Monthly Archives: April 2009

Sustainable Agriculture Award Winners Conserve with Zeal

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team for 10 years and is Co-Chair of EPA’s Green Building Workgroup.

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Feasting is something I really enjoy, and it’s so much better when the food is produced locally and sustainably! EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region recently recognized these amazing environmental and agricultural community leaders:

Innovative Family Farm Watershed Protection

The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District’s Voluntary Incentive Based Program on Agricultural Land in coastal Sonoma County is a small grass roots special district, and it is a special district indeed!

image of wetlandsBy working closely with small coastal family farms in the Estero Americano and Salmon Creek Watersheds they protected watersheds through direct on-farm conservation support.

Here are just a few of the things they did –

  • Worked closely with the agricultural community so a whopping 80% of landowners in both watersheds participated in reducing nutrient and sediment loadings,
  • Prevented 50,000 cubic years of sediment from entering streams through 25 restoration projects on 12 family farms,
  • Upgraded critical roads on 60% of all properties in the Salmon Creek Watershed, and
  • Conducted extensive soil, manure and water quality sampling.

This model watershed protection partnership has kept family farms both environmentally and economically sustainable, and I can’t wait to sample the harvest!

Another winner was recognized for developing super-sustainable fruit.

Zeal Brand Sustainable Fruit

Zeal brand was first introduced in the retail market in 2008 to promote sustainable farming practices. All Zeal fruit is certified by Protected Harvest to ensure that Zeal fruit is grown in compliance with the most environmentally and socially sound standards for soil, water, pesticides, and labor.

The Zeal brand is also pushes sustainability through the entire supply chain. All the brand’s packaging and marketing materials are designed to be low impact and sustainably produced. In addition, Zeal advertising materials are printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

I understand the company’s message is dear to every person involved — from field to fork. The production crews are proud to have a direct influence on the protection of the local environment and Zeal consumers are happy to buy fruit that supports growers making a difference.

For those of your with toddlers, I bet you’re thinking of that great tune, “Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy.” My fork is ready – is yours?

These groups have done amazing sustainable agriculture work in California. Please share your ideas and tips on sustainable agriculture.

To learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Environmental award winners, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/awards/09.

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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Young Students Engaged in Environmental Stewardship

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.

During a recent visit to K.W. Barrett Elementary School in Arlington, VA, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met with a diverse group of young students from the school’s 4-H Club and the LNESC Young Readers Program. It was very exciting to see these young students actively engaged in environmental protection activities like school recycling projects, garden clean ups, tree plantings, to name a few.

When Administrator Jackson asked them about our environmental challenges, many hands eagerly shot up! The children highlighted numerous concerns like global warming, climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, water quality, recycling, etc. I was impressed by their grasp of the issues given the fact that they ranged from first graders to fifth graders. What most struck me was that they were not parroting what they had heard from their teachers in school or from parents at the dinner table. They were truly engaged in the discussion.

Image of Administrator Jackson talking with children seated in a circle around her.

During the Administrator’s visit, the students proudly spoke of their activities. We even saw a video they produced at the school entitled “Hug a Tree”. It was adorable. It warmed my heart to see these young children speaking and acting as concerned citizens of today and tomorrow. I definitely saw future scientists, researchers, engineers, teachers—working together to better protect our home, Planet Earth. Who knows, maybe some of these young students will be future awardees of EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability. Anything is possible.

So let’s go green every day of the year, at school, at home, and in our communities.

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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Jóvenes estudiantes comprometidos con el civismo ambiental

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.

Durante una reciente visita a la Escuela Elemental K.W. Barrett en Arlington, VA, la Administradora de EPA Lisa Jackson se reunió con un grupo de jóvenes estudiantes de diversos grupos étnicos participantes en el Club 4-H de la escuela y del Programa de Jóvenes Lectores de LNESC. Fue muy emocionante ver estos jóvenes estudiantes trabajando activamente en actividades de protección ambiental como proyectos escolares de reciclaje, la limpieza del jardín, el sembrado de árboles, entre otras actividades.

Cuando la Administradora Jackson les preguntó acerca de nuestros retos medioambientales, muchos levantaron sus manos entusiastamente. Los niños destacaron numerosas preocupaciones tales como el calentamiento global, el cambio climático, la dependencia en los combustibles fósiles, la calidad del agua, el reciclaje, etc. Me impresionó ver su manejo de estos asuntos dado el hecho de que la mayoría estaban en los grados del primero al quinto. También me sorprendió el que no estaban repitiendo las cosas al papagayo que quizás habrían escuchado de sus maestros en la escuela o de sus padres en casa. Estaban totalmente enfrascados en la discusión.

Image of EPA Administrator Jackson speaking with children sitting in a circle around her

Durante la visita de la Administradora, los estudiantes hablaron orgullosamente acerca de sus actividades a favor del medio ambiente. Hasta nos mostraron un video que habían producido en la escuela titulado “Abraza a un árbol”. Era enternecedor. Me emocionó ver estos jovencitos hablar y obrar como los ciudadanos preocupados del hoy y del mañana. Definitivamente ví futuros científicos, investigadores, ingenieros, maestros—trabajando juntos para mejor proteger nuestro hogar, el Planeta Tierra. Quién sabe, quizás algunos de estos jóvenes estudiantes serían futuros galardonados del concurso P3 de EPA: la Competencia de diseño estudiantil para la sostenibilidad de EPA conocida como Pueblo, Prosperidad y Planeta. Cualquier cosa es posible.

Por ende, obremos a favor del Planeta Tierra. Seamos verdes todos los días del año, en la escuela, en el hogar, y en nuestras comunidades.

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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Celebrate Earth Day 2009

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the EPA Administrator

image of Administrator Jackspon standing next to a child on a bikeToday, we’re celebrating the biggest Earth Day in history. One billion people – almost one in every six people on the planet – will stand up to show that protecting the Earth and those who live on it is our responsibility. How amazing is that?

This Earth Day, EPA is on the job, and working hard to protect human health and the environment. But we need your help.

Our web folks have updated our EPA page with a special Earth Day Pick 5 for the Environment Project. We provide 10 activities. You pick 5 and commit to doing them.

Once you get started on your Pick 5, you can share your stories in Facebook, photos on Flickr, and videos on YouTube. We’ll also have special blog posts here in Greenversations where you can talk about how you’re doing and help each other.

This is a defining moment. Some of the best opportunities we’ll ever have to make a change and save our planet are happening right now. The actions we take – or don’t take – are going to affect what happens today and for generations to come. That is our reality right now. But, there is plenty we can do.

We really can show that environmental protection and economic growth work hand in hand. We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment, we just have to be smart enough to work for both. That will open the way to millions of green jobs in a low-carbon economy.

We really can lead the world in clean, homegrown energy sources, cutting emissions in the air, lowering energy costs for families, businesses and government, and ending, once and for all, our dependence on foreign oil. It’s a way to make the world not only cleaner but safer.

And we really can stop the rapid advance of climate change. We should be responsible enough to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. But it takes a commitment from all of us.

Grow the economy. Strengthen our national security. Save our planet in the bargain. It sounds ambitious – because it is. But it’s a future that’s within our sights.  All we have to do is help each other to get there.

Okay I have to plug our project one more time. Visit http://www.epa.gov/pick5 to join our Pick 5 for the Environment Project and be part of the one billion people taking action this Earth Day.

We can do more to protect our communities and our planet than ever before. It’s up to you.

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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Climate for Action: Participate in Earth Day Activities

About the author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Earth Day is a day for citizens to give back to their environment. It is a day that Americans have celebrated since 1970 in efforts to create a healthier and more sustainable planet. This year, it will be celebrated on April 22, 2009. Millions of people will come together to participate in volunteer opportunities throughout the country. Whether they will be cleaning up parks, clearing streams, planting trees or participating in hundreds of other types of environmental activities, the importance of their volunteerism is that they will be reducing the impact on the environment that we have all been creating. A great outcome in return from their work is that they will be able to really see the results of their efforts and know that they are making a difference. I encourage all of you to become involved in Earth Day activities too. There are many advertisements on the internet looking for Earth Day volunteers that you can register for. You can also go to EPA’s Earth Day website that will show you volunteer opportunities in your area. If you can’t find anything close to your neighborhood, I encourage you to start your own event. There are many things you can do, some examples of Earth Day activities that you can plan include:

  • Storm water marking. In groups you can label the storm drains in your community to educate your neighbors about water pollution. Contact your community’s water department for the storm drain marking toolkits.
  • Organize an Earth Day fair at your school or community center and invite your neighborhood. Educate them by creating environmental skits or by handing out information. Most organizations give out free publications as a part of their outreach efforts. EPA’s publication website can be found at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/publications.htm
  • Plant native trees and plants around your community. Native plants are better for the environment because they provide wildlife, filter pollutants and absorb CO2 – a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. Go to http://www.plantnative.org/reg_pl_main.htm for more information.
  • Start a recycling collection at your school. Examples of things to recycle include: ink cartridges, batteries, paper, books, newspapers, plastic bags, cell phones and magazines. A recycling center locator that will show you where you can recycle your collection materials can be found at http://earth911.com/.
  • Vistit www.epa.gov/climateforaction/ for more ideas.

Can you think of any other Earth Day activities to be involved with on April 22nd? Be sure to let us know. Earth Day is a great opportunity to reduce our impact on important environmental issues like climate change, water pollution, air pollution and toxic land contamination. Last year an Earth Day activity in Philadelphia brought 15,000 residents together which created the largest one-day, citywide cleanup in America. Together, they were able to remove over 2.5 million pounds of trash and 48,000 pounds of recyclable materials. Their efforts cleared 3,500 blocks of litter and hazardous materials making the area a cleaner and safer place to live. Get involved too!!!! Become a climate ambassador in your community. Your efforts will support a good cause and make a great impact.

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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Reduce, Recycle & Reuse = ReStore

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked for EPA for many years. She currently works in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA Headquarters, and manages the EPA blog, Greenversations.

I’ve certainly learned a lot managing the Greenversations blog. I’ve worked here at EPA for longer than I’d care to admit, but it seems I learn something new everyday reading the blog posts and moderating each and every comment submitted. We have had several posts about green building in all of its forms, but not too long ago we posted a blog post from someone who had recently purchased a home, and was in the process of renovating it in the greenest way possible. About this time, I heard about Habitat for Humanity ReStores, and lo and behold there was a sign for one put up in my community in Southern Maryland.

I decided to stop in one Saturday morning and WOW were my eyes opened. It is just getting going and is currently operated out of a barn, but what a treasure trove of goodies. As I walked through, I saw lots of appliances, cabinets, fixtures, windows, shelving, sinks and toilets, tile, carpet remnants, 3,000 gallons of paint and so much more. Most were new, although some were gently used. I decided I needed to know more. I found the store manager and asked him about the ReStore. I found out that all of the items for sale are donated by either local home improvement stores, builders, or regular people like you and me, and are sold at 50-70% off of the retail value (the paint was just $3.00 per gallon). Some of the items (for example, five matching 3’ x 5’ windows) were ordered the wrong size and couldn’t be returned. Donating the items to a charity is a great way to recoup some of the lost expense (as a tax donation), helps others keep their renovating expenses down, and a worthy charity reaps the benefits (in the form of sales). This is a win-win situation if I ever saw one. Not to mention the fact that all of these materials are being spared from going into landfills.

There are many stores that use this model of accepting donations and keeping stuff from being thrown away. Do a search on the web for “recycled building materials” and check out what’s available in your area. By the way, during my conversation I also found out that a store in Virginia helped someone build his house entirely from ReStore purchases. Can you just imagine how much he was able to save. Have you used a source like this for renovations or repairs on your home? Share with us your experience and thoughts about this way of saving “green” while renovating “green”.

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 learned from the Greenversations blog?

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 anniversary!  We started the Greenversations blog one year ago, on Earth Day 2008.  Since then we’ve discussed Questions of the Week, looked at Science Wednesday, and followed scientists on the “Bold” research vessel.

What have you learned from the Greenversations blog?

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 ha aprendido del blog Conversaciones verdes, Greenversations?

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! Comenzamos el blog de Conversaciones verdes, Greenversacions, hace un año atrás el Día del Planeta Tierra 2008. Desde entonces hemos discutido las preguntas de la semana, hemos celebrado la ciencia los miércoles y hemos seguido a los científicos en el buque de investigaciones “Bold”.

¿Qué ha aprendido del blog Conversaciones verdes, Greenversations?

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 Notebook: I’m Not in Kansas Anymore – Confessions of a Radiation Communicator

About the Author: Jessica Wieder is a communications specialist with EPA’s Radiation Protection Program and member of EPA’s Radiological Emergency Response Team. When not doing emergency response work, she helps develop radiation education products like EPA’s RadTown USA.

image of authorIt is 2004 and I am a proud University of Maryland Terrapin senior, majoring in communications and minoring in British and American literature. I am jumping up and down in my dorm room because I just got an offer to work for EPA’s Radiation Protection Division.

Did I ever think I would work for EPA? No.
Do I know anything about radiation? No.
Do I care at this moment? No. I GOT A JOB!

My very first assignment is to “play” in an emergency response exercise called Ruby Slippers. The exercise scenario involves a satellite crashing in Kansas (hence Ruby Slippers) and scattering pieces of its radioactive power source across the state. The power source is called a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. (Try saying that five times fast)

image of person from the back in an orange vest with information officer labelMy role in this exercise is Assistant Public Information Officer. My job is to help communicate EPA’s role during a radiological emergency, potential health effects from radiation exposure, and protective action decisions.

NOW do I care that I don’t know anything about radiation? You better believe it!

With two weeks to prepare, I turn to my new coworkers for help. This is what I learned: 1) Many radiation health physicists communicate well with each other – not so well with non-techies, 2) My coworkers have amazing patience for, what I assume are, some pretty stupid questions, like “What is a gamma spectrometer and do I really need to know this?” 3) Radiation is a difficult topic to understand and even harder to explain, and 4) This job isn’t going to be easy.

You will be happy to know that I survived the exercise and have been with EPA for almost five years. Communicating radiation information to the public continues to be rewarding and challenging. Just last week I learned that “to frisk” in radiation terms means to use radiation detection instruments to scan a person for contamination, as opposed to an intrusive pat down. (I would hate to be the nuclear power plant worker to make that mistake.)

Looking back, it was my first assignment that made this job a career. I learned that the question isn’t “Do I care?” but “WHY do I care?” The answer is why I love my job: Because it is the knowledge of the experts, the science behind decisions and the technology we use that protects the people. It is communicating that information that empowers people to protect themselves.

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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Pacific Southwest Environmental Awards – WE ARE INSPIRED!

About the author: Sara Jacobs just celebrated her 10th year working at EPA Region 9. She has worked with both states and tribal governments in the Drinking Water Office.

Why is the Pacific Southwest EPA Region one of the top three places to work in all of the US federal government? Is it the gym and day-care center in our building or the fact that many of us are past Peace Corps volunteers? Actually, the most amazing thing about working for EPA is the fact that virtually every employee in this building is here because we are committed to EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment. But as we peruse this year’s environmental award winners, we realize that we are just the tip of the environmental protection iceberg.

We simply cannot protect our health and the environment all on our own and need help from every single one of you to conserve water, plant native species, purchase non-toxic consumer products, dispose of household hazardous waste properly, use less energy, recycle, and so much more. So here, in the Pacific Southwest Regional blog series, we are highlighting people like you who have taken it upon themselves to become environmental leaders in their businesses, organizations and communities.

Once again, our senior managers locked themselves in a conference room with hundreds of award nominations to find the most cutting edge, innovative, and inspirational people and groups working towards environmental protection. The award winners are always a diverse group from tribal government employees to students and teachers to people in industry. From protection of the Pacific Islands to the US Mexico Border Region and from inner cities to rural farms, these people are making a huge difference in their communities, and are true environmental heroes! We are so inspired by the incredible work of these people and we hope that you are inspired to make a difference in your community too.

image of man in boat holding a jar filled with marine debrisKeep checking back with us over the next ten weeks to learn more about the 2009 award winners, find links to their sites, and find out how you can get involved. For a taste of what is to come in future posts, check out one of our 2008 winners, Captain Charles Moore, who leads research on marine plastic pollution at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. You can also find more video, photos, and information about our past winners at http://www.epa.gov/region09/awards/pastawards.html.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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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