Monthly Archives: December 2010

2010 Green Resolutions in Review

By Lina Younes

As the year comes to the end, many of us are starting to think about our New Year resolutions for 2011. However, I would like to do something different. I would like to see if I actually implemented some of the green goals that I set for myself in 2010.

I’ve been trying to incorporate green practices in my lifestyle for a long time. Recycling, saving energy, saving water, reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals, are some of these green habits. These have practically become second nature. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, one of the most difficult green practices for me has been in the area of waste reduction. That’s why earlier in the year, I targeted disposable plastic bags in my daughter’s lunchbox. I have purchased reusable food containers to pack her lunch AND I have been using them daily. In fact, I went for almost 10 months without having any disposable food bags at home at all. I succumbed to buying some right before Thanksgiving and I’m still feeling guilty about it, but at least I still am using the reusable containers for her lunch. So, I’m proud that to say that specific resolution is one of the longest I’ve every kept ever!

So, as we are looking to the New Year, let’s consider going greener. There are simple things you can do every week for the environment. We have helpful tips.  They are easy and you can take action right now.

What am I going to do for 2011? Well, I am going to continue working on waste reduction, my biggest challenge. I’m also going to tackle saving water as well. Shorter showers will be a good first step. Encouraging my children to embrace green practices will be my goal. We’re all in this together now and for generations to come.

May you have a healthy New Year. We would love to hear about your green resolutions for 2011.

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.

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Retrospectiva de las resoluciones verdes del 2010

Por Lina Younes

Con la despedida del año, muchos estamos pensando en nuestras resoluciones para el 2011. Sin embargo, quisiera hacer algo diferente. Quisiera ver si realmente implementé algunas de las metas verdes que me fijé en el 2010.

He tratado de incorporar prácticas favorables al medio ambiente en mi diario vivir desde hace mucho tiempo. El reciclar, ahorrar energía, conservar agua, reducir el uso de pesticidas y sustancias químicas son tan sólo algunos de estos hábitos verdes. Y ya practico muchos de estos buenos hábitos con toda naturalidad. Como he mencionado en blogs anteriores, una de las prácticas verdes que se me ha hecho más difícil ha sido en el área de la reducción de desechos. Por eso, a principios del año, me propuse eliminar muchas de las bolsitas plásticas desechables cuando preparaba el almuerzo que mi hija menor llevaría a la escuela. Compré envases reutilizables para alimentos para que llevara su almuerzo Y los utilizaba diariamente. En efecto, durante casi diez meses no compré las bolsitas plásticas desechables para alimentos en lo absoluto. Sin embargo, sucumbí a la tentación poco antes del Día de Acción de Gracias y me he sentido culpable desde entonces. Al menos he seguido utilizando estos envases reutilizables para que ella llevara su almuerzo. Admito que me he sentido muy orgullosa al poder decir que esa resolución en particular ha sido la que he cumplido por más tiempo desde que comenzara a hacer resoluciones.

Por ende, al mirar hacia el nuevo año, consideremos adoptar prácticas aún más favorables para el medio ambiente. Hay cosas sencillas que usted puede hacer semanalmente en favor del medio ambiente. Tenemos varios consejos útiles y sencillos. Si quiere puede tomar acción ahora mismo

¿Qué haré para el 2011? Bueno, continuaré trabajando para reducir los desechos, mi reto mayor. También me esforzaré por ahorrar más agua. Puedo empezar tomando duchas más cortas. El alentar a mis hijas a adoptar prácticas más verdes será una de mis nuevas metas. Todos debemos trabajar juntos ahora y para las generaciones venideras.

Que tengan un año nuevo saludable. Nos encantaría escuchar acerca de sus resoluciones verdes para el 2011. Saludos.

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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2011 Resolutions for a Better You, a Better World

By Jeanethe Falvey

I realize that it’s past Thanksgiving, but I’m still thankful, thankful for the New Year holiday and the recent New England weather that’s forcing us to chill out. With the increasing pace of modern life, would we find time otherwise for a self check-in?

When planning your New Year, consider that healthy resolutions easily partner with helping the environment. If we all make one change in 2011, it should be to simply think about the impacts our choices have.

Get Inspired: Get outside and find your environment; a place to help protect for the future, just like someone did for you.

Decide to Act: Simply thinking about your purchases and where they came from is the right start. Our actions and our choices generate a domino effect beyond what we see, so make choices for a positive one.

Share and Maintain: Talk to friends and family, learn from others and keep it up! Simply talking about the environment spreads awareness; you never know who else you’ll inspire!

5 Simple Ideas to Improve Your Day, Your Environment

  • Think about your water and where your drain drains! Water Choices #2 & #3 Keep water clean by using biodegradable products, and remember don’t flush medications!
  • Learn about local food and produce, challenge yourself to a weekly recipe with a locally grown or organic ingredient. Air Choice #4 Buy locally, or grow your own. Reduce air pollution caused by food and goods transport.
  • Exercise goals can cut back on car exhaust. Go car-free or consolidate errands with friends. Air Choice #1 Use human power to get from A to B!
  • Lift at the gym, and keep our landfills slim and trim. Waste Choices #3 & #6 Cut back on your trash by recycling and buying items in less packaging to begin with. Learn about your recycling options in your city or town. If we counted our garbage like we count calories, would things be different? Label your trash bin “landfill” if you need a reminder!
  • Most importantly, talk to others. Compare ideas and involve kids, there’s no better way to get inspired. Advocacy Choice #9.

Find more ideas and talk with others about your Pick 5 New Years Resolution!

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey works on the Pick 5 International program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from Boston, Massachusetts.

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.

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Science Wednesday: From Policeman to Risk Assessor to Innovator: Sustainability at EPA

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

By Dr. Alan D. Hecht

On November 30, 2010 EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that on the occasion of EPA’s 40th anniversary the Agency was asking the National Research Council to conduct a study on how to make the concept of sustainability operational at EPA.

The Administrator’s briefing was an historic event aimed at laying the groundwork for a new approach to environmental management aimed at better addressing problems of the 21st century.

Listening to the Administrator’s announcement, I thought of EPA’s history and how its role has evolved from policeman, to risk assessor and potentially now to environmental innovator.

After EPA was first created in 1970 it quickly became the federal government’s chief watchdog against environmental pollution. In those early days the nation’s major environmental challenges – largely related to poor industrial practices and inadequate occupational safety – were highly visible and often not difficult to understand. Federal legislation addressed obvious causes of pollution and water contamination, enacting specific laws to achieve cleaner land, air and water.

Complementing and moving beyond its role as a watchdog, EPA soon began to use risk assessment and risk management as an overall framework for Agency decisions.    The value of risk assessment and management was given a big boost in 1983 when the National Research Council published Risk Assessment in the Federal Government: Managing the Process. The report helped advance risk assessment and management in EPA programs.

Today however, the scientific and environmental communities are recognizing that risk assessment and risk management must be complemented by an emphasis on sustainable approaches and solutions to environmental problems.

Sustainability science takes into account that no problem the Agency faces narrowly affects only air or water or land. It tells us that we need a far more integrated approach using new tools and metrics to implement EPA actions and to achieve our mission. It also underlines that we must attract a new generation of scientists and scholars who can be innovative in addressing complex problems.

Administrator Jackson is mandating each of us to address, under new conditions, the challenge that former Administrator Bill Reilly clearly articulated in 1995: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is at its best when it views its role as not just custodial but as cutting-edge, providing leadership and prescribing answers to key environmental problems.”

Sustainability science can help us and the Agency be at our best.

About the Author: Dr. Alan D. Hecht is Director for Sustainable Development in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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.

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How We Make Decisions….

By Amanda Sweda

A while back I wrote about my decision to stop using water bottles (Some Habits are Easy to Change and Breaking Old Habits). Some people commented asking why do people even use water bottles. Obviously I can’t speak for other people but those comments got me thinking about the environmental decisions we make. How do we decide anything really?

When my daughter started crawling early this year, I made a list of what rooms in our home needed babyproofing. Right away the cabinet under the kitchen sink was one of my highest priorities.  So I started to organize under the my kitchen sink and I found over 10 different cleaning products that I was going to have to make sure my baby doesn’t get into – something to clean the floor, the oven, the windows, the counter, etc.  I thought to myself…do I really need all of this stuff? Aren’t there cleaning products that are multi-purpose?  Safer? “Greener”?  Can’t I get the number from 10 to something more manageable?

I really thought about what I spent my time cleaning in the kitchen and what was important to me. With a child in the house I want cleaning products that work and are safer health-wise but don’t have a huge list of things I have never heard of…so I decided to go green.  I went to the store and found green cleaning products and decided that I really only needed four for the kitchen on a regular basis – a multipurpose spray cleaner, floor cleaner, dishwashing soap for the sink, and dishwashing detergent.

After I made this decision to go green with my cleaning, I found out about a program at EPA – Design for the Environment (DfE). Turns out DfE is a partnership program geared exactly towards what I cared about – cleaning products that are effective and protective of health and the environment.  Turns out almost every single product I bought has the DfE label and has undergone rigorous criteria to be in the program!  Since tackling the kitchen, I have done the same thing for the cleaning products in the bathroom and other rooms in our home. When my daughter gets older she will have chores and household responsibilities…maybe she will help me decide on which green cleaner to purchase…with the DfE label of course!

About the author: Amanda Sweda works in EPA’s Office of Environmental Information on web related policies and serves on the Environmental Education Web Workgroup. Amanda is a former Social Studies and Deaf Education teacher and her husband is a 3rd grade teacher so education is an important topic in their home.

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.

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Now If Only It Could Cook, Too?

By Lina Younes

I’ve been looking at ads for new cell phones lately. Our family cell phone plan is up for renewal, so now is a good time to see what all these communication gadgets have to offer. In our family discussions, we are exploring our telephone needs and new options while staying on a reasonable budget. Do we want just a basic phone plan? How much texting do we need? Do we need the latest version of smart phones? Do we need a super camera? Are we looking for great graphics capabilities? Bluetooth capability? How many hours of talk time before recharging? How about all those mobile apps?

It’s funny how our mobile needs have changed over the years. I remember the first mobile phones were pretty big and clunky. The best thing about those first wireless devices was to be able to reach family and friends from any location, especially in an emergency. With time, mobile phones have become much smaller and have acquired multiple features that were impossible just a few years back. Yes, thanks to all communications engineers for developing this mobile technology.

As I look at all these cool apps available today, I would like to highlight EPA’s green mobile features. Please check out our mobile site for information on EPA’s news, connecting to EPA’s social media sites, our environmental tips, and special apps that can help you check out the daily forecast for the UV index and learn about the environment in your area. I find it amusing how my youngest discusses mobile apps as if they always existed. I still marvel at the technology. They seem to do everything under the sun. Now if they could only cook, I might consider getting the most advanced smart phone!

If you decide to purchase new cell phones during this holiday season, don’t forget to recycle your old ones! We definitely want to keep usable materials out of landfills and turn them into new products. There might be a local cell phone drop off center near you. Check out our recycling video for some green fun and more information on ecycling.

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.

¡Si tan sólo pudiera cocinar!

Por Lina Younes

Últimamente he estado viendo los anuncios sobre nuevos teléfonos celulares. Nuestro plan familiar vencerá pronto y tenemos que renovarlo. Por ende, ahora es un buen momento para explorar los nuevos teléfonos móviles en el mercado. Como parte de nuestras discusiones familiares, estamos explorando cuáles son nuestras necesidades telefónicas y las nuevas opciones disponibles dentro de un presupuesto razonable. ¿Sólo queremos el plan básico? ¿Enviaremos muchos mensajes de texto? ¿Necesitamos el último modelo de los llamados teléfonos inteligentes? ¿Necesitamos una súper cámara? ¿Buscamos teléfonos con opciones gráficas? ¿Capacidad de Bluetooth? ¿Cuántas horas dura la batería? ¿Qué opciones móviles trae?

Mientras consideramos las aplicaciones móviles disponibles en el mercado, quisiera destacar alguna de las opciones móviles verdes de EPA. Visite nuestro sitio móvil http://m.epa.gov/ para información sobre las noticias de EPA, cómo conectarse a los medios sociales de EPA, nuestros consejos ambientales y otras aplicaciones ambientales en http://m.epa.gov/apps/ que pueden ayudarle para pronosticar el índice de rayos UV y aprender acerca del medio ambiente en su área. Me divierte ver cómo mi hija menor habla acerca de aplicaciones móviles con la mayor naturalidad como si siempre hubiesen existido. Yo me maravillo de toda esta tecnología. Parece hacer de todo. Ahora, si tan sólo pudieran cocinar, ¡consideraría comprar uno de los teléfonos inteligentes más avanzados!

Si decide comprar un teléfono celular nuevo durante esta época, no se olvide de reciclar su teléfono viejo! [http://www.epa.gov/wastes/partnerships/plugin/cellphone/spanish/index.htm] Queremos evitar que los materiales utilizables terminen en los vertederos. Queremos convertirlos en nuevos productos útiles. Podría haber un centro de acopio para celulares cerca de usted. Consulte nuestro video sobre reciclaje [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G6RjMHKpsg ] para algunos consejos divertidos verdes y más información sobre el reciclaje electrónico.

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.

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: Season’s Greetings for the Eclipse

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

By Aaron Ferster

While yesterday was the solstice and the “official” start of winter, it’s been feeling like the season got an early start around the Washington, DC area this year. It’s been cold.

I don’t think it got much above 25 degree the night before last in my neighborhood. So naturally, sometime just before 2:00 a.m., my wife and I roused our two daughters out from beneath their covers and marched them outside into the frigid night air.

Time to watch the moon disappear.

No one complained. We watched wide-awake as the stunning bright yellow of a giant full moon slowly gave way. First just a small slice of the Cheshire-cat-like moon slipped away. Then, as the sliver of darkness advanced, a brownish red hue spread across what was left of the moon. A holiday light show in the night sky. Slowly and steadily, light gave way to shadow.

As we stood outside all bundled up, we chatted about the spectacle that was unfolding, and how long it’s been since there was a full lunar eclipse this close to the winter solstice. (1638 was the last time, according to an expert cited in The Washington Post.)

There were more than a few bleary-eyed people on the train platform the next morning, and my daughter reports that nearly every kid in her class rose their hand when the teacher asked who woke up to watch the moon disappear.

There is something universally appealing about watching such a natural spectacle. I like to believe that the lunar eclipse is, in essence, a science story. It was another opportunity to get outside and note how science and the environment unite us by peaking our interest and giving us a common story to share with our kids, neighbors, and coworkers.

Were you one of the many people watching the lunar eclipse the other night? What other science and environmental stories do you think you’ll remember from 2010?

Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

And happy holidays!

About the author: A dedicated night-owl, Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the editor or Science Wednesday.

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.

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Get Smart on Climate Change

By Erin Jones

One of the first tasks I was given when I began my internship in environmental education at EPA in Region 5 was to create a poster to help students better understand climate change.

I began to think about keywords associated with this phenomenon like glaciers, sea level, the Arctic, carbon dioxide, emissions, and greenhouse effect and then asked myself…how do all of these things relate to climate change? It’s hard…understanding climate change is a challenging thing.

Here in Chicago, there are exhibits on climate change at both the Museum of Science and Industry (until January 2011) and the Field Museum (ended in November 2010) that are designed to help the public better understand this challenging concept. Visiting these two exhibits forced me to think about climate change in different ways. Ultimately, understanding climate change is important because understanding empowers us with knowledge to take action against climate change.

Visiting a museum near you with an exhibit on climate change is a great way to get educated. Also, searching the internet will help too. If you are unable to visit a museum, we recently created a poster that we think will help.

The front of the poster showcases the winning artwork from the 2010 Climate Change Art Challenge that was open to students in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The contestants had to answer the question, “What is Climate Change?” The poster also includes information on the effects of climate change, climate change vocabulary, actions you can take against climate change, and some activities that should help you understand this tough concept. The poster and attachments can be found online.

Whether you visit a museum, search the internet, or use this poster—make a move and get smart on climate change.

About the author: Erin Jones recently completed an internship at EPA’s Region 5 office. She hopes to complete Master’s in Geography & Environmental Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL this spring and pursue a career in environmental evaluation and protection.

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.