Monthly Archives: April 2011

What I Want on Earth Day

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

The first Earth Day came together 41 years ago because people all across America wanted clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and swim in, and clean lands to build their homes, businesses, schools and churches. The movement they started has made remarkable steps: saving lives, bringing clean, safe water to millions of Americans, and restoring some of our most blighted and polluted areas. Today’s generation of young people don’t have to face the same levels of harmful pollution and the health threats that come with them.

But our work is not done, and we have to ask ourselves “What do I want this Earth Day?”

We still face serious challenges, from climate change to restoring treasured waterbodies to ensuring that every person in every community has clean air to breathe. As you can see in our “What I Want…” Earth Day video series, Americans are still deeply concerned about their health and their environment.

To continue making progress today, we need to do the same thing our predecessors did 41 years ago: come together and work to make a difference. There are new and extraordinary ways for you to make a difference. As EPA Administrator, what I want this Earth Day is your help in this important work.

Here are some great ways to get involved.

Pick 5 for the Environment

Join thousands of people around the world in our Pick 5 program. Choose five simple steps from the lists provided on how you can contribute to environmental protection. Suggestions are listed by topics like air, land, water, energy, waste and advocacy, so it’s easy to find the activities that are best for you. While you’re there, be sure to check out the new map showing every Pick 5 commitment from around the world. Coming together to help the planet has never been more convenient.

Serve.gov Earth Day Service

If you’re looking for something more local, type in your ZIP code to find Earth Day volunteer projects in your area.

Use the US Post Office new Go Green Stamps

GoGreen stamps from USPS

Another great source of environmentally friendly ideas is the US Postal Service’s new Go Green stamps. Things as simple as fixing leaks in our homes or taking reusable bags to the grocery store can help make our air cleaner, our water healthier and our communities stronger. These stamps have ideas for us all to consider – ways for us to make an impact with small changes to our daily routines. They are a reminder of the role we can each play to make a tremendous impact in the world around us.

State of the Environment Photo Project

One of the most interesting ways to get involved in safeguarding the environment is by capturing it in a photograph. Visit our State of the Environment Photo Project Flickr page to see images and submit your favorite pictures. Help us document the progress we’ve made over the last four decades, and the areas that still need our work.

We take these steps as individuals, but the combined impact of our actions can make a world’s worth of difference. What do you want this Earth Day? And what are you going to do?

About the author: Lisa P. Jackson is Administrator of EPA.

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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Statuesque Symbolism: Liberty Island Mirrors NYC’s Diverse Composition

By Kasia Broussalian

Even though the trip along the Hudson River to Liberty and Ellis Island is known as one of the most “touristy” things you can do while visiting New York City, I love the entire experience—ferry ride included. Eight months ago, I moved from Boulder, Colorado to New York City, and although I have visited Liberty Island three times since the move, it has yet to lose its appeal. Two weekends ago, with my very excited mother in tow, I took another trip out there: neither of us was disappointed, despite the long wait through security near Battery Park. I am always impressed by how many people from different cultures take the same trip. The ferry out is a sort of microcosm for the city in general; so diverse, you can’t help but be exposed to something new each time. My mother was reminded of her first trip to New York City when she emigrated from Poland over 30 years ago.

One of the greatest environmental concerns in the city includes managing the requirements of the city’s enormous population. This concern is greatly impacted by the extraordinary numbers of tourists that flock to the city year round in rain, wind, snow or sun. The two people shown in this photo, just two of hundreds visiting the Statue of Liberty in March 2011, are just an example.

About the author: Kasia Broussalian is a public affairs intern and multimedia journalist in New York City. She has interned with EPA since 2010.

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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Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns!

"Green Street" Design

By Christina Catanese

Imagine strolling along a street shaded by trees, illuminated by solar-powered street lamps, on sidewalks lined with gardens that quickly soak up rainwater after a spring storm.  Imagine a town that is training a local workforce to build these sustainable, green streets.  Imagine a town where the new Triple Bottom Line – people, planet, profit – is the standard for local businesses. Imagine a legacy of sustainability.

If this doesn’t sound like your town (or it sounds like what you think your town ought to be), then come to the Green Streets-Green Jobs Forum on April 29th and 30th in Silver Spring, MD, and be a part of the launch of a public-private effort in support of innovative, green infrastructure practices to restore our urban waters and protect public health and safety!

EPA is a partner in the Chesapeake Bay-Anacostia Watershed public-private initiative, whose goal is to build a network of support for communities interested in greening their neighborhoods and towns.  The initiative seeks to provide the technical and financial assistance to enable smart planning, watershed and stormwater management, and green infrastructure construction, as well as stimulate the green jobs market and enable families to work where they live and play.

The forum will explore the steps that communities are taking right now to green their streets and towns.  Keynote Speaker Mr. Robert Adair will highlight the City of Houston’s Low Impact Development Design Competition, an innovative strategy that makes Houston a leader in demonstrating cost-effective green infrastructure practices. Other local case studies showcasing  green street design and planning will also be highlighted, along with the first Green Streets-Green Jobs grant recipients and the leadership of other green infrastructure partners.

For communities looking to make their towns a little greener, speakers from all sectors (state federal and local governments, city planners, engineers, business and industry executives and green street experts) will discuss resources available to support community greening efforts.  The forum will showcase policy and planning tools, as well as detailed insight into designing green communities, creating demand for green jobs, and the financing, training, and education that goes along with them.

With the vision of a Triple Bottom Line, green infrastructure has benefits to people, the economy, and the environment.  Come learn about these many benefits of integrated watershed planning, like sustainable stormwater management, reduced energy costs, improved air quality, and a new demand for green jobs, just to name a few!

Space is limited, so please RSVP or Register for the Green Streets-Green Jobs Forum by April 21, 2011. We look forward to seeing you there!

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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Science Wednesday: Rain and Shine

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

By Lyndee Collins

What’s that saying? April showers bring… innovation? It’s no surprise rain decided to make its presence this past weekend during EPA’s Earth Day festivities on the National Mall. However, the gloomy weather didn’t stop the 55 student teams from competing in the EPA’s annual People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) Award competition. The student teams presented sustainable solutions to environmental problems in hope to be one of six winning teams to receive an additional $75,000 to further their designs.

While working the event, I was able to meet the student teams and hear about their exciting research. I was amazed at the enthusiasm and dedication from each presentation. Because every project seemed to be perfect, I sympathized with the panel of national experts who were to decide the six winning teams. The anticipated results were announced Sunday evening.

One of the winning teams was from Drexel University. The students set out to develop a solution to the current problems in the green roofing industry. The team designed a roof system using a combination of lightweight materials that can grow and sustain roof vegetation while reducing the heat island effect and harmful water runoff. Their presentation was truly amazing. Having no science background, I was able to understand the technical language and could appreciate the hard work the team put into their design.

Other winners included students from the University of Illinois who devoted their project to help the residents at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the poorest reservation in the country. The team developed an inexpensive technology based on bone char to remove arsenic and uranium from the groundwater used by the residents who would otherwise be unable to afford clean, safe drinking water. The presentation was very touching and it was clear that the team was dedicated to help the Pine Ridge community.

Not only was I blown away by the quality of the presentations but I gained a sense of pride knowing that my generation was making a difference for our future. Despite the rain on Saturday, It’s clear to me that these student teams shine regardless of the weather.

To learn more about P3 and the winners please visit: http://www.epa.gov/p3/2011winners

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.

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: EPA’s P3: Looking to the Future

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

By Aaron Ferster

“Green Jobs. Green Economy. Innovation.”

That’s how EPA’s Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe summed up his overall feeling of optimism and appreciation for the students behind the sustainable designs displayed this past weekend at the National Sustainable Design Expo featuring the 8th Annual P3 Competition.

The P3—People, Prosperity and the Planet—competition is an annual event for college and graduate school teams. The competition taps the creative energy of students from across the country to spark innovation and engage them to design, build, and test prototype technologies that offer sustainable, real-world solutions to human health and environmental challenges.

Teams display their work to compete for the P3 Award and funding—up to $75,000—to advance their winning ideas from the design phase to the marketplace or community. Previous winning P3 teams have turned their ideas into successful small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“Whether your team heads back to school with a P3 Award or not” Perciasepe noted, “everyone here has a great future to look forward to.”

He shared how his sense of optimism stemmed from a look both backward and forward. Looking at recent history, he recalled his own student days: a time when there was still lead in our gasoline, cities were all too often shrouded in smog, and river’s smelled of sewage.

But these challenges have now largely been met. And while today’s environmental and related human health challenges seem even more daunting, the P3 teams show us that there is a new generation of scientists, engineers, architects, and others ready to tackle them.

After an initial peer review process, this year winners were selected from 55 competing teams following two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Want to develop your own sense of optimism? Check out this year’s P3 Award Winners:

  • University of Massachusetts-Lowell for novel greener routes to halogen-free flame retardant material
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for solar powered water collection, containment and self regulating distribution system
  • Purdue University for development of community power from sustainable small hydro power systems
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oglala Lakota College for use of bone char for the removal of arsenic and uranium from groundwater at the Pine Ridge Reservation
  • Drexel University for lightweight green roof systems
  • Stanford University for innovative university-school partnerships for renewable energy projects and education

About the author: EPA science writer Aaron Ferster is a frequent Greenversations 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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Partnering with Chile to Engage Communities. Muy Bueno!

By David Kluesner

Exhausting. Exciting. Rewarding. and “Moving!”

I’ve used those words many times in responding to “How’d the trip to Chile go?” Our EPA Region 2 team, myself, Melissa Dimas and Wanda Ayala, definitely had moments of “why did we agree to do this?” as we developed a State Department-funded two-day public participation training course coordinated with the Chilean government as part of fulfilling U.S. environmental obligations under the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement. Months of preparation, a 12 hour flight and airport nightmares, left us nothing short of exhausted upon arrival in Santiago in late March.

Santiago’s vibrancy, its southern California climate and friendliness relieved the stresses of launching a new course in a country 5,000 miles away. Muchas gracias to our new friends Rachel Martinez with the U.S. Embassy, and Juan Pablo and Felipe, with the Chilean Ministry of the Environment. Their enthusiasm and support were key to pulling off a successful course designed to help Chile expand public participation in projects impacting the environment. Chile’s military and political past has, perhaps, left them with a tendency to strictly apply their public participation laws and uncertainty among the students in our class over how, when and where to go beyond the mandates. Exciting to think that we could be a part of expanding the conversation, giving a voice to those who need to be heard the most.

Thirty students attended, mostly from Chile’s Ministry of the Environment, some from their Forest Service. Environmental impact studies on hydroelectric dams and mines are a big part of their work, with much interest in finding new ways to ensure greater representation and fairer treatment of indigenous populations. Melissa’s experience with public participation in Central America was used to demonstrate ideas about new forms of outreach. Wanda’s rich, New York Puerto Rican personality and candid advice got the students engaged in competitive class exercises. I shared key messages on public participation that have served me well over the past 20 years of involving the public in site cleanups. It was very rewarding to see their interest in possibly using our advice to more effectively engage communities.

One other thing about Chileans. A “measly” 4.2 earthquake during class doesn’t faze them. Advice from our students when the floor started moving during class: “If you see us run, then you run, otherwise, go on to the next slide.”

The local press also ran a story on the workshop.

About the author: David Kluesner is a Community Involvement Coordinator, engaging communities in the cleanup of the Hudson River and Passaic River, among other hazardous waste sites. David previously served as a Remedial Project Manager in the Superfund 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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Reconnect to Nature!

By Wendy Dew

Many children today have a disconnect with nature. Many children have not had the opportunities we had growing up to freely and creatively play outside – running in a field, or tromping through the woods or wading in a stream…

Programs all over the country are popping up to take the lead in getting kids outside in an unstructured, creative play format. One such program in Florida was funded by two Edge of Excellence grants obtained by a local teacher. Funding from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County provided the teacher with the tools to develop interactive nature-based programs for her students. The money covered the cost of binoculars for each student and field guides to watch Florida birds, trees, flowers and butterflies. Thanks to these grants, the teacher was able to obtain additional books for the classroom as well as transportation to local parks. The students truly experienced nature. Their learning experience did not end once they left the parks. The students documented each flower, plant and bird they spotted after identifying them with their field guides.

I remember spending my childhood in the woods watching nature, playing with my friends, and roaming the neighborhood on my bike. I feel kids today are truly missing out on creative play in nature. I think every child should have the opportunity to explore the great outdoors. I think every child should be allowed to develop a sense of place. I think every child should grow up appreciating nature and strive to protect it.

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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.

Sign of the Times – My Neighborhood Combined Sewer Overflows

By Sophia Kelley

I wasn’t thinking about sewer systems while I plodded painfully on one of my infrequent “runs” through the neighborhood. I jogged down by the little postage-stamp-sized park just to divert my thoughts from my gasping lungs and aching legs. (The “park” I’m referring to is basically a cul-de-sac at the end of Grand Street that leads directly to the East River. It is populated with a couple of benches and a little path.) Usually what catches the eye from any river spot in this area of Brooklyn is the view of the Manhattan skyline, but this time I noticed an enormous sign instead. The official city sign warns visitors of a “wet weather discharge point.” Unfortunately, I know what this means in plain English. Below the small cluster of benches, there must be a location where raw sewage occasionally flows into the East River. Yes, it still happens. Especially in the northeast, where combined sewer systems are the norm, major rainfall or snow melt can cause overflows. Before coming to EPA, I hadn’t realized how common such events could be. Running home I passed a half dozen high-rise residential buildings and wondered how many of the apartment dwellers know what happens to the river below them on a rainy day.

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.

Sign of the Times – My Neighborhood Combined Sewer Overflows

By Sophia Kelley

I wasn’t thinking about sewer systems while I plodded painfully on one of my infrequent “runs” through the neighborhood. I jogged down by the little postage-stamp-sized park just to divert my thoughts from my gasping lungs and aching legs. (The “park” I’m referring to is basically a cul-de-sac at the end of Grand Street that leads directly to the East River. It is populated with a couple of benches and a little path.) Usually what catches the eye from any river spot in this area of Brooklyn is the view of the Manhattan skyline, but this time I noticed an enormous sign instead. The official city sign warns visitors of a “wet weather discharge point.” Unfortunately, I know what this means in plain English. Below the small cluster of benches, there must be a location where raw sewage occasionally flows into the East River. Yes, it still happens. Especially in the northeast, where combined sewer systems are the norm, major rainfall or snow melt can cause overflows. Before coming to EPA, I hadn’t realized how common such events could be. Running home I passed a half dozen high-rise residential buildings and wondered how many of the apartment dwellers know what happens to the river below them on a rainy day.

About the author: Sophia Kelley is a public affairs specialist in New York City. She has been working and writing for EPA since 2009.

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.

Back to the Future: New Norris House Shows It’s Never Too Late to Go Green

By Samuel Allen Mortimer

Over the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of working with a talented group of students in the design and construction of a model sustainable home called A New Norris House. The project is an interdisciplinary effort led by The College of Architecture and Design at the University of Tennessee, and takes its roots from the small town of Norris, Tennessee.

Norris was one of the United States’ first full examples of town planning and a key feature of this New Deal era development was the Norris House, an assembly of home designs built as models for modern and efficient living. Seventy-five years later, we are reinterpreting the Norris paradigm and creating a New Norris House—a sustainable home designed for the 21st century.

Not only is the home actually being built—it is being built by students! In the architecture world, this is what is known as design/build—when the same party tackles both design and construction. In the academic realm, this is beneficial for many reasons. Students directly see the principles, materials, and methodologies taught in school. They also gain a quick understanding of costs, scheduling, the implications of change orders, specifications, and building codes. These are invaluable lessons, especially when taught under the protective umbrella of academia.
Partnering with Clayton Homes to build the shell of the home, students have labored tirelessly over the past eight months to reach a point of near completion. Opening date is set for early summer and all parties involved are excited to see the conclusion.

Grants our team won through EPA’s P3 Student Competition for Sustainability were invaluable. The Phase II award provided funding for us to finish conceptualizion and bring our vision to reality. Having the EPA name alongside our project has given us immediate credibility and helped opened doors that may not have been possible otherwise. Beginning this adventure as a student and now seeing it’s completion as researcher and intern with the university has been a formative experience in my life and career. Check out the 2011 P3 projects at EPA’s Earth Day activities, including the National Sustainable Design Expo, this weekend on the National Mall! Click here for details.

About the Author: Samuel Mortimer, one of the original 2008 University of Tennessee P3 team members, is now a research specialist for the university’s College of Architecture and Design.

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.