Monthly Archives: August 2009

Question of the Week: How does your school save energy?

Students head back to school in September and schools prepare for their return by making repairs and upgrades. Schools can save money with energy efficient systems for heating and cooling and lights, and save water by fixing leaks.

How does your school save energy?

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.

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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Cómo su escuela ahorra energía?

Los estudiantes regresan al salón de clases en septiembre y las escuelas se preparan para su regreso haciendo reparaciones y mejoras. Las escuelas y colegios pueden ahorrar dinero con sistemas eficientes en el uso de energía para la calefacción, aire acondicionado y el alumbrado. También pueden ahorrar agua reparando las fugas.

¿Cómo su escuela ahorra energía?

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.

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Going Down the Road Less Traveled in EPA – Lead Outreach in a New Form

As member of the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics outreach team (the part that focuses on lead poisoning prevention), I was faced with the task of trying to identify new forms of communication to reach the general public about Lead Poisoning Prevention. My solution: Launch a Video Contest!

Sounds easy? You be the judge! Here are some of my lessons learned when launching a video contest.

  • Ensure you have web-know-how support. Without my two fantastic interns; Mary and Micheal, I would have never be able to navigate YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • When filming a video on the National Mall remember — wind, sun, and happy tourist conversation can all affect video quality (see video below!!).
  • Be prepared to be called at the last minute to appear on camera regardless of your experience. Being a biologist, like myself, does not prepare you in any way to read a script, look at a camera and talk slowly. (Trust me, I tried and I realized I am no Lisa Ling).
  • Government outreach — or any outreach — is no longer just about conferences, documents, and presentations. Think of new ideas and you never know how many people you may reach and what you might accomplish.
[flv]http://www.epa.gov/greenversations/media/20090828blahblah/mikeandmaryCrop.flv[/flv]

Mary, Mike and I hope that this contest will help EPA motivate those who are interested in furthering the message about Lead Poisoning Prevention. We look forward to your entries and are eager to see whose names will be on the winners’ checks in October!

About the author: Christina Wadlington joined EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in July 2008 and works on Lead and Mercury outreach and policy. After calling many places home from traveling with the Marine Corps, she settled in the Washington, DC area while attending Georgetown University, where she studied the learning behaviors of Monarch butterflies.

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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Aquatic Leadership on Tribal Lands

I have known and worked with Dan Mosley for almost 15 years, and every moment has been a great experience. In 1989, Peter Husby a biologist in EPA’s Richmond, California laboratory, and I started providing technical assistance to tribes. Our first task was to do a tribal bioassessment training hosted by the Washoe Tribe in Carson, NV. Little did I know there was a ringer in the crowd who knew more about aquatic organisms than I did, or ever will. So, what do you do with a ringer? Simple, we made him part of the tribal technical support team. It was the smartest move we ever made. Over the years Peter and I have learned more from Dan than he has learned from us. We learned about First Nation People, gained insights in working with tribal environmental programs, and acquired an appreciation and understanding of tribal cultural practices.

image of water with huge rocks protrudingDan has been working for Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) since 1989. Dan recognized early the importance of bioassessments in detecting impairments from stressors on aquatic communities, and has applied his knowledge and expertise as an aquatic ecologist to the assessment of the condition of PLPT surface waters and biological resources. In his time at PLPT, Dan has worked to improve water quality and habitat for aquatic organisms and wildlife on the Pyramid Lake Reservation. Many of the concepts and programs Dan has established and managed at PLPT have been exported to other tribes. Dan has communicated his knowledgeable of ecology by teaching tribal members the benefits of establishing and sustaining a viable ecosystem using scientific evidence. The important component to understanding ecological function is to know tribal cultural practices, sacred sites and areas of natural vegetation cover present and past. Dan uses a practical approach in communicating these scientific concepts at the local level and to the scientific community.

As an aquatic ecologist, Dan has conducted trainings and provided technical assistance to Tribes, and has given presentations at numerous national and international workshops and conferences.

Dan was recently presented the Conner Byestewa, Jr., award for his environmental achievements. Conner Byestewa, Jr., was a strong advocate for new technology in agriculture, environmental protection, and water quality on tribal lands. Dan is also deserving of his recognition as an EPA Southwest Pacific Region Environmental Award winner.

About the author: Robert Hall is an environmental scientist for EPA Region 9’s Water Division. Robert provides technical assistance to all of Region 9’s tribes, which includes bioassessment training, strategic planning, grant writing and other water program trainings.

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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It’s All A Matter Of Taste Or Is It?

I just saw a movie which took me through the first chapters of Julia Child’s life-long venture with French cooking. Having been a French major in college, I must confess, that Julia’s first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, became basic reading just like Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry), which brings me to today’s blog. While Julia Child is to be credited with opening Americans’ eyes to new French culinary techniques, we must note that her advice was ahead of its time. Not only did Ms. Child adapt ingredients to those which would be easily found in the traditional American kitchen and supermarkets, she is also credited with educating chefs-in-training on the importance of using fresh seasonal ingredients whenever possible. In her cookbooks, she even highlights during which months taste is optimum for specific produce. Essentially, in the early sixties, Julia Child was already a locavore way before the term had been coined. I don’t think reducing her carbon footprint was what she had in mind. For her, it was a matter of taste.

That brings me to the other issue I would like to discuss today–eating fresh fish. While eating fish and seafood is an essential part of a healthy diet, whether you’re a famous chef or not, many people argue that fresh fish actually tastes better. Well, freshly caught fish is more difficult to find nowadays. As I was reading several articles on aquaculture, I was surprised to learn that nearly half of all fish eaten today are actually farmed, not caught in the open seas or fresh waters. Back in 1980, the percentage of farmed-raised fish that made it to our tables was only 9 percent! Aquaculturists are even developing techniques so the farmed-raised fish will actually taste “fresh.” Given the growing population, good aquaculture practices are key to ensuring a sustainable supply of fish for human consumption. According to a recent study, there seems to be some hope for fisheries worldwide.

I would like to get input as to your thoughts on the issue. Personally, it all boils down to the taste of food—or does it really? In conclusion, bon appétit! As Julia Child used to say….

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.

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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¿Realmente se trata del sabor?

Acabo de ver una película que me llevó a los primeros capítulos de la aventura de Julia Child con la cocina francesa. Como me especialicé en literatura francesa en la universidad, tengo que confesar, que el primer libro de cocina de Julia Child “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (Dominar el arte de la cocina francesa), se convirtió rápidamente en lectura obligatoria como lo fue El Principito de Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Eso me trae al tema del blog de hoy. Mientras se le atribuye a Julia Child presentar las nuevas técnicas culinarias francesas al público estadounidense, tenemos que destacar que muchos de sus consejos ofrecidos eran realmente innovadores para su época. No tan sólo la Sra. Child adaptó los ingredientes a los encontrados tradicionalmente en Estados Unidos, sino también se le atribuye el educar a los nuevos chefs de cocina sobre la importancia de utilizar ingredientes frescos conforme a la temporada cuando fuera posible. En sus libros de cocina, incluso, ella destaca cuáles son los meses en los cuales los frutos y legumbres brindarán el mejor sabor. Esencialmente, a principios de la década del sesenta, Julia Child ya abogaba a favor de productos locales, era lo que ahora se denomina una “locávora” mucho antes de que se hubiese creado dicha expresión. No creo que ella estaba pensando en reducir su huella de carbono. Para ella, se trataba del sabor de la comida.

Eso me trae a otro tema que quisiera discutir hoy—el comer pescado fresco. Mientras el pescado y los mariscos son una parte esencial de una dieta saludable, independientemente si uno es un chef famoso o no, mucha gente insiste en que el pescado fresco sabe mejor. Bueno, el pescado realmente fresco es bastante difícil de encontrar en la actualidad. Mientras leía varios artículos sobre acuacultura, me sorprendió aprender que cerca de la mitad de todo el pescado comido hoy en día ha sido “cultivado” o sea producto de la acuacultura no ha sido capturado en alta mar ni en agua dulce. En el 1980, el porcentaje de pescado producto de la acuacultura que llegaba a nuestras mesas era tan sólo el 9 por ciento! Los acuaculturistas están desarrollando técnicas para que aquellos peces cultivados sepan mejor como si fueran realmente “frescos”. Dada la creciente población, las buenas prácticas de acuacultura son esenciales para asegurar un suministro sostenible de pescado para consumo humano. Conforme a un estudio reciente, aparentemente hay esperanzas para las pescaderías a nivel mundial.

Me gustaría escuchar sus ideas al respecto. En esencia–¿se trata realmente del sabor de la comida? En conclusión, como diría Julia Child, “bon appétit”, buen provecho!

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.

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: Ready for Takeoff

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

While I’ve come to expect extra scrutiny when flying, I was momentarily flustered when the pilot needed to know my weight so he could compute his preflight plans. (155 pounds.)

This morning I joined Eric Vance, EPA’s chief photographer, EPA scientist Steve Klein,  and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pilot V. Ray Bentley aboard a four-seat, single-engine plane for a flight over the Willamette River Valley in western Oregon.

arial view of winding riverThe landscape we flew over is the subject of the Willamette Ecosystem Services Project (WESP), an ambitious, large-scale, integrated, and multi-disciplinary research effort to quantify the benefits people derive from the environment. The study also focuses on exploring how human activities stress those benefits. The overall goal is to provide decision makers, stakeholders, and others across the Willamette River Valley with rigorous scientific information they can use to assess current conditions and plan for the future of their community.

All told, the Willamette River Valley Ecosystem includes some 7.5 million acres. To get a better picture of what’s happening across such a large area, it helps to get a bird’s eye view.

Time to fly.

arial view over trees and winding riverOur flight took us over the Willamette River as it winds from Corvallis to the suburbs of Eugene, a diverse and productive landscape. Over the drone of the engine and intermittent blasts of cool air that roared into cockpit when Eric opened his window to take pictures, Steve explained what he was seeing from a scientist’s perspective: how the flow and course of the river has been shaped by human forces, the patterns and types of forest and other natural habitats, what types of crops where growing in the large agricultural fields below, and the shifting boundaries between agriculture, forest, and what he referred to as “the built environment” (homes, roads, and industry, including the massive paper mill we could not only see, but smell—a thick, burnt-syrup kind of aroma).

My flight was just one of the many excellent experiences I’ve had this week visiting with scientists in EPA’s Western Ecology Division. I’ve learned about research projects as diverse as the 7.5-million-acre WESP, to plans to investigate the potential environmental impacts of things as tiny as those used in nanotechnology.

It’s been a great week and I’ll have lots to think about on the flight back to Washington. I won’t even flinch if the pilot asks me how much I weigh.

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the chief science writer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He is the Science Wednesday editor, and a regular contributor.

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: How Much Appreciation Do You Have For Your Water?

Did you know that water covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface? With that much water, it may be hard to imagine that water could ever be in short supply. However, out of that total amount of water, only 2.5% is fresh water. And, more than half of that is locked up in the polar ice-caps, leaving just a tiny percentage of the Earth’s water available for our use. Ironically, this relatively small amount of fresh water is all there is to serve more than the 6.7 billion people that live on this Earth,

We need water to satisfy our thirst, bathe ourselves, wash our dishes, water our crops, and take care of our pets. For some of us, it is a fortune to be able to use water for these purposes with no fear of ever running short. However, for some 600 million people, satisfying their own thirst is an impossible task. Less than 50% of people in Africa have access to safe drinking water. 20% of people living in the giant continent of Asia lack access to safe water. In several villages in Vietnam where I come from, people have to use water in the same pond for bathing, cooking, and drinking. The government has not passed legislation like the US’s Clean Water Act to protect its citizens. There is no fund or expertise to upgrade the water treatment system. Therefore, many people are or will become susceptible to disease vectors, pathogens, or contaminants. Around the world, the number of deaths associated with unclean water has mounted to 2.2 million.

If you are the person with great heart and want to share your beautiful world with others, then it is time for you to start taking action. There are faucets in your home that need to be checked and fixed as soon as possible because one leaking faucet can waste up to 2,750 gallons of water per year. Likewise, if you are brushing your teeth, then turning off that running faucet in front of you is necessary because one stuck faucet can waste more than 2,500 gallons of water every day. Remember, there is no need to join an organization to start changing the world or to save someone’s life because you can do all these things yourself!

About the author: Thanh Pham is an undergraduate student at George Mason University. She is interning with EPA this summer.

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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Where Has All The Summer Gone?

Gosh, where did the summer go? It’s hard to believe that the kids are back in school and summer is almost gone. The warm weather and trips to the shore will soon be a thing of the past. I guess that’s one side of the coin. The other side is that cooler weather and snow could be just around the corner. There has been a lot of discussion about protecting ourselves from the sun, water quality, and other summer time subjects, but let’s not forget to prepare ourselves for the winter time too!

Sun protection should still be a priority (especially in areas with lots of snow to reflect the sun’s rays), but the next several weeks would be a great time to focus on making some changes around your home to prepare for “Old Man Winter”. Do you have a drafty window or two, maybe water pipes in a crawl space that could use some extra insulation, or how about that maintenance to the furnace or heat pump to get ready for those cold winter nights? These are just a couple of the things I’ve had to do to make my home more comfortable in the past year or two. The weeks between the end of summer and the beginning of winter are a perfect time to make these changes.

Being proactive to prevent problems from arising instead of having to react when a problem occurs could save you not only time and money, but energy too! If you are a do-it-yourselfer, the climate is much more cooperative for doing this kind of work. If you rely on others for taking care of these kind of repairs, I’d venture to say you could probably get a better price and a scheduled appointment rather than having to wait for someone to “squeeze you in” and then pay premium prices to get that warm air flowing through your home again.

Check out some of EPA’s Energy Star resources to learn about sealing and insulating and get some answers to questions you might have about other Energy Star topics to prepare your home for the winter months. What improvements have you made that have really made a difference in your home?  Oh, and by the way, button up, this may be a cold one!!

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