Monthly Archives: July 2009

Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Cómo ahorra energía durante una ola de calor?

El permanecer fresco durante la temperatura calurosa usualmente requiere energía–sea al utilizar el aire acondicionado, guiar hasta la piscina, o más. Sin embargo, usar más energía puede afectar al medio ambiente, también. Comparta con nosotros lo que hace para mantenerse fresco.

¿Cómo ahorra energía durante una ola de calor?

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.

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.

Help Us Help Puget Sound!

image of orca whaleI have lived in Olympia, Washington, for 30 years now and I believe that people here feel we live in the “greenest” part of the country. But is this really true? Wild salmon are rapidly becoming extinct and orca whales living in Puget Sound are some of the most contaminated mammals on the planet.

We are now on the third iteration of a plan to save Puget Sound. The new plan, the Action Agenda, is a significant improvement over past plans – it merges salmon recovery with overall restoration and sets a target date of 2020 for a healthy Puget Sound. It is a great plan – but can we turn the plan into action as the title suggests? We would like your help in answering this question.

Later this summer EPA will send out a formal request for project proposals for about $19 million in federal funds to restore Puget Sound. This money will go to implement the Action Agenda and follow all of our requirements for an open transparent competitive process. The Action Agenda, however, provides a pretty big umbrella to work under and we want to be as strategic as possible. How can we focus this money to have the greatest impact on the restoration of Puget Sound? – or to better understand the problems of Puget Sound for the scientists and researchers out there.

I invite you to become familiar with the problems facing Puget Sound by visiting the Puget Sound Partnership website, and please share your advice. If you are more into videos, check out the Poisoned Waters segment which aired on PBS earlier this year. Help us put our money where our mouth is so that we can indeed become the greenest corner of the country.

About the author: Tom Eaton is EPA Region 10’s Executive Lead for Puget Sound. Originally a Hoosier and a Boilermaker to boot, Tom has 32 years of public sector experience in environmental management working for EPA and the State of Washington.

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.

Playing It Safe At The Beach

image of author taking a survey on the beachAs the Beach Program Coordinator for EPA’s office in Chicago, I’m often asked whether it’s safe to swim in Lake Michigan. My answer is yes, it is safe to swim in the lake, but there are things that swimmers need to know before they go to the beach to help keep themselves – and others – from getting sick at the beach.

When you’re at the beach, be sure to wash your hands as soon as you leave the water and always before eating anything. Don’t feed the birds, as their fecal matter can contribute to poor water quality and may cause beach closures. Also, be sure to use the bathroom facilities when nature calls, and encourage your friends to do the same. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the beach and hear people tell their friends they have to go to the bathroom – then watch them get up and walk towards the shore! The most important tip is make sure that you stay out of the water if you are sick, as you may share your illness with others.

Even though many beaches are regularly tested for bacteria levels, it can take up to a day to get water quality samples back from the lab, so water quality results aren’t posted until the following day. Being an informed swimmer will help keep you healthy. I generally tell beach goers that a good rule to follow is to avoid swimming during, and up to a day or two after, a rainstorm. Pollutants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste, may be washed off the land and into the water during the rain, which could pollute the beach water.

image of EPA tent at beachWhat do you do when you see a sign at the beach that advises against swimming? Swimming in contaminated water can make you sick, ranging from sore throats and diarrhea to more serious illnesses. EPA and CDC are currently studying the relationship between water quality and illness, and the results of the study, due out in 2011, will help better protect swimmers.

In the meantime, you can help make your favorite beaches better during your summer break by volunteering to adopt a beach! Go to the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ website to find out how you can become part of their Adopt-a-Beach program. Volunteers help collect data on different aspects of their beach to investigate pollution sources, collect and dispose of litter, and sample water quality; or check into the 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup on September 19. Let’s keep our beaches clean! Do you know of other ways to volunteer to keep our beaches clean? Share your stories and contacts with us here!!

About the author: Holly Wirick started with EPA in 1991 and has served as the Regional Beach Program Coordinator since EPA’s Beach Program was established in 1997.

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.

Green Plumbers Combat Climate Change

Back in the day, when I thought about green plumbers, the famed video game character, an Italian plumber named Luigi, came to mind. But while his hat and suspenders may have been green in color, he fought fanged mushrooms and evil turtles, not inefficient water use and global climate change—and that, it turns out, is what real green plumbers do.

Though they lack super mushrooms inducing gigantism, flowery fireballs, and bouncing stars granting temporary invincibility, GreenPlumbers® have an impressive arsenal:

– They conduct water audits in homes, identifying how much water is used and how much can be saved.
– They replace water-guzzling, leaky toilets, wasteful faucets, and shabby irrigation equipment with high efficiency models.
– They install and maintain water efficient systems like rainwater catchment and greywater systems.

For all their hard work, GreenPlumbers® recently received a 2009 EPA Pacific Southwest Environmental Award.

In the Pacific Southwest, extracting, conveying, treating, distributing, and using water, and then collecting and treating wastewater uses a lot of energy. In California, for example, 20% of the State’s electricity use and 30% of their natural gas use is attributed to water use. EPA estimates 3% of national energy consumption– equivalent to approximately 56 billion kilowatt hours (kWh)–is used for drinking water and wastewater services. Assuming the average mix of energy sources in the country, this adds about 45 million tons of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

By reducing water use, green plumbers reduce the amount of water flowing through our inefficient water infrastructure to directly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

My perception of plumbers has been transformed, thanks to these amazing, award-winning Green Plumbers. You can join me in finding certified GreenPlumbers® and learning about their national training and accreditation program at www.greenplumbersusa.com/.

About the author: Charlotte Ely spent two years jumping from office to office through the Environmental Intern Program. She landed in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Sustainable Water Infrastructure and Climate Change program in the fall of 2008, and plans to stay put for a while.

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.

EPA takes Community Involvement Message To Puerto Rico

I recently returned from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where EPA had a strong presence. Our participation ranged from a “green chat”, a tree dedication, recruiters at the LULAC job fair, a forum on climate change, and, above all, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s keynote address.

image of Administrator Jackson delivering keynote address at LULAC conferenceAs administrator Jackson highlighted, EPA is urging all communities “to broaden the idea of environmentalism.” She emphasized the need to ensure that “EPA and the environmental movement in general represent the full spectrum of voices and concerns from across the country.”

In addition to the events surrounding the LULAC convention, Administrator Jackson met with the Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, to discuss many of the environmental challenges facing the islands of Puerto Rico. During their meeting at La Fortaleza, Administrator Jackson announced that the Agency was awarding nearly $72 million to Puerto Rico through the Recovery Act for improvements in wastewater and drinking water systems.

EPA’s community engagement in the islands of Puerto Rico goes well beyond its participation at the LULAC convention. EPA’s presence has greatly improved the conditions of the San Juan Estuary. Stakeholders representing the local government, academia, business, community and environmental groups have collaborated closely over the years to restore and manage that body of water and surrounding land. The collaboration has benefitted the environmental health of San Juan residents. Furthermore, the Agency continues to work closely with local universities to address environmental concerns, such as asthma, air and water quality, to name a few.

EPA’s collaboration with Hispanic organizations and community leaders continues to be a priority for the Agency. The Beyond Translation Initiative is a prime example of the Agency’s efforts to actively engage Hispanic community leaders in this new environmentalism. Stay tuned.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual 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.

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.

La EPA lleva su mensaje de participación comunitaria a Puerto Rico

Recientemente regresé de la Convención de la Liga Latinoamericana de Ciudadanos Unidos (LULAC, por sus siglas en inglés) en San Juan, Puerto Rico, donde la EPA tuvo una sólida presencia. Nuestra participación incluyó varias actividades entre las cuales figuraban una “charla verde”, una dedicación de un árbol, reclutadores a la feria de empleos de LULAC, un foro sobre cambio climático, y sobre todo, el discurso de la administradora Lisa P. Jackson ante la convención.

image of Administrator Jackson delivering keynote address at the LULAC conferenceLa administradora Jackson destacó que EPA está exhortando a todas las comunidades a “ampliar el concepto del ambientalismo”. Ella enfatizó la necesidad de asegurar que la “EPA y el movimiento ambiental en general debe representar una amplia gama de voces y preocupaciones provenientes de todo el país”.

Además de los eventos relacionados con la convención de LULAC, la administradora Jackson se reunió con el gobernador de Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño para discutir muchos de los retos medioambientales a los cuales se enfrentan las islas de Puerto Rico. Durante su reunión en La Fortaleza, la administradora Jackson anunció que la agencia otorgaba cerca de $72 millones a Puerto Rico de la Ley de Recuperación Económica para mejoras en los sistemas de aguas residuales y potable.

La participación comunitaria de EPA en las islas de Puerto Rico va más allá de su participación en la convención de LULAC. La presencia de EPA ha contribuido enormemente a mejorar las condiciones del Estuario de San Juan. Partes interesadas que representan funcionarios y líderes del gobierno local, las universidades, el sector privado, grupos comunitarios y ambientales han podido colaborar estrechamente a lo largo de los años para restaurar y manejar este importante cuerpo de agua y terrenos circundantes. Esta colaboración ha beneficiado la salud medioambiental de los residentes de San Juan. Además, la Agencia continúa trabajando de cerca con universidades e instituciones locales para abordar preocupaciones ambientales como el asma, la calidad del aire y del agua, entre otros.

La colaboración de EPA con organizaciones y líderes comunitarios hispanos continúa siendo una prioridad para la Agencia. La Iniciativa de Más allá de las traducciones es otro ejemplo primordial de los esfuerzos de la Agencia por entablar una comunicación activa con líderes comunitarios hispanos en este nuevo modelo de ambientalismo. Permanezcan sintonizados.

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 gubernamentals.

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.

Science Wednesday: Biodiversity and Lyme disease – In the Field

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

Recognizing that there is a need for more scientific studies characterizing the mechanistic pathways linking social stressors (deforestation, habitat fragmentation, climate change), biodiversity, and human disease transmission, EPA developed a Biodiversity and Human Health research initiative to develop and sponsor long-term and pilot research projects.

The Biodiversity and Human Health research projects are the first of their kind at EPA, in subject matter and approach. The approach is interdisciplinary, involving ecologists, public health specialists, social scientists, and earth scientists. One unique part of the studies is that decision-makers are included in the research process, so that new findings of scientific knowledge can quickly be put into practice.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be making a field site visit to one EPA-sponsored research project.

Rick Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is leading a project entitled “Mechanisms Linking Host Biodiversity to Lyme Disease Risk: An Experimental Approach” to investigate how differences in animal community composition affect Lyme disease transmission in Duchess County, NY.

People get Lyme disease by being bitten by a tick infected with the spirochete bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks acquire the Lyme disease bacterium by feeding on small mammals such as white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) and chipmunks that are already infected.

Not all mammals are equally efficient or competent at transmitting the bacteria to ticks when fed upon. In fact, white-footed mice appear to be the most competent animal host reservoir of Lyme disease in the northeastern U.S. So, the more white-footed mice that are in the forest, the greater chance more ticks will be infected, and the greater chance you have of getting bitten by an infected tick.

In a previous blog, I mentioned that 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. Rick and his team will be manipulating the composition of small mammals across a variety of forest plot types to see how high and low levels of mammal diversity may affect Lyme disease infection rates among feeding ticks.

In a seminal paper, Rick and his colleagues proposed the “dilution hypothesis” to help explain how high biodiversity can decrease the risk of Lyme disease transmission. It predicts that infection rates for a specific pathogen (e.g. Lyme disease bacterium) will be lower in highly diverse host communities. Why? The “incompetent” reservoir hosts dilute rates of transmission between vectors (ticks) and competent hosts (white-footed mice). With EPA support, Rick’s team will be collecting and analyzing field data to help characterize the scientific mechanisms that can explain how different levels of biodiversity affect Lyme disease risk.

image of authorFor more information on EPA’s Biodiversity and Human Health activities, see:
http://www.epa.gov/ncer/biodiversity

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

NOTE: Tweet! Tweet!
Follow the action from our field trip. We’ll posting updates from EPA’s new research Twitter account: @useparesearch.

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.

Recycle Your Old Shoes

For years we have heard about recycling our plastics, aluminum cans, paper and used electronics – but what else can we recycle? I recently found out that my old running shoes can be recycled and remanufactured to make athletic surfaces. During the manufacturing process, my old shoes are cut into three slices which are then fed through a grinder and then purified. The purified material is then used to produce many different types of surfaces such as playground surfaces, tennis courts and outdoor tracks. Check out this recycling process! I don’t know of any other programs like it, but hopefully it will catch on. It is a cool process that will save energy and resources. And, like many other recycling processes – we also help the environment by reducing excess waste when we recycle our old shoes. Instead of piling our old shoes on top of a local landfill, we can put them to use in our parks and athletic centers. What other products in our home can we recycle? Let’s help prevent waste and conserve resources and energy through recycling in our homes and communities. Be sure to let us know what great ideas you have.

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.

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.

Question of the Week: How do you protect the air inside your home?

We spend a lot of our time indoors, and the quality of the air indoors can even be worse than what’s outdoors. But building or upgrading a home with improved, cleaner air features can help reduce health risks. Share what you do!

How do you protect the air inside your home?

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.

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.

Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Cómo protege el aire interior en su hogar?

Pasamos mucho tiempo en interiores, y la calidad del aire en interiores puede ser peor que en el exterior.  Si construimos o remodelamos nuestros hogares con mejores equipos de aire, podemos ayudar a reducir los riesgos a la salud. ¡Comparta lo que hacemos!

¿Cómo protege el aire interior en su hogar?

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.

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.