Monthly Archives: January 2009

Saving the Environment, One Week at a Time

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.

A reporter recently approached me with the task of helping her with a “green” Christmas gift guide. I told her I was giving all of my friends reusable bags as presents in order for them to refrain from using plastic bags. This got me thinking of a list of habit-changing tips everyone can use. With the recent start of a new year,  what better resolution than 52 ideas that everyone can incorporate into their daily routine, one to be done every week, to turn a regular individual into an environmentally conscious citizen by the end of 2009. Here are the first 26.

  1. Reduce the amount of waste created by unnecessary packaging by buying in bulk whenever possible.
  2. Reuse everything you can. Donate what you don’t use to be reused. I have a hand-me down circle of friends for children’s clothing. I also like buying at second-hand shops for rarely used items like winter coats. (Remember, in Puerto Rico it’s “summer” all year round).
  3. Recycle. Check your town or municipality’s requirements. If they don’t have a recycling program available bring all your recyclables to the nearest drop-off center.
  4. Opt for items made from recycled materials when making a purchase.
  5. Borrow large items and tools.
  6. Become a smart consumer. Research before buying to consider the most environmentally friendly option.
  7. Use reusable bags.
  8. Shop for durability from clothes to large items.
  9. Try to eat more at home or brown bag whenever you can. Eating out generates more waste from unnecessary packaging.
  10. Employ natural ingredients for cleaning the house like vinegar and baking soda. I like plant-based cleaning products too.
  11. Buy phosphate free laundry and dishwashing liquids. Phosphates promote algae growth that damages aquatic ecosystems.
  12. Plant native plants in your backyard. Exotic species need more care.
  13. Compost food waste and leaves for a soil rich of nutrients. This is a great project to do with the kids!
  14. Change your lights to CFL. They use75% less energy and last 10 times longer.
  15. If replacing an appliance, look for the Energy Star logo.
  16. The house needs paint? Pick low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) or no VOC paints.
  17. Install an Energy Star programmable thermostat.
  18. Plug electronics into power strips and turn off when not in use.
  19. Keep your fridge clean, this saves electricity.
  20. Install and use a clothesline.
  21. Choose local or organic fruit and vegetables. Non-local means gallons of fuels burned.E
  22. Even better grow your own! I have a banana tree in my backyard as well as navel oranges.
  23. Hosting a dinner or birthday party? Use real china and cutlery to avoid sending large amounts of waste into the landfill.
  24. Share your green habits with your relatives and children. They will be inspired to make a change too!
  25. Take your kids on long walks or bike rides. Let them explore the biodiversity around them. My kids love kite flying in El Morro and bike riding in Luis Muñoz Rivera Park in San Juan.
  26. Participate in a beach cleanup or the International Coastal Cleanup

The following 26 tips next week—stay tuned!

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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A salvaguardar el medioambiente, una semana a la vez.

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 se me acercó una reportera para que le ayudase a preparar una lista de regalos verde para Navidad. Le comenté que yo regalaría bolsos reusables a todas mis amigas para que no utilicen plásticas cuando van de compras. Esto me hizo pensar en una lista de hábitos que las personas puedan incorporar, una semana a la vez, para convertirse en un ciudadano consciente del medioambiente. Ésta es una excelente resolución para el nuevo año. He aquí las primeras 26.

  1. Reduzca los desperdicios que genera escogiendo artículos que no posean exceso de empaque o prefiera productos al por mayor.
  2. Reutilice todo lo que pueda. Done lo que no pueda reusar. Pertenezco a un círculo de madres que intercambiamos la ropa de nuestros hijos. Compro en tiendas de segunda mano la ropa que rara vez utilizamos como abrigos de invierno o disfraces.
  3. Recicle. Verifique los requisitos de su localidad. Si no hay programa disponible, llévelos al depósito más cercano.
  4. Compre artículos confeccionados de material reciclado.
  5. Pida prestados o preste artículos y herramientas poco utilizados.
  6. Conviértase en un consumidor inteligente. Considere la opción de menor impacto ambiental.
  7. Utilice bolsas reusables.
  8. Compre artículos duraderos desde ropa hasta enseres.
  9. Trate de comer en casa o llevar almuerzo a la oficina. Comer en restaurantes de comida rápida genera mucha basura y empaques innecesarios
  10. Al limpiar utilice ingredientes naturales como vinagre, soda de hornear o los hechos con extractos de plantas.
  11. Adquiera detergente que sean libre de fosfatos para proteger eco-sistemas acuáticos.
  12. Siembre plantas nativas, las exóticas requieren mayores cuidados.
  13. Convierta las peladuras de vegetales en composta. ¡Éste es un excelente proyecto para hacer con los niños!
  14. Cambie sus bombillas regulares por compactas fluorescentes of CFL’s. Utilizan 75% menos energía y duran 10 veces más.
  15. Si va a reemplazar enseres eléctricos, busque el sello Energy Star
  16. Al pintar la casa, escoja las que posean menos compuestos orgánicos volátiles (VOC’s)
  17. Instale un termostato programable Energy Star.
  18. Enchufe todos los electrónicos en un enchufe múltiple y desconéctelos cuando no estén en uso.
  19. Mantenga su nevera limpia para ahorrar electricidad.
  20. Instale y utilice un cordel de ropa.
  21. Escoja vegetales y frutos locales u orgánicos para minimizar la quema de combustibles en el transporte.
  22. ¡Cultive sus propias viandas y vegetales!
  23. ¿Celebra una fiesta de cumpleaños o cena? Utilice su vajilla de loza y cubiertos para no generar basura.
  24. Comparta sus hábitos con sus familiares e hijos. ¡Los inspirará a hacer un cambio!
  25. Lleve a sus niños en paseos que los pongan en contacto con la naturaleza, aprenderán a apreciarla. A mis hijos les encanta volar chiringas/cometas en El Morro y correr bicicleta en el Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera en San Juan.
  26. Participe de una limpieza de playa o de la Limpieza Internacional de Costas 

La semana entrante compartiré con ustedes los próximos 26 consejos.

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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Happy New Year—of Science

official photo of Kevin TeichmanAbout the Author: Dr. Kevin Teichman is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, where he helps coordinate EPA’s research program. Dr. Teichman has BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Mechanical Engineering, and lives in Derwood, Maryland where he and his wife Marsha are proud “empty nesters.”

This year, once again, I resolved not to watch so much football and not to put on extra pounds doing so. I also resolved to take an active part in EPA’s Year of Science 2009. Now that I have broken my first resolution, I am even more resolved to keep my second resolution, and I need your help.

EPA is partnering with the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science to support the Year of Science 2009 (YOS). This is a national, year-long celebration of science that will shine the spotlight on how science works, who scientists are, and why science matters. Activities and events will be led by a wide variety of scientific organizations, and I’m proud to say that EPA is one of them.

Each month will be organized around a specific theme, starting in January with the “Process and Nature of Science.” Given EPA’s world-class science and technology in support of our mission to protect human health and the environment, we’re looking forward to sharing real-world stories of EPA “Science in Action.”

Also, be sure to mark your calendars for EPA-sponsored activities during May. We’re taking the lead in organizing events and awards in support of the YOS theme of “Sustainability and the Environment,” because sustainability is an important topic across EPA. I plan to keep my New Year’s resolution by actively participating in May, and throughout the year. Please join me!

For more details about YOS, keep an eye on EPA’s Science Wednesdays, where you’ll find actionable information each month. Also, take a look at the site developed by the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science, YearOfScience2009.org, to learn more about how you can get involved.

I can already tell it’s going to be a Happy New Year—of Science.

Be sure to check out our Year of Science Question of the Month, What kind of a scientist would you like to be?

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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Year of Science Question of the Month: If you could be any type of scientist, what kind would you be and why?

For each month in 2009, the Year Of Science, we will pose a question related to science. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas.

Ponder. Observe and discover. We are all born scientists, naturally curious to figure out more about the world around us: how we affect the environment, and how the environment affects us.
2009 is the Year Of Science.

If you could be any type of scientist, what kind would you be and why?

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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National Radon Action Month: Test Your Home For Radon

About the author: Julia Ortiz joined EPA in April of 2008.  She works in communications for the Office of Air and Radiation in Washington, DC.
 
January is National Radon Action Month, and I hope that it can be the time when you take a small step to protect your family by testing your home for radon. Until I started working at EPA, radon testing wasn’t on my radar, much less my to-do list. I have vague memories of hearing about it in high school chemistry class, but I never thought of it as something I should be concerned about. In my job as a communication specialist, I sift through a lot of meaningful statistics. This one really stands out – radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Knowing I could prevent something as serious as cancer with something as simple as a radon test astonished me.

Every day I have to explain a wide range of issues so that the public can easily understand them. In this case, my parents were my target audience – they hadn’t tested their home for radon. I bought them a radon test kit and dropped it off at their house. Little did I know that I was about to face my greatest communication challenge yet: my mom. When I arrived with the test kit, she eyed the package warily and asked dozens of questions. She was worried about what would happen if we found high radon levels, whether the test was accurate, and if it was even necessary. It took some convincing, but in the end she agreed that their health was paramount, and we sent off the test. When we get the results back, we will have the peace of mind of knowing that either our radon levels are low, or that they soon will be after we install a radon mitigation system.

More information to coax stubborn relatives can be found at www.epa.gov/radon.

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 are your New Year's resolutions to help protect the environment in 2009?

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 New Year! I will drive more efficiently. I will start a compost pile. I will read pesticide labels. I will …

Share what YOU will do in the coming year to help protect the environment.

What are your New Year’s resolutions to help protect the environment in 2009?

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: ¿Cuáles son sus resoluciones para el año nuevo para proteger el medio ambiente en el 2009?

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 año nuevo! Guiaré de manera más eficiente. Comenzaré a compostar en el jardín. Leeré las etiquetas de plaguicidas. Haré …

Comparta la que USTED hará el año entrante para ayudar a proteger el medio ambiente.

¿Cuáles son sus resoluciones para el año nuevo para proteger el medio ambiente en el 2009?

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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Hollywood Doesn’t Always Portray Things From the Right ASPECT

About the author: Jeffrey Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started in 1998.  He serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.

Movies require you to suspend your disbelief, but when you watch a film that hits close to home it can be tough. I have a friend in federal law enforcement who squirms when cardboard cutout agents run across the screen. Action flicks don’t do his profession justice, but at least his job is sometimes glorified on celluloid. The only two movies I can remember featuring a prominent EPA employee are Ghostbusters and the Simpsons Movie, neither of which ever made a kid say, “Man, when I grow up I want to work for the EPA.” On the off-chance your youngster was inspired to seek out public service please let them know we don’t inspect unlicensed nuclear storage facilities, nor do we have a fleet of helicopters. We do however, have one cool plane.

photo of front of plane with a group of people standing nearbyEPA’s Airborne Spectral Photometric Collection Technology, known as ASPECT, is an aircraft equipped with sensors that allow for surveillance of gaseous chemical releases from a safe distance. ASPECT gives emergency responders information regarding the shape, composition and concentration of gas plumes from disasters such as a derailed train, factory explosion or terrorist attack.

Since its inception ASPECT has flown over several fires, provided support during the Olympics and Columbia shuttle recovery, and supplied some of the first aerial images of the devastation along the coast during Katrina.

view of city horizon with a large plume of blue smoke rising over a highwayThis was the scene in Kansas City outside our office windows in 2007 when a chemical facility went up in flames. ASPECT deployed and was instrumental in verifying that while ominous, the fire did not present a significant health threat to the community (the white signature you see below is the fire).>overhead image from plane with white area indicating fire

Most of the technology you see in movies is sheer fantasy, but EPA’s high-tech plane and the scientists who operate it are worthy of a spot in the next summer blockbuster. Here’s hoping for the appearance of an EPA scientist who isn’t a bad guy (although with my face the best I could hope for is Thug #4 in the next straight to DVD clunker).

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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