Monthly Archives: July 2010

Warning About Warming

My experiences at the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) Ceremony in Washington D.C. were simply unforgettable. It was an unbelievable opportunity to share my knowledge with some of the most influential people in the nation. Some of the highlights of my entire experience were being able to meet and share my knowledge with Administrator Lisa Jackson, Philippe Cousteau, and the children from Earth’s Natural Force.

My project focused on the idea of environmental activism and sharing knowledge to inspire others to make an environmental difference. Seeing the interest that influential people such as Administrator Jackson and Philippe Cousteau had in not just my project but in others as well. It made me realize that the future generation is not alone in the battle to save our environment; on the contrary, there are many willing to support and encourage the efforts of today’s environmentalists – the 2009 PEYA winners.

Being able to share my knowledge with the children from Earth’s Natural Force was an amazing experience as well. Seeing their keen interest in my project gave me hope for the future beyond our generation. If we can inspire and enthuse as many people as possible to help our environment, then our Earth will be in good hands. My mission as an Earth Warrior is to provide the knowledge and enthusiasm that will propel our future into a better place. As Steve Droke said, “Knowledge is power and enthusiasm pulls the switch.”

The PEYA Award Ceremony was truly an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

About the Author: Pavane Gorrepati is a ssophmore at Rivermont Collegiate High School in Bettendorf, Iowa, and has won many awards based on her research projects.

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 Cleaning

As I was grocery shopping this past weekend, I noticed that many companies that produce cleaning products are joining the green bandwagon. Many of these companies are extolling the green virtues of their products as a means to increase revenues. The question is how truly green these products are? It is safe to say that there are products in the market place which have been screened to include the safest possible ingredients to help protect the environment and families. Which products you may ask? Well, the products that carry the Design for the Environment label. The DfE is an EPA Partnership Program in which product manufacturers earn the right to display the DfE logo after investing heavily in the research, development and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and the finish product are really environmentally friendly.

Dfeb&g1While there is a list of Design for the Environment Partners covering a wide variety of consumer and industrial cleaning products, there are still individuals that prefer greener practices for their household chores. Here are some suggested alternative methods or products that allow you to clean without hazardous ingredients:

Glass Cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar. Note: these clean but do not disinfect.
Furniture Polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of vegetable oil.
Rug Deodorizer: Sprinkle liberally with baking soda and vacuum after 15 minutes.
Plant Spray: Wipe leaves with mild soap and water and rinse.
Mothballs: Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, or white peppercorns.
Household Cleaning Solution: 1 cup of warm water, 3 drops of vegetable-based liquid soap, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar

So, use and dispose of these products safely at home for the benefit of your family and the environment. Do you have any green cleaning habits you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

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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Métodos de limpieza más favorables al medio ambiente

Cuando estaba de compras la semana pasada, me di cuenta cómo un creciente número de fabricantes de productos de limpieza están uniéndose al movimiento ambientalista. Muchas de estas compañías cantan las loas “verdes” de sus productos a fin de obtener mayores ganancias. La pregunta estriba en cuán favorables al medioambiente son estos productos en la realidad. Podemos decir con certeza de que hay productos en el mercado que han sido sometidos a rigurosas pruebas para incluir los ingredientes más seguros posibles para ayudar a proteger al medio ambiente y sus familias ¿Cuáles son estos productos? Bueno, los productos llevan el logotipo de Diseño por el Medio Ambiente (Design for the Environment) en la etiqueta. El DfE (por sus siglas en inglés) es un programa de consorcios de EPA en el cual los fabricantes adquieren el derecho de desplegar el logotipo de DfE después de haber invertido considerablemente en la investigación, desarrollo, reformulación del producto para asegurar que sus ingredientes y el producto final sea realmente favorable al medio ambiente.

Dfeb&g1Mientras hay una lista de socios del programa de Design for the Environment que abarca una amplia variedad de productos de limpieza para consumidores y para uso industrial, hay algunos individuos que prefieren prácticas mas verdes al hacer sus quehaceres de limpieza en el hogar. He aquí algunos métodos y productos alternos que podría considerar que le permite hacer limpieza sin usar ingredientes peligrosos para la salud o el medio ambiente.

Por ejemplo, para la limpieza de cristales: Use una cucharada de vinagre o jugo de limón por 32 onzas de agua.
Para la limpieza de los inodoros: Use un cepillo de inodoro con bicarbonato de sosa o vinagre. (Favor de notar que este método limpia, pero no desinfecta.)
Para pulir los muebles: Combine una cucharadita de jugo de limón por 16 onzas de aceite vegetal.
Para quitar los olores de las alfombras: Esparza ampliamente bicarbonato de sosa sobre la alfombra y pase la aspiradora dentro de 15 minutos.
Para aplicar a las plantas: Enjuague las plantas con un jabón suave diluido en agua y luego enjuague.
Para usar en lugar de las bolas de naftalina: Pedazos pequeños de madera de cedro, flores de lavanda, romero, menta o pimienta blanca.
Para hacer su propio líquido de limpieza: Use una tasa de agua tibia, tres gotitas de jabón líquido de base vegetal, una cucharadita de bicarbonato de sosa y una cucharada de vinagre blanco.

Asegúrese de usar y disponer de los productos de limpieza de manera segura en el hogar para beneficiar a su familia y el medio ambiente. ¿Tiene algunos consejos o prácticas de limpieza verde que quisiera compartir con nosotros? Nos encantaría leer sus comentarios al respecto.

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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Pick it up please — even if…!

By Nancy Grundahl

Is it my imagination or is there more trash hanging around outside these days than there was years ago? I was brought up to pick up any trash I happened upon, even if it wasn’t mine. The theory was that if everyone did, our community would always look wonderful — the “Keep America Beautiful” approach.

2009 Anacostia Watershed Society's River Trash Cleanup Event!

2009 Anacostia Watershed Society

I still try to pick up any litter I see, but often it seems like I’m the only one. I am amazed at how many people at my train station will walk by an advertisement that has fallen out of someone else’s newspaper, a soda can left on a bench, or those plastic straps used to bundle newspapers. And, it would only take a few seconds of their time. Gosh, there are trash cans right there!

Maybe they don’t understand where that trash can end up. It might be swept away to a nearby stream, affecting the quality of the water. That’s what has been happening in the Anacostia River watershed, part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 85% of which resides within Maryland and 15% within the District of Columbia.

Because of all the trash that’s been going into the Anacostia River it was designated as “impaired by trash” in early 2007, only the second river in the United States to receive this dubious recognition. An estimated 600 tons of trash and debris enter the river each year. There are trash cleanup days which really help, but wouldn’t it be better if everyone just took the few seconds every day to pick up the trash they see?

Is litter a problem in your community? What have you tried that has worked and what hasn’t? Please share your experiences.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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: Learning About Green Chemistry and Sustainability

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

My introduction to “green chemistry” came a few weeks ago when I sat in on a Sustainability Workshop conducted for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. The workshop was led by John C. Warner, Ph.D., founder of the Warner-Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Dr. Warner has been honored with numerous awards, has hundreds of patents to his name, and enjoys widespread recognition in his field. He also co-authored Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice with EPA Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas, a book largely responsible for setting the Green Chemistry movement in motion.

During his presentation, Dr. Warner stated, “I have synthesized over 2,500 compounds, and I have never been taught what makes a chemical toxic. I have no idea what makes a chemical an environmental hazard!”

That certainly got my attention. How could it be possible that a chemist at the top of his field had never studied toxicity? Dr. Warner offered a surprising answer to this question. “In order to earn a degree in chemistry,” he stated, “no university requires any demonstration of knowledge regarding toxicity or environmental impact.” The presence of toxins, he explained “always gets found out later in the process because it’s not part of the training.”

Green Chemistry, I learned, is designed to change that. Its principles aim for less hazardous chemical synthesis and striving to design safer chemicals instead of dealing with hazard throughout the process. Of course this is not a simple matter, and Dr. Warner detailed just how complex and challenging it is. “It’s an incremental process”, he said, one which requires much research, hard work, and innovation. Products have already been patented, however, that have been designed following the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.

“We’ve got to celebrate the improvements where they are” Warner says, and we have to proceed with the mind set to change the status quo. Green chemistry has the potential to protect human health and safety while creating more cost effective and better performing alternatives to the current process and products.

It seems that green chemistry is a huge frontier for further exploration and research as well as a huge opportunity not only for universities but for science in the U.S. as well. Green Chemistry has many other facets in addition to those I have mentioned. Although I was just recently introduced to the topic, Dr. Warner has helped me see how incredibly important it is.

About the Author: Cathryn Courtin is a student at Georgetown University in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program. She is spending her summer working as a student contractor at EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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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Camp Rocky… Rocks!

For the first time in my life I was surrounded by teenagers who were hungry, dirty, tired and loving every minute of it! At Camp Rocky there is no cell phone service, no texting, no television or electronic games; only nature, the instructors and kids getting their hands dirty working on environmental restoration projects. This camp is about teens engaged in real life application of environmental and natural resource management that benefits them, the communities, and the environment.

Campers at Camp RockyFor 48 years, the Camp Rocky Program has been providing hands-on work, leadership training, and instruction in related environmental career opportunities for teens ages 14-19. The Colorado Association of Conservation Districts (CACD), founded in 1945, co-hosts Camp Rocky. CACD represents 76 Conservation Districts statewide which provide over 32,000 volunteer hours annually. Through cooperation of environmental agencies and organizations, Camp Rocky provides an average of 70 teens each year with hands-on outdoor experiences, education, and career mentoring opportunities. Educational advancement occurs through instruction in five principles; water and soil conservation, fish and wildlife management, forest management, rangeland science, and recreation management. Students implement their work plans such as riparian area restoration projects and trail construction.

As I toured the completed environmental projects, I was amazed at how many students approached me asking if I had any questions about the work they had done. I was also very impressed by the pride of ownership the students and volunteers expressed about the service projects that had been completed over the years. Many students return each year to Camp Rocky to experience different courses or to mentor new students in the program. Not many programs have this kind of staying power. No doubt it is due to the dedicated volunteers and hard working teens! My visit to Camp Rocky was an uplifting and down to Earth experience at the same time!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

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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Share your Ideas: Strengthening State, Tribal, and International Partnerships

I am excited that the Draft FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan includes a cross-cutting fundamental strategy for state, tribal, and international partnerships, and I hope that you will join me and share your thoughts on how EPA can strengthen and improve these partnerships to achieve environmental and human health outcomes.

Recognizing the importance of state, tribal, and international partnerships, Administrator Jackson highlighted building stronger partnerships as an agency priority. The cross-cutting fundamental strategy on “Strengthening State, Tribal, and International Partnerships” will guide the Agency in working towards that commitment.

EPA has laid out the guiding principles for this cross-cutting fundamental strategy in the Draft FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan. Going forward for EPA, successful partnerships will be based on four working principles: consultation, collaboration, cooperation, and accountability. By consulting, we will engage our partners in a timely fashion as we consider approaches to our environmental work so that each partner can make an early and meaningful contribution toward the final result. By collaborating, we will not only share information, but we will actively work together with our partners to use all available resources to reach our environmental and human health goals. As our work progresses, we will cooperate, viewing each other with respect as allies who must work successfully together if our goals are to be achieved. Through shared accountability, we will ensure that environmental benefits are consistently delivered nationwide. In carrying out these responsibilities, EPA will ensure through oversight that state and tribal implementation of federal laws achieves a consistent level of protection for the environment and human health.

As we work to develop and implement this cross-cutting fundamental strategy, we encourage your feedback and insights. How do you think the EPA improve can its partnerships with state, tribal, and international stakeholders to achieve environmental and human health outcomes? Share your thoughts on the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies Discussion Forum.

EPA has a long history of collaboration on environmental issues. In recent years, EPA’s partnerships with states, tribes, and the international community have taken on new significance in the face of shared environmental and governance challenges, such as global climate change and improving children’s environmental health. It is EPA’s vision that environmental progress in cooperation with state, tribal, and global partners can catalyze even greater progress toward protecting the environment and human health.

About the Author: Michelle DePass is EPA’s Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs. DePass is a lawyer, public administrator and policy analyst who has worked with environmental and human and civil rights organizations, academic institutions, and labor. She has also worked in all levels of government, including city, state, and federal.

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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Project Jatropha

Carbon dioxide emissions are local, but their effects are global. We are one hundred and ninety four countries on this globe; our boundaries are fixed, but the air that we breathe is shared. No matter who contributes how much to the CO2 burden, all nations suffer together. The USA, China and India are the largest producers of CO2 in the world. During a time when there are differences between developed and developing nations on how to mitigate climate change, Project Jatropha aims to demonstrate the commitment and action of the youth in developed countries to environmental issues that affect the developing nations as well.

Our vision is to promote Jatropha curcas as an ecologically friendly and economically sustainable source of biofuel initially in rural India and eventually in many countries. Near our project site, poor farmers cultivate tobacco as a cash crop in order to support their families. This has forced them to cut down the local trees and forests, jeopardizing the fauna. Jatropha biofuel has a ready, large global market, as it has negligible emissions and a small carbon footprint. Our project starts at the grassroots level with an international collaboration with Parivarthana, an NGO that helps farmers, and Labland Biotechs, a plant biotechnology company. The beneficiaries are farmers. We distributed 13,000 quality Jatropha seedlings to 50 farmer families from two villages. We have demonstrated the extraction of biofuel from Jatropha seeds, distributed the oil among farmers, and successfully run their irrigation pumps with it. Several farmers have been trained in the agronomics of Jatropha at Labland Biotechs facility.

We have successfully collaborated with high schools in rural India and California to spread the awareness of climate change. Though this project was launched in India, we hope that it will spearhead a movement that will eventually mitigate climate change from CO2 emission, decrease the dependence on fossil fuels and global poverty.

It feels wonderful to have the recognition by the preeminent agency entrusted with guarding our environment. PEYA award has given our project a invaluable visibility and exposure . This will create awareness about the fact that community action is the key to bringing about changes in the way we care for our environs.

About the author: Adarsha Shivakumar is a high school student from Oakland, CA. Along with two other high school students, he recently received a Presidents Environmental Youth Award for Project Jatropha.

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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Building Appreciation for the Environment with the Next Generation

Every year, the Mid-Atlantic Water Protection Division does a few Earth Day presentations at local schools. We have always felt that it’s important to educate young people about protecting the environment.

In certain ways, educating the next generation is one of the most important parts of EPA’s entire mission. This year, we went to a few schools including Julia R. Masterman at 17th & Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia. Masterman is a public magnet school that includes both a middle school and a high school with young enthusiastic teachers, who continually use their science curriculum to talk about environmental issues.

Sometimes a short presentation on the class’s Smartboard about the history of EPA is offered, including old photos of the Cuyahoga River fire which happened way back in 1969. Or we talk about the first Earth Day in 1970, and how it led to the formation of the EPA. Other times, we change speeds a bit and do a simple chemistry experiment using red cabbage juice as a pH indicator. pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity and changes in pH can also affect the aquatic life in a stream.

For an experiment about pH, we use red cabbage juice because it changes colors quite dramatically when mixed with baking soda, vinegar or even tap water. Purple, dark green and light blue…even a bright yellow can easily be created with the right substance. Middle schoolers love looking at the different colors, and some are inspired them to ask us a few questions about the Schuylkill River or other water bodies in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Read about successful restoration of pH-impaired streams in the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

What are some of the lessons you’ve shared with young people about protecting the health of our streams and rivers? The future of our environment is in their hands.

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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Cuando vaya a la playa

Como con cualquier otro viaje, un día en la playa debe conllevar algún tipo de preparación y planificación. Mientras se da por sentado el llevar el traje de baño, también hay otras cosas que se deben o no deben llevar a la playa. ¿Qué debe aparecer en el listado de las cosas necesarias? Bueno, lo que definitivamente NO se debe llevar a la playa son cosas plásticas, especialmente bolsas plásticas. Aunque los materiales plásticos se utilizan comúnmente en muchos aspectos de nuestras vidas, lamentablemente también se han convertido en un componente importante de la basura marina. Desde las botellas de agua y refrescos a los vasos, utensilios, contenedores, envoltura, y mucho más, estos plásticos pueden ocasionar efectos adversos a nuestras playas y la vida marina. Con demasiada frecuencia, los mamíferos marinos, tortugas de mar y aves acuáticas se tragan estas bolsas plásticas con consecuencias nefastas.

Entonces, ¿qué sí se debe llevar en su excursión a la playa? Bueno, lleve bolsas de tela que se puedan reutilizar, así como botellas o contenedores reutilizables. Cuando esté en la playa, asegúrese de disponer adecuadamente de la basura.

Y, ¿cuáles son otros artículos imprescindibles cuando va a la playa? Bueno, sobre todo, debe tomar medidas preventivas para protegerse del sol. Asegúrese de usar crema con un factor de protección solar (SPF, por sus siglas en inglés) de al menos 15 y utilícela aún en los días nublados. También lleve gafas de sol y ropa protectora como sombreros de ala ancha, por ejemplo. Y en estos días de tecnología móvil, EPA ha lanzado una nueva aplicación móvil disponible para los llamados teléfonos inteligentes que le permite consultar el índice de rayos ultravioletas para su localidad cuando está de viaje! Sólo quería compartir algunos consejos para ayudarle a protegerse y proteger nuestro medioambiente.

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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