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Science Wednesday – EPA:The Go-To Agency on Sustainability

2009 February 11

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

About the author: Alan D. Hecht is the Director for Sustainable Development in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He has also served as the Associate Director for Sustainable Development, White House Council on Environmental Quality (2002-2003), and the Director of International Environmental Affairs for the National Security Council (2001-2002).

Three Star Clusters Shine in the Night Sky

The brightest one is “Academiasta,” a cluster of colleges and university committed to running their institutions and educating their students on sustainability principles and practices. Not very distant from Academiasta is “Industrina”, a growing group of energy and manufacturing companies working to turn their landscapes green. Further away is “Neuvo Federalvo,” a cluster of dim stars, flickering on and off in the night sky.

In the Neuvo Federalvo cluster sits one sleeping giant whose internal energy has been growing and who is now ready to shower the night sky with a new light. All eyes are on EPA watching for a super nova sustainability explosion in the days ahead.

EPA and the Office of Research and Development (ORD) showed remarkable foresight and leadership in developed a Sustainable Research Strategy (2007) emphasizing a systems approach to dealing with environmental issues. The Strategy has been influential in affecting the direction of a number of EPA policy and research programs:

  • our Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation’s Sector Reports on Energy and Manufacturing include sustainability measures
  • the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances’ Pollution Prevention Program is reassessing its long-term goals bases on the Sustainability Strategy
  • an interoffice Vision 2020 working group is currently revising the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response’s RCRA 2020 report with a major focus on shifting from waste to materials management
  • the Office of Water has developed a strategy for Sustainable Water Infrastructure.

The need to focus on sustainable outcomes and implement sustainable management practices is more urgent today than ever before.

ORD created a sustainability Web site to advance EPA as a GoTo Agency on sustainability. The site is a onestop source for hundreds of EPA sustainability and research programs.

The site has just been updated and new sections have been added in four cross-cutting EPA program areas: urban sustainability and green building, water and ecosystem services, energy, climate and biofuels, and materials, toxics and human health.

The three clusters in the sky—Academiasta, Industrina and Neuvo Federalvo—could create a new constellation larger and more impressions than anything that has been seen before. In this constellation, EPA can be one of the brightest stars.

All astronomers are welcome to navigate the EPA cluster.

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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