Monthly Archives: February 2011

Discover It, Share It and Pass It On: Nature – A Sense of Wonder

By Kathy Sykes

My own guiding purpose was to portray the subject of my sea profile with fidelity and understanding. All else was secondary. I did not stop to consider whether I was doing it scientifically or poetically; I was writing as the subject demanded.

These were the words stated by Rachel Carson during her acceptance speech for the National Book Award she received in March 1952, for her work The Sea Around Us. Carson was a pioneer of the environmental movement and an inspiration to generations of women and men who have grown to appreciate the natural world.

Rachel Carson was an inspiration to my mother, Marguerite, a chemist who was one of a few women who worked at USDA’s Forest Products Research Laboratory in Wisconsin. Prominent on mom’s bookshelf were a series of books by Carson: The Sea Around Us, Sense of Wonder, and Silent Spring.

Carson wrote eloquent, beautiful prose. What mom read, she wanted to share with her children and later her grandchildren. Growing up in Madison was fun filled with long walks to parks and lakes including the Arboretum, the duck pond, Cherokee Marsh, and Picnic Point.

Our summer vacations were spent hiking nature paths with waterfalls, fishing for trout, and skipping flat water- smoothed stones along the shores of Lake Superior or some other smaller northern Wisconsin lake. During these hikes, mom taught us to recognize the first flowers of spring–hepaticas, spring beauties and marsh marigolds. We could distinguish among the songs of the red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, bluejays and the whip-o-wills.

Rachel Carson’s last work A Sense of Wonder is the inspiration of the EPA’s Rachel Carson intergenerational contest. She wrote “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

Our contest is to continue in Rachel’s footsteps–to discover and rediscover with someone older or younger the joy and excitement of the world we live in and have nature serve as an inspiration for a creative work, a poem, an essay, a photo or even a dance.

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative and launched the Rachel Carson Contest in 2007.

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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What’s the Right Cleaner to Use?

By Denise Owens

While being off for the recent holiday, I had the opportunity to pick my grandson up from daycare. While packing him up to go home, I was told by his teacher that over 65% of the daycare had flu-like symptoms and kids were being sent home. Due to the fluctuating of the temperature, this situation was understandable.

The daycare provider said she has to sanitize the entire daycare facility to help stop the spreading of the flu. So I asked her what the sanitizing procedures were. She said that there are several cleaning items that can be used, but many are harmful to the children.

She said that they turn off their heating system and begin cleaning with bleach. I asked why not use a disinfectant spray, and she replied, “We wipe everything down with bleach and then we spray with disinfectant spray.” Once we finish spraying everything down, we then turn the heat off at night and open a few windows until the morning.”

The next morning, the staff return to the daycare earlier than normal to turn on the heat to prepare for the kids. Hopefully she has gotten rid of the majority of the germs within the building.

I never knew that bleach would be safe to use for disinfecting at a daycare. I always felt that bleach could be harmful for children because they are constantly putting toys into their mouths, but I guess she proved me wrong.

When you’re buying products, look for the label from EPA’s Safer Labeling Program – here’s the list of cleaners.

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.

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Electronics

By Lina Younes

At home, recharging our mobile phones, MP3 players, portable game systems, and digital cameras seems to be part of our family daily ritual. We usually charge them right before going to bed. But when you come to think about it, these electronics stay in their respective chargers for hours after being fully charged. What a waste of energy.

Did you know that on average these portable electronics consume about 4 percent of the electricity in the home? When you add other household appliances, all these products account for more than 15 percent of household energy use. Did you know that these small electronics and other consumer appliances continue to use energy even when they are turned off? So, what are some simple ways to save energy in the home?

  • Well for starters, unplugging chargers while not in use can go a long way to saving energy!
  • If you are not going to be using your computer for over 20 minutes, turn it off.
  • Plug computers and other electronics to power strips. Switch the power strip off when not in use.

Becoming aware of these so called energy vampires is a good start to saving energy. So, what have you been doing to reduce energy consumption? We would like to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. 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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Efectos electrónicos

Por Lina Younes

En el hogar, el proceso de recargar nuestros teléfonos celulares, MP3s, juegos electrónicos portátiles y cámaras digitales se ha convertido en un ritual cotidiano en nuestra familia. Normalmente cargamos estos efectos electrónicos justo antes de ir a dormir. Sin embargo, cuando lo pienso, muchos de estos efectos electrónicos se quedan en sus respectivos cargadores por horas después de quedar plenamente cargados. Qué desperdicio de energía.

¿Sabía que, en general, estos efectos electrónicos portátiles consumen aproximadamente el 4 por ciento de la energía eléctrica en el hogar?  Cuando añadimos otros enseres caseros, todos estos productos representan más del 15 por ciento del consumo de energía casero. ¿Sabía que muchos de estos pequeños efectos electrónicos y otros enseres continúan usando energía aún cuando están apagados? Entonces, ¿cuáles son algunos de los pasos sencillos que se pueden tomar en el hogar para ahorrar energía?

  • Para comenzar, el desenchufar los cargadores mientras no están en uso puede contribuir grandemente a ahorrar energía!
  • Si no va a usar su computadora por más de 20 minutos, apáguela.
  • Enchufe las computadoras y otros efectos electrónicos a adaptadores de enchufes múltiples cuando no estén en uso.

El tomar consciencia acerca de los llamados vampiros de energía es una buena manera de empezar a ahorrar energía. ¿Qué ha hecho últimamente para reducir su consumo de energía? Nos encantaría que compartiera sus ideas con nosotros.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. 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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The Sights and Scents of Spring – – The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show!

One of the many blooms you'll see in the EPA's Flower Show exhibit!During these last weeks of winter, many of us in the Mid-Atlantic region are starting to think about warmer weather, spring and gardening.  In an area recuperating from record snowstorms, cold temperatures, and icy highways, the Philadelphia International Flower Show is a much-anticipated reminder that Spring is just a few weeks away.   

Each year in early March, garden exhibitors from all over the world gather in Philadelphia for the Flower Show, transforming the floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center into a wonderland of gardens, plants, and floral designs. The spectacular display annually attracts more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world, making the Philadelphia International Flower Show the largest indoor flower exhibit in the world.  With its international appeal and audience, it is very fitting that the theme of the 2011 show is “Springtime in Paris.”

Since 1993, EPA has used this wonderful venue, which is only a few blocks from our Mid-Atlantic regional office to educate gardeners on techniques that protect the environment and at the same time create beautiful gardens.  Using native plants and recycled materials, the our flower show team of volunteers designs, constructs, and creates an exhibit that vividly demonstrates the beauty and practicality of native plants, sustainable water usage, and beneficial landscaping techniques.  While our exhibits always carry messages of sustainability, it is amazing to see a new and unique display each year conveying environmental messages in a special and beautiful way.  And judging by the thousands of people who view our exhibit and speak with our volunteers, the environmental values and practices we display are growing in popularity. 

In keeping with the show’s Parisian theme, the 2011 EPA exhibit is titled “Botanique Naturale” which loosely translates to “Natural Garden” and focuses on the importance of native plants, wetlands, and watersheds.  Visitors will see an exhibit which showcases the rich diversity of the native flora of wetlands and woodlands and depicts how people can use these plants to create a sustainable home garden.  Here’s a sneak preview of the plants we’ll be using in our exhibition!

If you’re in the area, stop by and see for yourself the beauty and environmental benefits of sustainable gardening.  The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show runs from Sunday, March 6th  through March 13th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia.  Whether you are an experienced gardener, an aspiring gardener, or just starting to get your hands dirty, there will be plenty to see, learn, and enjoy.  See you at the Flower Show!

 

 

About the Author – – -Bonnie Turner-Lomax came to EPA Region’s mid-Atlantic Region in 1987 and has held several positions throughout the Region.  She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Environmental Assessment & Innovation Division.

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: A Hedgehog was my ‘Sputnik Moment’

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

By Aaron Ferster

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the annual science fair at my daughter’s elementary school. I joined several hundred other proud parents in the loud, over-crowded gymnasium to bask in the collective genius of our children.

As I’ve come to expect, the projects were impressive. There were investigations exploring which substance—sand , salt, or flour—melted ice the fastest (it was salt); what kind of pet rodent could learn to negotiate a maze the fastest (a rat), and which paper towel absorbed the most water.

I finished checking the other presentations just in time to watch the judge interview my daughter about her own project: the self-anointing behavior of her pet hedgehog. For largely unknown reasons, hedgehogs sometimes contort backwards so they can reach the quills on their back and cover them with a coating of frothy saliva. Once you get past the yuck factor, it’s really quite fascinating.

My daughter put her hedgie in front of newspaper, a toy hedgehog, and a magazine to compare anointing responses. It anointed the most when confronted with newspaper, which it would bite and energetically chew up. There was no response at all at  the toy.

At the exact same time the elementary school students were showing off their experiments, some of my colleagues were preparing to share EPA research activities at a gathering of slightly older, more experienced scientists: the annual meeting of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AAAS meeting is just one of several gatherings where EPA scientists and science communicators go to share their work every year. For scientists, such events serve as important venues to share their latest findings, meet colleagues, and cultivate new research partnerships in support of EPA programs protecting human health and the environment.

Next month EPA scientists and their work will be prominently featured at the 5oth Anniversary celebration of the Society of  Toxicology. In April, EPA’s own Earth Day activities will include bringing college and university student teams together at the 8th Annual P3 Awards : A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet.

Whether it’s the scientific presentations presented by elementary school students or the world class scientists gathering at AAAS, there seems to be lots of enthusiasm for sharing science. I always look forward to the next event. And who knows, someday soon maybe I’ll learn more about why hedgehogs self anoint.

About the Author: Science-writer Aaron Ferster is the editor for Science Wednesdays and a frequent contributor.

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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Youth Driving Change

By Ameshia Cross

Recruiting people to do something isn’t easy, especially when those people aren’t even old enough to vote. Believe me; I tried it several times as a teen. I vividly remember supporting green technology and alternative fuel campaigns on my high school campus as well as making fliers to green my school. I even ran an SGA campaign that included a recycling drive and solar panel installation at a local youth center.

Throughout history youth movements have been known to change the pulse of nation and to drive people to participate in seeking change. Yet some say that youth today are not interested in their communities or knowledgeable of the issues. Teens from a small town in Texas are out to prove them wrong.
Students in Booker, Texas noticed the lack of concern towards the environment in their community and decided to do something about it. The Booker High School Environmental Science class devised a plan to increase awareness and community service in their hometown. The teens created fliers, recruited community leaders, and other students from across the city to create a recycling center. But they didn’t stop there.

After successfully completing the recycling center and leading campaigns across the city to make sure people knew what the center was for, why it was important, and how participation in recycling helps to sustain the environment for future generations, the Booker High teens petitioned for funding from their school district and neighbors to create a community garden on their high school campus. Students, teachers, and community members share in the maintenance of the garden and the vegetables that it provides.

Talk about taking initiative…these teens are on a roll and something tells me there is more to come.

About the author:  Ameshia Cross joined the EPA in December as a STEP intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago. She has worked for numerous community organizations, holds seats on youth education boards, and is active in politics. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis on environmental policy and legislation

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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Hoping for an Early Spring

By Lina Younes

When news reports across the United States announced that Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, did not see his shadow, I couldn’t have felt happier. Given the inclement weather we’ve had this winter, the mere thought that this ground hog was heralding an early spring, was music to my ears. Even though the ground hog’s predictions are not scientific, I’m sure there are many people across the country that want to cling to that positive thought even if for a brief moment.

In light of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions, I ventured to my back yard to see what I needed to do in preparation for spring. My garden’s situation is pretty dismal. A magnolia tree nearly broke in half due to heavy snow and ice. Several bushes will also require major pruning. However, before bringing out the shears or even thinking of adding any chemicals to the soil, I decided to do some research on greenscaping on our website and found an interesting seasonal planning calendar that gives some good pointers. I wanted to share it with you.

Springtime is one my favorite seasons. In the Washington, DC area we are fortunate to enjoy a wide variety of flowering trees and shrubs that usually make an early appearance once the temperatures start getting warmer. The beautiful cherry blossoms motivate tourists and residents alike to visit our parks and monuments during springtime. I think of it as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors after months of virtual hibernation.

Even though we’ve had unseasonably cold temperatures in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, when you put things in perspective, things around here haven’t been that bad in comparison the weather in neighboring states. So whether you have a green thumb or simply want to enjoy the outdoors, it doesn’t hurt to hope that the ground hog’s predictions will be right this time.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. 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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Anhelando la primavera

Por Lina Younes

Cuando surgieron los informes noticiosos a través de los Estados Unidos anunciando que la famosa marmota de Pensilvania, Punxsutawney Phil, no había visto su sombra, me sentí sumamente feliz. Con las inclemencias del tiempo del invierno, la simple idea de que esta marmota vaticinara una temprana primavera, me llenaban de emoción. Aunque las predicciones de la marmota no se basan en datos científicos, estoy segura que muchas personas en el país querían aferrarse a esta idea positiva aunque fuese por un breve momento.

En luz de las predicciones de Punxsutawney Phil, me aventuré a explorar mi patio para ver qué tenía que hacer en preparación para la primavera. Francamente, la situación en mi jardín deja mucho que desear. Un árbol de magnolias casi se partió por la mitad debido al peso de la nieve y el hielo. Algunos arbustos también van a requerir una buena poda. Sin embargo, antes de sacar las tijeras o pensar en echar sustancias químicas al terreno, decidí investigar más sobre la jardinería ecológica en nuestro sitio Web y encontré un interesante calendario para planificar actividades de jardinería conforme a las estaciones que da buenos consejos. Quisiera compartir la información con ustedes.

La primavera es una de mis temporadas favoritas. En el área de Washington, DC somos afortunados de poder disfrutar de una amplia variedad de árboles y arbustos que florecen tan pronto las temperaturas se tornan más calidad. Los bellos cerezos en flor motivan a turistas y a residentes por igual a visitar nuestros parques y monumentos durante la primavera. Creo que es una buena oportunidad para disfrutar del aire libre después de meses de haber prácticamente “invernado”.

Aún cuando hemos tenido temperaturas en el área metropolitana de Washington, DC mucho más frías que de costumbre, cuando se ponen las cosas en su justa perspectiva, aquí las cosas no han estado tan malas como el tiempo en los estados vecinos. Por lo tanto, independientemente si tiene habilidades para la jardinería o simplemente quiere disfrutar de las actividades al aire libre no nos hace daño soñar que los pronósticos de la marmota se conviertan en realidad.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. 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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Integrated Water Management = Greater Water Resources!

Learn more about the DRBF and water management in the Delaware River BasinBy Christina Catanese

How can what happens in the Catskill Mountains up in New York have an effect on the marine creatures down in the Delaware Bay, or the drinking water supply for people that live in Trenton or Philadelphia? It’s a watershed manager’s job to find out.

The Delaware River Basin is a great example of watershed management practices in action.  The nearly 13,000 square miles of land that drain to the Delaware River are rich and diverse.  In the Upper Delaware, the land is dominated by scenic, natural landscapes and forests, with  abundant recreational opportunities on and around the river.  As the river flows south, the basin is increasingly urbanized and the river is used more for industry and navigation.  Finally, the river becomes an estuary as it approaches the Atlantic Ocean, with wetlands and other unique habitats.  Along the way, over 15 million people use the basin for drinking water, including the water exported from the basin to the residents of New York City.  All told, a whopping 8.7 billion gallons of water from the Delaware River Basin are put to use every day.

Because of the various ways the Delaware River is used, the protection of this resource is managed differently in different areas of the basin based on local needs and priorities.  And yet, how the water (as well as land) is managed and used in one part of the basin will inevitably have an impact on other parts of the basin.  And since the river basin spans political boundaries (draining from parts of four states, 42 counties, and 838 municipalities), collaboration and holistic basin management is crucial.  Coordination is now more important than ever, as the basin faces ever-evolving challenges, including increasing populations and demand for water, increasingly urbanized areas, possible effects of climate change, and changes in industry and commerce.

For these reasons, the Delaware River Basin Forum is taking both a regional and a local approach – discussing basin-wide issues as well as local issues through the connection of the satellite locations.  Don’t forget that the forum is coming up on March 10!

These issues of integrated water management aren’t unique to the Delaware River Basin – any watershed approach must taken into account the many needs and uses of its waters in order to sustain its resources into the future.  While local specifics may differ, there are many common drivers of watershed planning, and any basin can benefit from a focus on the regional-local connectedness that the Delaware River Basin Forum seeks to do.  Government and non-government entities, as well as stakeholders like you, all have a crucial role to play in managing water resources in a sustainable way.  In the Mid-Atlantic Region, we’ve done a lot of this kind of work in the Chesapeake Bay and other, smaller watersheds, but there are many examples all over the country – like the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and Colorado River basin, just to name a few.

What are the most pressing water issues facing your area?  Can you think of ways that meeting the water needs of your local area might affect parts of the larger basin either upstream or downstream from where you are?

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.

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