Monthly Archives: March 2009

Join our Earth Day Video and Photo Projects

Couple silhouetted against the sunset at the beachIn anticipation of Earth Day, we’re launching video and photo projects. Share how you enjoy and protect the environment.

Submit videos on YouTube and photos on Flickr.

Full details:

Video categories:

  • Reducing your carbon footprint
  • Conserving and protecting water
  • Protecting the environment
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle

Photo categories:

  • People and the environment
  • The beauty of nature
  • Wildlife

How would you capture the categories in photos and videos?

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 can people do in their community to celebrate Earth Day?

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.

Earth Day, April 22, is next month.  Lots of communities hold events, block parties, and cleanups to encourage everyone to get involved, and have fun while they help protect the environment. Tell us about what folks in your community are thinking of doing.

What can people do in their community to celebrate Earth Day?

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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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Qué puede hacer la gente en su comunidad para celebrar el Día el Planeta Tierra?

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.

El Día del Planeta Tierra, el 22 de abril, es el mes próximo. Muchas comunidades están celebrando actividades, fiestas de vecindario, y limpiezas para alentar a las personas que participen y se diviertan mientras protegen el medio ambiente. Díganos lo que la gente en su comunidad está pensando hacer.

¿Qué puede hacer la gente en su comunidad para celebrar el Día el Planeta Tierra?

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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Fix A Leak: Fix Leaks, Save Water & Money

About the author: Steve Burton* the SW territory contact for Ferguson Enterprises, Inc.’s Private Label Program. Ferguson is the EPA’s 2008 WaterSense Retailer/Distributor Partner of the Year.

We have a two-person household in an average-size home in Oro Valley, Arizona. In November 2008 we discovered the guest bathroom had a slow internal leak caused by an aging fill valve inside the toilet tank. The only reason we thought to look for a leak was the spike in our water bill that month.

We found a slow leak inside the toilet tank in our hall bathroom. The noise was faint. If the fan was on or if you were not directly in the bathroom, you could not tell there was a noise coming from the toilet tank.

The impact this one slow leak had on our water usage/bill during November 2008 is below.

  • Sept 2008 $41.97
  • Oct 2008 $51.33
  • Nov 2008 $148.30
  • Dec 2008 $58.66
  • Jan 2008 $33.64

This drove home how important it is to check/maintain water fixtures in our home to conserve water and save money. For about $15, we were able to fix a leak that was costing us $100 a month!

* EPA does not endorse any contractor, commercial service, or enterprise.

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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Traveling Green

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.

As the first droves of tourists arrive in the Washington, DC area, some of us are starting to make family vacation plans for the year. Many people are interested in “going local,” not only to cut travel costs but to reduce their carbon footprint as well. The Washington area offers many nearby vacationing opportunities where you can get away from it all while protecting the environment.

Increasingly, there are more vacation spots that are going green. Whether these sites emphasize nature trails and the great outdoors, you can select hotels and destinations that are truly green. In fact, there are numerous websites that rate environmentally friendly hotels in the US and worldwide.

Watersense label - meets EPA criteriaWhen we’re talking about green vacations, green practices goes beyond just using your towels and sheets for two or three days in a row or even turning off the lights and TV while you’re not in the room. These are good tips that apply whenever you’re traveling either for business or pleasure. Notwithstanding, a green hotel, for example, will use environmentally friendly practices such as water efficient fixtures and practices, energy efficient lighting and equipment, integrated pest management practices, to name a few.

Furthermore, you can explore other ways to reduce your carbon footprint while on vacation such as using public transportation or walking to the different sites whenever possible. So, as you start discussing your vacation plans with your family, take a moment or two to factor in some green options. Have a safe journey. Bon voyage!

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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Viajar ecológicamente

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.

A medida que llegan las primeras manadas de turistas al área de Washington, DC, algunos de nosotros estamos haciendo planes para las vacaciones familiares del año. Muchas personas están interesadas en opciones locales, no tan sólo para reducir los costos de viaje, sino también para reducir su huella de carbono también. El área de Washington ofrece muchas oportunidades de vacaciones cercanas cuando quiera abandonar el mundanal ruido y a la vez proteger el medio ambiente.

Con mayor frecuencia están surgiendo nuevos lugares de veraneo verdes. Sea por que estos lugares enfatizan los paseos naturales o las actividades al aire libre, usted puede seleccionar hoteles y destinos que sean tengan una filosofía ecológica. De hecho, numerosos sitios Web califican los hoteles por las medidas beneficiosas para el medio ambiente que estos han adoptado sea en los Estados Unidos o a nivel mundial.

en ingles: Watersense label - meets EPA criteriaCuando hablamos de vacaciones ecológicas, estas prácticas verdes van mucho más allá del reutilizar las toallas y sábanas por varios días o de apagar las luces y los televisores en las habitaciones. Estos son consejos útiles independientemente si está de viajes de negocio o de turismo. Asimismo, un hotel verde, por ejemplo, adoptará prácticas beneficiosas para el medio ambiente como el utilizar duchas, inodoros, grifos y productos de plomería eficientesalumbrado y equipo de calefacción y aire acondicionado también eficiente, y prácticas para el manejo integrado de pesticidas.

Además, puede explorar varias maneras de reducir su huella de carbono durante sus vacaciones utilizando transporte público y caminando a diferentes lugares cuando sea posible. Por lo tanto, a medida que comienza a considerar varios proyectos para las vacaciones familiares, tome un momento para analizar algunas opciones verdes. Buen viaje.

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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Science Wednesday: China and Global Air Pollution

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

About the author: Julie A. Layshock is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University. Her work is funded by an EPA Science to Achieve Results (EPA STAR) Graduate Research Fellowship. She is looking forward to a career focused on reducing human exposure to pollutants.

Westerly winds over the Pacific Ocean efficiently carry sea salt and dust from the Gobi Desert to the western United States. Recently, scientists have begun to detect other, less welcome, things in the wind, too: air particles laden with pollutants from fossil fuels.

People from countries around the world cause tons of pollutants to be emitted into the air we breathe. Everything from operating vehicles, to burning coal and natural gas for heat and electricity, and manufacturing and industry activities all contribute to the global transport of air pollution. The contribution this global transport makes to local air conditions is poorly understood, and the impact it makes to human health can not yet be estimated.

That’s where my research comes in.

image of author with clipboardI am working toward answering questions concerning long-distance air pollution and how China might contribute to pollution in the United States. In my travels to China, I have seen first-hand the effects air pollution can have on human health. Understandable questions arise: Can we really quantify the contribution of pollutants from China and determine the how they affect a person in the United States?

I spent several months in China collecting air particles that I can use to compare with ones I have collected in the Pacific Northwest. My goal is to identify specific pollutants arising from en route chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Using the chemical “signatures” of the particles, combined with powerful meteorological and wind mapping models, I aim to distinguish Chinese sources from our locally produced air pollution. In the laboratory, I am also designing toxicity tests using the collected particles and identifying the most toxic combustion byproducts.

The results of my research could provide much needed insight into the global movement of these combustion-derived pollutants that are attached to particles in the air.

Demonstrating that these pollutants are capable of traveling half-way around the world highlights the need to reduce this type of pollution. Alternative energies and creative pollution control techniques are just a few of the directions that could result from my research.

For further information, I can be reached at layshocj@onid.orst.edu.

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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Fix a Leak: Detecting and Fixing Toilet Leaks

About the author: Ed Del Grande is host of “Ed the Plumber” on the DIY Network*, and regularly appears on HGTVPro.com as the plumbing expert. He writes a nationally syndicated column, “Ask the Plumber,” which appears in newspapers across the United States. Del Grande is a native of Rhode Island.

image of author, Ed Del Grande, kneeling next to a toiletHow do you know when a toilet is leaking? Faucets and showerheads will drip, which is a dead giveaway for a leak. But what about toilets?

Have you ever experienced your toilet “running” for a long time after a flush, or had to wiggle the handle to make it stop, or does it ever randomly “run” at night, even when nobody flushed it? A “running toilet” is a leaky toilet.

If you’re toilet is leaking, most likely it’s a bad flapper. If you look inside the tank, you’ll notice a ‘rubber stop’ at the bottom of the tank. This device is no longer creating a water-tight seal, and your toilet is leaking. To confirm, you can drop a couple drops of food coloring in the tank. If you see any food coloring leak into the bowl, your toilet is leaking.

You can purchase replacement parts for your toilet at any hardware store or home improvement center. This should stop the problem. And, these replacement kits are pretty easy to install.

However, if you’re taking the time to make this fix, you should check to see how many gallons your toilet uses with each flush. The federal mandate is 1.6 gpf, but if your house is old, or you haven’t remodeled in quite some time, chances are you have a toilet that uses 3.5 gpf or more. And that’s a waste of water – a waste of 2 gallons of fresh drinking water with every flush. If you have an old toilet, consider replacing it with a new, WaterSense labeled toilet. These new toilets don’t sacrifice design or performance.

To get some great information on new toilets, and what to look for, check out www.epa.gov/watersense/.

* EPA does not endorse any contractor, commercial service, or enterprise.

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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Fix A Leak Week: Drip, Drip, Drip – Stop that Leak!

About the author: Stephanie Thornton is the Partner Outreach Coordinator for EPA’s WaterSense program. Stephanie has been with the Agency for almost seven years.

We all want to do what we can to be more water efficient around the house – we wash only full loads of dishes and laundry, turn off the water while brushing our teeth, and look for WaterSense® labeled products when replacing a toilet or faucet. But one of the biggest water wasters often goes unnoticed: common household leaks.

That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created Fix a Leak Week, which runs March 16 through 20. Leaks can account for, on average, up to 11,000 gallons of water wasted in house each year. That’s enough to fill your backyard swimming pool! The most common leaks are toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves, all of which are easily corrected. Fixing them can save you up to 10% on your water bills.

Nearly all fixture leaks can also be corrected by replacing older models with new, WaterSense labeled products. You’ll stop the leak and give yourself a high-quality, water efficient toilet or faucet that you can feel good about.

One of the easiest ways to figure out if you have a leak is to check your water meter before leaving the house for a two hour period in which no water is being used. When you return home, check the meter again – if it has changed, you have a leak.

For more easy leak detection tips and solutions, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak/. While you’re there, take the Fix a Leak Week Pledge to make your home leak-free!

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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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.