Monthly Archives: October 2011

Call for Submissions – “A Greener Apple” Photo Contest

Our photo contest continues, and this month’s theme is “Urban Harvest.”  Submit your photos on our Flickr page by Midnight (EST) on November 15, 2011 to have a chance at some exposure and recognition on “Greening the Apple.”  In December 2011, submissions will be compiled and linked on the EPA Region 2 website for the public to see.

Follow these quick tips to submit your photo(s). Additional Terms and Conditions can be found here.

Entering is easy. The contest runs through Flickr.com, a photo-sharing website. If you don’t have an account, signing up is free, simple and fast. Only Flickr.com members will be permitted to submit photos.

Follow these steps:

EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian

1.       Choose your best work

2.       Create a Flickr account if you don’t have one (see http://www.flickr.com/ and click on “Sign up now”)

3.       Upload your photos to your account

a.       In your photo’s description:

i.      Share where the photo was taken

ii.      Give a short (15 words or less) description of the photo to help us understand the context

4.       Join “A Greener Apple’s” group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/1829022@N22/) Once on the page, click “add photos”

5.       Select your photos from your photo stream and click “add to group” on the right hand side of your screen

6.       Your photos will become a part of the Group Pool

7.       Photos can be any size, as Flickr will resize them automatically (see http://www.flickr.com/help/photos/)

8.       Tag your photos “A Greener Apple” so people can easily find them. 

Don’t forget to check out our winning photograph, for the month of September, the theme of which was “Urban Waters.” We look forward to seeing your work!

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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It’s a Dirty Job, But Dog Owners Have to Do It

EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian

By Sophia Kelley

Poop. Since entire blogs have been devoted to the improper handling of pet waste, I think we’re allowed to mention the issue at least once here on Greening the Apple.

The fact is that dealing with waste is one of the unpleasant aspects of becoming a pet owner. Here in New York City, the lack of private yards means that pet waste management often becomes a public issue. Though it is a city law to pick up after your dog, many pet owners get lazy or seem to develop a situational case of ‘poop blindness’ when faced with their own dog’s droppings.

I’ll admit that I had to overcome a little of the gross factor when I first started walking a dog in Brooklyn. Even with the protection of a biodegradable poop bag, it’s certainly not a pleasant task. But you get used to it. Fortunately most dogs can be trained and guided to go to the edge or the curb of the sidewalk. Aesthetically and out of respect for my fellow Brooklynites and pedestrians, I always knew the importance of picking up dog waste. But since coming to EPA, I’ve learned another reason that picking up poop should not be optional – stormwater runoff.

As I mentioned before, we’ve got an old sewer system in this part of the country and when we have heavy rainfall, the system is designed to overflow into our rivers and streams. That means that your dog’s emissions can literally end up in the Hudson River if you don’t dispose of them properly. Even lazy people can agree that nobody wants that.

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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More Light for Less Money

By Brittney Gordon

As you may have already heard, our light bulbs are changing. They’ll be just as bright but use less energy, cost less, and better protect the environment. Starting in 2012, all screw-based light bulbs sold in the U.S. must meet new federal standards for energy efficiency established by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Under this law, screw-based light bulbs must use fewer watts for a similar light (a.k.a. “lumen”) output. The law’s energy efficiency standards for light bulbs will be phased in over the next three years (see chart below).

Using light bulbs that provide the same light output but take less energy to run will mean that consumers save money on their utility bills. These savings can make a real difference since lighting accounts for about 12 percent of the average household’s energy bill. Using less energy also helps protect the environment by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Another positive change we will see in 2012 is a shift in how we purchase light bulbs. Instead of looking for wattage to determine which bulb to buy, we can now look at the light bulb’s lumens. Lumens tell us how much light a bulb will provide versus Watts, which tell us how much energy the bulb uses.

The Federal Trade Commission has designed a new label that you will see on light bulb packages starting next year. These labels will tell you everything from the brightness of the bulb (lumens), estimated operating costs, how long the bulb should last and what color the light will be. Here’s a sample.

This law will not ban any one lighting technology but will provide buyers will a range of better bulb choices in a variety of colors, bulb types, and light levels, including improved incandescent bulbs, CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs), and LEDs (Light Emitting Diode Light Bulbs).CFLs represent the best value for consumers today. They use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.  A CFL that has earned the ENERGY STAR can save more than $40 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of the ENERGY STAR communication team. She came to EPA one year ago after a career as a broadcast journalist.

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 Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? An Environmental Justice Advocate!

By Lisa Garcia

When I was six, my father announced that my family would be moving from the Bronx to Caracas, Venezuela. I was nervous and it didn’t help that my 2nd grade classmates told me our family would be living in grass huts. I thought that maybe Venezuela would be like Puerto Rico, where my father’s family was from. What I quickly learned was that, while Venezuela was not Puerto Rico, my classmates were definitely wrong.

Caracas was a vibrant, modern city; more high rises than huts. During the seven years we spent there I became immersed in, and embraced, Venezuelan and Latin American culture and history. It was there too that my parents, who were both civil rights advocates, read to me about the lives and struggles of leaders like Ghandi, Cesar Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we returned to the US, I was confronted with classmates who wondered “what I was” or “what my background was” and what that said about me. An interesting question, because I thought I was like everyone else…American.

This made me want to share my background, what I learned in Venezuela and how being a Latina, speaking Spanish and living in a foreign country, has enhanced my life. I also wanted to show how, while people may have different languages, traditions, and cultures, we are all so similar in so many ways. We see the similarities in our family life, in our desires, in our day-to- day lives, and we see how everyone deserves the same opportunities.

Which is why, between having parents who were active in politics and having the drive to ensure that everyone has the same access to opportunities, it isn’t hard to see how my experiences developed into a career of promoting and ensuring a clean and safe environment for all, regardless of where you grew up, what language you speak or where you live.

As an environmental justice advocate, I can combine my cultural pride, understanding of our similarities, and my law degree to promote healthy and sustainable communities, for Latino communities, for communities of color, and for all low income communities struggling with the realities of environmental pollution. Without realizing exactly how my upbringing shaped me, I grew up to be a proud Latina who in my own way tries to embrace and continue the legacy of our civil and equal rights leaders to improve the quality of life for all Americans. No matter what your background is, you too can make a difference.

About the author: Lisa Garcia, Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice to Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

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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Growing Up Poor Gives You A Special Sense of Community And Environmentalism

By Kristinn Vazquez

I have a confession to make. I’m cheap. Most people wouldn’t guess that about me. I do like to spend money on others. But, I’m cheap when it comes to resources at home and at work. I would argue most of us who grew up poor can relate. We’re environmentalists because we’re cost-conscious.

As the oldest of six, you wouldn’t think I received “hand-me-downs.” You haven’t met my family. I received the coolest clothes from an older cousin. When you’re poor, you realize the things you don’t need. You don’t actually need paper towels. You also don’t buy anything you could borrow. And, you rarely throw anything out. Someone might need it or have a creative use for it. Poor families have an incredible sense of community.

In our home now, all kinds of things become art supplies for the kids. Empty toilet paper rolls, bubble wrap, gift ribbons, plastic triangles from the center of pizzas, etc. (use your imagination)! Yogurt and butter containers become leftover containers. Plastic bags become pet waste bags. We’re constantly trading our kids’ clothes with friends. Here’s one we just learned: you can catch water in the shower and use that to water the plants. These are small ways to reuse and recycle materials, but they’re cost-saving measures for us, AND they’re good for the environment.

At the office, I help manage a program that considers bigger ways to recycle. We run the Responsible Appliance Disposal program that encourages utilities, retailers, and manufacturers to take your old refrigerators and window air conditioners, and responsibly dispose of the components that are harmful to the environment. If not properly handled, the refrigerant and foam contribute to ozone layer depletion and climate change. This month, RAD partner GE worked with Appliance Recycling Centers of America to open the first fully-automated appliance recycling facility in the U.S. Based in Philadelphia, the facility will not only serve more than a 12-state area, it has also created more than 50 new green jobs.

I’m proud to be helping the environment and the economy. On a personal note, if you’re upgrading to a new, more energy-efficient refrigerator, resist the urge to put the old refrigerator in your basement. This lowers the demand on the energy grid and perhaps more importantly when you’re cheap, lowers the demand on your own utility bills. I’d love to hear your ideas for creative recycling.

About the author: Kristinn Vazquez is the Deputy Director for the Stratospheric Protection Division. In her free time, she focuses on trying to see the world through her children’s eyes.

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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A Firsthand View

By Trey Cody

Wastewater Treatment 101 

As an intern in EPA Region III’s Water Protection Division, my day typically involved working in the office on projects related to the region’s Healthy Waters Initiative.      

But near the end of my internship this summer, I was able to get a firsthand look at what is being done to treat water in the Philadelphia area. I participated in a tour of the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant, managed by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), viewing the processes that allow the plant to clean around 194 million gallons of wastewater per day.

There are the preliminary treatment processes, which remove the large debris like trash and rocks from the wastewater coming into the plant.  Then there is the removal of smaller particles like dirt and grit in a settling tank. And then, biological processes take over, as various kinds of bacteria and microorganisms go to work to consume the organic matter in the wastewater.  Finally, the water is disinfected (usually with chlorine or UV light) before it is discharged to a neighboring stream. The solids that were taken out of the water during the process are referred to as biosolids, which are usually disposed of in landfills, but can be land-applied as fertilizer.  Who knew all this happened to the water once it went down the drain in my house!  I was surprised by how large the plant was; there are so many processes to keep moving and monitor along the way.  And it wasn’t even that smelly most of the time!

The Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant was built in the early 1950’s, then expanded and renovated from 1975 to 1983 to ensure PWD met the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  This treatment plant is one of three of the PWD’s facilities that treat wastewater before it is discharged back into rivers and streams. 

Do you know where your water goes after you use it, and what happens to it along the way before it goes back into our rivers and streams?  Have you ever visited a wastewater treatment plant?  You can take a virtual tour of one of the largest plants by clicking here. http://www.dcwasa.com/about/model_flash.cfm

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

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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

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 Scientists Supporting the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) of Education

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

By Jing Zhang

As a kid, science class was always a treasure trove of exciting experiments and new activities. Science activities, from blowing up balloons to learn about air to displacing water to learn about matter, were always a welcomed break from the usual lectures and reading assignments. As an impressionable young student, I was easily captivated and inspired in science class, mostly due to the efforts of my teachers to create interesting and engaging science lessons.

Naturally, I was delighted to find out that EPA offers Educational Outreach Workshops at the Agency’s campus in Research Triangle Park, NC where staff scientists can learn how to share their work in the classroom. The workshop, organized by EPA’s Kelly Leovic featured a walk-through of hands-on activities and games, with opportunities to partake in the fun. The activities engage students in learning a wide range of topics related to environmental science, including water, air, climate change, animal behavior, rocks and soils, and ecology. Each activity has materials and kits available for EPA scientists to borrow for outreach events.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many EPA scientists take time out of their full schedules in order to participate in educational outreach. From judging science fairs to working at career fair booths to giving guest presentations in classrooms, the scientists draw on their own enthusiasm and knowledge in order to inspire interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The workshop participants with years of experience in outreach shared success stories as well as a few disaster stories with the participants who are new or less experienced. They also gave valuable advice on how to engage students of different age groups, ranging from kindergarten to high school and college students.

The Educational and STEM Outreach Program in RTP is very active in local communities. What started out years ago as a few scientists wanting to inspire interest in science in their own children’s classrooms has grown into a strong outreach effort by scientists from across EPA.

Due to the rapidly advancing world, inspiring students to be interested in STEM has become a top priority. It only takes one eye-opening experience to stir up curiosity about a subject. I’m glad that EPA scientists are devoting time to making that eye-opening opportunity available through their outreach efforts.

About the author: Jing Zhang is a student services contractor 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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East Side Greenway Could Someday Rival the West Side

By Anhthu Hoang 

Last summer, at the behest of a co-worker, I started biking to work. To my delight, I discovered no matter what day or time I used the west side greenway in Manhattan, it was packed with people, engaging in all sorts of fun activities, from biking to skating to walking on their hands. Folks were using the greenway even in the rain.

Emboldened, I decided to venture to uncharted territory … the east side greenway … and rode north to Harlem and the Bronx. This trip, though, told a very different story. The greenway, which traces the Harlem and Bronx Rivers, was much less used and the reason was obvious – 1) access was a problem because only two pedestrian bridges traversed FDR Drive, 2) maintenance was markedly different between the Esplanade on the Upper East Side and Harlem and the Bronx, and 3) there was poor connectivity between different parts of the greenway.  Sadly, the result is that the benefits of living next to a beautiful body of water are denied many neighbors of the Bronx and Harlem Rivers. In addition to the badly needed exercise and recreation (Harlem and the Bronx also have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the region), there was no economic activity on the path – and certainly nothing reaching the scale on the west side.  Meanwhile, the neighboring communities are some of the poorest communities and home to some of people the hardest hit by the current recession.

What can be done? Can government reverse years of neglect? The answer is a resounding yes. Earlier this year, EPA Administrator Jackson announced the launch of the Urban Waters Partnership (“Urban Waters”), a collaboration of over 11 federal agencies committed to revitalizing urban communities through targeted environmental action and economic invigoration along their waterfronts. More

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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Educational Resources & Activities

By Carly Carroll

Going into classrooms and sharing environmental has always been my favorite part of being an environmental educator. One of my favorite experiences was participating in EPA’s Science Day at an elementary school in North Carolina. The teachers and students were always so happy to open their doors and let EPA scientists and community volunteers come in and share a hands-on activity with them. My favorite activities were those that really got the students involved and doing something – like measuring how much electricity various appliances used, or measuring lung capacity and learning about air quality. Seeing these activities lead to teachers asking if EPA had any resources they could use in to bring more environmental science into their classrooms. The answer is yes!

In addition to what EPA has already developed in the past, The Office of Environmental Education is working with various program offices to develop resources highlighting upcoming important issues and monthly themes.

  • October is Children’s Health Month! Check out our series of resources and activities on protecting children’s health at home and at school!
  • Students can learn how to protect their own health with activities on lead, mold, and indoor air quality.
  • All of EPA’s student and teacher resources are in one easy place! Check out the recently updated Students and Teachers page for games, factsheets, teacher resources, activities, and more!

About the author: Carly Carroll is an Environmental Education Specialist with EPA’s Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the office in 2011, she worked as a Student Services Contractor at EPA in Research Triangle Park, assisting with environmental education and outreach.

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.