Monthly Archives: March 2010

Good Morning Palau! Palau Part II

Paradise greeted us at 4 a.m. with the sound of roosters serenading outside our window. Friends we made later on told us we’d eventually just stop hearing them. We had no idea how true that was (amusing story… part IV).IMG_0785 Palau

Day 1 was spent walking Koror to get the lay of the land. Got breakfast – chicken stir fry, (we offered a nearby rooster) and a cheese/egg burger for me. It was indeed an egg on a burger. We started following the locals to dine shortly thereafter.

For the ‘main drag,’ Koror was quiet. The speed limit gave dogs and chickens ample time to go about their days crossing The road that went through town. We sought out the Palau Conservation Society (PCS) to meet a friend of a friend – missed him, so we snorkeled across the street. (Yep, it was clean enough.) Still blister-free, we continued onto what would become our second home there: Sam’s Tours to plan finishing up my diving certification!

Later that night at Kramer’s (go if you’re there!), we met up with our friend Scott (PCS), for the first time in person. As we came in he said; “I KNEW I drove by you guys three times today!” I guess we slightly stuck out… small place. Talking that night, it already began to feel like we were home away from home.

The next day we explored the island of Ulong (where contestants ‘roughed it’ on Survivor) with Scott’s family, and other new friends including Ron Leidich, a biologist and founder of Planet Blue Kayak Tours. Talking with Ron was like being back at camp, only way cooler. We were learning (alongside the actual kids there with us) how some of Palau’s plants were pollinated, and which ones wouldn’t kill you, should you ever get sick of coconuts. Helpful, since we were scheming to kayak and camp on the Rock Islands and beyond for a week on our own.

Watching a stunning sunset on the boat ride back that day it hit us: one trip, a few weeks, would never be enough.

Sunset Palau

About the author: Jeanethe lives in Boston, working for EPA’s New England Office as a Public Affairs Specialist, and a Superfund Community Involvement Coordinator. Currently Jeanethe is also working on web and social media outreach for EPA’s Office of Web Communications in Washington D.C.

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.

All Politics Is Local…And The Environment, Too

As part of my job at EPA, I meet with elected officials and stakeholders who visit the Agency to discuss their local environmental challenges and concerns. Whether they are concerned about local drinking water issues, air quality concerns, site cleanups, these stakeholders often come to meet with EPA officials to discuss the Agency’s regulations and economic opportunities. EPA’s actions in the Nation’s capital or at the regional level directly affect communities across the United States and its territories.

Increasingly, I see the relevance of the popular phrase attributed to the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neil, “all politics is local.” With time, I’ve been able to see how the phrase also applies to environmental decisions and actions, not only at EPA but for the general public as well. For example, the things we do at home, at school, at work, or in our community have a direct impact on our environment. Every day activities can harm our immediate surroundings and areas far away. What type of activities you might ask? Well, everyday decisions such as taking a bath vs. shower, driving vs. commuting, applying fertilizers and pesticides vs. greenscaping, all have different repercussions on the environment.

What can you do at home to reduce non point source pollution
and protect the environment? Need some tips for conserving water at home?  For more info on acting locally and thinking globally, please visit our Web site.  I’m sure many of you have many green experiences that you would like to share. We want to hear from you. Have a great day.

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.

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.

Toda política es local…y el medio ambiente también

Como parte de mi trabajo en EPA, me reúno con funcionarios electos y partes interesadas que visitan la agencia para discutir sus retos y preocupaciones medioambientales. Sea que estén preocupados por asuntos como el agua potable en su localidad, la calidad del aire, o la limpieza de sitios contaminados, estas personas frecuentemente se reúnen con funcionarios de EPA para discutir las regulaciones y oportunidades económicas ofrecidas por la agencia. Las acciones tomadas por la EPA en la capital o a nivel regional afectan directamente las comunidades a través de Estados Unidos y sus territorios.

Últimamente, he visto la relevancia de la frase popular atribuida al ex presidente de la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neil, “toda política es local”. Con el tiempo, he visto cómo esta frase también se aplica a las decisiones y acciones ambientales, no tan sólo de EPA sino del público en general también. Por ejemplo, lo que hacemos en el hogar, la escuela, o en el trabajo o en nuestra comunidad tiene un impacto directo en nuestro medio ambiente. Las actividades cotidianas pueden perjudicar nuestros entornos inmediatos así como los lejanos. ¿A qué tipo de actividades me refiero? Bueno, decisiones cotidianas como tomar un baño de tina o una ducha, el manejar o usar transporte público, el aplicar fertilizantes o pesticidas u optar por técnicas de jardinería agrícola, todas tienen diferentes repercusiones en el medio ambiente.

¿Qué puede hacer en el hogar para reducir la contaminación de fuentes difusas y proteger el medio ambiente? ¿Necesita consejos sobre cómo conservar agua en el hogar?  Para más información sobre cómo actuar localmente y pensar globalmente,  visite nuestro sitio Web. Estoy segura que muchos de ustedes tienen experiencias ambientales que quisieran compartir. Nos encantaría escuchar su sentir. Que tengan un feliz día 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.

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.

Simple Steps to Big Savings

fix a leak week-drop of waterDrip. Drip. Drip. Did you know your home could be wasting up to 10,000 gallons each year from easy-to-fix water leaks? Many of these leaks are do-it-yourself fixes that could cost only a few dollars to address. Sponsored by EPA’s WaterSense® program, Fix a Leak Week reminds homeowners of the easy steps we can all take to help save water in our communities now and for future generations.

1. Find Leaks
A good method to check for leaks is to examine your winter water use. If it exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, you probably have leaks. Walk around your home with eyes and ears open to find leaks, and don’t forget to check pipes. You can also reveal a silent toilet leak by adding a few drops of food coloring to the tank and waiting 15 minutes without flushing. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak. Be sure to flush afterwards so as not to stain the bowl or tank.

2. Fix Leaks
Many times fixing leaks can be done yourself and doesn’t have to cost a cent. Both faucets and showerhead connections can be tightened or sealed with a wrench or pipe tape. For leaky toilets, the rubber flapper inside the tank is often the culprit. Over time the flapper decays, but replacing it only costs a few dollars. If you don’t feel comfortable with these repairs, a licensed plumber can help. Irrigation systems and outdoor spigots can also be the source of water loss. A WaterSense irrigation partner who is certified in water-efficient irrigation technologies and techniques can ensure your outdoor irrigation system works properly.

3. Save Water
Fixing household leaks not only saves water but can reduce water utility bills by more than 10 percent. Dripping faucets can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, a showerhead leaking 10 drips per minute about 500 gallons per year, and running toilets 200 gallons or more each day!

Fix a leak weektitlte

For more information and tips about how to save water during Fix a Leak Week, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak. WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by EPA to help Americans save water. The WaterSense label can be found on toilets, faucets, urinals, and—coming soon—showerheads that use at least 20 percent less water and are independently tested and certified to perform as well as or better than standard plumbing fixtures.

About the author: Stephanie Thornton has worked at EPA for 7½ years and manages marketing and partner relationships for WaterSense’s residential plumbing program.

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: Searching for a Sustainable Way to Remove Arsenic from Groundwater

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

Many people in Bangladesh use groundwater for their drinking water. In some parts of Bangladesh, arsenic levels in groundwater are more than 100 times the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of 10 parts per billion. Already, 40,000 Bangladeshis are showing signs of arsenic poisoning. Without intervention, 10% of the deaths in this country of 140 million people could be caused by arsenic poisoning.

I am part of the Berkeley Arsenic Alleviation Group (BAAG), a group aiming to provide affordable, sustainable technologies to remove arsenic from groundwater. Our goal is an efficient and cheap technology that removes arsenic and can be easily operated and maintained by local communities.

Our technology, partly funded by an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award research grant, takes advantage of the fact that arsenic binds to rust. We first put iron into water and then use electricity to corrode the iron and produce rust. Then by filtering the water, or allowing the rust to settle, we can remove the arsenic.

From an engineering standpoint, the design efficiently and sustainably removes arsenic from water . But we can’t just drop it off and leave.

First, we need to figure out if the technology will be affordable for local communities. Are there cultural barriers that might prevent its use? Can this new technology be easily adopted and used?

To develop a sustainable solution to real-world problems, we need an interdisciplinary approach with collaboration among engineers, social scientists, and most importantly local communities.

Because local communities are so important, we are proposing a community-scale clean water center. It will be operated by the local community, for the local community—selling clean water at an affordable price (~$0.02 per person per day). It means partnerships with local people, the key to the sustainability of our technology.

We are now collaborating with local universities, local village leaders, local communities, and local entrepreneurs. By operating a treatment center themselves, the community will be empowered, leading to more likely acceptance and sustainable operations.

100L Electrode AssemblyAbout the author: Case van Genuchten is a graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and is a member of the Berkeley Arsenic Alleviation Group (BAAG).

Editor’s Note: To meet researchers and see demonstrations of this and other exciting P3 projects, visit the National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, DC, April 24 and 25.

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.

Show the World It's YOUR Environment!

Join our “It’s My Environment” Earth Day video project!  It’s easy, fun and YOU could be a media star in the final video!  Make a video clip up to 10 seconds long:

  • Have someone from off screen hand you a sign saying “It’s My Environment”  from your right (so it’ll come into the screen from the viewer’s left)
  • Hold up the sign and say “It’s My Environment!” (or the equivalent in your language) and perform a simple action to protect the environment. For example: recycling, riding a bike instead of driving, turning lights off when not in use, or clearing debris from a local stream.
  • After you say “It’s My Environment!” and complete your action, hand the sign off screen to your left as if you were giving it to the next person in line.

Submit clips as video responses on YouTube by April 15.

We’ll compile selected clips into one video and show it on our Web site and YouTube on Earth Day, April 22.  The goal is to form a virtual “human chain” around the globe. Show the world that it is YOUR environment, so you want to live in a clean and healthy world and preserve our precious planet for coming generations.

Have some fun!  Be creative.  Here’s the demo video we did with some EPA folks.  We did have a blast recording it, but we’re sure you can do even better.

The detailed instructions provide links to signs printed in English, Spanish and other languages. To use a language not listed, write “It’s My Environment” (in your language) on a piece of paper at least 8 inches on a side in thick black lines.

Because environmental protection is for everyone – people of all ages, races, languages, economic status, or geographic location.

We know the power of social media to connect people all over the earth to share their thoughts and images, but could social media actually help protect the planet Earth?  I believe so!  And that’s exactly why I work on social media for EPA.

Suzanne Ackerman works in EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

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.

C’mon, Give Yourself an Environmental Shout Out!

About 4 years ago, we decided to start a hiking club.  We have an autistic son and before we knew about all the family-oriented activities out there for autistic kids, we didn’t know what we could do.  We wanted something that would involve the whole family – parents, autistic kids, and their typically developing siblings – in an environment where everyone could relax and not worry about being judged by others.  Thus was born the Trophies Hike Club.  Every Sunday at 10 a.m., we meet in the parking lot or visitor center of one of many parks in the area.

We now have a group of 5-6 families (and 5-6 dogs!) that venture out every weekend — rain or shine — and it’s been a fabulous tradition that has grown with us.  Hike club has been a perfect venue to teach the kids some important things…respect wildlife, be fascinated by the impact of the changing seasons and the changing courses of the waterways and trails, not littering, and generally respecting each other and the folks, plants and animals we encounter on our walks.

We are planning to order water quality sampling kits (because what kid wouldn’t want to step into a muddy stream, plant a mesh leaf bag in order to later retrieve it and inspect the creepy crawlers that may be found within).  We also pick up litter as we go.  Are we environmentalists?  Maybe.  But let’s step this up a notch: what if we had a way to share our activities with others – inspire others with the idea of our hiking club?  And also give the kids kudos by announcing their forays into the forest on the World Wide Web.

Well, now we do have a way – environmental shout outs in EPA’s MyEnvironment.  A couple of weeks ago, we added the capability for the public to report their “good-for-the-environment” activities within the context of MyEnvironment.  We hear about folks buying their first composter, local all-green salons, Boy Scout river cleanups, and much more.  MyEnvironment was a way for the public to find environmental information about their neighborhood.  Now they will find out not just what the EPA is doing in their community, but also what the community is doing in their community.  That’s open government.

About the author: Kim Balassiano has worked in EPA’s Office of Environmental Information since 2007. Before that, she was an EPA contractor for 12 years, doing mapping and spatial analysis.  This blog is part of an ongoing series about the EPA’s efforts toward the Open Government Directive that lays out the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration.

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.

CHILDHOOD OBESITY PART II: Staying Active

Every morning I walk through the lobby of my apartment building, passing a group of kids who are waiting for the school bus. What are they doing as they wait? They aren’t talking to or playing with one another. They’re “playing” on their BlackBerrys. The BlackBerry: a gadget made for business people, not for seven-year-olds as a substitute for tag or basketball.

Not only cell phones, but other technological advances have made children more sedentary. Videogames, computers, and iPods have given children a way to stay “active” without actually being active. These activities do not involve much movement beyond the comfort of their own home or couch. It seems that children are having more fun interacting with technology rather than with one another. They are choosing inactive doings rather than active, such as, participating in sports teams or playing outside.

Physical activity seems to be diminishing more and more everyday. No longer do we see kids playing outside until dark. We don’t even see kids out on the playground at recess much anymore. In some of the schools that I have volunteered, the children are even given a choice as to whether they want to go outside or play inside on the computers or in the library. Only for asthmatic children who can’t play outside with poor air quality is this a choice worth having. Physical education is seen less in school systems as well. Although it still may be present, the time spent in P.E. is much shorter and it can be said that the activities are less strenuous than in the past.

The purpose of this two-part blog is to show the two main causes of childhood obesity. It is not enough to just eat right or to just exercise appropriately. The two must be done together. Obesity is a two-part fiend that can be solved with the right diet and exercise. We must ensure that our kids are healthy now such that they can be healthy in the future and for the rest of their lives.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

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: Where do you store your pesticides and other household chemicals?

March 14-20 is Poison Prevention Week. In households with children under the age of five, close to half store at least one pesticide product within reach of a child. Moreover, nearly 75 percent of households with no children under the age of five store pesticides product in an unlocked cabinet within a child’s reach. To help protect children from the dangers, install safety latches and lock up pesticides and household chemicals well out of children’s reach – preferably in a high cabinet. Make a room-by-room inspection of your home to be sure all products for rats, mice, cockroaches, or anything else with harmful chemicals such as bleach and other cleaning products are safely stored. Share your thoughts on how you safely store household chemicals.

Where do you store your pesticides and other household chemicals?

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:¿Dónde almacena sus productos pesticidas y otras sustancias químicas en el hogar?

La Semana de Prevención de Envenenamientos es del 14 al 20 de marzo. En los hogares con niños menores de cinco años, cerca del cincuenta por ciento conservan al menos un producto pesticida dentro del alcance de un niño. Asimismo, cerca del 75 por ciento de los hogares sin niños menores de cinco años conservan los productos pesticidas en gabinetes abiertos al alcance de los niños. Para ayudar a proteger a los niños de los peligros, instale cierres especiales de seguridad y colóque los productos pesticidas y sustancias químicas caseras bajo llave fuera del alcance de los niños–preferiblemente en un gabinete alto. Haga una inspección de todas las habitaciones en su hogar para asegurarse de que todos los productos para ratas, ratones, cucarachas y cualquier otra cosa como sustancias químicas dañinas como blanqueadores y otros productos de limpieza, por ejemplo, estén almacenados de manera segura. Comparta su sentir sobre cómo almacenar las sustancias químicas en el hogar.

¿Dónde almacena sus productos pesticidas y otras sustancias químicas en el 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.