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The County is taking a number of actions to keep residents safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Find status information for County operations and services.

The Resource

Keyword: sustainability

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of someone looking at a book on a table about reducing energy use

This June, for the first installment of the Staying Green During COVID-19 series, we talked about ways to reduce your use of common single-use items, such as disposable masks, gloves and wipes. In July, Department of Public Works intern Emily Small gave us a number of tips to help us safely manage and prevent waste at a time when we may find ourselves buying and using more stuff. For our third installment, we will cover methods to reduce home water and energy use, and how to green your cleaning routine by using products deemed “safer choices” for your home and the environment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Let’s Clean House

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we should follow a two-step cleaning and disinfection process to reduce our risk of exposure to the coronavirus. First we should clean surfaces—removing dirt, grime and germs—and then, to kill pathogens such as COVID-19, we should disinfect those surfaces, making sure to closely follow the directions for disinfection on the product label. Though you could use a product from the EPA’s “Safer Choice” list for the cleaning step, be sure to choose a disinfectant from the EPA’s list of disinfectants for use against COVID-19 to disinfect surfaces and kill pathogens. Read more about the use of green cleaners during the coronavirus pandemic in this recent piece from the Washington Post.

Slow the Flow

Photo of two glasses on the counter being filled with water

We all are cleaning more these days, doing more dishes and laundry and washing our hands more often than ever. To help conserve water, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Utilities asks you to:

  • Keep a container of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for a cold drink.

  • Avoid rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

  • Run the washing machine and dishwasher when they are fully loaded.

  • Take a shower instead of a bath.

  • Avoid running the faucet when you're brushing your teeth or shaving.

  • Visit the Bureau of Utilities online for information on water usage and more water-saving tips.

  • While conserving water, do yourself a favor: protect your pipes and help prevent overflows by not pouring fat, oil and grease down the drain.

Starve Your Inner Energy Vampire

  • Reduce your COVID-19 risk, commuting costs and carbon footprint by working from home if possible.

  • Turn off the lights in rooms not in use.

  • If you have energy-efficient windows, utilize natural light by daylighting your home.

  • Use energy-efficient window attachments to save energy and lower your heating and cooling bills.

  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs.

  • Green your thermostat.

  • Is everyone in your household spending more time at home? Try to organize movie or game nights to get everyone in the same room (and shut off lights and electronics everywhere else).

  • Schedule blackout hours when everyone turns off their screens (phones, tablets, computers, games and TVs).

  • Use power strips you can switch on and off.

  • Unplug chargers, small appliances and other electronics when not in use.

  • View our Facebook post for even more energy-saving tips.

It also wouldn’t hurt to "unplug" yourself—take a break from work, social media and news updates, turn off the television and get out of your head. Call a friend. Read a new book or an old favorite. Do an upcycle project. Spend quality time with your cohabitants and/or pets. Get some fresh air if possible. Do some gardening or bayscaping. Take your dog for a walk and clean up after your pet. Do daily checks around the yard to keep it free of pet waste. Remove invasive plants from your yard. Pick up litter on your block following proper guidelines to protect yourself and others. Take a deep breath…or 50. Take good care of yourself and your loved ones. And most importantly, stay well.

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of a wedding dress

More people get engaged around the holidays than any other time of year. With January nearly over, many couples have already begun planning their upcoming nuptials.

Planning a wedding is no easy job, even when you have help. Sadly, while juggling all of those details and logistics, we tend to overlook the massive amount of waste weddings generate. According to, "The Green Bride Guide," by Kate Harrison, the average wedding produces 400 pounds of garbage and 63 tons of carbon dioxide.

We reached out to Reverend Laura C. Cannon, owner of the Maryland-based company, Ceremony Officiants, who has officiated weddings across the region for the last fifteen years. She suggests couples think outside the box to reduce waste when planning their ceremony and reception. "We need to start looking at traditional wedding elements from a more environmentally conscious lens,” she said. “While menu cards on the place settings and paper programs for the ceremony are traditional, they are also highly wasteful. Opt for a more eco-friendly approach and ditch the paper altogether, or consider writing the menu and ceremony program on something reusable, such as a mirror or chalkboard."

Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management Communications Specialist Richard Keller is pastor at Christ United Methodist Church of Baltimore County. He has married a number of couples in his 18 years as a pastor and gave us some excellent tips to help reduce wedding waste. “Weddings offer great opportunities for recycling and waste prevention,” he said. “You can do invitations online. If you are printing a program, it can be printed on recycled paper (containing at least 30 percent post-consumer waste). If you are having a reception, consider reusable dishes and drinkware, napkins with recycled content and recycling containers for any aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Ask for tickets to a museum, theatre, sporting event or similar experience instead of more kitchen equipment. Be creative in thinking about ways to recycle and prevent waste.”

Photo of a wedding table setting with flowers

Making sustainability and waste prevention part of your wedding plan can seem like a daunting task, but we have you covered with even more tips to help green your big day.

  • If you use a wedding planner, consider hiring one who specializes in sustainable weddings.
  • Talk to all prospective vendors about their sustainability practices before hiring them.
  • Select a foam-free florist. Opt for native, seasonal flowers. Use potted blooms where possible. Give centerpieces as favors.
  • If the wedding party has bouquets, set the head table with empty vases. When the party is seated at the reception, the bouquets can placed in the vases.
  • Refuse single-use: make sure your vendors do not use single-use plastics.
  • Select a caterer that offers local food sourcing and has practices in place to prevent food waste. If you and your loved ones are preparing the food, choose locally sourced ingredients and use a meal planning tool to help you determine just how much food to make. Make arrangements for leftover food to be donated to a local charity or shelter.
  • Choose a venue that is LEED certified.
  • Look for venues with built-in décor, such as gardens, historic architecture and fine art.
  • Decorate with vintage pieces, natural materials or reused/upcycled decorations.
  • Choose reusable linens and tableware.
  • Use solar lights or candles or LED lighting if needed.
  • Choose low- or zero-waste wedding favors, such as soaps, succulents or chocolate.
  • Choose Maryland-made products.
  • Try to have your ceremony and reception at the same place or very close by. Arrange shuttles and carpools for your guests if needed. 
  • Green your registry: ask for experiences, charitable donations and other sustainable gifts.
  • Have a vintage wedding gown, tuxedo or suit tailored instead of buying one new.
  • Rent tuxedos, suits and other wedding attire.
  • Considering a destination wedding? Make sure it doesn’t leave a huge carbon footprint.  

Find additional green wedding ideas on Brides.com, and visit our website to learn more about waste prevention

Photo of wrapped gifts under a tree

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate 25 percent more waste than usual during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Waste less this holiday season by using these helpful tips written by various Bureau of Solid Waste Management staff over the years:

  • Choose a fresh, Maryland-grown tree this holiday season. Fresh trees look great and smell even better, but did you know that real Christmas trees are also renewable, recyclable and benefit the environment? Be sure to mulch or compost your live Christmas tree at the end of the holiday season. If that’s not possible, Baltimore County may collect and recycle your live Christmas tree. Check the County’s website or your collection schedule for more information.
  • Reuse the decorations you already own. If you wish to shop, consider thrift stores and yard sales as a source of new holiday décor, or swap decorations with family and friends. You could also try making decorations from things you already have around the house. 
  • Limit lighting and conserve energy by using LED bulbs. Put holiday lights on automatic timers.
  • Reuse greeting cards as holiday craft supplies, decorations, coasters and gift tags. If you buy new, purchase cards made of 100-percent recycled content, or go paperless and send e-card greetings instead.
  • Consider giving an experience, rather than a physical item. Tickets, memberships and lessons all make great gifts.
  • Shop local, buy used and make homemade gifts.
  • Choose gifts that are refillable or reusable. Avoid disposable single-use items, especially if they cannot be recycled. Plants, flowers or food are great gifts that can minimize waste.
  • Donate unwanted items to people who can use them.
  • Reuse holiday wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, boxes and bows. Cloth items, such as scarves, bandanas or shawls, can also be used to wrap presents (and become part of the gift, as well).
  • Turn down the heat. Wear clothing in layers, use blankets and get active if you feel a chill.
  • Hosting a holiday dinner? Use a meal planning tool to help you make just the right amount of food and generate less food waste. 
  • When hosting parties, use reusable kitchenware, tableware and linens. Offer leftovers to guests, or have a potluck and exchange leftovers to prevent food waste.
  • Traveling this holiday season? Reduce fuel costs by driving smart: pack light, change your oil, tighten your fuel cap, check your vehicle’s air filter and tire pressure, drive under 60 MPH, use cruise control and don’t idle. Carpool if possible. Need to travel long distances? Consider taking a train.

Whether you plan to celebrate at home or find yourself traveling to spend it with family and friends, these tips can help you and your loved ones make more cheer and less waste this holiday season.

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Revised October 25, 2019