Monthly Archives: May 2010

Bike to Work Day – May 21, 2010

Woman riding bicycle on a snowy trailFor a variety of reasons, a number of us here at the EPA face long daily commutes. Living in Frederick , MD and working in DC is not my idea of a sustainable lifestyle, but I am determined to reduce my overall carbon footprint by linking a number of different transportation modes.

Since moving in 2008, I have experimented with a number of different routes and transportation combinations including bicycle, car, MARC train and Metro .  I have gone back and forth between riding the C&O Canal and riding the back roads into DC.

Right now, I prefer riding on the road as the C&O can often be quite muddy, making travel time less predictable. My current system involves leaving my car at a nearby MARC station and riding into DC along some of the most beautiful country roads Maryland has to offer.

The ride is a little over 40 miles long and takes roughly 2.5 hours. To get home, I take the MARC train back to Frederick. The next day I take the train to work in the morning, and then ride back to my car after work. (Unfortunately, bicycles are not allowed on the MARC train, which would solve a number of logistical issues.)

In years past, Bike to Work Day bloggers have done an exceptional job of illustrating exactly how many pounds of CO2 can be reduced and how many calories can be burned by biking to work:

As Bike to Work Day continues to gain popularity, I think the majority of us are aware that bicycle commuting is the better option not only for the environment, but also for our physical fitness. This awareness is also reflected in programs such as the Bicycle Tax Credit as well as health insurance companies covering exercise related expenses.
As an EPA employee, I feel a personal and professional responsibility to live an environmentally sustainable life. While living over fifty miles away from my place of work is not an ideal situation when it my carbon footprint, it is not a hopeless situation. There are options—and bicycle commuting is one of them.

About the author: Anna Kelso is an Environmental Protection Specialist in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. In addition to her commitment to bicycle commuting, Anna is a mountain biker on the Gripped Racing Team and is a dedicated bicycle advocate within her community.

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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Icons That Help Move People to New Behaviors

Environmental progress is based on people. People willing to do the right thing, to make a different choice, to try a new behavior. And that kind of sea change takes something more than regulations. It takes a shift that comes not just from the head but from the heart of millions of individuals, desiring a better life and a healthier environment.

Helping us make that leap into people’s hearts is The Ad Council, a non-profit organization that serves as the charitable arm for the advertising and media industry. The Ad Council recruits the best talent in the communications industry, who volunteer their expertise, to shine a spotlight on social issues in need of mass public action to make a measurable, positive change in society. Over its 60 year history, the Ad Council has created some of America’s best known public icons, including Smokey Bear and the Crying Indian.

As EPA celebrates its 40th Anniversary, it’s fitting that we join forces with the Ad Council to tackle another pressing social issue: Childhood Asthma. Since 2001, EPA has partnered with the Ad Council to highlight the growing problem of childhood asthma. Our goals are to reduce the severity and number of asthma attacks to reduce emergency room visits and improve school attendance.

In its first iteration, the national childhood asthma media campaign adopted a goldfish metaphor to explain that no child with asthma should feel like a fish out of water. The media has generously embraced this campaign donating more than $300 million spanning TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and web in English, Spanish and in three Native American languages. The iconic goldfish leaves a powerful impression that stays with audiences—reporting an awareness of 33%–compared to the Ad Council norm of about 15%. This high awareness helps to shift behaviors as well—by prompting parents to go to the web or call a hotline to learn more. Tracking success, since the start of the campaign, some 20% of parents report trying a new behavior to help prevent their child’s asthma attacks.

Joining us this year, for a new round of public service television commercials, is one of America’s most prolific and renowned film directors, Joe Pytka. Think two eggs sizzling in a frying pan; think Superbowl, the iconic Clydesdales; and Michael Jordan in Space Jam. Known for his ability to fill the screen with emotional tugs, he reminds parents and caregivers– for a child with asthma, monsters can be lurking anywhere, even in innocent places inside their home. Take a look at this new media campaign.

About the Author: Kristy Miller leads the national asthma media campaign for EPA’s Air Office.

Another link to view the media campaign

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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When In Doubt, Throw It Out Safely—Part 4

For several weeks, my youngest daughter has been trying to persuade me to take her to one of her favorite stories to buy some “best friend” charm bracelets or necklaces to give to her friends at the end of the school year. I had been postponing the trip to the mall simply because I knew it was going to become a costly endeavor. Although the trip to her favorite store was intended to strictly buy the gifts for her friends, I knew that once we were in the door she would quickly identify several “must-haves.” In other words, the trip that originally was going to cost less than $25 could quickly turn into a three digit shopping spree if she had her druthers.

In this case, my procrastination paid off. Why, you may ask? Well, I just saw a blog by the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalling “best friend” charm bracelets due to high levels of cadmium! Although I was not planning on going to store in question to get those bracelets, now I definitely was not going to get those items. As parents, how can we be sure that similar children’s jewelry is not equally contaminated with cadmium or other toxic metals?!

Back in February, I wrote several blog entries on this very issue—the use of  cadmium and lead in cheap toy jewelry. The problem is that the use of these toxic metals, while illegal, seems to be expanding to imported children’s custom jewelry, in general, even when it’s not that “cheap-looking.” We’re no longer talking of those pieces that look like trinkets. Some of this children’s jewelry is actually quite attractive. It’s hard for a child to understand that the cool items can actually be harmful to their health.

Bottom-line, the advice remains the same. Lead and cadmium are both harmful to children’s health. Since children tend to put many things into their mouth, we can’t afford to have these toxic items lying around. These objects should be eliminated from a child’s environment. Monitor recall notices regularly. With increased awareness, we can better protect our children.

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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Si tiene dudas, échelo a la basura de manera segura—Cuarta parte

Hace varias semanas, mi hija menor estaba tratando de persuadirme de llevarla a su tienda favorita para comprar unas pulseras o cadenas con “charms” que dicen “mejores amigas” para regalarle a sus amistades al final del año escolar. Llevo algún tiempo posponiendo el viaje simplemente porque sabía que se convertiría en un viaje costoso. A pesar de que la excursión de compras estaría diseñada a visitar una tienda específica para comprar estríctamente los regalitos para sus amigas, sabía que una vez que entráramos por esa puerta mi hija identificaría varios artículos “esenciales” que “tendríamos” que comprar. En otras palabras, el viaje que originalmente debía costar unos $25 podría convertirse en una compra de tres dígitos de valor si la dejo salirse con las suyas.

En este caso, mi inacción tuvo resultados positives. ¿Por qué? Bueno, recientemente vi el blog de la Comisión para la Seguridad de los Productos de Consumo de los Estados Unidos (CPSC, por sus siglas en inglés) anunciando la retirada del mercado de pulseras con los “charms” que dicen “mejores amigas” del mercado debido a altos niveles de cadmio! A pesar de que yo no estaba planeando ir a la tienda específica que vende las pulseras retiradas del mercado, ahora definitivamente no iba a comprar esos artículos. Como madre, me pregunto qué certeza tengo de que pulseras infantiles similares no tengan el mismo problema de contaminación de cadmio u otros metales tóxicos?!

En febrero, escribí varios blogs sobre este mismo tema—el uso del cadmio y plomo en joyería infantil barata. El problema es que parece que el uso de estos metales tóxicos, aunque ilegal, se está expandiendo a otra joyería para niños que no tiene esa apariencia de “baratijas.” De hecho, algunas de estas prendas para niños lucen bastante atractivas. Es difícil explicarle a un niño que el último grito de la moda es tóxico para su salud.

En fin de cuentas, los consejos son los mismos. El plomo y el cadmio son perjudiciales a la salud infantil. Como los niños se llevan muchas cosas a la boca, no nos podemos gastar el lujo de dejar estos artículos tóxicos a su alrededor. Hay que eliminarlos de su medio ambiente. Monitoree las notificaciones de productos retirados del mercado regularmente. Con mayor concienciación, podemos proteger mejor a nuestros niños.

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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High School Students Inspired by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. During Earth Day Visit to EPA

“Can I get my picture taken with him? Can we please go on a tour to see the solar panels? What was your college major? Do you know much about nanotechnology?” were just a few of the questions posed by high school students who visited EPA’s Research Triangle Park campus on Earth Day 2010 to hear environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speak.

Outdoors, under clear blue skies, the 40 students from Hillside, Jordan, Northern, and Southern High Schools in Durham focused their full attention on Mr. Kennedy as he passionately shared multiple stories and statistics to demonstrate that protecting our nation’s environmental resources makes economic sense. The hidden costs of getting our energy from non-renewable resources and accounting for the true costs of fossil fuels, as well as developing the infrastructure for renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal power, were themes that particularly inspired the students.

No texting, no talking. All eyes were glued on Kennedy, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, throughout his 1-hour talk as he offered a range of topics to pique their teenage minds as they consider subjects to explore in college and as careers: environmental science, engineering, law, politics, environmental justice, math, and history to name a few. In addition to Kennedy’s environmental anecdotes, he also shared personal stories including his trips to the White House as a child to visit his uncle, John F. Kennedy, in the Oval Office. I was in awe.

EarthDay2010-Robert-F-KenneAs Kennedy’s inspirational talk concluded, we did have many questions answered. YES, you can get your picture taken with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and YES you can take a tour to learn about our newly-installed solar panels. Students from Northern High School went on an impromptu tour of our environmentally-friendly building, learned about EPA’s air pollution research, and talked to several employees about their educations and their jobs. As for the nanotechnology question posed to me by a high school junior, I was “saved” at the last minute in the EPA Café line by running into a co-worker who does research in the area.

You can learn more about Kennedy’s Earth Day talk at EPA at http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices/14335415-1.html or http://www.dpsnc.net/news/frontpage-news/a-kennedy-kind-of-earth-day/?searchterm=kennedy%20epa. To read about the EPA Administrator’s visit to Southern High School last fall, go to http://www.dpsnc.net/news/community-news/president2019s-cabinet-member-chooses-southern-to-speak/?searchterm=EPA%20administrator.

About the Author: Kelly Leovic manages EPA’s Environmental and Community Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park and has worked for the EPA as an environmental engineer since 1987, though this is the first time she had the opportunity to hear a Kennedy speak in person. She has three children and loves to inspire them, and anyone else who will listen, to protect our 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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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:¿Qué definirá los asuntos ambientales para los jóvenes de hoy?

Pregunta de la semana: ¿Qué definirá los asuntos ambientales para los jóvenes de hoy?

En la actualidad, los jóvenes están más activos que nunca en asuntos ambientales y están haciendo una diferencia enorme. Esta semana, celebramos sus esfuerzos para proteger el medio ambiente del mañana durante la ceremonia de los Premios Ambientales Juveniles del Presidente en Washington, DC

¿Qué definirá los asuntos ambientales para los jóvenes de hoy?

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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EPA launches its “Healthy Waters of the Mid-Atlantic” blog

I’d like to invite you to our new “Healthy Waters of the Mid-Atlantic” blog, which is designed to bring new voices and perspectives to our work in restoring and protecting water resources in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region. “Healthy Waters” is one of the Mid Atlantic Region’s top priorities, and your ideas will help advise EPA teams working on the next generation of water protection practices. You should expect a new entry each week.

“Healthy Waters” recognizes that it takes partnerships to build on our progress in achieving clean water. By engaging and commenting on this blog, you will have a unique opportunity to help us tackle some of the most current and challenging water protection issues of the 21st century.

If you would like to learn more about our Healthy Waters Priority and its four areas of focus – agriculture, land, mining and transportation – please see our Healthy Waters Website.

Thanks for visiting. We value your feedback and look forward to reading your comments.

About the author: Shawn M. Garvin is regional administrator of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

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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Kids Get It!

Just last week, I visited Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland for their Career Day. This time, I was assigned to speak at three separate classes—3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. During my presentations, I discussed the Agency’s mission, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and different types of jobs at EPA. In order to keep them engaged, I quizzed them on a variety of environmental issues. I was very interested in finding out what they thought about how best to protect the environment.  I was very pleased to see that the kids have definitely mastered the concept of the three R’s “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Whenever I asked them about what they could do to help, “picking up trash and recycling” were the first issues highlighted in each of the classes. They also mentioned other useful green tips such as saving water, saving energy, and riding a bike instead of driving a car, to name a few.

At the school, they were incorporating many green habits into practice. One of the classes had even planted their own garden. The teacher mentioned that there were a group of students that lived nearby and regularly took care of it. I was able to see how the children talked about the garden with pride.

It was very inspiring to see that these children have internalized many of the values necessary to protect the planet. Children can be great teachers. In fact, we can learn a lot from them only if we truly listen. That reminds me of a song I heard recently on one of my daughter’s CD. It’s entitled “Wake up, America.” would like to share the chorus:

“Wake up, America. We’re all
In this together
It’s our home
So let’s take care of it
You know that you want to
You know that you got
To wake up America

Tomorrow
Becomes a new day
And everything you do
Matters
Yeah
Everything you do
Matters
In some way”

So, let’s listen to these teachers, TODAY!

If you want to see some key examples of young students who have taken environmental stewardship to the next level, I would recommend you see the projects presented by the winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Awards.  For more information on sponsoring a young person or group, visit our website.

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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Los niños han aprendido la lección

Justo la semana pasada, visité la Escuela Elemental César Chávez en Hyattsville, Maryland. Este año me asignaron tres clases de estudiantes de tercero, cuarto y quinto grado. Durante mis presentaciones, discutí la misión de la Agencia, el 40mo aniversario del Día del Planeta Tierra y los diferentes tipos de empleos en la EPA. Para mantenerlos interesados, le hice preguntas sobre una variedad de temas ambientales. Quería escuchar sus opiniones acerca de cómo mejor proteger el medio ambiente.  Me alegró ver cómo los niños dominaban el concepto de las tres R’s—reducir, reutilizar, y reciclar. En todas las clases cuando le preguntaba qué hacer para ayudar, lo primero que me decían era “recoger la basura y reciclar”. También mencionaron otros consejos verdes útiles conservar agua, ahorrar energía, y usar la bicicleta en lugar del auto, entre otros.

En la escuela, también estaban adoptando otras prácticas beneficiosas para el medio ambiente. Por ejemplo, en una de las clases habían sembrado su propio huerto. El maestro mencionó como un grupo de estudiantes que vivía cerca cuidaba del huerto con regularidad. Pude ver cómo los niños hablaron del huerto con mucho orgullo.

Realmente era inspirador ver cómo estos niños habían internalizado muchos de los valores necesarios para proteger el planeta. Los niños pueden ser grandes maestros.  De hecho, podemos aprender mucho de ellos si realmente les escuchamos. Eso me recordó la letra de una canción que escuché en el CD de mi hija. La canción en inglés se llama “Despierta, América” y comparto el estribillo con ustedes. En resumen dice que todos compartimos este hogar, el Planeta Tierra, y debemos cuidarle porque todas las acciones tienen un impacto. ¡Escuchemos estos maestros HOY!

Si desea ver algunos ejemplos claves de jóvenes estudiantes que están llevando la protección ambiental a otro nivel, recomiendo que vean los proyectos presentados por los ganadores de los Premios Ambientales Juveniles del Presidente.  Para más información sobre cómo auspiciar a un joven o grupo, visite nuestro sitio Web.

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.