Monthly Archives: October 2009

Healthy Health Care Leader – Kaiser Permanente

One of my closest friends, Stephanie Davis, did pioneering work in the early days of green health care. As she battled cancer, we often laughed and cried about the unhealthy hospitals and medical practices she endured.

So I really appreciate Kaiser Permanente’s recognition that healthy communities and a healthy environment are critical to the health and wellness. Kaiser Permanente received an EPA Pacific Southwest Environmental Award for their green ways. Here are a few examples, Kaiser —

  • Recycled 100% (WOW –- 100%!) of the building materials generated during the demolition of two warehouses in San Leandro, California.
  • Opened a green medical center in Modesto, California, with solar panels, energy-conserving technology, permeable pavement, and safer materials.
  • Hosted 28 farmers markets at facilities in six states, delivered produce “farm boxes” to employees without close access to farmers markets, and served milk from cows not treated with artificial hormones.
  • Resold and recycled 74,000 pieces of electronic equipment and ensured that no hazardous e-waste was exported outside of the U.S.
  • Used 107,143 gallons of water per bed per year in California hospitals — 40% less than the average hospital water consumption nationally.
  • Telemonitored heart patients remotely to improve the quality of care and reduce car trips.

Kaiser Permanente has also worked on changing employee behavior. Their “Reduce Your Use” campaign that encouraged employees to reduce waste by providing tips on ways to be more environmentally responsible with specific participation goals. The campaign resulted in employee pledges that eliminated the use of over 240,000 sheets of paper and 20,000 disposable bags.

Kaiser is definitely leading the way on greening heath care. I wish Stephanie was able to see the great progress Kaiser has made to improve the health of the health care system. Do you have green health care ideas you’d like to share?

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team promoting waste reduction, recycling, and green building for 10 years in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office.

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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Beyond Translation Initiative Goes National

I just returned from a successful Hispanic forum at our offices in Research Triangle Park, NC. The forum is part of EPA’s Hispanic outreach initiative known as Beyond Translation, an effort that was spearheaded by EPA’s Region 6 office in Texas in 2006 and now has become truly national in scope.

EPA will be hosting its second National Beyond Translation Forum in Washington, DC on October 26, 2009. Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will be there to address Latino elected officials, representatives from community-based organizations, small businesses, and faith-based organizations. This year’s national theme is “EPA and the Hispanic Community: Working Together to Protect our Health and the Environment—At Places Where We Live, Work, Learn, and Play.” EPA officials and key stakeholders will discuss various issues ranging from environmental health, the role of Latinos in the green economy, promoting environmental careers among young Hispanics, as well as economic and partnership opportunities at EPA.

This outreach effort serves as a mechanism to continue EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s call to expand the definition of environmentalism particularly among those communities that traditionally have not worked with the Agency. We urge you to participate at this year’s forum. If you do not live in the DC area, you’ll also be able to attend via live webcast. You just have to register on-line.  Our goal is to have similar forums throughout the nation. Please join us on this journey to increase environmental awareness among all communities regardless of the language you speak at home.

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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La iniciativa “Más allá de las traducciones” a escala nacional

Acabo de regresar de un exitoso foro hispano en nuestras oficinas en Carolina del Norte. El foro es parte de una iniciativa de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés) de alcance público a la comunidad hispana conocida como “Más allá de las traducciones”, un esfuerzo iniciado por nuestra oficina regional en Texas en el 2006 y que por fin tiene un alcance nacional.

La EPA celebrará su segundo Foro Nacional de Más allá de las Traducciones en Washington, DC el 26 de octubre del 2009 de las 8:30 de la mañana hasta las 4:00 de la tarde. La administradora Lisa P. Jackson estará allí para hablar a los participantes entre los cuales figurarán funcionarios electos latinos, representantes de organizaciones de base comunitaria, pequeños comerciantes y organizaciones comunitarias de fe. El tema del foro este año es “EPA y la comunidad hispana: trabajando juntos para proteger nuestra salud y el medio ambiente—en los lugares donde vivimos, trabajamos, aprendemos y jugamos”. Funcionarios de EPA y partes interesadas claves discutirán una amplia gama de asuntos como la salud ambiental, el rol de los latinos en la economía verde, las carreras ambientales para jóvenes hispanos, así como las oportunidades económicas y de consorcios que ofrece la EPA.

Este esfuerzo de alcance público sirve como un mecanismo para poner en vigor el llamado de la administradora Lisa P. Jackson de expandir la definición del ambientalismo particularmente en aquellas comunidades con las cuales la Agencia tradicionalmente no colabora. Les instamos a participar en el foro este año. Si usted no reside en el área metropolitana de la Capital Federal, todavía puede asistir vía una transmisión cibernética en vivo. Sólo tiene que inscribirse vía la página Web.  Nuestra meta consiste en celebrar foros por toda la nación. Únase a nuestro esfuerzo por aumentar la concienciación ambiental entre todas las comunidades independientemente del idioma que hablen en sus hogares.

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: Explaining Children’s Health Research

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

With the new school year, I’ve gotten to meet a bunch of my kids’ new classmates. And now that my kids are a bit older, I am getting better at answering when their new friends ask me what I do.

The first time a kid asked me that I blew it—big time. I had gotten off work early and decided to swing by nursery school to surprise my daughter. It was a warm, fall afternoon, and her class of four-year-olds was the outside at playground. “Daddy!” my daughter squealed and sprinted over to meet me at the fence, followed closely by a posse of half a dozen or so little people.

“My daddy works at the zoo,” she announced. It was true. Before coming to EPA I worked as an exhibit writer at the National Zoo. “Wow, that’s cool!” a little girl yelled. “What am-inals do you feed,” demanded a boy, a full head taller than the other kids. I felt a flash of pride. “I’m not a zookeeper; I write the words for the exhibits,” I exclaimed.

Wrong answer. The kids stared up at me. Blinking. Expressionless. My daughter looked down and made a circle in the dirt with her the tip of her shoe. Then, the tall boy declared: “He doesn’t work at the zoo!” And just like that, the gaggle of kids turned and sprinted back to the playground.

“You should have just told them you feed the pandas,” the teacher said, snickering.

image of the author standing next to a panda in a cageWhile a class of four-year-olds would be even less impressed with my current job (EPA science writer), I am happy to work for a place where children’s health has always been a major priority. That focus has resulted in some important findings. Last year, for example, the Agency published A Decade of Children’s Health Research, a research summary report highlighting findings from ten years, and some $127 million worth of investments in STAR grants on children’s environmental health.

The report is just one of the many EPA science initiatives on developing a better understanding of children’s environmental health. All that focused research gives me plenty to write about, and lots to talk about as we celebrate Children’s Health Month here at EPA. But just the same, next time a group of four-year-old nursery school kids asks me about my job, I think I’ll just tell them I feed the pandas.

About the Author: Before joing EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a science writer, Aaron Ferster spent ten years as an exhibit writer and developer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. He is the editor for Science Wednesday.

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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Cupcakes or Carrots?

Taking full advantage of last weekend’s surprisingly warm fall weather, I made a trip to Old Town Alexandria. What a perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. With all the walking I did, I needed something to quell my unruly stomach grumbles. I decided to allow myself to succumb to one sweet in particular: cupcakes. The place was busy with lots of children eagerly waiting. I almost thought about buying a dozen. Then my college wallet kicked in and I decided to purchase just one. However, after my return home, I got to thinking about what I had eaten that day and realized: A.) Yes, that cupcake was good and B.) I hadn’t eaten the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables for the day! While I like a piece of broccoli about as much as the next 8 year old, I really try my hardest to get in as much fruits and veggies as I can. Fruit can easily be enjoyed like a dessert! And vegetables can be eaten with all sorts of dishes. Here are some of my other thoughts:

  • One way to really teach and attract kids to healthy items is to get them involved in the process. It helps you out and makes your food healthier at the same time! By safely allowing older kids to help or just observe you peeling and trimming fruits and vegetables, it will help them feel a part of the process and removes dirt, bacteria, and pesticides.
  • I also know that water is appealing to kids and getting them involved in washing fruits and vegetables can be easy. The sound itself of the water in the sink has a calming affect and removing traces of chemicals and bacteria from your food will make it safer and taste even better.
  • Also, selecting a variety of foods can be helpful to engage kids so they don’t have to eat cooked carrots every night of the week. A variety will give you a better mix of nutrients.

All in all, vegetables and fruits really can be just as appealing as a cupcake! Check out other healthy, sensible food tips. Use the occasional cupcake as a treat and give kids the chance and opportunity to love eating fruits and veggies!

About the author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

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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Making a Difference in Your Community Through Service

There you are, heading to school and you see something that practically screams, “People do not care about their environment.” Perhaps you notice there are cups and bottles along the route your school bus takes. Or, you go on a hike and see a stream with garbage dumped in it. Or you realize several students at your school live near you, but you all drive your own cars instead of carpooling.

This is an important moment. Will you act on what you notice, or ignore it and hope it changes by itself? Let’s hope you choose to act. But, what can one person really do? The answer to that question is: a great deal. One person can act alone or join with others to change the way things are.

After you decide to do something about a problem, find out why it is happening. You may have to talk to others – classmates, parents, teachers or community leaders – or do some research.

Once you understand the problem, the next step is figuring out how to get people to stop doing whatever is causing it. You’ll soon discover that people act according to what they know and think. If people think it’s OK to take their used car oil and pour it down a storm drain, that’s what they’ll do. But if they learn that oil can cause a water pollution problem, they may dispose of it properly, which is to take it to a service station.

Figure out how to teach people about what causes a problem and how to solve it. Who are you trying to get the word out to? What is the best way to reach that audience? This might be a project that needs more than one person. Get organized. Find out who can help and team up. You can form partnerships and work with others who will give you support or ideas. Get your team together, set up a timeline of when you are doing what. Then, go to work and get the project done.

As you read this, you may think: “Well, sure, it sounds simple, but doing something isn’t that easy.” True. But, following up on the decision to do something will help your community and develop your ability to act on what you think , plan ahead and lead others to accomplish a goal. Even if it is something you do by yourself, the results are the same.

Take that first step. Decide to solve that environmental problem. Once you take that first step, you’ll understand that you can make a difference.

For more information/ideas:

About the author: Terry Ippolito is the Environmental Education Coordinator for EPA’s region 2 office in New York. Terry came to EPA in 1988 after being a science teacher, grades 1 through high school, and school administrator. Her work at EPA enables her to combine experience in education with a commitment to the environment.

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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Toyota Drives Toward Zero Waste 

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing environmentalists in government and business, but some people really stand out as extreme environmental leaders.

Each year 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. Ryan McMullen and his colleagues at Toyota Motor Sales were recognized by EPA’s Pacific Southwest award winners.  They are my heroes — they are living the dream of zero waste.

image of a cart full if plastic wrapping material in an automotive factoryRyan, an enthusiastic Toyota environmental expert in Torrance, CA, spearheaded efforts to eliminate waste through upstream thinking and complex lifecycle analysis. As a result, Toyota’s vehicle distribution centers send less than 4 ounces of waste to the landfill for each vehicle processed.

Toyota Motor Sales started using returnable shipping containers to conserve 17.6 million pounds of wood and cardboard in 2008.  And, there’s more —

  • Toyota’s Headquarters and nine facilities are sending Zero Waste to landfill,
  • Ten plants are achieving 95% waste reduction, and
  • Twelve distribution centers achieving over 90% recycling rates.

image of flattened cardboard boxes in a gray cart in an automotive factoryThese efforts have kept 118,990 trees from being cut down and conserved the energy equivalent of 1.6 million gallons of gasoline by providing recycled materials to industry.

Toyota worked with the University of California – Santa Barbara to develop and apply the Environmental Packaging Impact Calculator (EPIC) to measure and justify shifts in the company’s packaging and logistics.  They even use EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to improve green computing.

Toyota certainly deserves the EPA award. Do you have any zero waste tips to share?

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team promoting waste reduction, recycling, and green building for 10 years in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office.

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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Pick 5: Save Electricity!

Hey Pick 5ers,  it’s time again for you to share what you’ve done, how you did it, etc.  Today we cover action #3: save electricity. Please share your stories as comments below.  If you haven’t done it yet, Pick 5 for the Environment and then come back to comment. You can also still share how you save water! and how you commute without polluting.
When I needed a new refrigerator, I looked for an Energy Star label before making my final decision because it will help me save on electricity.

My electric company suggests that using electricity during off peak hours (9:00 pm- 6:00am weekdays and anytime on weekends) is much cheaper. I am now doing laundry during the off peak hours; this is also a way to help save electricity.

I’ve also changed my light bulbs to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.  Not only am I going to save on my electric bill, but I’m also saving the environment. It has cost me a little more, but in the long run they will last longer.

I no longer leave my outside lights on: I’ve replaced them with solar lights. I’ve also unplugged items not being used throughout my home, along with turning off unused items.

Can’t wait to receive next month’s electric bill to see how much I have saved!

Now it’s your turn: How do you save electricity? If you’re not sure how, learn more on EPA’s site. http://www.epa.gov/Energy/electricity.html

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs in Washington, DC.

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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A Scientific Birthday Party

My youngest daughter is still at an age where birthday parties are big events in her life. No sooner that we’re done with one birthday she begins talking about new ideas for the next one. Given that her birthday is in the late fall, pool parties are out of the equation. Outdoor parties around local parks are also out of the question. So, indoor birthday parties are the norm in her case.

Birthday parties at play rooms seem to be pretty popular nowadays. We’ve already had the traditional entertainers for children’s parties such as magicians, clowns, etc. So, in an effort to do something creative, I gave my eldest daughter the task of finding something new. After some research, she definitely found a non-traditional entertainer—a scientist! Well, my colleagues at EPA might not be happy for having an entertainer and a scientist in the same sentence, but I have to admit, this party was very entertaining and even memorable.

The scientist came with her lab coat and set up her “lab” for the children. She talked about chemicals and then had the children do some experiments using some basic household products.  They made silly putty and colorful slime and even cotton candy! Each child left the party with their treasures and the hands-on experience that science can be fun.

Here at EPA we like to encourage children to think critically so they can become future environmentalists. As parents, we can guide then and encourage them in these efforts at home. It can be an enjoyable experience for all.  During Children’s Health Month, let’s teach our children how we all can make a difference to the planet, children’s health, and the future. Let’s plant the seed of environmentalism in their hearts today. That’s fertile ground. We’ll all enjoy the bounty tomorrow.

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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Una fiesta de cumpleaños científica

Mi hija menor todavía esta en la edad en la cual las fiestas de cumpleaños son grandes eventos en su vida. No bien ha terminado su cumpleaños que ya empieza hablar de ideas para el próximo. Debido a que su cumpleaños es en el otoño, las fiestas en la piscina no son posibles. Las opciones de tener fiestas en parques al aire libre también están fuera del panorama. Por lo tanto, sus fiestas de cumpleaños suelen ser al interior.

Las fiestas de cumpleaños en salones de juegos infantiles son muy populares hoy en día. Ya hemos contratado a actores tradicionales como magos y payasos para divertir a los niños. En un esfuerzo por hacer algo creativo, le di a mi hija mayor la tarea de buscar algo nuevo. Después de realizar su investigación, definitivamente encontró un actor no tradicional—¡un científico! Bueno, algunos de mis colegas en la EPA me criticarán por comparar a los actores y los científicos, pero tengo que admitir, la fiesta fue muy entretenida y se podría decir hasta inolvidable.

La científica vino a la fiesta vestida con la bata blanca de los médicos y creó su “laboratorio” para los niños. Les habló de sustancias químicas y le enseñó a los niños cómo hacer algunos experimentos utilizando productos caseros. Los niños hicieron polímeros de gelatina en colores como “silly putty” y “slime” y algodón de azúcar. Al final de la fiesta, cada niño se llevó para su casa sus tesoros y la experiencia de saber que las ciencias pueden ser divertidas.

Aquí en la EPA alentamos a los niños a pensar de manera crítica para que se puedan convertir en futuros ambientalistas. Como padres, los podemos guiar y alentar estos esfuerzos en el hogar. Todos podemos disfrutar de la experiencia.  Durante el Mes de la Salud Infantil, [http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/calendar.htm ] enseñemos a nuestros niños cómo hacer una diferencia en el planeta, su salud y el futuro. Sembremos la semilla del ambientalismo en sus corazones hoy. Es terreno fértil. Todos recogeremos la cosecha en el mañana.

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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