Monthly Archives: March 2011

Tomorrow’s Women in Science

By Lina Younes

This past weekend I took my youngest daughter to the Girl Scout Day at the National Air and Space Museum. Girl Scout troops from Virginia and neighboring states went to the Steven F. Uvar-Hazy Center to participate in the day’s events in celebration of Women’s History Month.

There were a variety of hands-on science and art activities among the museum’s exhibits. Some focused on physics, aerodynamics, astronomy, and basic computer programming among others science disciplines. We saw a demonstration on the effects of the lack of pressure in space using a marshmallow. It was interesting. The girls seemed fascinated by the experiment. We even had the opportunity to fly a plane! Well, not exactly. We flew and attempted to land a plane using a flight simulator. We were not that successful in the landing, though. Wish the line had not been so long so that we could have tried multiple times to get it right. It was fun!

While at the museum, we also browsed the collection dedicated to space exploration. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of the major objects on display. I looked in awe at the exhibits and space artifacts showcasing our role in space exploration. I was slightly saddened by the fact that many of the young girls there really couldn’t appreciate all the technological advancements resulting from the Apollo and Shuttle programs. They will only read about it in history books or view old video footage. I still remember watching the first lunar landing.  Don’t think today’s youth can grasp the magnitude of those achievements by just reading about it. It’s just not the same.

While we were at the museum, I overheard two of the older girl scouts volunteers talking about their college choices. One had just received several college acceptance letters to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. Who knows, maybe among those young girls attending the Women’s History Month events there will be a future astronaut like Sally Ride.  How about a future environmentalist like Rachel Carlson?  Looking forward to the future. As always, would love 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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Las mujeres en ciencias del mañana

Por Lina Younes

La semana pasada lleve mi hija menor al día de las Girl Scouts en el Museo Nacional del Aire y del Espacio. Tropas de Girl Scouts de Virginia y estados vecinos fueron al Centro de Steven F. Uvar-Hazy para participar en los eventos del día en celebración del Mes de la Mujer.

Había una variedad de actividades educativas de ciencia y arte entre las exhibiciones del museo. Algunas se enfocaban en la física, la aerodinámica, la astronomía, la informática básica y otras disciplinas científicas. Vimos una demostración sobre los efectos de la falta de presión en el espacio utilizando un malvavisco. Fue interesante. Las niñas estaban fascinadas con el experimento. ¡Hasta tuvimos la oportunidad de volar un avión! Bueno, no exactamente. Volamos e intentamos aterrizar un avión utilizando un simulador de vuelos. Tengo que admitir que no fuimos muy exitosas al aterrizaje. Fue una pena que la fila era demasiado larga lo cual nos disuadió de volver intentarlo múltiples veces hasta aterrizar correctamente. Además, nos divertimos en el proceso.

En el museo, visitamos la colección dedicada a la exploración espacial. El trasbordador espacial Enterprise era uno de los elementos claves de la colección. Mire con asombro todos aquellas exhibiciones y artefactos espaciales que destacaban el papel que desempeñamos en la exploración espacial. Sin embargo, me entristeció el hecho de que muchas de aquellas niñas no podrían realmente apreciar todos los avances tecnológicos que resultaron de los programas espaciales del Apollo y el transbordador espacial. Sólo podrán aprender sobre el tema leyendo libros de historia o viendo viejas grabaciones en video. Todavía me acuerdo del primer alunizaje.  No creo que la juventud de hoy pueda captar la magnitud de dichos logros tan sólo leyendo sobre ellos. No es igual.

Mientras estábamos en el museo, escuché dos de las voluntarias de Girl Scouts hablando sobre la universidad. Una de ellas acababa de recibir varias cartas de aceptación a universidades para estudiar ingeniería aeroespacial. ¿Quién sabe, si acaso entre aquellas niñas que participaron en los eventos del Mes de la Mujer habría una futra astronauta como Sally Ride?  ¿Alguna de ella se convertiría en una futura ambientalista como Rachel Carlson?  El futuro será esperanzador. Como siempre, me encantaría escuchar sus comentarios.

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 Keystone State’s Sustainable Sports

Click here to visit the Eagles Green website! By Trey Cody

Soon the Eagles won’t be the only thing green in the City of Brotherly Love. The Lincoln Financial Field, or “Linc,” which is home to the popular football team the Philadelphia Eagles, plans to go green as well. This massive stadium is making a pledge to become “the most sustainable major sports stadium in the world.” Yes that’s right, not only in the Mid-Atlantic States or the United States, but the world.  How are they doing this?  Their plans include adding to an already established composting program, which captures more than 25 tons of organic waste and a water conservation program that replaced more than 600 toilets. The Eagles organization will also install wind turbines and solar panels, converting the stadium to renewable energy.  In other Philadelphia sports, the Phillies are trying to become as green as their mascot (the Philly Phanatic) with their Red Goes Green campaign launched in 2008 to reduce their environmental footprint.

On the other side of the state, Pittsburgh sports teams have been working hard to give the Eagles some competition and become a black, gold AND green city. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ brand new hockey arena, the CONSOL Energy Center, became the first LEED Gold Certified arena in the National Hockey League when it opened this year. Some of the arena’s environmentally friendly features include green space around the arena, locally bought and recycled construction materials, purchased electricity from renewable resources, water use reduction, indoor air quality, and natural light.  Now that the arena is up and running, the greening continues with the use of green cleaning materials, biodegradable utensils, and the donation of prepared but unsold concession food to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  The Penguins also partnered with the Steelers to increase recycling from tailgating outside Heinz Field.  For the last three football games of the regular season, teams of volunteers circulated in parking lots prior to the game and collected 90,000 aluminum cans, 5,000 glass bottles, 36,000 plastic bottles and cups, and 900 pounds of cardboard to be recycled.  An estimated 4,000-5,000 additional pounds of materials were estimated to have been collected for recycling in the parking lot before the Winter Classic hockey game on New Year’s Day at the stadium.

As you can see in our previous blog about the Washington Nationals’ ballpark, “The field isn’t the only thing green at the Nationals’ Stadium,” major sports teams outside of Pennsylvania have also joined the cause, and our own Mid-Atlantic region has been helping lead the way.  Let’s hope that this growing trend of sustainability in sports continues!

Want to make your home more sustainable like the Linc and CEC?  Need somewhere to start?  Try replacing your toilets; you could save up to 11 gallons per toilet everyday!  To learn more, check out EPA’s WaterSense site. Comment below on some ways you are saving water!

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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Women In Science: Women’s History Month – New Generation, New Innovation

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

By Lyndee Collins

In honor of Women’s History Month, I felt it was appropriate to honor a woman who is a distinguished innovator and inspiration to students like me. Last Monday, I had the honor to speak with Amy Mueller, co-founder of STG International and 2008 EPA People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Award winner, where we discussed her recent achievements, her P3 experience, and her life as a young scientist and entrepreneur.

In the 2008 P3 competition, Mueller and her team introduced the Solar Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), a system combining mirrored solar panels and an engine that converts the collected heat to electricity. The system is both affordable and a sustainable alternative to the common diesel generator. The design requires only readily-available, low-cost parts, such as those used in the air conditioning industry, making it ideal for encouraging development in difficult economies.

Though Ms Mueller and her team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) continue to refine their design, their idea has already changed. Since 2006, Ms Mueller and her team have installed and tested several generations of prototype systems across Lesotho, Africa, where they have trained local partners in the design and construction of their system. Their most recent prototype, installed at a clinic in the Berea district, provides larger quantities of electricity and water to meet the needs of the medical staff as they serve 50-80 patients per day.

Ms. Mueller loves that her education has provided her the opportunity to help others. She views science and engineering as powerful tools for making a difference in the world. Her advice for young women interested in science is to be interdisciplinary – learn about multiple fields of science to help you work better in a team on big projects – and try to find an inspiring mentor who can give you support and advice.

After speaking with Ms Mueller, I am particularly looking forward to this year’s P3 competition, April 15 – 17 on the National Mall. The event will take place during the EPA Earth Day celebration, where 55 new teams will compete for P3 Awards just as Amy did three years ago. The public is invited to engage the student teams, hear about their exciting research, and meet the latest generation of women out to change the world.

About the Author: Lyndee Collins is an undergraduate intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team 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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Oysters and Teens: Today New York, Tomorrow, The World!

By Terry Ippolito

I have lived in New York City all my life and I’ve always known that the clams and oysters I sometimes see washing up at the beach should not be eaten. But that is starting to change! Someday you won’t have to imagine oysters growing and thriving in the harbor, because the oysters are getting help from students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School.

But, why are healthy oysters important in New York Harbor? They are pretty amazing creatures that help clean the water (they filter it while feeding) and they increase the diversity of the ecosystem. Oysters attract other living things, which take up residence on the oyster beds or feed on smaller animals that gather there.

And who are these high school students working with the oysters? They are Harbor School students and what they are doing is pretty remarkable. When you hear and see them talk about this project, you can tell they are really into it. Their high school, a New York City public school, is located on Governors Island in New York Harbor. Students are an important part of the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Harbor School teachers and students run the aquaculture lab and oyster nursery facility. The school’s SCUBA team takes part in reef installation work and performs data collection activities. Aquaculture, which involves breeding and harvesting oysters, is performed by students on the Governors Island Eco-dock. Students in the Advanced Vessel Operations Class serve as the crew on the boats involved in some of the dives.  This is the first project at Harbor School involving three Career and Tech Education classes (Aqua, SCUBA and Vessel Ops).

It is serious and exciting work. Students find themselves meeting challenges they never thought they would encounter. Like diving into cold harbor waters, in SCUBA gear of course, on a cold autumn morning. “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”, say many Harbor School students to sum up their take on that challenge.

This project has also inspired students. Alpha Francois, a senior at Harbor School, and a Wheaton College Posse Scholar, sums it up: “Oyster Restoration Research Project made me feel like I pioneered a powerful movement to change New York City, then change the world.” Watch out, world, these teens will make a difference!

About the author: Terry Ippolito has worked at EPA for 22 years. She is an Environmental Education Coordinator and is a former science educator. When she was 10 years old, Terry organized the kids on her block to do a clean up thus setting the stage for an interest in community and the environment. She lives in New York City and is still picking up litter on her way to the train in the morning.

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.

Women in Science: Learning the Science to Protect the Planet

By Mary Wigginton

Right now, Cynthia Nolt-Helms is up to her blue eyes in the never ending roll of logistic details needed to run EPA’s annual P3 Award, a college competition for sustainability.

With her team, Cynthia produces EPA’s Earth Day event on the National Mall in Washington, DC. But tents, tables and talking points are not the usual stuff of scientific pursuits, so you have to wonder. What is a nice, environmental toxicologist doing in a job like this?

Cynthia doesn’t remember a particular moment in her life when she decided to be a scientist. Her dad was a scientist and she was good at it growing up. But she does remember wanting to protect the planet at an early age.

“Since I grew up in Oregon and collected beer bottles for a two-cent refund when very few states offered bottle refunds, I can remember being very proud of my state’s environmental ethic. Growing up in Oregon, I developed a real appreciation for the environment and that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. Science seemed like a good way to work for the environment.”

With a double major in chemistry and biology from Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, Cynthia won a scholarship to Cornell University to study environmental toxicology and public policy. For her graduate thesis she studied the movement of toxic chemicals in plants and their effect on plant growth at EPA’s lab in Corvallis, Oregon. But the local lab experience followed by a two-year stint working on public policy for a church organization started Cynthia to thinking that what she really wanted her life’s work to be about was protecting the environment on the national scale.

Cynthia applied to, and was hired for, a job in EPA’s Office of Water in Washington, DC. From that first job, and through most of her EPA career, Cynthia focused on water issues.

“I have a scientific background but I’m more attracted to the policy implications and how one works with science,” she said.
Years later when the opportunity came up to manage EPA’s P3 Program, Cynthia went for it. She recognized the program’s value for promoting innovation and collaboration to solve problems in the real world.

And that is how she has come to this day, coordinating all the details for a successful competition and life-changing experience for the students who want to protect the planet today, much like she did years ago as a little girl in Oregon.

If you are in town April 15 – 17, join Cynthia and more than 350 college students on the National Mall and you will be amazed by the students’ energy and creativity of their projects.

About the author: Mary Wigginton is a science writer and communications director for EPA’s P3 Program.

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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Ten Thousand Gallons

By Veronica Blette

“Uh-oh, that can’t be good,” I thought as I entered my house to hear the sound of running water. I went upstairs to find that the flapper on my toilet had become stuck in the open position, which led to its earnest, yet futile, efforts to fill the bowl all day long. Yes, while I spent my day in the office trying to advance a nationwide ethic of water efficiency, water was running down my drain. My water bill for the month almost doubled as a result of that one day of wasted toilet filling.

So, what’s the connection with 10,000 gallons? That’s how much water we waste in our houses each year through leaks! Across the country, easy-to-fix household leaks add up to more than one trillion gallons of water lost annually, robbing homeowners of 12 percent of their water bill.

Less than one percent of the Earth’s water is available for human use, and managing water is a growing concern in the United States. Using water more efficiently and avoiding waste helps maintain supplies at safe levels now and for future generations.

That’s why we are encouraging homeowners to find and fix leaks during the third annual Fix a Leak Week, March 14 – 20, 2011. Be for water and start saving today with three simple steps:

1. Check

First, check your home for leaks. You can detect silent toilet leaks, a common water-wasting culprit, by adding food coloring to the toilet tank and waiting 10 minutes before flushing. If color appears in the bowl, your toilet has a leak.

2. Twist

Give leaking faucet and showerhead connections a firm twist to ensure that pipe connections are sealed tight. For additional savings, twist WaterSense labeled aerators onto bathroom faucets to use 30 percent less water without noticing a difference in flow.

3 .Replace

If you just can’t nip that drip, it may be time to replace the fixture. Look for WaterSense labeled models, which use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well as or better than standard models.

Don’t find yourself in my shoes. Take these simple steps and reduce the potential for leaks lurking in your life. Want to do more? Join my team and thousands of your neighbors by supporting the We’re for Water campaign. Visit and take the I’m for Water pledge and “like” WaterSense on Facebook.

About the author: Veronica Blette leads EPA’s WaterSense program. Veronica has been with the Agency for more than thirteen years and, going forward, will always make sure the toilet is not running before she goes to work.

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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Women in Science: EPA Reaching Out To Empower Women Around The World

By Michelle DePass

I am not a scientist, but in the world of environmental policy, science is a part of our everyday discussions and decisions. So I’m happy to help carry the message about the importance of promoting science and technology as the key to moving forward an agenda as large as protecting human health and the environment, meeting the needs of growing and rapidly urbanizing populations and increasing employment. We know that as we look to use science and technology to drive economic development and resolve health and environmental challenges, we must also ensure that our approach supports our goals for women’s equality.

Two weeks ago, I was thrilled to join Administrator Jackson, leading women scientists in Ethiopia and students pursuing science degrees at the Addis Ababa University to highlight the achievements of women scientists and the role science policy can play in helping solve the most challenging environmental and public health issues of our time.

DePasse2At the same time Administrator Jackson and I were having a conversation with future women leaders in Ethiopia, our colleagues from across the world came together to discuss the importance of promoting women in science and celebrate the launch of the new United Nations agency called ‘UN Women’. The establishment of UN Women reflects a shared global concern with the slow pace of change. We all know that it is no longer acceptable to live in a world where girls do not have equal access to education, where women’s employment opportunities are limited and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality — at home, at school and at work.

To continue this global conversation on the role of women in science, on March 8, International Women’s Day, Administrator Jackson joined two leading women scientists from Indonesia for a live web chat with participants from Jakarta and the U.S. It was inspiring to hear how women in science around the world face similar challenges, but also share the same optimism for the future.

Together with colleagues from across the U.S. government and around the world, we at EPA will work to highlight the efforts of this generation of women leaders – and, I hope, by tirelessly promoting women’s access to education and science-based careers — inspire the next generation.

About the author: Michelle DePass is EPA’s Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs and continues to be a leading voice on expanding environmental justice in less advantaged communities here at home and in countries around the world.

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.

Fix a Leak Week March 14-20, 2011

Click here to visit the EPA WaterSense website!

Fix a Leak Week March 14-20, 2011

March 14-20, 2011 is the 3rd annual Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program’s “Fix a Leak Week,” a time to remind Americans to check their household plumbing for leaks.  This is a chance to be Green and save some Green!

Beat the leak!  Check.  Twist.  Replace. 

That’s all it takes to start saving water around the house. Check your home for leaks.  If your water meter changes at all during a two hour period when no water is being used, you probably have a leak.  Twist and tighten your fixture connections.  Tighten fixtures with a wrench or apply pipe tape to ensure that fixture connections are sealed tight. If you can’t stop the drip, it may be time to replace your fixture.  Look for WaterSense-labeled products at a home improvement store near you. 

Did you know???

A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year.  That’s enough water to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher!  Leaks can account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year.  That’s enough to fill a backyard swimming pool!  The average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill. 

Be sure to look for WaterSense labeled new homes that are designed to reduce residential water use both indoors and out. WaterSense homes allow you and your family to enjoy all the comforts of home while using less water and energy and spending less money on utility bills! 

What Can YOU do???

By making just a few small changes to your daily routine, you can save water, save money, and conserve water supplies for future generations.  Be sure to look for the WaterSense symbol on toilets, showerheads and faucets.  The symbol will soon be on water softeners, pre-rinse valves, and landscape irrigation controllers.

The WaterSense symbol identifies products that not only save water and the environment without sacrificing performance.  You can not only save water, but save Money too!  Look for WaterSense-labeled products at a home improvement store near you. 

We’re For Water!

Join us and thousands of your friends and neighbors in taking simple actions to save water.  Take the “I’m for Water” pledge, and make a resolution this year to save this precious resource.   Take the pledge at:  www.epa.gov/watersense/pledge.  For more information on Fix a Leak Week and the WaterSense program, go to www.epa.gov/watersense.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter!  Make 2011 about water and take the pledge today!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Camp Schmidt, A Rite Of Passage In PG County

By Lina Younes

As I was reading the Saturday paper, I came across an article that made me very sad. The outdoor environmental education center in Prince George’s County, Maryland, commonly known as Camp Schmidt will likely close this summer. This school year may be the last time that fifth graders from across the county will participate in the environmental education activities at Camp Schmidt.

For many in the county, the two day visit to Camp Schmidt has been considered a rite of passage. As part of Maryland’s curriculum, PG County students have been required to spend two days at the camp. For my daughters’ elementary school, the overnight trip was usually scheduled in the spring. So, for three years in a row in the late 90s, I gladly volunteered to chaperone the event. I remember walking in the woods, collecting samples from the stream, and participating in other outdoor activities. My children still cherish their experience at Camp Schmidt. Hope others will continue to enjoy similar experiences in the future.

In general, in Maryland we are quite fortunate to have nature and science learning centers for kids and adults alike. I remember going with my children on several occasions to the Howard B. Owens Science Center to learn about composting and other environmental activities. Even if these field trips do not always lead to a career in the sciences, I’m sure that the experience makes children better environmental protectors now and for generations to come.

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.

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.