Monthly Archives: August 2009

Las Vegas Recycler Recognized for being EVERGreen!

Last year, I got a call from Dr. Kim Cochran, EPA’s construction and demolition expert in DC. She was going to a Demolition Convention in Las Vegas and wanted to set up a tour with Evergreen Recycling. As the Regional EPA recycling contact, I’d been working with the great folks at Evergreen for many moons.
After the tour, she called me in awe — she’d seen a lot of recycling facilities — but they’d never seen anything like Evergreen, and said “Their facility is probably the most exciting recycling facility I have ever seen! I was really impressed with the numbers and types of materials they are able to recycle.”
Evergreen Recycling was an EPA Pacific Southwest award winner for transforming recycling efforts in Nevada with their state-of-the-art recycling facility.

They partnered with MGM MIRAGE, one of the world’s leading development companies, to divert 50,000 tons or 94.7% of the CityCenter project’s construction debris from landfill disposal in 2008. CityCenter, an 18-million-square-foot multi-use LEED registered project, will be one of the world’s largest sustainable urban communities.

Evergreen’s 85 employees have recycled over 200,000 tons of resources. Evergreen also developed a local market for drywall that removes the paper and makes it back into new drywall. Now that’s real closed-loop recycling — drywall in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas!

Evergreen’s founder and President, Rob Dorinson, has been invaluable in supporting Nevada’s green building movement and helping Nevada’s recycling rate more than double in the past ten years. Luckily, I was able to tour Evergreen Recycling last year while I was on vacation, and it was the highlight of my visit. Of course, enjoying the Vegas buffets with family and friends was great too! Take a virtual tour and tell me what you think!

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.

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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Green Your Way Back to School

As the end of summer approaches, I find myself not basking out in the sun, but preparing for the school year. While most of the nation’s children head back to school in September, in our neck of the woods school starts in August. With four school age kids in our household, the list of needed school items is quite extensive. This year I decided to get ahead of the game. With some careful planning, we are greening our way back to school.

As with previous years, the girls will be wearing hand-me-down uniforms. I usually buy one new uniform a year for one of my daughters and the rest are traded with a colleague whose daughter goes to the same school. A pair of shoes will be refurbished for one of the girls.

This year I decided to look first for the required school supplies at home instead of hitting the mall. So far, my eldest daughter’s backpack will be reused and our youngest daughter will use her older sister’s rolling backpack from the year before last. One quick cleaning was all it took to make it look brand new. Pens, pencils, rulers, staplers and binders, among others are being reused from last year. I was surprised to learn that six billion pens are thrown away every year!

Since books are another big ticket item in the “back to school” budget, I buy them from online retailers that specialize in used books. Only updated editions of specific books and workbooks are being bought new.

Furthermore, I have decided that all new items we purchase this season will be made from recycled or sustainable sources.

Here are some brief pointers to make your back to school a green one:

  • Take inventory before going to the stores–this will save you time and money and it will be good to our Earth.
  • Buy quality materials when available, (i.e. backpacks, shoes, etc.) to ensure durability.
  • Refillable pens and pencils are a small change with a large impact. Fourteen billion pencils are manufactured every year, some from ancient trees.
  • Reuse everything that remains in good condition. Limit disposable supplies.
  • Make your kids a greener, waste-free lunch.
  • Use recycled paper to protect our trees and cut down on waste.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

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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Un regreso a la escuela más verde

Ya se acerca el fin del verano y en vez de estar disfrutando el tiempo que me queda, me estoy preparando para el regreso a clases. Aunque en Estados Unidos muchos niños regresan a la escuela en septiembre, acá en Puerto Rico nuestros chicos comienzan clases en agosto. Con cuatro niños en edad escolar asistiendo a una escuela privada, no es difícil imaginar que nuestra lista de materiales escolares es extensa. Sin embargo este año decidí organizarme para hacer de este un regreso a la escuela más verde.

Como en años anteriores las niñas utilizarán uniformes usados. Generalmente les compro un uniforme nuevo y el resto los intercambio con una colega cuya hija asiste a la misma escuela. Un par de zapatos recibirá suelas nuevas, evitando así la compra de un par nuevo para mi hija mayor.

En vez de salir a comprar los útiles escolares comencé revisando las cosas que tenía en casa. Mi hija menor reutilizará el bulto que su hermana mayor no utiliza desde el año antepasado y la mayor el que le compré el año pasado. Con una lavada ambos lucen nuevos. Algunos lápices, bolígrafos, grapadoras y carpetas del año anterior se volverán a usar. Me sorprende saber que en el mundo 6 mil millones de bolígrafos terminan en la basura cada año!

Los libros son los artículos de mayor valor en nuestro presupuesto de vuelta a clases por tal razón los decidí adquirir, en su gran mayoría, de varios sitios electrónicos que se especializan en libros usados. Sólo adquirí nuevos aquellos de nueva edición y los cuadernos de trabajo.

Los artículos nuevos que me faltan por adquirir para este año escolar serán reciclados o de fuentes sustentables.

Adjunto una breve lista para hacer de su vuelta a clases una más verde:

  • Tome inventario antes de salir a compara–esto le ahorrará no solo tiempo y dinero, sino que ayudará al Planeta
  • Compre la mejor calidad que pueda para asegurarse que los artículos le duren (zapatos, bultos, uniformes)
  • Los lápices y bolígrafos con reemplazo son un cambio pequeño de gran impacto. En el mundo se manufacturan 14 mil millones de lápices, algunos de árboles centenarios
  • Reutilice todo lo que este en buen estado. Limite los útiles desechables.
  • Prepare a sus niños una merienda verde, libre de envases desechables.
  • Utilice papel reciclado para evitar desperdicios y proteger árboles

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

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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Year of Science Question of the Month: How is climate change affecting the things you care about, and how do you think it will affect what you care about in the future?

For each month in 2009, the Year of Science—we will pose a question related to science. Please let us know your thoughts as comments, and feel free to respond to earlier comments, or post new ideas.

The Year of Science theme for August is Weather and Climate.

How is climate change affecting the things you care about, and how do you think it will affect what you care about in the future?

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: Science To Support Decision Making In A Changing Climate

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

During my 22 year career at EPA, it’s been exciting to work on the environmental issue which has been called the “capstone issue for our generation”: climate change. Climate change affects every individual in every community around the world. The team I am a part of at EPA is working closely with communities around the country to shed light on how climate change affects the things they care about, and to find ways to respond and adapt to its impacts.

There’s nothing more rewarding than meeting the people who are benefitting from the science we’re doing. It’s one thing to work in a laboratory or office and explore strategies and develop tools to help local communities respond to climate change. It’s another thing to actually meet the people whose lives you are touching.

image of a house falling onto a beach near the water's edgeI first had that chance in 2007 when I traveled to Alaska and met people from several Native Alaskan villages such as Shishmaref, Newtok, and Kivalina. I listened to heart-wrenching stories about how they must soon evacuate their coastal villages because homes and infrastructure are being destroyed by rising sea levels, storm surges, and the melting of the permafrost upon which they sit. I was faced with the stark realities of a changing climate, not with some “plausible projection” from one of our climate impacts models.

When I first started working on climate change, people imagined it to be something that wouldn’t happen for another 50 to 100 years. We quickly came to understand that the climate is already changing. It’s changing more and more rapidly as a result of human activities. When we burn fossil fuels to power our automobiles and run our factories and heat our homes, we emit greenhouse gas pollution which contributes to global warming. And we’re already seeing the impacts of global warming on peoples’ lives.

My own appreciation for the critical importance of the work we’re doing in our Global Change Research Program at EPA rose dramatically during that visit to Alaska. We’re empowering people to protect their communities and the things they value by providing the scientific information that enables them to anticipate the effects of a changing climate, developing alternative strategies for them to adapt to change, and providing tools that can help them incorporate considerations of climate change into their day-to-day decisions. We are making a difference in people’s lives.

About the author: Dr. Joel Scheraga is the National Program Director for EPA’s Global Change Research Program in the Office of Research and Development. He has been with EPA since 1987. He is also the EPA Principal Representative to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates and integrates scientific research on climate and global change supported by the U.S. Government.

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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We’ve Come So Far, But Still Have So Far To Go

A few weeks ago, I took some time off for vacation. We traveled from our southern Maryland home to the mountains of West Virginia to visit friends for a few days, and then it was off to the shores of North Carolina. Throughout the trip, I couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of the landscape and environment even in that little triangle of the world.

Driving through the mountains in West Virginia on our way to Nags Head, we saw what I assumed (and hoped) was a wind farm on the top of a mountain. I was really quite impressed, and thoroughly pleased to see that kind of progress and forward-thinking taking hold. About 20 minutes further on our drive, strip-mining was taking place and I wondered and hoped that the environment would be restored some day.

For the next hour or so on that ride, I was thinking about all of the progress that has been made to save our environment whether it be by recycling, or energy and water conservation, and locally, nationally or even globally.

It really stuck a chord with me that as much progress we have made, we still have so far to go. Many of us wonder what impact can really be made by just our household of say one or two people. It all adds up, and each and every one of us really can make a difference…one recycled bottle or can and reusable grocery bag at a time!

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked at 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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OSV BOLD – Day 3 – August 1

Day 3 – August 1, 2009

03:30 a.m. my alarm goes off. It didn’t take much to wake up as the rolling waves had me sleeping a little lighter last night. At 03:48 I rolled myself out of bed and had to do a bit of a balancing dance to stay upright, get dressed, and not wake up Kate.

As I entered the wet lab to greet the departing team and my group, I could tell the Bold was hauling its way to the next offshore station. The staff and crew hadn’t slowed down for a minute all night long.

We were headed “down East” as they say, up along the outer reaches of Penobscot Bay in northern Maine to station R1 -14, about 30 more minutes. Shifts have been light on the sampling as we’re working our way through the outer points which are fewer and far between. In a day or so we’ll be turning around to work our way down closer to shore, where the work will really pick up.

I found out that the last team had done another plankton tow for our budding marine scientists in New Bedford, MA around midnight. I wonder if they caught anything good? Chief scientist Matt Liebman says that the zooplankton tend to move up in the water column at night, whereas during the day they tend to trade places with the phytoplankton which relies on more sunlight.

Speaking of sunlight, it seemed to come up quickly. Though I have to admit I enjoyed the hour or so of darkness on the deck, it felt a bit special knowing we were doing this work round the clock. We all feel it’s incredibly important to study the water that seemingly is far away from the influence of human activity, sadly though we’re finding that it’s not the case. By gathering this data far offshore, we can compare it to the health nearer to the coastline. It is our hope that in future years we can come back and do the same sampling to see if conditions are improving or getting worse. Perhaps you’ll be doing this very same work someday!

At 04:37 we arrived on station, and we were told the water was about 470 feet deep! We deployed the CTD and rosette water sampler, everything went smoothly. I noticed the water I was bottling from the very bottom was freezing! Now might be a good time to explain that we’re taking water samples from three parts of the water column, the bottom, the middle and the surface. I’ll explain more tomorrow about what we’re looking for to determine where these levels are. Each of the three batches though is filtered to catch the chlorophyll, which we carefully contain for analysis at our lab in Chelmsford, MA.

We processed the samples as we took off for station R1-10, about a 5 hour haul away, even further north. To help the next team we cleaned the lab and labeled some extra bottles, I headed to the bridge to get some photos of the rising sun. Once I got there, I promptly decided I wasn’t going to miss another sunrise on this trip.

At 06:10 I sat up on the bridge with Derek, ordinary seaman and Doug, third mate, to record our latest data results from yesterday and this morning. They told me we were approximately 26 miles offshore and wouldn’t have an internet signal until this afternoon. Today’s sampling work will consist of a lot of offshore stations, fewer and further between. Sorry guys! Technology still can’t help us when we’re this far away. In between writing my eyes were peeled on the horizon for those telltale water spouts…

06:21 Doug and Derek, turned on the weather report for Captain Jere as he settled in his chair with a fresh cup of coffee. At 07:00 I went to wake my roomie, her shift was starting in an hour. I also figured it was a good time to take some sea sick meds to be on the safe side. We were rockin’ and rollin quite a bit, even though the seas were relatively calm, the swells were wide.

Before I knew it, I had zonked out with my jacket still on, but awoke to a gentle knock on my door. Even in my groggy state I knew it could only mean one thing! My team leader Ed had come down from the bridge to tell me that First Mate Doug had spotted a spout!
I didn’t even tie my shoes (don’t try this at home), and ran up the stairs using the walls and handrails because I wasn’t totally awake yet. Once I reached the bridge I squinted my eyes onto the horizon and sure enough, about 200 yards off the bow on the starboard side I saw the little, white puff of mist from the whale’s blow hole! I got some pictures and used my zoom lens as binoculars. We watched his dorsal fin come up and then disappear into the deep blue. While it was only a glimpse into this whale’s solitary travels, I hope it’s a sign of more to come today!

That was my first time seeing a whale in the Atlantic Ocean, and after consulting a whale identification book with Doug and Ed, we are fairly positive it was a Common Minke Whale, judging by the shape of the dorsal fin and even the shape of the spout cloud. Not all misty spout clouds are the same!

It’s a little past 1000 now, and I’m up on the “steel beach” as Captain Jere fondly calls it. The sun is bright, we seem to be able to see forever to the horizon. Now I can understand why so many early explorers thought the Earth was flat! Did you know that? Believe it or not it took humans a while to figure out that the Earth is round, and because of this you can’t see the other side of the ocean, it curves around very, very, gradually, which is one of the reasons you can’t see the other side.

Fellow EPA staffer Regina Lyons just joined me, and we traded stories of “sightings” today. Whereas I had been lucky enough to see a Minke whale, she said that as she was leaning over the side of the boat watching the waves, she saw four balloons go by in 20 minutes. Wonder how those got out here? It’s so pristine you’d never expect it, but balloons can travel hundreds of miles in the air before they fall back down. These ones were white and silver mylar, maybe they came from a birthday party or a wedding? We were going too fast to grab them, and it sadly tells another story about the ocean these days. We shouldn’t see garbage and plastics out here, especially in an area off northern Maine where less people live. Regina said they had started to degrade a little bit, but usually the bits of garbage just break into smaller pieces, especially plastics. They never really go away.
More on the rest of my day later! ~ Jeanethe, “aspiring Second Mate”

Jeanethe Falvey works in EPA’s Boston office.

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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.

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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Cómo ahorra agua?

El agua es un recurso preciado y puede ser conservada independientemente de donde viva. Comparta la manera como usted ahorra agua–sea utilizando menos, o utilizando tuberías y productos de uso eficiente de agua u otras maneras.

¿Cómo ahorra agua?

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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