Timely Tips

A Winter Sunburn? Yes, Really.

Just because it’s colder outside doesn’t mean your skin can’t get sun damage. In fact, water, snow, and sand all reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn. That means if you’re out skiing or hiking on snow-covered ground, you’re extra vulnerable.

Any time you head outdoors—even in the winter—you should follow common sense sun protection habits, as outlined in NEEF’s Sunwise program. That means applying sunscreen, checking the UV Index, and wearing protective clothing.

Go Green with Holiday Giving

America the Beautiful National Park Pass

This holiday season, skip the holiday shopping crowds (and cut down on waste) by gifting your friends and family with experiences instead of things.
Need some ideas? Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass, which gives recipients access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and grasslands. (Learn about all the wonderful activities you can do at a national park.)

Or purchase an annual membership to your local botanical garden, science center, zoo, history center, or arboretum. Many of these membership-based sites participate in reciprocal programs throughout the country. For example, if your local garden belongs to the American Horticultural Society, members can enjoy special admission privileges and discounts at 320 other North American gardens.

Fall Family Fun

Take advantage of the crisp, cooler weather to get more involved in your community and reconnect with the environment. Many public lands offer back-to-nature themed activities, perfect for a day outside with family and friends.

Look to local farms for pumpkin patches, corn mazes, apple picking, sunflower farm tours, and hayrides. Even in more urban areas you can find autumn-focused special events such as harvest festivals, cycling events, and fun runs—all of which get you outside, get you moving, and get you reconnected to the outdoors.

Unplug Those Energy Vampires!

Did you know that leaving electronic devices plugged in when you’re not using them still draws energy?  It’s time to slay those energy vampires!

Why? They waste power by sucking energy without providing useful functions. This “standby power” accounts for 5-10% of residential energy use and costs the average US household $100 per year.

Your best bet? Using a power strip with a central on/off switch, plug in multiple devices (such as computer, printer, phone charger, and desk lamp) and turn them off all at once when you’re not using them. Need some other ideas? Visit Energy Star.


Help Others Prepare!

Because emergencies and natural disasters impact you, your family, and your community, get prepared.

First, follow the advice above to create your own emergency plan to protect your family and your property.

Next, consider lending a hand to help protect your community when disaster strikes. You might take some educational workshops or attend training (such as CPR or first aid classes) from local hospitals, nonprofits, or civic organizations.

Or consider volunteering with a community organization to help build capacity for first responders and expand your community’s available resources. Learn more about opportunities with Community Emergency Response Teams, American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels Association of America, and others.

Break Your Bad Water Habits

Bathroom accessories

When it comes to household water use, the average American uses about 82 gallons of water per day. To cut back on your water use around the house, an easy first step starts with fixing any leaks. (They can drip away gallons a day—in extreme cases, up to 90 gallons/day!)

Also, try to reduce your water usage in everyday tasks, such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, taking a shower instead of a bath, and watering your yard in the morning instead of the heat of the afternoon. 

Finally, consider installing WaterSense’s water-efficient products (such as showerheads, toilets, and bathroom faucets) around your home to help your wallet and the environment.

A Fireworks Alternative?

While fireworks provide sparkly eye-candy that light up the night sky, you might want to consider a healthier and more sustainable Fourth of July activity. Pyrotechnics contain a variety of chemicals such as perchlorate, lead, barium, particulate matter, strontium, and cadmium (some of them carcinogenic) that shower toxins, scatter harmful debris, and pollute the air, land, and water.

study by the US Environmental Protection Agency found that chemical levels in the air and water spiked 1,000 times above their normal level for 14 hours following a big fireworks display. Yikes! Finally, don’t overlook the fact that fireworks can lead to wildfires. Opt for safer alternatives such as an eco-friendly laser show, a community parade, or even a backyard campfire.


  • Perchlorate Behavior in a Municipal Lake Following Fireworks Displays, Richard T. Wilkin,*,†, Dennis D. Fine,‡ and, and Nicole G. Burnett§, Environmental Science & Technology 2007 41 (11), 3966-3971, DOI: 10.1021/es070069
  • Nationwide study measures short-term spike in July 4 particulate matter, NOAA Headquarters, AAAS, 30 June 2015.

Protect the Shoreline with These Beach-Friendly Tips

Before you grab your bathing suit and towel and head to the nearest beach for the day, pack a few extra things to keep your beach healthy.

Bringing food for an ocean-side lunch? Great! Pack what you can in reusable containers and take any trash with you when you leave.

Bringing little ones for a romp in the ocean? Fantastic! Pack plenty of swim diapers and/or swim pants. (As the CDC points out, swim diapers and swim pants are not a substitute for frequent diaper changing and bathroom breaks.) 

Bringing sunscreen to avoid sun damage to your skin? Terrific! Check out the recently updated SunWise resources to protect yourself from the sun.

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