our Fall Lawn Cleanup Quiz!
Make Your Kitchen a Grease-Free Zone this Holiday
Ah, the holidays! A time for family gatherings, turkey with all the trimmings, a cup of eggnog or two-and fat-free kitchen drains. At least, that's how we see it here at Will you, fearless home chefs and holiday cooks, join us in our challenge to make kitchens across the region grease-free zones by keeping cooking fats, oils, grease and food scraps away from the drain and garbage disposal and in the trash can? Leftover potato peels, cake batter, salad dressings and other chunky or oily ingredients belong in the trash. If washed down the drain or garbage disposal, they cling to your kitchen pipes and can cause a back-up in your sink or an expensive call from the plumber. Why tempt fate?

Simply throw food scraps in the trash or compost; use a paper towel to wipe away residue from serving dishes and plates; and then rinse these items over a sink strainer to catch and dispose of any remaining food particles. As for standing grease left over from cooking bacon and other fried foods, use a heat-safe can to store the grease. Then pop it in the freezer to cool and harden, and toss the can out with the garbage. Finally, if you're  planning to deep-fry a turkey , put the used fryer oil back in its original container and drop it off at your local city or county recycling/household hazardous waste center to be recycled. Challenge accepted? It's that simple.
Keeping it Clean with Recycling Audits
When it comes to recycling in Hampton Roads, there are two main goals: to recycle regularly and to recycle right! The first one seems pretty easy to do. Simply fill up the bin and set it out on the designated pickup day (or for some, drop it off at our neighborhood convenience center). Recycling right, however, requires digging a little deeper to know exactly what can and cannot be thrown into the bin. What shouldn't be tossed in with the recyclables is considered contamination or "residue" and not only does it compromise the value of the materials that can be processed, but it can cause big headaches and safety concerns for those responsible for collecting and processing the materials.

Recently, we got to tag along with a local jurisdiction during a recycling audit to see how residents' recycling habits are measuring up. The good news is there was plenty to sort through, but there was also plenty of room for improvement. Of the total volume of materials collected and sorted, one third was "residue" that should have never been placed in the curbside recycling bin in the first place. Here is a glimpse at some of the most common culprits found during the audit:
Plastic Bags and Wraps
These cannot go in your curbside bin, but they can and should be collected and returned to your local grocery store where they can be properly recycled.
Yard Waste
This can be picked up by your city/county, but it never goes into your curbside recycling bin.
Liquids/Food Waste
Please empty food and beverage containers before recycling them.
Disposable diapers are definitely not recyclable and should be disposed of in the trash.
Polystyrene (Styrofoam)
Styrofoam does not go in the bin.

Not recyclable and can really get tangled up and do a number on the machinery that processes the materials.
If we put your curbside bin to the test, how do you think you'd measure up? Have you tossed in any of those culprits listed above? Want to brush up on your knowledge of what can and cannot be recycled in your city or county? Check out 's handy dandy Recycle More, Trash Less poster and take note before you take aim and toss something into the bin that doesn't belong there.
The Case for Choosing Tap
The importance of clean, safe tap water at faucets across Hampton Roads is easy to overlook. In fact, tap water rarely gets the credit it deserves for all it provides to our communities in terms of health, safety and the economy. So here are the top six reasons you should be picking tap water as your beverage of choice: 
Drinking tap water is an investment in your local community. No, really, it is! When you sip on tap water, you are helping to employ all the local water operators, scientists, engineers and other workers involved in collecting, treating and delivering tap water to a faucet near you. Your money also goes back to the community in the form of investments in local water infrastructure. 
Tap water is safe. Our drinking water is continuously monitored and tested for contaminants like bacteria, pesticides and heavy metals. The same can't be said for bottled water which is monitored by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA requires local water utilities to publish each year a  drinking water quality report  to educate the public about the safety of tap water.
Drinking tap water is awesome for your health. Tap water is a vital part of keeping your body's systems up and running - not to mention that it helps keep a trim waistline and youthful skin! 
Drinking tap water saves money. You can pay a dollar or more for a single bottle of water. Compare that with the 1,500 times you could refill a 20-ounce sports bottle from any Hampton Roads faucet for that same dollar. 
Drinking tap water can be waste-free. Pair your tap water with a handy (and attractive) reusable bottle and you're one step closer to zero-waste living. By drinking tap water from reusable containers, you not only reduce waste in the form of plastic bottles, but also all the waste and energy that goes into producing, bottling and transporting bottled water.
Tap water is everywhere. Literally. No matter where you go in Hampton Roads, there's bound to be a water fountain or faucet nearby. Choose tap and you'll never be thirsty. 
The gifts that keep are giving are the best ones of all. Check our green gift guide, and best wishes for the holidays from your friends at!
Keep on being green
in 2016!