Monthly Archives: July 2008

Question of the Week: Why do you drink bottled water or tap water?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Most Americans have safe tap water and drink tap water fresh from the kitchen faucet. Others choose to buy more expensive bottled water. But bottling and transporting water can carry environmental costs and use energy and resources, and bottles contribute to littering if not properly disposed of.

Why do you drink bottled water or tap water?

.

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Muchos estadounidenses tienen agua potable sana y beben agua fresca del grifo de la cocina. Otros optan por comprar agua embotellada más cara. Sin embargo, el embotellar y transportar agua conlleva costos medioambientales y el uso de energía y recursos. Asimismo, las botellas contribuyen a los desperdicios si no se desechan adecuadamente.

¿Por qué toma agua embotellada o del grifo?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Reaching Out to Multilingual Communities Across the Nation and the World

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

In an effort to fulfill EPA’s mission, we seek community involvement in the decision-making process. We do this by engaging all interested groups through dialogue and collaboration, including those with limited financial and technical resources, English proficiency, and/or past experience participating in environmental decision-making.

By engaging the public, we aim at fostering environmental stewardship in all communities in the U.S., including those with limited English proficiency. End result–the Agency benefits, it’s advantageous to these communities, and ultimately, the environment profits as well.

Census data reveals that around 18 percent of the total population in the US over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home. Given that language can be a barrier to environmental understanding, we want to address those barriers. Moreover, multilingual communities may live or work in areas that are subject to greater environmental hazards. Therefore, we provide environmental information on lead, pesticides, flood and mold cleanup, children’s health protection, to address many of these issues.

The Agency has been consolidating its environmental information on multilingual websites to facilitate access. Currently, we have websites in Spanish, Chinese (both Traditional and Simplified script), Vietnamese and Korean. We have several initiatives designed to reach out effectively to these communities. For example, the Hispanic environmental health page, the nail salons air quality initiative in Vietnamese and Korean; the informational materials on dry-cleaning regulations in Korean; and the Hispanic Stakeholders Initiative—Beyond Translation, and the EPA-China Environmental Law Initiative in English and Chinese to name a few.

Increasingly, we have found that these multilingual websites are receiving numerous worldwide visitors who are looking to EPA for environmental leadership. New technology such as Web 2.0 is just another valuable tool in facilitating environmental communication across the globe.

Alcanzando a las comunidades multilingües a través de la nación y del mundo

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

En un esfuerzo por llevar a cabo la misión de la Agencia (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés), constantemente buscamos la participación de las comunidades en el proceso para tomar decisiones. Hacemos esto al exhortar la participación de los grupos interesados por medio del dialogo y la colaboración incluyendo a aquellos con recursos económicos y tecnológicos limitados, habilidad de hablar inglés, y/ o experiencia participando en el proceso de decisiones ambientales.

Al buscar la participación del público, tenemos como meta fomentar la capacitación ambiental en todas las comunidades d la nación, incluyendo a aquellos con la habilidad limitada de hablar inglés. Esto es beneficioso para la Agencia, es ventajoso para esas comunidades, y el medio ambiente se beneficia también.

Los datos del Censo revelan que alrededor del 18 por ciento del total de la población en los Estados Unidos sobre la edad de cinco (5) años hablan un idioma diferente al inglés en el hogar. Dado el caso que el idioma puede ser una barrera para que las persona comprendan los problemas ambientales, queremos tratar esas barreras. Además, las comunidades multilingües podrían vivir o trabajar en áreas que sujetas a gran riesgo ambiental. Por lo tanto, proveemos información ambiental acerca de plomo, pesticidas, inundaciones y limpieza de moho, protección ambiental para niños para tratas todos estos tópicos.

Con el propósito de facilitar el acceso informativo, en la Agencia, hemos estado consolidando la información ambiental en las páginas Web multilingües. Entre otros, actualmente, tenemos páginas Web español, chino (ambos caracteres tradicional y simplificado) y coreano. También tenemos varias iniciativas de alcance especialmente diseñadas para estas comunidades. Por ejemplo, El medio ambiente y su salud, la iniciativa de calidad de aire en los salones de belleza en vietnamita y coreano, materiales informativos sobre regulaciones para tintorerías y comercios de lavado en seco y la iniciativa para la comunidad hispana, Beyond Translation, – Más allá de la traducción – y la iniciativa para la Ley ambiental US-China en inglés y chino.

Cada vez más, estamos encontrando que las páginas multilingües reciben numerosas visitantes de alrededor del mundo buscando información y liderazgo de parte de la Agencia. Las nuevas tecnologías tales como Web 2.0 es otra herramienta valiosa para facilitar la comunicación ambiental alrededor del mundo.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Plastic bags are everywhere, what can we do?

About the author: Tami Fordham joined EPA’s Seattle office in June 2001 and moved to Anchorage, Alaska to join the Alaska Operations Office in September 2003. Tami serves as the Alaska Resource Extraction Tribal Policy Advisor and is the Tribal Coordinator for Tribes in Western Alaska.

Tami standing in front of a small airplaneThe last time I was visiting with my family in Washington I learned that my parents decided to start making canvas shopping bags. They were noticing plastic bags everywhere littering the streets and hanging in the trees, you may have seen this in your local area, and so decided to start making the canvas bags to sell at their local store and to their friends. I have one of their bags and when people ask who made it, I get to proudly share their story of making a difference in the environment.

I have the great honor to work in partnership with Tribal Governments in Western Alaska along the Lower Kuskokwim River. Plastic bags are often seen throughout the tundra and so many of the communities I work with have worked to ban plastic bags in their village. The environmental programs have made canvas bags available to the tribal members in the place of plastic bags. There are many people that are now taking plastic bags and crocheting them into purses and bags that can be re-used. To find out more, check out this website. Just a few weeks ago a woman all the way from Florida called our office to find out about different re-use projects that could be done because she wanted to find projects that made a difference for the environment.

One person can make a difference, just imagine if we all made one change in how we live our lives the ripple effect it would have in our world.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Sweet Home Virtual Alabama!

About the author: Molly O’Neill is EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information and Chief Information Officer

Recently, I attended a government leadership summit that focused on collaboration. It was represented by state, local and federal leaders. I was there not just to speak but also to learn. I am always looking for ideas outside of EPA that we might take advantage of in our business. Sometimes, you see something special and it opens your eyes to future benefits.

aerial photo of red and yellow Virtual Alabama Plume At an evening session, I saw a demonstration of something called “Virtual Alabama”. I had been hearing the buzz around this for several weeks and it didn’t disappoint. Now, from a technology perspective this wasn’t a big deal to me. It is simply a well orchestrated Google Earth implementation from a statewide perspective. The impressive part was the incredible collaboration that occurred to bring almost all the government related information together visually. And it was at the state and local levels! In one application, the user could view environmental information, crime information, land use information, etc. all at once.

Alabama has effectively engaged a small team of people whose job it is to harvest this data and make it available to decision-makers. They are constantly consuming more data and adding new functionality. For example, universities and colleges are now sketching on the maps to show what the insides of their buildings look like. Another cool example involves historical aerial photography. After a recent tornado, officials could look at pictures of towns before and after the tornado to respond to emergencies and also to help insurance companies estimate damage. I also saw how they incorporated a tool EPA uses called “Aloha” into their application to look at toxicity dispersion modeling with just a few lines of code!

At EPA, I talk about how owning data is passé, but using it is not. There are data sources outside of EPA that are very important to our Mission and we need to access them. That’s why building partnerships to share information is so important. If one agency collects the data, technology today allows it to be shared pretty easily. Federal government needs to shift the paradigm from data owners to data collaborators and to embrace technology as the enabler.

Virtual Alabama started as a Homeland Security project that has been adopted by the entire state. I believe its success lies on the fact that there is an organization in place well adapted to constantly harvest data – a data fusion center. This is my take away from another insightful leadership summit in seeing Virtual Alabama as a best practice… something we at EPA can certainly learn from.

Since March, EPA has been reaching out to the public and specific stakeholder groups during our National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information, and the comment session is now over. I would like to thank those who contributed their ideas during this time. I learned about great examples of information sharing, including Virtual Alabama. Check out the National Dialogue website for summaries of the stakeholder sessions and more on the upcoming strategy document that compiles what we’ve learned.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Low Tech/High Tech

About the author: An aspiring amateur plumber, Aaron Ferster is the science writer-editor for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

A few weeks ago my wife and I met with one of Johns Hopkins’ top surgeons to discuss a second cochlear implant (CI) for our youngest daughter, who is deaf. She had CI surgery for one ear six years ago, and there are significant potential benefits in getting one for her other ear. The doctor talked about improvements to surgical techniques, new sound processing strategies, and advances to the latest generation of CIs, which truly represent the height of bio-technology.

After the appointment we drove home and I spent the afternoon on something with a decidedly lower gee-whiz factor: draining and removing the bathroom toilet so I could turn it sideways, then upside down so a small scissors that had accidently dropped in would wind its way through the traps and twists and drop out. It worked. But perhaps more importantly, it gave me something to do while waiting for the doctor’s office to call with a surgery date. All in all, not a bad day.

I had another good day thinking about the astounding diversity of technology that surrounds us while attending a session entitled “Green Building Research Needs and the Promise of New Technology” at this year’s EPA Science Forum. The session was chaired by Ken Sandler, who wrote about his efforts to establish a new EPA strategy for green buildings on Greenversations. The panel discussion included exemplary case studies of the latest research and design in lowering a building’s environmental footprint when energy savings and sustainability are priorities.

The talk was inspiring, and like anyone with energy bills to pay, I’m eager to see the advent of low-impact, carbon-neutral homes and office buildings complete with the latest real time information technology guiding energy consumption choices. But like turning the toilet upside down while waiting for the phone to ring, I’d like something I can do today while the green building revolution continues to gathers steam. Luckily, a quick web search reveals a bunch (including a few excellent ones that have already been covered on this blog), including: installing compact florescent light bulbs, greenscaping the yard, biking to work, making a rain barrel, buying energy star appliances, and planting shade trees.

Now if only someone would invent scissors that dissolve in water. Oh well.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.