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Question of the Week: What have you learned, been surprised by, or been inspired to do because of our blogs?

2008 July 28

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.

Happy blog birthday to our readers! We’ve been blogging for a year and we launched Greenversations three months ago. Between the questions of the week, pop stars and their lessons for management, and the coqui frog, we’ve had some fascinating discussions along the way.

What have you learned, been surprised by, or been inspired to do because of our blogs?

Specical: EPA Green Scene video with EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock on blogging.


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.

¡Feliz aniversario del blog para nuestros lectores! Ya hace un año que hemos estado “blogueando” y lanzamos “Conversaciones verdes” (“Greenversations”) tres meses atrás. Entre las preguntas de la semana, estrellas de música pop y sus lecciones para la gerencia, y el pequeño coquí, hemos tenido discusiones fascinantes a lo largo del camino.

¿Qué ha aprendido, o qué le ha sorprendido, o qué le han motivado a hacer nuestros blogs?

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.

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61 Responses leave one →
  1. Dennis permalink
    July 28, 2008


  2. lee permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I’m surprised the EPA is more incompetent and politically controlled than what I believed.

  3. seagal permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I actually purchased my reusable bags this weekend. I opted for the IKEA woven plastic bags that are designed like a traditional paper grocery sack. I will add a rigid cardboard bottom liner to prevent sags. I hate canvas because they get dirty easy and shrink when washed and dried in conventional dryer. NOW the trick is taking them in stores at the time of purchase.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Nothing – I was “green” when “green” wasn’t cool!

  5. Utah Chris permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I’ve had a realization our government really is too big if there is time for government workers to maintian blogs like this at the taxpayer expense.

  6. Ken permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I learned that if you say something you don’t like about the blog, it gets screened out and won’t appear on the blog. Everything’s rosy on the blog.

  7. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    July 28, 2008

    Ken, as long as you stay on topic and otherwise meet the commenting policy, we’ll publish your comment.

  8. Jamie permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Trying to drive less. I can save on gas and decrease air pollution.

  9. Danny permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I learned that Injecting a unknown waste into the ground next to a watertable is not a big deal to the EPA, even when it is done on a massive scale by a industry, even when it bypasses a Sewer Treatment plant.

  10. Ken permalink
    July 28, 2008

    OK, I learned that once you sign up for this stupid blog, you get notices every week that clutter up your inbox. Although I like getting EPA news releases so I can keep up with what is going on at EPA, these blog notice emails get comingled with the real news emails. EPA has replied that they are aware that they are spamming us with unwanted emails about the inane blog, but they have no inclination to change the system to allow us to opt out of the blog notice emails. THANK YOU EPA!

  11. andrew permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Am surprised by how uniform the responses are. The agenda and scope for each question is readily accepted by the responders. Its as if they were being told what to say. Of course they are not but I think this means our ability to think independently and not to follow fashion is questionable.

    If that is the case, then how do government agencies go about getting hold of genuine self generated opinion? And, should they?

    Perhaps if the blog question writer could use fewer words the responses would be more wide ranging e.g. what are your thoughts about the environment? DULL!

  12. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    July 28, 2008

    Ken, I’m sorry that you feel that receiving one weekly email is “spam” and is cluttering your inbox. We do put the words “blog question of the week” in the subject line to make it easy to spot and delete.

    We believe that the hundreds of responses we’ve received to past weekly questions demonstrate their news value.

    For example, so far:
    151 people so far have commented on last week’s question, about using paper, plastic, or reusable bags.
    587 have commented on bottled vs. tap water.
    More than 750 told us about biking to work.

    I encourage you to read what they’ve said.

  13. Kathy permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I am surprised that so many people leave comments. I don’t have a problem with EPA using technology to attempt to measure interest and I don’t see if as a waste of tax dollars because it’s miniscule compared to the resources that should be devoted to environmental issues and proactively helping people to comply. It’s also miniscule compared to programs that are a waste of tax dollars like the pork barrel projects approved by congress.

  14. Ken permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Dear Editor,
    Obviously you don’t realize that receiving one unwanted weekly email is spam when it is unwanted.

    This blog is not worth one keystroke a week to delete the email.

    I would like EPA to provide the option of opting off of the blog email list. But obviously if that option were available, your blog traffic would decrease, putting your job at risk. So I guess you have no incentive to care what the users want. Thanks for doing your part in the government beauracracy.

  15. Renee permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Frankly, I think it is really great the the EPA is reaching out to the citizens to gain a better understanding of opinions and elicit suggestions using 21st century technology. I have this blog monitored on my google reader which keeps the number of e-mails down.

    Whether results gleaned from these blogs will ever be used by the EPA, who is to say. The questions so far are non-controversial and have covered things I’ve known about already but I do enjoy reading the varied responses. Don’t think this is a waste of tax dollars at all.

  16. Anonymous permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Ken, honey, for someone who doesn’t like this blog, you sure do spend a lot of time here. I imagine you’ve learned quite a bit so far, but you just don’t see it… perhaps you started buying more bottled water, or posting frogs to Hawaii. As long as you are aware, that’s a head start for America. BTW, you spelled “bureacracy” wrong.

  17. chowder permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I found the blog as an insight into Marcus Peacock very interesting and useful.

    I dont think it has found its voice as of yet without him.

    I think it would be great to keep this going with some open ended large questions like

    “If you could make one suggestion to the administrator what would it be?”

    “What is the biggest environmental issue that is currently not being focused on”

  18. Bill S. permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Greenversations offers average citizens the opportunity to talk about how they integrate or choose not to integrate pro-environment actions into their daily lives. It raises awareness (on multiple sides of an issue) both for the writer, who can crystallize thoughts that have perhaps been unformed or unexpressed in action, and for those who read the comments of others, which I do. In a way it’s a mutual support group. But it also allows those of us who want to truly consider the pros and cons of any “environmental” action to consider other positions. There are very few things the human species engages in which do not have some kind of negative effect on the environment, and I appreciate those bloggers who point this out.

    To the reader who complains that EPA staff is wasting taxpayer money by setting up and managing a blog, I would like to point out that the Agency’s primary responsibility is to protect public health and the environment. There are an infinite number of ways to do this, and I think involving people in an ongoing forum is an excellent way to raise environmental thinking among the public. It really pains me that an Agency that has to take so much static for all its pro-business policies (and rightfully so!), gets lambasted for no good reason when it does something that is truly worthwhile.

  19. John in KY permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Amazed that my tax money is paying for things like this, WHAT A WASTE…!!!

    You EPA guys should spend more time talking across your artificial boundaries (air, water, waste, etc.) so that when one “environmental concern” is addressed (Hg or other heavy metal “air pollution” for example) it does not become a problem somewhere else (like in the water, or solid wastes). WORK FOR A COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTION, OR AT LEAST COMPREHENSIVE/COORDINATED RULES TO START WITH.

    Or, learn how to write ANY rule that can past the Court’s muster!!!

  20. Don de Blasio permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I don’t read the blog.

  21. Dee permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I have been inspired to focus more on purchasing locally grown produce.

    When people criticize a low-cost (virtually no-cost) item, such as this blog, as a waste of time or money, they sound silly and petty to me. This is a low-cost way to get some feedback to EPA. Is it scientific? Does it provide a snapshot of society overall? No, of course, not; but it’s better than no feedback. And being so low-cost (in terms of time and money), it’s not as if the blog prevents EPA from doing other things. Good grief.

  22. jim permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I have been inspired to remove myself from all the EPA listserves. I have no idea how I got signed up for this inane blog, and I would to be removed.

    It is crap like this that inspires anti-environmental feelings/actions. Take a look at the number of angry responses you get and consider that these are people who signed up to get EPA information. The general public would be even more angry about this garbage.

  23. sharon permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I am glad to see that people are taking “going green” seriously. I have a grand-daughter and worry about the world being left to her.
    It seems we baby boomers were a more conscientious generation in the past, and it’s still up to us now!

  24. Jeanne permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I think this blog is GREAT!

    I have not seen anything about sewer pollution and injection well pollution, yet. But hope it will come around.

    I do not think this is a waste of tax payer money, it is the smartest thing the EPA has done in getting people involved in our environment.

    Communication is ALWAYS the first best step to solving problems.

  25. seagul permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Andrew, I think the uniformity comes from comes from two things.
    1. Those comments that blatantly disagree are screened-out.
    2. Most who comment are “green” to the gills and many are beyond all sense of reason (of course they will not see it that way).

  26. seagul permalink
    July 28, 2008

    So Jeffrey Levy, ‘Greenversations Editor, since comments are mentioning wasted tax dollars: How much time does it take to operate and moderate this blog?

  27. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    July 28, 2008

    Seagul, I find your first point curious. Have you read the negative comments posted even today, like just three before yours? We post everything that doesn’t violate our comment policy. Have you read it?

    Other than spam (upwards of 100/day!), and duplicates (sometimes people hit “submit” more than once), I think there have been fewer than 10 comments we haven’t approved since we launched Greenversations in April.

    I do understand the suspicion, but just look around tje blog, and you’ll see plenty of comments that “blatantly disagree.” Frankly, I’ve been surprised at how few really negative comments we’ve gotten.

  28. FG in AL permalink
    July 28, 2008

    This blog has been very useful. “Green” bags/local food sources and other ways to reduce air pollution are all good and it’s good for us to discuss these things.

  29. seagul permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Yes, I have read the blog. Today has been unusually spicy.
    “Frankly, I’ve been surprised at how few really negative comments we’ve gotten.” speaks to my second point.
    Though maybe it is not EPA’s intention, they have created a social networking community dedicated to those who buy into the “green movement” hook, line and sinker.
    With the exception of today (which has actually invoked more than a one-sided greenversation), only those who strongly or partially agree with the “green movement” are commenting.
    Those who disagree, are rolling their eyes and confirming the disdain for the ‘Gore-loving’ environmentalists.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Americans are gluttonous. We could all work harder at using less of everything. I firmly think that when making product selections and purchasing decisions we should consider the end disposition of whatever we are buying. If you must buy disposable plate, choose paper over foam because it will decompose faster then foam, and in some communities like Seattle, they can ever be composted. Etc.
    However, we also need to be aware that we are regulating companies out of businesses. We enable huge companies to move up and out of the US and are killing small manufacturing businesses. EPA specifically needs to be aware that businesses are feeling the reglation/fee strangle hold from many agencies. Not just one.

  30. John Hollenberg permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I have been surprised that the EPA can delay implementing CO2 regulations, get ordered by the court to come up with a plan, have the Bush administration refuse to open their email, and then decide not to do anything until the next administration comes to power.

    Actually, I don’t know why I would be surprised by even this, considering the environmental record of the Bush administration. It’s just that somehow each new attempt to ignore or circumvent the law still surprises me anew.

  31. Joan permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Yes, this blog does require time and dollars to maintain. However, as a public agency, EPA has the responsibility to share the information and research that our tax dollars have supported.
    Mercury in fish? Where do you think that information comes from? Research, funded by us, the taxpayer. I hope to see more Federal agencies taking advantage of technology to reach out to the public.

  32. Matthew Tripp permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I learned that it is hard to find an open source (free) list of full text and audio book free downloads of community action plan for simultaneous deployment of environmental stewardship collaboration toolkit’s in each neighborhood in America. EXTINCTCULTURE and google apps collaborative tool.

  33. BigSteve permalink
    July 28, 2008

    What I’ve learned so far – Many topics, many opinions.

    What I’m Surprised About – That the EPA even has a blog, for feed back on important topic’s that americain’s are faced with daily.

    Inspired to Do – to share the topic question with many other’s in other internet blog groups.

  34. Alex, aka Socialbutterfly permalink
    July 28, 2008

    Wow, these are definitely some responses! ;) I find this blog very helpful and that it’s greatly maintained. People seem to be open to new ideas, and offer the flexibility (a new wave characteristic for government) to continue learning and improving, which is the most I could ask of anyone or any organization.

    Mostly from the EPA blog, I’ve seen that the EPA is passionate about what it’s doing, and that the EPA is more than a government agency, but there are people behind it. For example, at work one day, we were learning about the dangers of re-using plastic water bottles. Thus, we started doing some research and came across EPA’s question of the day regarding tap versus bottled water. Now, many of us use the Kleen Kanteen waterbottles, are practicing healthier behaviors and learned new things along the way.

    So, props to you EPA! =) For those who have posted critical comments, thank you. This is what a blog is for – both the good and the bad. I’m also thankful to the EPA, a government agency that is willing to receive comments, publish comments, and share both the good and the bad, because even if the public disagrees/is critical, they at least are willing to listen.

  35. Ken Brosky permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I’ve learned that not only are our tax dollars being wasted on a blog for a regulatory agency that doesn’t do its job, the EPA has also become a beacon of hope for polluters everywhere thanks to the agency’s free market approach to regulation, despite court rulings to the contrary, despite all of the overwhelming evidence that pollution is causing a lot of our current problems (and future problems). Thanks, EPA! I hope Barack Obama puts Al Gore in charge and turns this agency into an ACTUAL regulatory power.

    Thank you, EPA, for making me angry enough to call my senators and DEMAND action against your bogus agenda.

  36. Greg permalink
    July 29, 2008

    While this blog is useful for me to feel some sort of connection to the one part of my government that truly should protect the health and well-being of me and my family, I don’t believe it will make any difference. Why? The biggest pressing problem is climate change. It should be screaming out of the EPA, a government agency that should pride itself on good science, yet it is not even a category on this page. My conclusion is that those entrusted to protect us have other interests to protect that are more important. No amount of explanation in response could convince otherwise as the need for being ahead of the curve and bold is simply not to be found at this agency at this time.

  37. sruthigpoduval permalink
    July 29, 2008

    i came to this blog to know about the global warming and greenhouse effect. then i really surprised about the number of problems which the world and our environment will have to face tomorrow.i am bothering about my world & i want to take some remedies to these pollution& i am using reuseble bags .i think it is better to impose tax & punishment who destroys our green earth to control this.

  38. Dr.G.Saravanan permalink
    July 29, 2008

    This blog helps me to think about the environment atleast when I open or go through this. It also helps me to know the greater importance the global agencies showing towards environmental issues. We in India do think and talk about environment yet I feel this blog helps me to know and learn beyond our thinking.

    Good wishes to all of you there.

  39. Civil Society permalink
    July 29, 2008

    I think blogs by the government run agencies have been proven time and again to be a waste of taxxpayers money.

    Why you ask?
    1) many times as recently proven by Stephen Johnsons actions and yesterdays revelation about Monica Goodling it is apparent that most of the government run agencies are run by political hacks
    2) For the EPA to tout reusable shopping bags as a solution to gobal warming is like asking the little Dutch boy to stick his finger in the Hoover Dam.

    For heavens sake people. Wake up. This isn’t about the small consumer This is about huge egregious corporate power sucking the life out of us why do you think another government agency NASA is continuing spending billions to find another place to live?

    Foolish stupid Americans.

  40. Mark Lazen permalink
    July 29, 2008

    This blog, if understandably bland, provides some useful info.

    However, taken in the context of the clearly documented and utterly outrageous politicization of the EPA for ends diametrically opposed to its mandate, I find the very existence of this milquetoast outlet deeply disturbing.

    Are these posts and the opportunity to comment supposed to make us ignore the fact that tis is just hot air, while in every area that matters–policy, funding, enforcement–the EPA has been subverted by the science-hating idealogues who are its masters?

  41. Jacqueline permalink
    July 29, 2008

    Oh yes “proven time and again”?? OK, show us. Show us this “proof” of which you write so poorly. I can just imagine how much American stuff you are happily using on the other side of your face… your iPod? Your Windows PC or a Mac? Your telephone? Your car? All of it is from foolish, stupid America, honey. Get over yourself.

  42. Convinced permalink
    July 29, 2008

    Yes, I am convinced about going green, but not as you think.

    First, the topics you have covered only convince me that going green really means watching the green go out of my pocket.

    Second, the backwards green opinions I see here have convinced me to really try hard to teach my children and other people the truth about Green and try really hard to get people to understand that we are to be good stewards of our natural resources, we own them, they don’t own us. It doesn’t mean we can’t drill for more oil, it doesn’t mean we can’t produce chemicals, it doesn’t mean there is man induced global warming, it doesn’t mean we should cow down to third world polluters, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t look objectively at the whole model of our environment, using it and conserving it in balance. We can.

    Third, it has convinced me that I will vote Republican without a doubt and hope to God to see the day when a majority of people can finally understand the compexities of the environment enough to know that Al Gore and the democratic party do not understand science. They are just plain political socialists.

    So, I am convinced we have to fight against ignorance, it surrounds us at this particular time.

  43. Jon permalink
    July 29, 2008

    Why would we expect this blog to answer our questions and concerns in any useful way, when representatives from the EPA won’t even answer the most basic questions to the US Congress?

  44. Jon permalink
    July 29, 2008

    As for people getting over themselves, read the constitution. Why the heck did we elect a Congress, if they are stonewalled when asking basic questions of the EPA? According to the US constitution, that’s their job. Any agency that sees fit to conduct itself in such a way, should at the very least find a sense of shame. They’re hardly in a position to dismiss peoples’ concerns with “get over yourself.”

  45. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    July 29, 2008

    Seagul, I’m going to respond to your question and related questions in an entry I’ll be posting later today. I’m not going to get into a detailed debate about how much time we spend, but I do put the overall effort in context.

  46. Jon permalink
    July 29, 2008

    This testimony, by the head of your agency, is an example of what I’m talking about:

    How can you have an agency head that behaves like this and then tell people on this blog to “get over yourself”?

  47. Bill S. permalink
    July 29, 2008

    I think this blog entry has been hijacked by people who have an ax to grind. And that seems to have alienated a lot of readers – look at the low response. In the future I would suggest that the moderators focus on environmental topics and not on what EPA is achieving or not achieving with this blog. Fishing for compliments is just going to get you into trouble.

  48. Jeffrey Levy, Greenversations Editor permalink*
    July 29, 2008

    Bill: I think you’re right about not fishing for compliments. But, I promise, that wasn’t our intent by asking this week’s question. Rather, we’re always evaluating whether we’re using the blog effectively, and we thought this was a good chance to get some input. It’s fair game for people to express opinions about what the blog does and doesn’t cover. It’s also fair for people to say that they’ve learned things through their not being discussed in the blog.

    However, I would ask that people stick to the question at hand: has the blog made a difference to you? There are plenty of other places online to argue politics, the meaning of the Constitution, etc. And per our comment policy, far off-topic comments won’t be approved. I highly recommend reading it, BTW. It’s fascinating. ;)


    BTW, I just posted a new entry to, in part, respond to questions of why we’re bothering to have a blog.

  49. Jon permalink
    July 29, 2008

    My only ax to grind is that I’d like to see a government that works. By definition this means executing laws passed by the congress we elected, and also having an executive subject to oversight conducted by the congress. In short, for everybody to do their jobs.

    No more or less than that.

  50. Shannon permalink
    July 29, 2008

    I’ve been inspired to work even harder on my own blog because EPA’s lack of leadership on the issue of climate change is embarrassing at best and at worst criminal.

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