The 12 Days of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling

Although Christmas is a wonderful time of the year it is also a time when people generate tons of waste. While reducing, reusing, and recycling should be practiced year-round, it is even more important during the holidays when our waste is plenteous.

We at DHEC urge you to put these 12 recycling and waste reduction tips to use this holiday season:

1. Keep a waste-free kitchen: Before going shopping, look around to determine what you already have on hand and make a list of things you need before heading to the store. Compost or donate your unwanted food and recycle your cooking oil. Find other helpful tips at www.scdhec.gov/dont-waste-food-sc.

2. Have hard-to-recycle items? Consider only buying materials packaged in what can be recycled in your area. Find where and what you can recycle at www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Recycling.

3. Give waste-less gifts like your time to clean someone’s house, piano or guitar lessons, gym memberships or certificates for pampering.

4. Most wrapping paper cannot be recycled, BUT you can reuse something to wrap with instead, such as paper bags, newspaper, maps or use reusable grocery bags, scarves or flower pots. Also reuse greeting cards to make gift tags.

5. Stop the unwanted mail! Check out ecocycle.org/junkmail for six easy steps. Make sure to recycle mail with your paper as well.

6. Prevent food waste this holiday by providing reusable containers or asking your guests to bring their own for leftovers.ledlights

7. Use LED lights, which last 10 times longer and use 80 percent less energy. Recycle your old strings of lights. Find more information on hard-to-recycle items at www.scdhec.gov/recycling-waste-reduction/recycling-hard-manage-items.

8. Go with an eco-deco theme by decorating with natural materials like greenery, gourds, fresh fruit and pine cones — all which can be composted after the holidays.

9. Set up a collection corner at your party by providing an area where guests can bring unwanted items to swap or donate.

10. Always let your guests know what can be recycled and composted. Clearly mark your bins and let guests know where they’re located.

11. Provide a green dining experience by using dishes and silverware instead of disposables.christmastree

12. Grind those greens. If you decorated a real tree and are ready for it to go, remember to find out where your county will be accepting them for grinding.

Visit the DHEC website for more tips and information on recycling and waste reduction.

From Other Blogs: Avoiding foodborne illness, cold weather tips, going green for the holidays & more

A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs.

Your Holiday How-To: Keeping Hot Foods HOT and Cold Foods COLD!

The holidays are here, which means plenty of gatherings with family, friends and food! These get-togethers are usually fun-filled with catching up, laughter and occasional dancing, so don’t let foodborne illness crash your party. One of the best ways to keep foodborne illness off the guest list is to keep your food items at the proper temperatures while you enjoy your party. — From the US Department of Agriculture blog

Cold weather tips to keep you safe

In South Carolina, we typically don’t have extremely cold weather. However, cold weather has the potential to be dangerous, so it’s important to know what to do when the freezing temperatures decide to creep up on us. — From Flourish, Palmetto Health’s blog

Go Green for the Holidays

Are you one of those organized people who are already prepared for the coming winter holidays? Or do you still have plans to make and gifts to buy? Either way, why not take a second look at some of your usual holiday activities to see if you can make them more “sustainable?”

Sustainability is the responsible use of environmental resources in the present so that future generations will have enough to meet their needs. This is a lofty goal; how can any one person make a difference in reaching it? You may not realize that you are already working toward sustainability if you reuse and recycle; compost; walk, bike, take transit, or drive low-emission vehicles; conserve water and electricity; join community clean-up efforts; or otherwise save resources. — From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Your Health — Your Environment Blog

5 Practical Skills for the Holiday ‘Host(ess) with the Mostest’

It’s not easy playing the part of host or hostess with the “mostest” at the holidays. A lot of time, effort, and planning goes into making merry with family and friends. In all the excitement of getting the house and food ready for guests, honest mistakes, minor mishaps, and even life-threatening emergencies can happen.

Some accidents are just that … accidents; others—like turkey fryer fires—are often preventable. You can prepare for all of them. — From the CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog

Health for the Holidays: Risks and Recommendations for the Retail Industry

It’s finally here — the most wonderful time of the year… for shopping. People will visit retail stores to buy a variety of goods: the cleaning supplies they will use to prepare for holiday celebrations, the food and beverages they will serve at holiday gatherings, the holiday gifts they will give loved ones, and much more.

Economic projections suggest retailers should brace themselves for a heavy amount of seasonal shopping traffic this year.  … As the industry works to meet the demands of holiday shoppers, it’s important for store owners, managers, and employees to remember that the hustle and bustle can take a toll on retail workers’ physical and psychological well-being. — From the CDC’s NIOSH Science Blog

Christmas Safety List: 12 Tips for Toys

Toys are supposed to bring joy and delight during the gift-giving season, and DHEC wants to make sure little ones stay safe.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 252,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2017. Here are 12 tips to make sure your family stays safe this holiday.

Make sure to follow the age recommendations for toys and games.
Always pay close attention to the age recommendations on toys and choose one according to a child’s age, interest, and skill level.

Take notice of warning and safety labels.
Be aware of other safety labels such as “Flame retardant/flame resistant” or “Washable/Hygienic materials” on dolls and other stuffed toys.

Plastic wrappings can be deadly for small children – discard them immediately.
Discard the plastic wrappings from toys immediately; they become deadly playthings to small children.

When choosing toys, keep in mind that kids under 1 like to see, touch, hear and taste.
For children 1 and under, choose toys that are colorful, lightweight, have various textures and are made of non-toxic materials. Children, this age learn through sight, touch, sound and taste and often put things into their mouths to explore them.

Small parts like removable eyes are choking hazards.
Don’t give young children any toys with small parts such as removable eyes, noses, etc., they are choking hazards.

Stay away from toys with sharp points, edges, and wires that stab, cut or shock.
Inspect all toys for sharp points or edges made from such materials as metal or glass. These toys should not be given to children under 8.

Never hang toys with strings, cords, or ribbons of any kind in cribs or playpens.
Toys with strings, cords or ribbons of any kind should not be hung in cribs or playpens. Young children can become entangled, which can cause injury or death.

Teach older children to keep toys with removable small parts or sharp points away from younger siblings.
Teach older children to keep their toys that may have removable small parts, sharp points or toys powered by electricity out of reach of younger siblings.

Worn or broken toys can cause injuries.
Keep toys and play equipment in good condition, discard any toys that are broken to prevent injuries.

Check toys regularly for safety and durability.
Regularly conduct a toy maintenance check for safety and durability.

Provide safe, hazard-free play environments both indoors and outdoors.
Supervision is essential both indoors and outdoors.

Toys can be a tripping hazard!
Teach children to put toys away when they are finished playing with them to prevent accidental falls.

To learn more about preventing your child from other injuries you can visit our website at http://www.scdhec.gov/Health/ChildTeenHealth/EarlyChildhood/PreventInjuries/.

Handwashing: A Simple, Effective, Painless Way To Help Fight Germs

Want to know a simple, effective, painless way to protect yourself and others and put a stop to the spread of germs? Wash your hands.

Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and keep from spreading germs to others. It is particularly important to wash your hands at appropriate times before, during and after preparing food, after using the toilet and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

It’s flu season. While getting the annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s also important to wash your hands. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

So, how should you wash your hands to make sure they are clean? Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you need a timer, hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If clean, running water is not accessible, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean your hands.

Visit the CDC’s website for more information on handwashing.

Protect yourself, others against the flu during National Influenza Vaccination Week

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

With the spirit of giving resting upon us during this holiday season, there is no better public gift you can give than providing flu vaccinations for yourself and your family. The annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Although we are already two months into the flu season, it is not too late to get vaccinated. As a matter of fact, with this being National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 2-8) this is a perfect time to get vaccinated.

This is about more than avoiding the flu so you won’t be forced to miss the annual Christmas party. Illness with the flu can cause hospitalization or even death. Each flu

L.Bell headshot

Dr. Linda Bell

season is unique; the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict, making it very important to protect yourself against flu as early as possible.

 

Last year’s flu season was one of the worst we’ve seen in recent years, with a high number of deaths and hospitalizations here in South Carolina and across the nation. It is important to get vaccinated now, before any significant spread of the flu virus begins in our community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone 6 months old and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider, the vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. Find the facility that works best for you.

Some people are more likely to get serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia or inflammation of the heart or brain. This includes infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women and anyone with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart or lung disease and diabetes. Making sure that you — and those in these vulnerable groups — are vaccinated will provide much needed protection.

There are significant benefits to getting the flu vaccine:

  • It gives your body the ability to fight the flu if you are exposed to someone who is ill.
  • It is effective in protecting against several different strains of the flu that circulate each season.
  • It offers lasting protection against the flu for at least six to eight months.
  • It is the only protection shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths caused by the flu.

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, take other preventive measures, such as avoiding people who are sick and staying home from work, school and other places if you are sick. Also, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Other habits that can help you stay healthy year round include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

But we can’t overlook the critical role immunizations play in protecting children, families and communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Whether it’s getting young children vaccinated against diseases such as whooping cough and measles, ensuring teens are protected against conditions such as HPV, or making sure those in your circle get vaccinated against the flu, immunizations help us stay healthy.

So, don’t forget your flu shot. The protection it will provide for you and others around you will be one of the best gifts you will give this holiday season.

For more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you visit www.scdhec.gov/flu.