Monthly Archives: October 2008

Greenscaping: Do it for the Children (Yours, Specifically)

About the author: Jeff Maurer manages Web content and does communications work for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. He has been with EPA since 2005.

A recent trip to the EPA GreenScaping exhibit at the US Botanic Garden (recently featured in a Green Scene video) revealed this: my dad owes me compensation for hundreds of lost hours during my childhood. By my calculations, I am owed no fewer than 220 child hours, the equivalent of two-and-a-half trips to Disney World or 73 afternoons at Chuckie Cheese. I have already let Dad know that I expect to collect on these damages promptly. Here’s my reasoning…

We had a large yard growing up, which needed to be mowed every Saturday. Because we lived in the South, that realistically meant that it needed to be mowed every Saturday morning, unless you wanted to risk heat stroke trying to shove our dreadnaught of a push-mower across the grounds. Mowing in the evening was out of the question, as allowing our lawn to remain unkempt through the afternoon would have caused my family to become the subject of public ridicule. Or so went my dad’s logic.

With fall came Sisyphean bouts of leaf-raking. The leaves, of course, needed to be raked so that the grass wouldn’t die. For some reason, it never occurred to Dad that if we abandoned the leaf-raking task, the lawn mowing task would become unnecessary as well, which seemed like a total win-win to me.

Periodically throughout the year, we would fertilize the lawn. The fertilizer was bright green – not so much “grass-colored” green, but more “spent-nuclear-waste” green. The fertilizer’s primary function was to clog the machine that applied it.

Sign reading Practice Natural Lawn CareThese chores constituted a never-ending maintenance ritual that, though burdensome, I grudgingly acknowledged as necessary. And that is what I believed, until I saw this sign in our GreenScapes exhibit:

I went to the natural lawn care page on our GreenScapes site, and it turns out that if you run a mulching mower over fallen leaves, it creates a natural compost that fertilizes your lawn! We could have combined these three chores into one! And there are more lawn care tips like that one that could have saved me countless hours of poorly-paid child labor! If I had known that a mulching mower was all that was standing between me and Saturday morning cartoons, I would have gladly used my allowance to subsidize an upgrade. A recent question of the week also revealed that many people have known about this for years. Unfortunately, my dad isn’t one of those people, which is why he now owes me several Saturdays worth of cheese pizza and ski-ball tickets.

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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Going Green Around 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.
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This summer I went to Lebanon for our family vacation, a country that we’ve visited several times over the years. While the country faces many environmental challenges, I was impressed by their efforts to go green. There were several things that I hadn’t seen in previous trips to that country so I was motivated to write this entry to Greenversations.

First of all, I noticed that many houses had solar photovoltaic panels! I was shocked. I’ve driven through many neighborhoods in the US and I have never seen any. Second, I noticed that light bulbs being sold at the local grocery and convenience stores were all the equivalent of Energy Star-qualified CFL light bulbs sold in the US. Consumers didn’t have a choice. Only energy efficient light bulbs were being sold. The homes that I visited all had these CFLs. Thirdly, in a trip to the grocery store, I saw reusable cloth bags for sale with a green “Save the Earth” logo in English on the bags! Just like the ones we now see in U.S. grocery stores. Fourth, there were billboards along the roads and ads in the local press advertising for eco-tourism events and sites throughout Lebanon.

When I returned to the U.S., I visited the web site of the Lebanese Ministry of the Environment and saw some green tips similar to the advice given by EPA to encourage environmental awareness.

Although much remains to be done in the US and worldwide to further protect the environment and human health, I am heartened by the fact that more and more individuals and countries seem to be marching towards a green goal. Hope more people will become inspired by the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Together, we can make it happen. What have you done for the environment lately?

Esfuerzos ecológicos alrededor 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.

Este verano pasamos las vacaciones familiares en El Líbano, un país que hemos visitado en varias ocasiones durante los años. Mientras el país enfrenta numerosos retos medioambientales, enseguida noté sus esfuerzos ambientalistas. Varias cosas que no había visto en viajes anteriores me impresionaron y me motivaron a escribir mis vivencias en nuestro blog, Greenversations (Conversaciones verdes).

Primero que nada, en El Líbano este verano me sorprendió ver que muchas casas tenían paneles fotovoltaicos solares! He conducido por varios vecindarios en Estados Unidos y jamás los he visto. En segundo lugar, noté que las bombillas (focos) a la venta en las tiendas locales eran el equivalente de las bombillas fluorescentes compactas CFL con la etiqueta de Energy Star que se venden en Estados Unidos. Los consumidores no tenían otra opción. Sólo las bombillas energéticamente eficientes estaban a la venta. Todos los hogares que visité tenían estas bombillas. En tercer lugar, cuando fuimos de compras al supermercado, vi las bolsas de tela que se pueden volver a utilizar con el logotipo en inglés de “Cuida el Planeta Tierra” —tales como se venden ahora en muchos supermercados estadounidenses. En cuarto lugar, había anuncios a lo largo de las carreteras y en los medios locales promoviendo eventos y lugares de eco-turismo en El Líbano.

Cuando regresé a EE.UU. visité el sitio Web del Ministerio del Medio Ambiente de El Líbano y ví que tenían muchos consejos verdes similares a los que brinda la EPA para fomentar la concienciación ambiental.

A pesar de que queda mucho por hacer en Estados Unidos y a nivel mundial para mejor proteger el medio ambiente y la salud humana, me alienta el hecho de que más y más países parecen estar marchando hacia una meta verde. Espero que más personas se inspiren por las palabras del filósofo chino Lao-tzu, “Un camino de mil millas comienza con un solo paso”. Juntos podemos lograrlo. ¿Qué ha hecho para el medio ambiente últimamente?

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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The World Wide Web in My Kitchen

About the author: Kelly Leovic has worked at EPA for 21 years and manages EPA’s Environmental and Community Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park, NC. She is also EPA’s Federal Women’s Program Manager in Research Triangle Park. On occasion, she can be seen in EPA’s Fitness Center – just another one of EPA’s family-friendly options.

I’m sitting in my kitchen doing email and glance up from the laptop, noticing a good-sized cobweb between two pottery pieces on an upper shelf. I’m working at home this morning as part of EPA’s telecommuting or flexiplace program.

Over 80% of employees at EPA in Research Triangle Park use flexiplace or other family-friendly work options such as flexible work hours, part-time employment, or a compressed work schedule (working 9 hour days, with 1 day off every other week). These flexible work options make work more enjoyable because they allow employees to balance work and personal lives. For me, that would be three kids who span elementary, middle, and high school.

Photo of people sitting around a table at a luncheonEmployees aren’t the only ones who have taken notice of EPA’s family-friendly “environment.” This is the 4th year that our EPA campus has been named to the NC Family Friendly Top 40 which is sponsored by Carolina Parent Magazine. We celebrated on September 17 at a breakfast which honored awardees. Check out the picture…our group of eight even had two EPA guys join us, so you can see that workplace flexibility and family friendly isn’t just a female thing.

In addition to each other’s company, we also enjoyed the keynote speaker, Pamela Stone, who shared data and insights from her research on why well-educated women often opt out of the workforce. In summary, most of the women in her study who “opted out” after having children did so not because of “family” but because their employers didn’t offer them the opportunity to balance their work with their family. I feel fortunate to work at an Agency that does offer a gourmet “menu” of flexibility options as well as for a supervisor who walks the talk with regard to supporting employee flexibility. As a result, I love my job and work hard at it because I love it.

So, what do I do now? Jump out of my seat and get the extended handle duster or stay at my computer and type this Blog? Reflecting on how the web could look by the end of October (say the 31st) and considering what an environmentally-friendly decoration a natural spider web would be, I stay seated and appreciate that I am able to telecommute.

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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New Climate for Action: Paper Usage

About the author: Ashley Sims, a senior at Indiana University, is a fall intern with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education through the Washington Leadership Program.

Think about all the paper we use for school. We constantly take notes during class, use paper for homework assignments, tests, and print sheets related to school work. There’s no way to get around it. Or is there? We need paper on a daily basis since school has to be our number one priority. So how can we be environmentally conscious while making sure we keep up with our daily obligations to school?

Here is a suggestion. Why not use paper to its fullest potential to minimize waste? The process of making, distributing, and using paper releases greenhouse gas emissions into our environment. At EPA we promote Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Reducing the amount of paper we use, as well as reusing and recycling paper can help address global climate change. Reducing paper usage decreases waste and its associated costs. Reusing paper can stop or delay its entry into the waste stream. Recycling turns paper that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. So why not get involved and help save our environment. Our small efforts to reduce the amount of paper we use can truly make a huge impact on our planet.

Here are some helpful tips to try for school:
-Always print double-sided and write on both sides of paper
-Cut up old blank paper for notes instead of buying new notepads or sticky-notes
-Use old comics from the newspaper to wrap presents or textbooks for school
-Donate old books to a used-book store or secondhand shop
-Recycle old books, magazines and papers
-Buy recycled paper products such as notebooks, computer paper, cards, etc whenever possible

Please tell us how you conserve paper while completing your homework assignments. If you haven’t tried any of the above suggestions, still let us know what you think. I can’t wait to hear your ideas about how we can conserve paper and get good grades too! Your small changes can make a big difference.

For more information about waste please visit http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/index.htm

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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Question of the Week: What have you done to make your home more energy efficient?

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.

New technology, product choice on such items as insulation, light bulbs and double-pane windows and even landscaping can help make a home more energy efficient. Reducing use of air conditioning or programming sleep mode on computers are other ways to lessen our energy use. October is the Change the World Energy Star campaign.

What have you done to make your home more energy efficient?

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.

Nueva tecnología, selección de productos como insolución, bombillas, y ventanas de vidrio doble, e incluso el diseño del jardín pueden hacer su casa más eficiente del punto de vista energético. La reducción en el uso del aire acondicionado o la programación de las computadoras para el apagado automático (o dormir) también son otras maneras de disminuir el consumo de energía. Durante el mes de octubre se celebra la campaña de “Para cambiar el mundo,” comience con Energy Star.

¿Qué ha hecho para que su hogar tenga una mayor eficiencia energética?

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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Business School Lessons

About the author: Caleb Shaffer joined EPA’s San Francisco office in 2002. For the past three years he worked with southern California tribes on solid waste issues. He is currently manager of the Waste Management Division’s Information Management Office.

For the last three years I have been pursuing a Master of Business Administration from the University of San Francisco. While the mantras of business school such as maximizing profit and creating efficient systems are directly applicable to the business world, they are also valuable lessons to my current job at EPA. Organizing a group of diverse individuals and rallying around a common cause to achieve tangible outcomes are results of successfully applying classroom theories to real life situations.

Photo of trash piles on reservationThe Torres Martinez Reservation in southern California has historically been a magnet for illegal dumping. With rapid development in the area, large migrant worker population, and commercial agricultural operations, the open land of the reservation was seen as an easy place to dump illegally. The problem became so bad that operators on the reservation started collecting money to accept waste on their property, creating environmental and human health hazards from ill-managed and exposed dumps, which often caught on fire. The business school concept of “maximize profit and minimize cost” needed to change to “maximize human health and minimize harm to the environment”.

In April 2006, the Tribe, EPA and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs formed a collaborative consisting of over 25 federal, state and local agencies. This was the first time these organizations, which have very different missions, came together to recognize a common problem and develop solutions. As an organizer of the collaborative, business school principles I had learned in the classroom, such as group dynamics and organizational development, offered valuable tools to manage a large group of diverse stakeholders. After the first meeting and a very eye-opening tour of the existing dumps on the reservation, members of the collaborative went out of their way to offer the resources needed to solve this unique problem. To date, 24 dumpsites have been shut down and cleaned up, dump fires have been virtually eliminated, and a rigorous outreach campaign and enforcement program has been created. Most importantly, community members have seen a real change in health and an improvement for their environment.

The collaborative has created a model of how federal, state and local agencies can come together to combat a decade long problem. Creating a cohesive group, building trust, and challenging that group to perform are textbook models creating real human health improvements and environmental results. It’s a tangible example of business school lessons playing out in real world situations.

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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International Coastal Cleanup Day

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

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Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Just recently, my two eldest daughters and I participated in the Ocean Conservency’s yearly International Coastal Cleanup Day, an effort established by a woman in Texas in 1986. On our Caribbean shores, the Scuba Dogs organization has been coordinating this event for the last 7 years. Thousands participate cleaning up one of our most treasured resource: our beautiful coastline.

As a veteran at these events due to the nature of my job at EPA and my love for a clean environment, I joined my daughters’ team, all students from the environmental club at Colegio Marista. On our early morning drive to Vacía Talega beach on the town of Loíza, I saw dozens of groups ready for a few hours of hard work picking up the abandoned trash. Covering a ten mile stretch of coastal roads, brigades worked retrieving plastic, food wrappers and construction materials, to name a few.

Our group included around 200 students and parents, who worked in various crews from 8AM until 11AM. Those three hours made a difference and taught these young citizens some valuable lessons in environmental stewardship. Not only did they learn about protecting our marine habitats, but how clean beaches contribute towards Puerto Rico’s economy since our beautiful beaches attract tourists from all over the world. Mosquito bites aside, this was a great way to teach an environmental lesson outside the classroom!

I am happy to report that 135 beaches, 23 rivers, 9 lakes, 4 estuaries, and 6 coastal areas were cleaned in Puerto Rico by 11,500 volunteers who picked 235,683 pounds of trash. Did you participate in the International Day Coastal Cleanup? If not, I invite you to take part of this event. If you did, what was your most unusual find?

Día Internacional de Limpieza de Costas

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

Recientemente participé junto a mis dos hijas mayores del Día Internacional de Limpieza de Costas. Este día comenzó cuando una dama del estado de Texas coordinó un esfuerzo en 1986 para limpiar las playas de su estado. En Puerto Rico, la organización Scuba Dogs es el coordinador oficial del evento hace 7 años . Este año miles participaron limpiando nuestro más preciado tesoro: nuestras costas.

Aunque ya soy una veterana en estos eventos de limpieza de playas (no importa la época del año) por mi trabajo en la EPA, no desperdicio una oportunidad para unirme a estos esfuerzos y este año no fue la excepción. El club ambiental del Colegio Marista, a dónde asisten mi hijos, adoptó una costa en el área de Vacía Talega en el pueblo de Loíza. Durante nuestro recorrido, y desde temprano en la mañana, pude observar cómo decenas de brigadas, trabajaban recogiendo basura, plástico, materiales de construcción y empaques de comida, entre otras cosas, por un trecho de diez millas bajo el candente sol caribeño.

Nuestro grupo incluyó a cerca de 200 estudiantes y padres que trabajaron arduamente en grupos desde las 8AM y por espacio de 3 horas. Este breve periodo de tiempo sirvió para enseñar a estos jóvenes ciudadanos una lección que no se aprende en un salón de clases: la protección del medioambiente está en manos de cada uno de nosotros y las consecuencias de no hacerlo pueden afectar no solo los hábitats marinos, si no también nuestra economía, ya que nuestra isla depende grandemente del turismo. Aparte de las picadas de mosquito, disfrutamos todos de esta actividad, la cual terminó con un chapuzón en la playa para algunos de los participantes!

El resultado de este esfuerzo fue que 135 playas, 23 ríos, 9 lagos, 4 estuarios y 6 áreas costeras se limpiaron en Puerto Rico por 11,500 voluntarios que recogieron 235, 683 libras de basura. ¿Participó usted del Día Internacional de Limpieza de Costas? Si nunca lo ha hecho, le invito a que participe de este evento. Si participó, ¿cuál fue el artículo más extraño que encontró?

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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Biodiversity and Human Disease – How EPA is Studying the Connections

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: Montira Pongsiri, PhD, MPH, is an Environmental Health Scientist in EPA’s Office of the Science Advisor.

I was first associated with EPA as a STAR Fellow studying the risks and tradeoffs of using pesticides to control infectious diseases. Today, I’m an EPA scientist focusing on infectious diseases in the wider framework of ecosystem services, the direct and indirect benefits people derive from ecosystems.

The primary questions I am helping EPA explore are: What is the underlying mechanism of disease emergence, and do changes in biodiversity play a role?

Our research projects are unique in their interdisciplinary approach, involving ecologists, public health specialists, social scientists, and earth scientists, and also by including decision-makers early in the process to help ensure that new findings can be used to make better decisions.

photo showing two scientists checking opossum for ticks which are removed and collected to test for the presence of the Lyme Disease bacteriumAt one field site in northwest Connecticut, an opossum is checked for ticks, which are removed and collected to test for the presence of the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.

One area we’re studying is Lyme disease risk (chronicled previously by Melissa Anley-Mills and Aaron Ferster). Research partner Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies hypothesizes that a greater diversity of native mammal hosts could help decrease the risk of people getting Lyme disease. How? People get Lyme disease through tick bites, and ticks acquire the Lyme disease agent by feeding on mammals such as mice and squirrels. Not all mammals are equally efficient, or “competent,” in transmitting the disease agent to the ticks. So perhaps having a greater diversity of mammalian species, with their varying capabilities of transmitting the pathogen, could “dilute” the rates by which ticks get infected. Lower rates of tick infection equal lower risk of human infection.

There is also a connection between animal diversity and landscape condition. Forest destruction and fragmentation in the U.S. have been shown to reduce mammalian species diversity and to increase populations of the white-footed mouse—the most competent host of Lyme disease.

With the support of a new STAR grant, Ostfeld and his colleagues are testing this hypothesis by manipulating mammalian host communities in forest fragments and studying the effects on pathogen transmission rates.

When we better understand the mechanisms linking biodiversity and human disease through this and other research studies, we may be able to develop environmentally-based and behavioral approaches to both promote conservation as well as to reduce the risk of human disease – a win-win for environment and public health.

In addition to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, other EPA research partners include the CDC, Yale, NASA Ames, UCLA, the Institute for Bird Populations, Rutgers, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

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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The “Greening” of the Arctic

About the authors: Bob Dyer and Ella Barnes, Office of International Affairs, have managed work on the reduction of toxic and hazardous wastes in the Arctic under both the multilateral Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) and the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) Program for over 10 years. Bob Dyer chaired the ACAP Working Group under the Arctic Council from 2004 to 2008, and Ella Barnes is the U.S. Representative to the ACAP Working Group.

If you stood with me at the northernmost point of the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia, on the shores of the frigid Arctic Ocean, what would we see? A star-filled sky, the Aurora Borealis, whales, walruses, perhaps a lost polar bear… But there is something that the eye cannot see: high concentrations of contaminants, from radioactive materials to pesticides.

Photo of children leaning out the window of their hazardous waste drum converted into living spaceA Chukotka family has set up residence in an abandoned hazardous waste tank.

The Arctic is fragile, and is an early warning indicator of the state of the larger planet. Almost all Russian rivers flow to the north, where contaminants accumulate in seaweed, fish, birds, and mammals. Through the subsistence food chain these contaminants quickly find their way into the bodies of indigenous people where they stay for years. Native Americans in the Arctic, who neither produced nor used these chemicals, are at risk.

Since 2004, EPA’s Bob Dyer has chaired and I have represented the U.S. at the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), which includes the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. Working together with our partners, EPA is helping to greatly reduce environmental contamination in the Arctic.

ACAP, under EPA leadership, organized the effort which to date has resulted in inventory, analysis and safe storeage over 4,000 metric tons of obsolete and prohibited pesticides in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Russia. Prior to this project, the contaminants were released directly into those northward-flowing Russian rivers and transported to the Arctic.

Thanks to the pesticides management program we initiated, Russian regions are now contributing their funds and manpower in development of creative solutions to pesticides storage. For example, they have converted an abandoned missile silo in Altai Krai, Southern Siberia, into an effective storage facility for legacy pesticides.

left photo, exterior of concrete bunker missile silo. right photo, interior of silo showing racks  and racks of white storage bags of pesticides


A Pokrovka former missile hangar was dismantled under the US Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. In 2007 it became an interim storage site for obsolete and prohibited pesticides under the ACAP Project.

Bob and I are particularly proud that, during the recent EPA chairmanship of ACAP, the program has created and implements a model environmental justice empowerment program in Russia called the Indigenous Peoples Community Action Initiative. This sustainable and replicable project has already resulted in the removal and safe storage of over a metric ton of PCBs and persistent organic pollutant pesticides from remote indigenous villages in Alaska and northern Russia.

A community elder in Chukotka, Russian Far East, told us that he lived with drums containing spent oils, lubricants, and transformer liquids all his life and they are a part of his landscape. EPA is helping to change that–this summer, through the ACAP Program, over 2000 drums were removed from two Arctic indigenous villages in Chukotka on the Bering Sea across from Alaska.

photo showing field full of barrels with inset photo of three men rolling barrels

Residents of Lorino and Lavrentia, Chukotka Autonomous District removing hazardous waste drums.

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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New Climate for Action: Getting to School

Photo of Children's Health Office InternMy name is Ashley, and this semester I have the privilege to work at the EPA Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education. I am so excited to spend the next couple of months writing blog entries in order to give middle and high school students a voice to express their own thoughts and feelings on issues like global climate change. Let me start off by mentioning a few things about myself.

What brought me to Washington D.C…

Originally I am from Bolingbrook, Illinois which is about 30 minutes away from Chicago. I am finishing up my last year at Indiana University with a degree in Public Finance. During my junior year in college, I heard about this exciting program called WLP, the Washington Leadership Program. The second I heard about WLP, it instantly caught my attention. WLP offers students the opportunity to spend a semester in Washington DC, in my case, during an exciting time of the year; the presidential election. Students get the chance to experience DC during a fun time in their life, gain practical experience in an area of interest, meet influential people, and take classes up on the Hill. How amazing is that? Not bad for a student.

I wanted to work at OCHPEE after learning the office focuses on environmental health threats and contributes in so many ways to helping parents as well as middle and high school students become environmentally conscious. During my time here at OCHPEE, I want to hear your story including your activities to address global climate change. Your activities can inspire others.

Let’s get started on this week’s topic.

Today many kids are driven to school by their parents rather than taking the bus, walking, or riding a bike. This increases traffic and energy use. Choosing to walk, ride a bicycle or school bus, or even take public transportation, reduces air pollution. Air pollutants can harm kids and cause respiratory problems. Children have respiratory systems that are not fully developed and they are often involved in activities where they breathe deeply and take in toxic air pollutants. Because October 8th is International Walk to School Day we want to hear what you are doing to reduce energy use getting to and from school and other activities. Have you talked to your friends and classmates? What has your school done? Your activities can inspire others so tell us what you’re doing. Send us pictures.

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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