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2011.12.13 > For Immediate Release
contact: Charley Reed - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2129 - email: cdreed@unomaha.edu

Holiday Sustainability Tips from GreenUNO

Omaha - As the number of days left in 2011 dwindle and the holiday season enters full swing, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and GreenUNO, UNO’s sustainability task force is reminding students, faculty, staff and the citizens of Omaha of their options for creating a greener environment in 2012. Patrick Wheeler, a senior specialist for environmental health and safety at UNO, says that the holiday season is a great time to take that first step towards practicing sustainability.

“It’s just a time when a lot of stuff is coming into people’s homes,” he says, adding that not many people get rid of their what this new stuff is replacing.

“If you’re hanging on to something just because it might be useful but you’re not really using it, you’re depriving someone else of its intended use,” he explains. “So when you look at clutter and things in that light it maybe gives you a good excuse to go through your house.”

Wheeler suggests that rather than throwing these items out, you can donate them to family members, friends, or local needs-based charities like the Sienna Francis House, which he and his wife donate to on a regular basis.

Holiday lights are also a common item that often needs to be repacked or replaced. Wheeler warns against dangerous disposal of these lights, many of which contain lead.

“I’ve seen some people throw [their lights] into a fire because they make pretty colors,” Wheeler cautions. “The problem with that is many of them contain lead and that can be very toxic.”

If you can’t reuse them; he suggests simply throwing them away and replacing them with longer-lasting LED lights or, better yet, not including energy-based decorations in your holiday displays.

Wheeler also suggests wrapping gifts with used clothing that can’t be donated, building reusable gift boxes or giving the gift of community service rather than material gifts.

“I don’t think there is anything more valuable than the time you spend with friends or family,” Wheeler says.

However, beyond the immediate holidays like Christmas and Hanukah, the new year allows us to make resolutions to be more sustainable. Wheeler suggests that many sustainability choices are simple, like changing your light bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent or using a an inexpensive tube or two to of caulk seal drafty windows.

Even something as simple as turning the thermostat down two degrees in winter or up two degrees in summer can reduce energy consumption by 10 percent. Wheeler also suggests, when the temperatures warm up, to continue, expand or start a personal garden.

“It’s really important, not only for us as individuals but for kids as well, to learn there is a connection between growing something and eating it,” Wheeler says. “I think we’ve lost that.”

Wheeler also encourages people to spend more time outside and visit local nature centers or walking trails. Omaha features multiple outdoor recreation options including Neale Woods, Fontenelle Forest, Knowles Mercy Center and Lauritzen Gardens.

But, most importantly, Wheeler reiterates, is finding a way to take that first step. “Start somewhere; do something,” Wheeler says. “Then, when you’ve done something and are okay with that, do something else.”

For more information on GreenUNO or UNO's sustainability efforts, please contact Patrick Wheeler at (402) 554.3921.

GreenUNO

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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