Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Game is ON! Can Your School Beat-out Climate Change?

By Felicia Chou

I couldn’t catch a football even if you handed it to me. But I can chug my energy drink, slather my face with war paint, and root for my team like there is no tomorrow. I can also help my school reign supreme in EPA’s Game Day Challenge, simply by cutting down on the waste that ends up in the trash at the game. From now until September 30, any college or university with a football team across the country can   register to battle it out both on and off the field. All they have to do is come up with an awesome recycling or waste-reducing plan, carry it out at a home football game in October, and keep tabs on the results.

I can see it now: Student organizations and volunteers out in throngs, collecting recyclables and food donations, all in the name of school spirit and environmental Touch Downs. It’ll be like one of those heart-warming, fist-pumping scenes from “Rudy,” except without the underdog, and it involves recycling. With less than half of the aluminum cans in this country getting recycled, and more than 97% of our leftover food going to the landfill, we could all use some environmental wins.

Schools can win in these categories:

  • least amount of waste generated per attendee
  • greatest greenhouse gas reductions
  • highest recycling rate
  • highest organics reduction rate (i.e., food donation and composting)
  • highest combined recycling and composting rate.

Winners will be crowned this November. Not only will the champion schools receive bragging rights for the rest of the year, they’ll be helping the environment, one recycled can or half-eaten hotdog at a time. And while I’m up in the bleachers, wearing my favorite jersey and proudly displaying my colors, I’ll be tweeting away (#gameday) on how I’m doing my part to help score against climate change.

To register for the Game Day Challenge

More information on the Game Day Challenge

More information on WasteWise program

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst at the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She enjoys long walks on the beach, photography, and getting into brawls with rival college football fans. Before joining EPA in 2008, Felicia worked as an Associate Producer at a local news station in upstate New York.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

How “green” Is Your Garden?

Rain GardenLike gardening?  Interested in attracting birds and butterflies?  Well, you can do all of this and help prevent stormwater from entering local streams.  By creating a rain garden, you can direct water from your downspouts to your garden and reduce your own water use as a bonus!
A rain garden is an attractive landscaped area with native plants that don’t mind a summer rain.  The rain garden is designed to naturally collect water that runs off your roof, driveway and other paved areas.  It is a sustainable and economic way of dealing with rainfall as nature intended.  Also, a rain garden slows down and reduces the volume of rainfall runoff before it enters the stormwater system. 
I’m inviting you to join the Mid-Atlantic National Estuary Program in their campaign, Rain Gardens for the Bays!  This unique campaign works closely with EPA Region 3, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Center for the Delaware Inland Bays, Maryland Coastal Bays, DE Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and other organizations, to green our neighborhoods and protect our streams and bays. 
By installing a rain garden, you are not only keeping rainwater on your property but you are saving time by lowering landscaping maintenance and doing your part to protect the environment at the same time.
Want double the water saving benefits? Connect a rain barrel to your downspout and use the collected water to keep your rain garden and other landscaping green and attractive to birds and bees.
For more information on how to create your very own rain garden visit Rain Gardens for the Bays

Have you installed a rain garden?  If so, tell us about your experience and register your rain garden here. Haven’t installed one yet?  Tell us why not, and if you would consider creating your very own rain garden.

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.

Informed Decisions Make Car Buying Greener

By Lina Younes

Not long ago, I was in the market for a new car.  As with any major purchase, I decided to do some research. I had three requirements for this new vehicle. I wanted it to meet the highest safety standards. I wanted it to get good mileage and not to break the bank in the process. At the time, I consulted some valuable resources online: www.safercar.gov, www.fueleconomy.gov , and EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide . In sum, I was successful in getting a fuel efficient car for my daughter.

Just this past week, EPA proposed new labels for fuel efficiency which will help consumers make informed decisions when purchasing a new vehicle. The proposed labels will appear on the window stickers on new vehicles on sale at dealerships around the country. These new labels are an improved design over the EPA label which has appeared on new vehicles for the past thirty years. They help consumers to compare the vehicles with similar vehicles in their class. These labels help consumers to compare vehicles not only for fuel efficiency, but for their environmental impact as well. What I found most interesting is that the proposed labels are equipped with a barcode used by many Smartphones which will allow consumers to access a web page with the fuel efficiency info for that vehicle. What’s really cool is that consumers at the dealership can input their personalized estimates based on their own driving habits and fuel costs. They will have better information at the time of purchasing the vehicle and they will be in a better position to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges, or so they say. A lot of what I was searching originally on the Web, will now be available in these new window stickers.

We are encouraging consumers to visit our website and compare proposed Label 1 and propose Label 2.  We want to hear from YOU! We are accepting comments in English and in Spanish. To submit comments as part of the rulemaking process, please send your emails to newlabels@epa.gov

We really want to hear from you! With your input, we can all help the American consumer to make the best decision regarding the environment and their personal transportation needs.

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 in Greenversations 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.


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.

Información ambiental enverdecerá la compra de su auto

Por Lina Younes

No hace tanto tiempo que yo estaba considerando comprar un auto nuevo.  Como se trataba de una compra importante, decidí investigar el asunto. Yo tenía tres requisitos para este nuevo vehículo. Quería que cumpliera con los estándares más altos de seguridad. Buscaba un vehículo eficiente en el uso de combustible y que no me costara un ojo de la cara. Consulté varios recursos cibernéticos como www.safercar.gov, www.fueleconomy.gov y la Guía de Vehículos Verdes de EPA. En fin de cuentas, pude encontrar un buen auto con eficiencia de combustible para mi hija.

Justo la semana pasada, EPA propuso nuevas etiquetas de eficiencia de combustible que ayudarán a los consumidores a tomar decisiones informadas al momento de comprar un nuevo vehículo. Las etiquetas propuestas aparecen como etiquetas adhesivas en las ventanas de los nuevos vehículos a la venta en los concesionarios de automóviles por todo el país. Estas nuevas etiquetas tienen un diseño mejorado de la etiqueta de EPA que ha aparecido en nuevos vehículos durante los últimos treinta años. Ayudarán a los consumidores a comparar los vehículos con aquellos vehículos similares dentro de su misma categoría. También ayudarán a los consumidores a comparar no tan solo la eficiencia energética sino también su impacto ambiental. Las propuestas etiquetas están equipadas con un código de barras usado por muchos teléfonos inteligentes que permitirán a los consumidores visitar una página Web con la información de eficiencia energética para dicho vehículo. Lo que me pareció realmente interesante de esta tecnología es que permitirá a los consumidores utilizar sus teléfonos mientras se encuentren en los concesionarios para adaptar sus estimados de eficiencia energética conforme a sus propios hábitos de conducir y sus costos de combustible. Así tendrán mejor información al momento de comprar su vehículo y estarán en mejor posición de comparar los elementos semejantes en vez de comparar “chinas con botellas” como decimos en Puerto Rico. Mucha de la información que yo buscaba originalmente vía el Internet ahora estará disponible en estas nuevas etiquetas.

Estamos alentando a los consumidores a visitar nuestro sitio Web y comparar la propuesta Etiqueta 1 y la propuesta Etiqueta 2. ¡Queremos escuchar lo que USTED piensa! Estamos aceptando comentarios en inglés y español. Puede enviarlos como parte del proceso reglamentario a la dirección newlabels@epa.gov

¡Realmente queremos saber lo que usted piensa sobre estas etiquetas! Con su insumo todos podemos ayudar a los consumidores estadounidenses a tomar mejores decisiones acerca del medio ambiente y sus necesidades de transporte personal.

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.

Nota del editor: Las opiniones expresadas en Greenversations son del autor del blog. No reflejan la política, respaldo, o acción de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés). EPA no verifica la exactitud ni la ciencia en el contenido del 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.

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: Breathing New Life into Air Quality Forecasting in Towns Big and Small

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

I’m from a small town in Colorado. Not much industry, not many people. It was great growing up with clean air, clear streams, corn fields, cows, and wide open skies.

Now I work at one of EPA’s greatest facilities with scientists who specialize in understanding air pollution exposure. Because of this, more than ever, I pay attention to air quality.

EPA’s commitment to clean air has resulted in many excellent modeling and analysis tools that can warn people about unhealthy air quality — including “Ozone Action Day” alerts. Some people get these warnings from newspapers or their local weather forecaster, or from AirNow — a web-based clearinghouse that offers daily air quality index forecasts for approximately 300 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas. The AirNow database was developed in 1998 by EPA, NOAA, Environment Canada, and the U.S. National Park Service along with state, local and tribal air agencies.

Growing up, the same person who presented the local weather forecast on the evening news also served as the agricultural reporter. She did her best with the available information, but was clearly more skilled in reporting on cows and corn than the weather.

But I’ve wondered — do small-town citizens routinely get accurate information about air quality from their local weather forecasters? Not sure.

But they could.

It’s available through the National Air Quality Forecast Guidance, a tool developed by EPA and NOAA scientists that generates air quality forecasts — for the entire country.

SWMAPEPA researcher Brian Eder, and colleagues recently evaluated the guidance to see if it was — or wasn’t — providing local ozone forecasts every bit as accurate as those provided by AirNow. The results: the guidance delivers!

Eder’s paper, “Using National Air Quality Forecast Guidance to develop local air quality index forecasts,” in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, explains how people who aren’t trained air quality forecasters can use the guidance to generate localized information that can help people make smarter health decisions regarding outdoor activities on high ozone days.

The economy is such that hiring a trained air quality forecaster probably isn’t on my town’s list of priorities. Nonetheless, I hope towns big and small will discover, and use the guidance to better serve their citizens and protect public health.

About the author: Robin Baily is a writer/editor at EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

The 12 Square Feet Classroom

Late summer has become my favorite time of year because of my small 4 x 3 foot backyard garden. This year, I harvested patty pan squash, hot peppers, and three kinds of tomatoes. There is no competition for me when it comes to my own homegrown foods versus the store varieties. It takes some effort o maintain this garden but it is worth it for me.

My garden planning starts in May. Each year the biology department at my school sells tiny little seedlings that are grown in the greenhouse over the winter. The weather in Chicago doesn’t allow me to plant these seedlings outside for another month, so I find a sunny window, water the seeds, and wait. Come June, I get a bag of mushroom compost and plant my little garden. I watch and wait throughout June, July, and the beginning of August…and then finally it’s time! The tomatoes turn red and the squash turn yellow and I get the pleasure of the harvest.

This backyard garden makes me feel like a kid. I experiment with the plants to find out what species work in my garden. I investigate different types of soil to use. I check in on the garden each day, to watch the plants grow, then flower, and finally produce fruit. It is my outdoor classroom, a place where I feel empowered. My garden keeps me engaged all summer long and allows me to combine my indoor computer research with learning in an outdoor classroom.

The backyard garden doesn’t just benefit me…my backyard garden, no matter how large or how small, teaches my family responsibility, discipline, and patience. It provides me a sense of accomplishment and independence. Finally, it teaches me about the natural environment…even it is only on 12 square feet of land.

About the author: Erin Jones is an Intern at EPA Region 5 in Chicago, IL

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.


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.

That’s My Daughter’s Radon Poster Design on the T-Shirt You’re Wearing!

I love T-shirts, but what I love even more is a T-shirt about radon, and what I love even more than that is seeing my daughter’s poster design about radon on a T-shirt. Each year, state radon programs have been supporting children, parents and teachers to do just that for the National Radon Poster Contest. The contest is cosponsored by EPA and Kansas State University. The contest is an artistic yet educational way to teach students about radon and its effects on our health. We all have much to learn about radon, and we can help spread awareness by wearing these unique T-shirts and pinning up those posters in our offices and buildings. Do you want to know how to get contest information?2010_participatingmap

The top three picks nationwide, their teacher or sponsor, and a parent or guardian win a trip to Washington D.C. The students will be honored in front of a huge crowd of supporters at the annual IAQ Tools for Schools Symposium held from January 13 to 15, 2011. I had the pleasure of attending the national award ceremony last year. As I watched the students walk up to the podium to receive their accolades, I remembered just how powerful and passionate a message becomes when we hear it from a child.

Check out past national winners and their posters in the below photo. Visit the website to see more winning posters, video and audio. Last year’s contest had submissions from 37 states totaling nearly 3,000 entries! That’s up more than 1,000 from the year before. Well done!poster-winners-2009_

Don’t think you’re getting off that easy because I have a challenge: Let’s get entries from all 50 states this year! Look at the map of the poster contest participation last year and let all our blog readers know when you challenge someone from one of those states in white to submit an entry. Come on Arkansas, Wyoming, Maine; I know you have at least one child age 9 to 14 who would love to take advantage of this huge opportunity to help save a life. Don’t let them miss it, and tell those kids to get their creativity on because the deadline is approaching – October 31. Some states have earlier deadlines, so check for additional information.

About the author: Jani Palmer is a Physical Scientist in the Indoor Environments Division. She has been in the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene field for 10 years providing environmental consulting and services for school districts, industry, and public agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Expedition Day 3: Did Someone Say “Oyster Spat?”

By Lisa McWhirter

I awoke to the 6 a.m. rally call on Saturday and quickly realized the long bike ride from the day before had taken its toll. It was the third day of the Expedition and barely awake, I tried to rationalize biking another 30 miles. As I took my first sip of French Press coffee (yum, my favorite) and saw the smiling faces of the Expedition team any doubts of the day’s success ahead faded instantly.

The plan for the day was a short bike ride to meet with St. Mary’s College professor Bob Paul, and then continue our ride to Point Lookout State Park for our final campsite.

Expedition-Day-3Thanks to fellow Team members Steve and Jeremy, I improved my gear shifting along the rolling hills of southern Maryland and felt great when we finished cycling to St. Mary’s College. What a beautiful campus; imagine having class right on the river! Professor Paul told us about the St. Mary’s River Project , a state and federal funded program that studies the water quality and ecological health of the St. Mary’s River and the Chesapeake Bay. We weren’t the only ones there to learn as it was a community service day for first-year students. They were there to plant spat (baby oysters) on protected oyster beds in the river close by. I was happy to let the kids shovel the dirty spat into the water, but really enjoyed learning why this is such an important project.

The goal is to build up the natural oyster beds. The Project team works with local homeowners to grow and monitor monthly the oyster spat for twelve months. The year old spat is collected and placed onto the oyster beds and the cycle is repeated each year. Oysters are extremely important to the Chesapeake Bay. They filter the water, removing excess nutrients as well as harmful toxins, and help maintain a healthy ecosystem. One mature oyster can filter 55 gallons of water each day. Just think how much water can be cleaned from a million strong oyster bed in a year!Expedition-Day-3-photo-2

As I said good-bye to Professor Paul, I wondered how this program could be expanded to other areas of the Bay. What’s the best way to get marinas and other homeowners involved to voluntarily grow oysters? We learned from our listening session the night before that “Chesapeake” is Algonquin where “chesa” means enormous size or quantity and “peake” means shell. I’d like to help return the bay back to its namesake and plant more oysters!

About the author: Lisa McWhirter works in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and specializes in the Underground Injection Control program. She enjoys fishing and kayaking in the Bay. The Expedition was her first triathlon, and she is excited to do it again!

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

A Back-to School Checklist for Indoor Air Quality?

It’s that time of year again and everyone can relate to the annual school supply checklist and the hours spent preparing for the upcoming school year. Binders – check. Pens – check. But, how many school staff, parents or students stop to think about whether the school they will return to is a healthy learning environment—free of indoor air quality (IAQ) issues?

TFS-logo.1

Before coming involved with EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program, little did I know that the everyday classroom environment can seriously affect student performance. Was that vanilla plug-in from my 7th grade math class a decoy to mask an odor problem, caused by poor ventilation? Did Fluffy the 3rd grade pet rabbit make my asthma worse?

While I can’t change the past conditions, I look forward to a future where all schools can effectively manage indoor air quality and maintain a healthy learning environment. With the help of the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit, school staff and parents can learned on how to improve indoor air problems at little-or no-cost through straightforward activities. Use this back-to-school checklist help you get started this school year:

  • Learn more about IAQ issues, related health effects, and how student performance is affected. Equip yourself with EPA’s free resources that can help you explain IAQ issues and discuss an indoor air quality management program other parents, community organizers, and your school community. Consider becoming a volunteer to help coordinate the effort.
  • Build momentum for a school environmental health project. With the help of IAQ Curricula, even students can learn about the indoor air environment and how it can affect concentration, attendance, and performance.
  • Help manage asthma in the school environment. Discover ways reduce student and staff exposure to asthma triggers in your school. If your child suffers from asthma, be sure to provide the school with a copy of your child’s asthma action plan.
  • Encourage your school to apply for an award. If your school or school district has implemented a successful IAQ program, learn more about the EPA Awards Program.

About the Author: Brandy Angell is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air’s Indoor Environments Division. She joined EPA in 2009 to focus on improving children’s health in the school environment and reducing the burden of asthma. Her work recently took on new importance with the impending arrival of a son in January 2011.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Not Quite Trading Cards

How much do you know about the Clean Water Act? Take the Quiz! By Trey Cody

I don’t know about you, but when I think of trading I think of cards, coins, stamps, and other collectable items. I’m here to tell you about a different kind of trading going on in our Mid-Atlantic Region. It’s called water quality trading. You might ask, “How can you trade the quality of your water?” Water quality trading programs are fairly new, and are being implemented throughout the United States under the Clean Water Act. How Water quality trading works is, within a watershed there are sources of pollution (in many cases treatment plants and industrial manufacturing plants). When one source has a greater pollutant reduction need than another, a trade can be made allowing both sources to achieve the best possible water quality goals set for their specific watershed.

In the Mid Atlantic Region, there are currently 4 established trading programs. These are:

  • The Pennsylvania Trading of Nutrient & Sediment Credits
  • The Maryland Nutrient Trading Program
  • The Virginia Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Credit Exchange
  • The West Virginia Potomac Water Quality Bank and Trade Program
  • These programs are put in place to control the pollutants nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment.

    What are the benefits of trading?

    1. Cost-effective way to reduce pollution without compromising environmental protection
    2. Faster way to achieve pollutant reductions
    3. Use of trading as a tool may enable a watershed to achieve its water quality goals

    So…What do you think are other potential benefits to such a program being created?

    Learn more about EPA’s policy in their first “how-to” manual on designing and implementing water quality trading programs, or Take the Fact or Fiction Quiz.

    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.