Monthly Archives: December 2010

¿Está listo para una tormenta de nieve?

Por Lina Younes

Afortunadamente los meteorólogos en el área metropolitana de Washington no han pronosticado ninguna tormenta de nieve en el futuro cercano por el momento. Sin embargo, muchos de los sobrevivientes de la Gran Tormenta del 2010, Snowgeddon 2010 como se llamaba en el lenguaje popular, como nosotros ya hemos empezado a discutir los preparativos para la siguiente tormenta de nieve de Norteamérica. No todos estamos de acuerdo, no obstante. Mi hija menor está rezando por otra tormenta de nieve para que se pueda quedar en casa y jugar en la nieve. Mientras tanto, mi esposo y yo estamos considerando los elementos positivos y negativos de invertir en una máquina quitanieves y/o un generador.

Durante el primer día de Snowgeddon 2010, nos quedamos sin electricidad por 15 horas.  Las ventanas Energy Star mantuvieron la temperatura en la casa relativamente estable por unas 12 horas. Cuando empezamos a sentir frío, encendimos la chimenea y nos sentamos a su alrededor para disfrutar de tiempo familiar. Mientras todavía tenemos la opción de una agradable chimenea, tenemos que asegurarnos de quemar la madera sabiamente.  El humo produce una combinación de gases y partículas finas al quemar la madera. Si usted usa calefacción a base de la quema de madera de manera inapropiada, estaría exponiendo a su familia a serios efectos de salud, especialmente si padece enfermedades respiratorias o del corazón.

Personalmente, estoy muy preocupada por el uso de generadores cerca de la casa. Estos enseres eléctricos que funcionan a base de combustible producen concentraciones peligrosas de monóxido de carbono en el aire interior. Aunque sé que tenemos que operar estos generadores fuera del hogar para evitar el envenenamiento por monóxido de carbono, la idea de tener ese escape de gas en las cercanías me da mucho miedo. A pesar que tenemos un detector de monóxido de carbono, no quisiera que mi familia se exponga a este tipo de gases.

Otra cosa que estamos debatiendo es el asunto de la máquina quitanieves. No fue divertido tener que apalear esas toneladas de nieve y todavía tenemos las “cicatrices de guerra” para demostrarlo. Sin embargo, el equipo que funciona a base de combustible como los quitanieves o generadores son fuentes de contaminación y eso es algo que quisiéramos prevenir. Lo único que me está motivando considerar esta importante adquisición es que si compramos la quitanieves sería probable que no vaya a nevar este invierno. Veremos. ¿Está preparado para la gran tormenta del 2011?

Más sobre Tormentas de nieve y hielo

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 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.

Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign

Rain Gardens for the Bays

Rain gardens are gaining steam and we wanted to make sure that everyone is getting on board! The Mid-Atlantic Region has an excellent site linking to numerous sources on green infrastructure also, read the earlier Rain Garden blog here and join us in the Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign to keep our waters healthy and protect our communities from flooding and polluted run-off during storms.  We encourage individuals, community groups, watershed associations, municipalities and others to design and build rain gardens in their community. 

The Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign is supported by the Mid-Atlantic National Estuary Programs, state and local partners. The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, the Center for the Inland Bays and the Maryland Coastal Bays are collaborating to encourage healthier bays by creating thousands of rain gardens in our backyards, school campuses, town halls, libraries, local businesses and on our corporate lands.

“Improving water quality of our bays and local waterways is among our highest priorities as a state,” said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. “Rain gardens are sustainable, affordable and particularly effective in capturing rain water, mitigating flooding, creating habitat for local species and reducing up to 80 percent of the pollutants in stormwater runoff.  By planting a rain garden, we can all make a difference in reducing pollution – one garden at a time.”

The Rain Garden for the Bays Campaign includes a new one-stop website, www.raingardensforthebays.org, with easy-to-use information and diagrams on how to design and build a rain garden.  Photos of rain gardens planted throughout the region are posted, and the site encourages the registration of new rain gardens as a way to measure the progress of the campaign. All new rain gardens registered on the website will receive a “Registered Rain Garden” sign to post at their 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.

Science Wednesday: Cleaner Cookstoves, Countless Benefits

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

By Becky Fried

Imagine a technology that can help mitigate the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

Now, imagine that that same technology can also reduce green house gas emissions globally, reduce the risk of violence and abuse of women in developing countries, slow the rate of deforestation, improve respiratory and lung health, and stimulate local economies. Imagine that the technology can reduce tribal conflicts and increase the ability of young girls to go to school.

Finally, imagine that it is cheap and easy to use.

The technology is a clean cookstove—a replacement for the traditional fuel wood, kerosene, or charcoal burning stoves that millions of women and girls in developing nations use every day in poorly ventilated homes.

In September of this year, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership aimed at bringing cleaner, more efficient stoves to 100 million homes in the developing world by 2020.

Last week, I traveled to Ethiopia with Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development at EPA to get an on-the-ground understanding of the importance of the cookstoves issue and to talk with the people whose lives are being impacted the most.

Some homes we visited had traditional wood-burning stoves. Others had cleaner stoves that ran on alternative fuels like ethanol. The differences were stark.

One mother, whose small one-room home housed a traditional fuel wood-burning stove complained that it was difficult to breathe. She lives there with her three children, under constant exposure to soot and smoke in a poorly ventilated room. The scene was typical of most households that rely on a fuel-wood burning stove for daily cooking needs.

We stopped to chat with another local woman whose small condominium contains a cleaner, stove that runs on ethanol. She admitted that since using the newer technology, her breathing has improved, her eyes have stopped stinging, and she has experienced significantly reduced symptoms of her primary health burden:HIV.

A cleaner cookstove is a sustainable solution to an integrated problem. It’s a simple, elegant way to make significant improvements across many sectors simultaneously: social, economic, environmental, and health. After witnessing cleaner cookstoves in action last week, the effort to implement sustainable appropriate technologies seems more important than ever.

About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer in 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.

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.

Hey Kids…Think Green For The Holidays!

By Wendy Dew

It’s about that time of year again when we are all making our wish lists for holiday presents. What if this year instead of wishing for things that are just for us…we wished for things that help the world around be a little bit greener? Imagine the difference we could make if we all greened up our holiday season. Here are some green tips for kids and families:

  • give a gift that is made of recycled or reused materials
  • decorate with recycled or reused materials
  • volunteer during the holidays
  • make home cooked meals and invite friends and neighbors over as a holiday gift
  • combine your holiday shopping trips to save on gas
  • wrap gifts in recycled or reused paper
  • send recycled-content greeting cards
  • buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays

This is my favorite time of year. Not because of gift giving, but because we get to slow down a little and spend time with friends and family (and eat yummy food!). Let’s all enjoy the holiday season in a simpler, greener fashion this year.

For more green holiday tips

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

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.

My EPA Experience

By Denise Owens

When I decided to apply for a job at EPA in 1984, I had no idea what I was in store for. It was the first agency to call me back for an interview. So I decided to take the interview. After being hired, I started working in the Public Affairs / Press Office. I actually started with the agency because it was a job.

I was unaware of how enthusiastic people were to learn about the environment. At this moment in my life the environment was not my top priority. But after speaking to several reporters and private citizens, calling into the office speaking about the environment this actually grabbed my attention. It was amazing to hear the different perspectives that were being said about the environment.

I experienced working with the Press Office when Chernobyl was going on; however this is when the environment became my environment. It completely got my attention and that’s when I decided I needed to get more involved with the environment.

As of today, I’m still working with the agency and it has become a significant part of my life. Earth Day and EPA@40 gives me a great feeling to know that EPA is doing an excellent job and I’m proud to be a part of EPA.

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 25 years.

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.

Taking Action on Radon in Your School District? No Better Time than the Present!

By Jani Palmer

Three months ago I blogged to parents and teachers about opportunities for kids to participate in a radon poster contest to get their design on a T-shirt to celebrate National Radon Action Month. Responses were abundant, and let me tell you the posters being voted on as I blog are phenomenal! A T-shirt is a great way to raise awareness about indoor air quality bu the best way to protect against radon is to test. I used to work on indoor air quality in a school district, so I know about the only time to get something substantial done is during holiday breaks. I know it crept up on us, but the holidays are here, so what better time to test your school for radon than right now?

Radon control is as integral to school health as other IAQ management activities and fits right in with your IAQ Tools for Schools management activities. About half of our nation’s schools are deploying these activities, providing healthier learning environments fo about 27 million students and 2.5 million staff. If your school doesn’t use the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, take a look at the graphic here from the kit that shows how an effective school IAQ program integrates planning, communicating and four other key drivers. Why not attend the 11th IAQ Tools for Schools National Symposium in January? Click here for information from the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit on how you can manage radon along with your other day-to-day IAQ duties.

Radon testing and mitigation don’t have to be scary topics, because radon is so easily identified and fixed. What is scary is that radon causes cancer. Testing is the only way to know if your building has radon, and knowing if your building has radon is the first step toward fixing it. Having trouble knowing where to start? Contact your state radon program for guidance through the process.

Across the country, school facilities staff are working hard to protect IAQ for students, teachers, and staff. If you know about a school district that’s doing a great job, be sure to congratulate them with a quick note below. Their dedication and perseverance to maintaining healthy building by fixing holes, changing ceiling tiles and testing rooms can make a huge difference in someone’s life, and for that, they deserve our thanks!

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.

Voices of EPA

By Lina Younes and Joanne Oxley

Joanne: I have always been a storyteller, much to my parents chagrin, and for the past 17 years I have been telling EPA’s story. This year, when we began to talk about ways to commemorate the 40th anniversary of EPA, my first thought was that we needed to provide a broader opportunity for EPA’s employees to tell their stories, and thus was born, the “Voices of EPA” project.

Lina: During the course of these 75-plus interviews, Joanne and I spoke with numerous colleagues from diverse backgrounds and expertise: scientists, lawyers, policy-makers, economists, enforcement agents, public affairs specialists, you name it, we interviewed them.

Joanne: It has been a true pleasure to be a part of capturing the stories from both Headquarters and our Regional Offices. There were several instances when I found myself choking up when I listened to the reasons why employees came to EPA, and why they have stayed. All spoke with passion about their dedication to the Agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

Lina: During the interviews I was struck by some of the common themes, such as:

  • Whether they were here at the very beginning or they just joined the agency this year—they all love their job.
  • They believe they are making a difference.
  • They share an enthusiasm that they are working for a greater good.
  • In the early years, the average age of the agency’s leadership was the early 30’s.
  • Many EPA workers started as interns or straight out of graduate school.
  • Science is at the root of the Agency’s decision-making process. Scientists and regulators work hand in hand.
  • Teamwork is an integral part of working at EPA.
  • Innovation and creativity are valued at EPA.

Joanne: When I reflect back on my own experience here at EPA and my legacy, one of my proudest accomplishments will have been part of this project where we have been able to share just some of the names and faces of EPA employees who work with dedication and pride to serve the American public.

Lina and Joanne: We plan to link to the compilation videos soon. So as we move on to the next 40 years, we would like to thank our colleagues for a job well done. Happy birthday, EPA, and may you celebrate many more.

About the authors: 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.

Joanne Oxley is the Communication Manager for EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management. She has been with the Agency for the past 16 years where she has provided a wide variety of communications support for both external and internal audiences, receiving numerous Gold and Silver medals for her work. She has a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Maryland.

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.

Voces de la EPA

Por Joanne Oxley y Lina Younes

Joanne: Siempre he sido una cuentista para el desconsuelo de mis padres. Por los pasados 17 años, he narrado la historia de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU., la EPA, por sus siglas en inglés. Este año, cuando estábamos conversando acerca de maneras para conmemorar el cuadragésimo aniversario de la agencia, mi primera ocurrencia fue que necesitábamos ofrecer una oportunidad más amplia a los empleados para contar acerca de sus experiencias, y así nació el proyecto “Voces de la EPA.”

Lina: Durante el curso de las más de 75 entrevistas realizadas, Joanne y yo hablamos con numerosos colegas acerca de su diversidad de orígenes y experiencias: científicos, abogados, formuladores de política pública, economistas, agentes de acatamiento, especialistas de relaciones públicas, todo tipo de empleado, los entrevistamos.

Joanne: Fue un verdadero placer poder capturar estas historias tanto del personal en las oficinas centrales como en las regionales. Hubo varias ocasiones en la cual se me aguaron los ojos cuando escuché las razones por la cuales los empleados vinieron a EPA o han decidido permanecer en la EPA. Todos hablaron con pasión acerca de su dedicación por la misión de la agencia de proteger la salud y el medio ambiente.

Lina: Durante las entrevistas, sobresalieron varios temas comunes tales como:

  • Independientemente si estaban aquí al comienzo o se unieron a la agencia este año—todos aman en trabajo que hacen.
  • Ellos consideran que están haciendo una diferencia.
  • Comparten un entusiasmo por estar trabajando por una causa mayor.
  • Al principio, la edad promedio del liderazgo de la agencia era de una treintena de años.
  • Muchos de los trabajadores comenzaron como becarios o justa al terminar la escuela graduada.
  • La ciencia es la base del proceso de toma de decisiones de la agencia. Científicos y reguladores trabajan mano a mano.
  • El trabajo en equipo es parte integral de EPA.
  • La innovación y la creatividad son valoradas en EPA.

Joanne: Cuando reflexiono acerca de mi experiencia aquí en EPA y mi legado, uno de mis logros más satisfactorios será el haber participado en este proyecto donde hemos podido compartir algunos de los nombres y rostros de los empleados que laboran con dedicación y orgullo para servir al público estadounidense.

Lina y Joanne: Esperamos tener un enlace para los videos recopilados pronto. Ahora que nos movemos hacia los próximos 40 años, quisiera dar las gracias a nuestros colegas por la gran labor realizada. Feliz aniversario, EPA, y que celebres muchos más.

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.

Happy 40th Birthday, EPA!

40 years of environmental protection

By Christina Catanese

Forty years ago today, on December 2, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded.

We’ve come a long way since the 1970s.  At that time, a mere 36% of rivers and lakes in America were suitable for fishing and swimming, but in 1998, nearly 62% of these waterways met these criteria.   Billions of pounds of pollutants have been removed from our waters, and more Americans now receive drinking water that meets health standards than ever before.

To learn about the environmental challenges and successes of the past 40 years in the United States, as well as vision and priorities for the next generation of environmental protection, visit the EPA@40 website.  The EPA Greenversations Blog also has more on the history of the EPA.

However, much work remains ahead to make our waters healthy.  What do you think should be the EPA’s priorities for the future?  You could help shape the next 40 years of environmental protection!

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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: The Future is Sustainability

By Paul Anastas

LPJ-at-NRCWow! November 30th was an amazing day for the EPA. Not only are we in the midst of commemorating four decades of accomplishments in protecting the health and the environment, but Administrator Jackson also made a landmark speech at the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Science on the future of the EPA. That future is sustainability. The Administrator laid out her vision to a packed house of luminaries from across the spectrum, from academia to industry, to environmental groups.

The speech launched a study being conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) to provide an operational framework for EPA to incorporate sustainability into all the work we do; all of our decisions and all of our actions. While the Administrator was clear to emphasize that dramatic change like this doesn’t occur overnight, she also made it clear that just as the risk paradigm before it, a sustainability framework can have impact everyday even as it is continually refined and honed. In the summer of next year (2011) the NRC report with all of its recommendations will be completed and ready for review by the Agency. What this means is that we will continue to move forward and progress beyond the problem-by-problem approach to environmental protection and recognize that all environmental issues are linked; climate to energy; energy to water; water to agriculture, etc. We know that systems problems call for systems solutions and this sustainability framework will help us more effectively and more potently accomplish our mission in the future.

The body of excellent work on sustainability science has been rapidly growing for over two decades. There is widespread recognition across the scientific community that sustainability, holistic thinking, and a systems approach to environmental protection are the only way forward. The study launched yesterday is the critical step that so many sustainability scientists have been waiting for.

So what does this mean for the work of EPA? It means that the excellent work that is already being done—the science, the research, the innovative thinking and technology development—will of course continue. But, our work will be revitalized by taking advantage of the new tools, perspectives and enhanced effectiveness that goes along with sustainability.

The response to the Administrator’s announcement was uniformly positive and enthusiastic. This positive energy will continue to grow as the power and potential of sustainability science is realized.

Yesterday was a tremendous day for sustainability. But what’s most exciting is that it was just the beginning.

About the Author: Paul Anastas is the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and is widely known as “The Father of Green Chemistry.”

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.